Living a Balanced Life Brings Happiness

03 Jan. 2012

Transcript

Living a Balanced Life Brings Happiness

 
What a pleasure to be here. I’m thrilled when I meet with young people, and older people as well. I was with my wife in St. George last weekend, presiding at a college stake, and just a few months ago I was in Idaho Falls, Idaho, reorganizing the stake presidency at a student stake at Idaho State University. I must admit that meeting with the young single adults and young married adults has been a great pleasure for me. I thoroughly enjoy that.
I’d like to read a couplet from William Butler Yeats’ classic poem, “The Second Coming.”
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world
This was a poem written by Yeats in 1920, and is very apropos today. As I read the newspaper this morning and considered the possibility of civil war in Iraq, I thought how appropriate this couplet is. Just a few months ago I was in Kurgystan and Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, countries which are very near Iraq and Afghanistan, and sensed the confusion among some of the American troops who were there with respect to what the future held in store for them. I’m concerned about what the future holds in store for all of us. I hope we can reflect a little bit upon that together, as we speak here today.
’m reminded of the story about the Silent Monk Society, which I heard while living in Moscow. A young man who was very slow of speech and in fact did not like to speak, heard about the Silent Monk Society and learned that if one were admitted into that monastery, he could only utter two words every five years. And he thought, “That’s for me.” So he was admitted into the society and after the first five years he appeared before the presiding monk, who said, “Okay, my son, what have you to say?”
And he said, “Bad food.”
Well, another five years went by and he appeared for the utterance of his two words again, and the presiding monk said, “What have you to say now?”
And he said, “Hard bed.”
Well, another five years passed, and now he’s been in for 15 years and was a bit weary, I suppose. Upon appearing before the presiding monk he was asked once more, “What have you to say?”
And he said, “Want out.”
Well, I don’t “want out” today, I want in. I’m very pleased to be here with you.
I’m here today representing the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles under whose keys members of the quorums of the Seventy serve. I’m mindful that the purpose of LDS Business College is to teach business skills in a spiritual setting. Thus, it seeks to provide opportunity for balance in one’s life. Parenthetically, some 15 or 16 years ago, my daughter-in-law, Christina Predovich, finished a two-year course here. Chris received a very good education from here, and she’s been able to mix that education and her business skills with being an at-home mother, and spend some time working out of her home.
I suspect that everyone here wants to have the kind of life which will bring lasting happiness. So I will assume that this is your ultimate goal. I do not know of anyone who does not want to be happy. The Lord in speaking to Moses said, “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” (Moses 1:39)
Happiness, I believe, will come through charting a course leading to immortality and eternal life, and will be hastened and facilitated by heeding the promptings of the Spirit and by achieving proper balance in one’s life. When I speak of balance, I make reference to spiritual, intellectual, physical, social, and economic factors. Balance is defined as mental and emotional steadiness; to bring into harmony or proportion. A balancing act is defined as our attempt to cope with several, often conflicting, factors or situations at the same time. When I refer to happiness, I speak of joy or a state of well-being and contentment, or a satisfying experience.
Now, there are certain challenges or impediments to balance and happiness. I believe that each of us must, at some point in time, focus his attention on whom and what he wants to be and become. I recall as a young boy living next door to a friend whose father owned a large herd of sheep and who hired Mexican sheep herders. This particular family had nine children. My first vision of the future was to marry a Mexican dancing girl, have nine children, and be a sheep herder. Now you might say, “Well, what kind of a vision is that?” And I would respond, well, I could see myself rounding up the sheep in the evening and returning to my sheep camp to watch my dancing-girl wife dance around the fire and prepare a meal and see our family grow up. Well, what’s wrong with that? Nothing. I had a vision. I had a dream. And that kept me going. That evolved into wanting to be a driver of a ten-wheel truck, and then to wanting to be a doctor, and then, following my mission in France, to wanting to become a lawyer. And so that’s where I have finally ended up in my eternal quest to this day.
Now I suppose I would have to say that my vision is to be a worthy servant of our Heavenly Father. Having received a call to serve and be an especial witness of Jesus Christ to the nations of the earth, my dream is to do the very best I can possibly do at that.
As you know, coping with the complex and diverse challenges of everyday life can upset the balance and harmony which we seek. All, or at least most I think, are often overwhelmed as they seek to obtain and maintain balance in their lives. I provide these illustrations, adapted from a May 1987 Ensign article, written by Elder M. Russell Ballard (“Keeping Life’s Demands in Balance”):
A single student said, “I know that the scriptures and today’s Church leaders say we should not unnecessarily delay marriage and having a family. But I’m 26. I haven’t completed my education, and I don’t have a job which will enable me to support a family. Can I not be excused from marrying, at least for now?”
Another said, “I am a woman, and no one has asked me to marry him. How can I keep this commandment?”
A young mother said, “There is no balance in all my life. I am completely consumed in completing my education and caring for my children. I hardly have time to think of anything else. Sometimes, I think the world and the Church expect too much of me. Regardless of how hard I work, I never will live up to everyone’s expectations. My struggle is between self-esteem, confidence and feeling self-worth versus feelings of guilt, depression and discouragement for not doing everything I am told we must do to attain the celestial kingdom.”
A young father added: “School requires all my time. I realize that I am neglecting my wife and children and my church callings, but if I can just get through this year, I will make enough money, and then things will settle down.”
Oh, what a dreamer he was. Life doesn’t get easier; life gets more and more complicated. Don’t dream about tomorrow having more time and less responsibility, but prepare to face that which is coming tomorrow by practicing what you’ll need to do then today, under your current circumstances.
Another single student said, “I have to work to put myself through school. I don’t have enough time for homework and church service. How can I be expected to live a balanced life?” And another said, “We hear so many contrasting views that it is hard to always know what is right and what is wrong.”
I’ve heard many students as well as non-students say, “No one knows better than I do how important exercise is, but I just have no time in my day for exercising.”
Additionally, following the recent satellite broadcast on families, a sister was heard to say this: “Sister Parkin said that the man is to provide and protect and the woman to nurture. How, in today’s world, can a couple provide for and protect their family, if the woman doesn’t work outside the home? There just isn’t enough money to cover all the bases, if the woman doesn’t work.”
Well, although time will not permit a response to all of these frustrations which I’ve noted, I hope that the following comments and references will be helpful. Should we abandon pursuit of a higher education and otherwise developing and strengthening self? Should we abandon pursuit of marriage and family? Should we cease preparing to provide for support and maintenance of ourselves and our family? Should we forget church service? Well, the obvious answer to each of these questions is in the negative.
Consider these references:
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that one of the fundamental principles of Mormonism is to receive truth, let it come from where it may. He taught, “The glory of God is intelligence.” (D&C 93:36) And yet further, “Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection.” (D&C 130:18)
Neal A. Maxwell, a former member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, explained the objectives of Church education in these words: “Literacy and basic education are gospel needs. Without literacy, individuals are handicapped, spiritually, intellectually, physically, socially and economically. Education is often not only the key to the individual member’s economic future, but also to his opportunities for self realization, for full church service, and for contributing to the world around him—spiritually, politically, culturally and socially.”
President Gordon B. Hinckley has said, “An old cliché states that modern education leads a man to know more and more about less and less. I want to plead with you to keep balance in your lives. Do not become obsessed with what may be called a gospel hobby. Remember, a good meal always includes more than one course. You ought to have great strength in your chosen field of expertise, but I warn you against making that your only interest.”
I glory in the breadth of the comment from Doctrine and Covenants 88:77-80 which talks about gaining knowledge about the nations, about different principles, about the sciences, about the literary works and so forth. I won’t take time to read that but, again, the citation is section 88, verses 77-80. And President Hinckley goes on: “Now and then I have watched a man become obsessed with a narrow segment of knowledge. I have worried about him. Beware of obsession. Beware of narrowness. Let your interests range over many good fields while working with growing strength in the field of your own profession.”
President Hinckley teaches that “All of us in this Church have a four-fold responsibility. 1) to our families; 2) to our employers; 3) to the Lord, and 4) but not lastly, really, to ourselves. Take some time to do a little meditating, to do a little exercise, whatever.” I’ve noted often as I’ve flown, as we commence to take off from the airport, a flight attendant will arise and among other things she will say, “Now if there’s an absence of cabin pressure, there will descend an oxygen mask from overhead. And if you’re caring for young children or a disabled person, make sure you affix that oxygen mask to yourself before you try to help others.” Now, why would the flight attendant say that? Obviously, because if you’re unconscious, you can’t help your child, or you can’t help that disabled person. And so it is with our service to humankind, our service in the Church, our professions. If we don’t strengthen ourselves, then we will never be in a position to strengthen and to help others.
Now this is a four-fold responsibility, which I’ve mentioned. How do you balance these four responsibilities in our lives? President Hinckley says, “I don’t think that’s difficult. You just have to sit down now and look at your resources. The major resource in this matter is time. I think you can do it.” You balance it. You organize yourselves, as the Lord said, so that you can make that balance.”
President James E. Faust, speaking of the need for balance in our lives, remarked: “It is much easier for those who have a righteous balance to yield “to the enticings of the Holy Spirit” ( ). Then we can leave behind the attributes of the natural man or woman and become someone much more enlightened.” (“The Need for Balance in Our Lives,” Ensign, March 2000)
Amulek counseled his brethren to “contend no more against the Holy Ghost.” ( Alma 34:38) The gifts of the Holy Ghost have special strengths for those who study and learn. The Holy Ghost, shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance. Yes, “the Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and…it shall flow unto thee forever and ever,” (D&C 121:46) President Faust continued, “Balance, in large measure, is knowing the things that can be changed and put in proper perspective, and recognizing the things that will not change. Much of the rest in obtaining sound balance lies in our attitude.” (Ibid).
Let me share three personal experiences. I grew up in Panguitch, Utah, a small town of 1500 people. I was a big fish in a little pond. When I graduated from high school, I received a scholarship—academic and athletic—to attend Brigham Young University. When I got there, I quickly discovered that I was a little fish in a huge pond, and I became quickly discouraged. I thought, “I want to get out of here.” I started to go home on weekends. I attended church at home, not on campus. I didn’t keep my grades at level where I ought to have kept them. I didn’t get acquainted with people. By the end of the year, I said, “I’m not going to return. This is not for me.”
I went home and lifted hundred-pound bales of hay all summer and rode horses, and I finally discovered about mid-August that indeed, I wanted to return. So I did. But I immediately joined a social fraternity and a service organization. I moved into the dormitory. I started attending church on campus rather than going home on weekends. I began to realize that life on campus was really a good life, and I was happy I was there. My grades improved. I didn’t get my scholarship back because I missed trying out for the basketball team, but I was having a happy experience now.
My first year of law school, after having gone through a pre-medical course at BYU, was very difficult. I was studying a different discipline altogether, and my grades, again, were not as good as they should have been. The second year, I got a job in a law firm, a part-time job while going to school. I noticed that my grades began to improve. At the end of my second year, I married my wife Joy. I noticed that with that added responsibility along with working and going to school, everything started to go better. My grades became even better than they had ever been before.
Lastly, when I passed the bar exam, a salty old trial lawyer came to me and said, “Bob, you can’t be a successful, effective trial lawyer and an active member of the LDS Church at the same time.”
I thought, “Well, that’s an interesting perspective.” I looked around, and I saw the James E. Fausts and the Eugene Hansens and others who were very successful in their law practice and extremely active in the Church, and I thought, well, I’m going to be active in the Church. It didn’t affect my success as a trial lawyer at all. In fact, it enhanced it. It made me a better lawyer. Why? Because I had balance in my life. Another reason is, I was trying to do what the Lord had asked me to do, and I think He gave me added strength, added understanding, and added help.
Now most of us are on the brink of making at least one of these major life decisions: How much education should I pursue? Should I serve a mission? Should I marry, and if so, whom should I marry? What if I don’t have the opportunity to marry? What then? Should I work outside the home? Where should I live?
Answers to these and other major life decisions will be more likely to produce balance and happiness in one’s life if they come through the promptings of the Spirit. How does one obtain the Spirit, and then the answers he seeks? I have some suggestions. I know I’m not going to be able to go through all of them, but let me suggest that first we need to attend sacrament meeting every week, and we need to partake of the sacrament. I’d like to read from the sacrament prayer on the bread, and you’ll quickly see what I’m getting at. “O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ,” and so, we’re praying together, along with the priests at the sacrament table, to God, in the name of Jesus Christ, our Advocate before the Father, “to bless and sanctify [or make holy] this bread to the souls of all those who partake of it.” Why? “That they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son.” And so, as we partake of the sacrament, we remember Christ, and we remember his suffering for us. “And witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son.” And so we covenant, when we partake of the sacrament, as we did at the edge of the waters of baptism, that we will take upon us the name of the Son. “And always remember him, and keep his commandments which he has given them.” We have to keep the commandments, and we renew our covenant to do that each week as we partake of the Sacrament. Now why? Why do we do all this? Why do we agree to do all of this, and why should we do it? Well, the last clause in this sacrament prayer answers that question: “That they may always have his Spirit to be with them.” (D&C 20:77)
So therein lies the key to having the Spirit with us, which will help us answer the vital questions of life which we face here today. We should kneel down upon our knees and pray, regularly. We should serve. We should be willing to serve our fellow men. We should reach out in love and fear not. “[Thou] should not have feared man more than God,” said the Lord. (D&C 3:7) “Perfect love casteth out fear,” said the Lord. (1 John 4:18)
I did a mission tour with F. Enzio Busche a few years ago, and he told us of his conversion. Missionaries came to him for over a period of a year, and they invited him to go to church, and they invited him to be baptized. And he said, “I didn’t want to go to church, and I didn’t want to be baptized. I didn’t believe in the doctrine.” And he said “The missionaries were somewhat devastated after teaching me for a year, when I said that.” But he said, “Finally, two young men came along whom I hadn’t met before, and every time I went on a business trip,” and this was a very successful businessman, “there was a note waiting at my hotel, saying, ‘Mr. Busche, just wanted you to know we were thinking of you, and hope you’ll have a good trip.’”
He said, “They would stop by my office and leave a similar note, quite regularly. And they would pass by my home, even when they didn’t have an appointment with me, knock on the door and say, ‘Mr. Busche, we were just in the neighborhood. We won’t come in because we have another appointment, but we just wanted you to know we’re thinking about you.’”
He said, “After a few weeks of that, I began to believe that those two young men cared for me. I began to believe even that they loved me, and I had never had that kind of a feeling from anyone in my whole life, even from my parents.” And here’s the clincher. He said, “When I knew that the missionaries cared for me, and when I knew that they loved me, the doctrine began to make sense.”
And so, more and more meaning to the statement that on love hang all the law and the prophets. (See Matthew 22:40) So let’s partake of the sacrament worthily. Let’s pray regularly. Let’s stand up to serve. Let’s reach out in love and fear not. And let’s find our wilderness, like Christ did after his baptism and before he entered into his ministry. He went into the wilderness for forty days and forty nights to be with God. He was tempted of the devil, but He came down out of the wilderness after that forty day and forty night experience, in the power of the Spirit, and He taught in the synagogues. And those who heard him saw that he was different, that he taught now with power and with authority.
Let me conclude by saying that if we will do what is necessary to have the Spirit with us, the Spirit will teach us all things. The Spirit will help us in our studies. The Spirit will help us make decisions about our life’s pursuits. And the Spirit will give us peace, and a feeling of calmness. Do we have to ask for it? Well, yes. We do have to ask the Lord for the Spirit.
I’ll conclude by reading this passage from Luke, chapter 18: “And he [the Lord] spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;
“Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man:
“And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary.” She wanted help from the judge because someone had done her wrong.
“And he, the judge would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man;
“Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her , lest by her continual coming she weary me.
“And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith.
“And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?
“I tell you that he will avenge them speedily.” (verses 1-8)
The Lord hears and answers prayers. Sometimes I think we tend to give up too soon when we pray to Him. We need to persist in our prayers to Him. The concluding lines of Yeats’ “The Second Coming” cited earlier seem a fitting conclusion:
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Now apply that to the situation in the world today. In counterpoint to the passionate intensity of the worst, the Savior’s admonition refreshes us like an oasis. “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
My testimony to you today is that we can overcome the world, if we will seek balance in our lives. If we will seek to have the Spirit with us at all times and be faithful in responding to the promptings of the Spirit, we will be blessed. I testify to you as an especial witness of Jesus Christ, called to bear testimony to the nations of the world, that Jesus Christ lives. He’s our Savior. He knows you and He knows me. He knows what’s in our minds and what’s in our hearts. And He will be our advocate before the Father if we will keep the covenants we make as we partake of the sacrament each week. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
What a pleasure to be here. I’m thrilled when I meet with young people, and older people as well. I was with my wife in St. George last weekend, presiding at a college stake, and just a few months ago I was in Idaho Falls, Idaho, reorganizing the stake presidency at a student stake at Idaho State University. I must admit that meeting with the young single adults and young married adults has been a great pleasure for me. I thoroughly enjoy that.
I’d like to read a couplet from William Butler Yeats’ classic poem, “The Second Coming.”
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.
This was a poem written by Yeats in 1920, and is very apropos today. As I read the newspaper this morning and considered the possibility of civil war in Iraq, I thought how appropriate this couplet is. Just a few months ago I was in Kurgystan and Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, countries which are very near Iraq and Afghanistan, and sensed the confusion among some of the American troops who were there with respect to what the future held in store for them. I’m concerned about what the future holds in store for all of us. I hope we can reflect a little bit upon that together, as we speak here today.
I’m reminded of the story about the Silent Monk Society, which I heard while living in Moscow. A young man who was very slow of speech and in fact did not like to speak, heard about the Silent Monk Society and learned that if one were admitted into that monastery, he could only utter two words every five years. And he thought, “That’s for me.” So he was admitted into the society and after the first five years he appeared before the presiding monk, who said, “Okay, my son, what have you to say?”
And he said, “Bad food.”
Well, another five years went by and he appeared for the utterance of his two words again, and the presiding monk said, “What have you to say now?”
And he said, “Hard bed.”
Well, another five years passed, and now he’s been in for 15 years and was a bit weary, I suppose. Upon appearing before the presiding monk he was asked once more, “What have you to say?”
And he said, “Want out.”
Well, I don’t “want out” today, I want in. I’m very pleased to be here with you.
I’m here today representing the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles under whose keys members of the quorums of the Seventy serve. I’m mindful that the purpose of LDS Business College is to teach business skills in a spiritual setting. Thus, it seeks to provide opportunity for balance in one’s life. Parenthetically, some 15 or 16 years ago, my daughter-in-law, Christina Predovich, finished a two-year course here. Chris received a very good education from here, and she’s been able to mix that education and her business skills with being an at-home mother, and spend some time working out of her home.
I suspect that everyone here wants to have the kind of life which will bring lasting happiness. So I will assume that this is your ultimate goal. I do not know of anyone who does not want to be happy. The Lord in speaking to Moses said, “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” (Moses 1:39)
Happiness, I believe, will come through charting a course leading to immortality and eternal life, and will be hastened and facilitated by heeding the promptings of the Spirit and by achieving proper balance in one’s life. When I speak of balance, I make reference to spiritual, intellectual, physical, social, and economic factors. Balance is defined as mental and emotional steadiness; to bring into harmony or proportion. A balancing act is defined as our attempt to cope with several, often conflicting, factors or situations at the same time. When I refer to happiness, I speak of joy or a state of well-being and contentment, or a satisfying experience.
Now, there are certain challenges or impediments to balance and happiness. I believe that each of us must, at some point in time, focus his attention on whom and what he wants to be and become. I recall as a young boy living next door to a friend whose father owned a large herd of sheep and who hired Mexican sheep herders. This particular family had nine children. My first vision of the future was to marry a Mexican dancing girl, have nine children, and be a sheep herder. Now you might say, “Well, what kind of a vision is that?” And I would respond, well, I could see myself rounding up the sheep in the evening and returning to my sheep camp to watch my dancing-girl wife dance around the fire and prepare a meal and see our family grow up. Well, what’s wrong with that? Nothing. I had a vision. I had a dream. And that kept me going. That evolved into wanting to be a driver of a ten-wheel truck, and then to wanting to be a doctor, and then, following my mission in France, to wanting to become a lawyer. And so that’s where I have finally ended up in my eternal quest to this day.
Now I suppose I would have to say that my vision is to be a worthy servant of our Heavenly Father. Having received a call to serve and be an especial witness of Jesus Christ to the nations of the earth, my dream is to do the very best I can possibly do at that.
As you know, coping with the complex and diverse challenges of everyday life can upset the balance and harmony which we seek. All, or at least most I think, are often overwhelmed as they seek to obtain and maintain balance in their lives. I provide these illustrations, adapted from a May 1987 Ensign article, written by Elder M. Russell Ballard (“Keeping Life’s Demands in Balance”):
A single student said, “I know that the scriptures and today’s Church leaders say we should not unnecessarily delay marriage and having a family. But I’m 26. I haven’t completed my education, and I don’t have a job which will enable me to support a family. Can I not be excused from marrying, at least for now?”
Another said, “I am a woman, and no one has asked me to marry him. How can I keep this commandment?”
A young mother said, “There is no balance in all my life. I am completely consumed in completing my education and caring for my children. I hardly have time to think of anything else. Sometimes, I think the world and the Church expect too much of me. Regardless of how hard I work, I never will live up to everyone’s expectations. My struggle is between self-esteem, confidence and feeling self-worth versus feelings of guilt, depression and discouragement for not doing everything I am told we must do to attain the celestial kingdom.”
A young father added: “School requires all my time. I realize that I am neglecting my wife and children and my church callings, but if I can just get through this year, I will make enough money, and then things will settle down.”
Oh, what a dreamer he was. Life doesn’t get easier; life gets more and more complicated. Don’t dream about tomorrow having more time and less responsibility, but prepare to face that which is coming tomorrow by practicing what you’ll need to do then today, under your current circumstances.
Another single student said, “I have to work to put myself through school. I don’t have enough time for homework and church service. How can I be expected to live a balanced life?” And another said, “We hear so many contrasting views that it is hard to always know what is right and what is wrong.”
I’ve heard many students as well as non-students say, “No one knows better than I do how important exercise is, but I just have no time in my day for exercising.”
Additionally, following the recent satellite broadcast on families, a sister was heard to say this: “Sister Parkin said that the man is to provide and protect and the woman to nurture. How, in today’s world, can a couple provide for and protect their family, if the woman doesn’t work outside the home? There just isn’t enough money to cover all the bases, if the woman doesn’t work.”
Well, although time will not permit a response to all of these frustrations which I’ve noted, I hope that the following comments and references will be helpful. Should we abandon pursuit of a higher education and otherwise developing and strengthening self? Should we abandon pursuit of marriage and family? Should we cease preparing to provide for support and maintenance of ourselves and our family? Should we forget church service? Well, the obvious answer to each of these questions is in the negative.
Consider these references:
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that one of the fundamental principles of Mormonism is to receive truth, let it come from where it may. He taught, “The glory of God is intelligence.” (D&C 93:36) And yet further, “Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection.” (D&C 130:18)
Neal A. Maxwell, a former member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, explained the objectives of Church education in these words: “Literacy and basic education are gospel needs. Without literacy, individuals are handicapped, spiritually, intellectually, physically, socially and economically. Education is often not only the key to the individual member’s economic future, but also to his opportunities for self realization, for full church service, and for contributing to the world around him—spiritually, politically, culturally and socially.”
President Gordon B. Hinckley has said, “An old cliché states that modern education leads a man to know more and more about less and less. I want to plead with you to keep balance in your lives. Do not become obsessed with what may be called a gospel hobby. Remember, a good meal always includes more than one course. You ought to have great strength in your chosen field of expertise, but I warn you against making that your only interest.”
I glory in the breadth of the comment from Doctrine and Covenants 88:77-80 which talks about gaining knowledge about the nations, about different principles, about the sciences, about the literary works and so forth. I won’t take time to read that but, again, the citation is section 88, verses 77-80. And President Hinckley goes on: “Now and then I have watched a man become obsessed with a narrow segment of knowledge. I have worried about him. Beware of obsession. Beware of narrowness. Let your interests range over many good fields while working with growing strength in the field of your own profession.”
President Hinckley teaches that “All of us in this Church have a four-fold responsibility. 1) to our families; 2) to our employers; 3) to the Lord, and 4) but not lastly, really, to ourselves. Take some time to do a little meditating, to do a little exercise, whatever.” I’ve noted often as I’ve flown, as we commence to take off from the airport, a flight attendant will arise and among other things she will say, “Now if there’s an absence of cabin pressure, there will descend an oxygen mask from overhead. And if you’re caring for young children or a disabled person, make sure you affix that oxygen mask to yourself before you try to help others.” Now, why would the flight attendant say that? Obviously, because if you’re unconscious, you can’t help your child, or you can’t help that disabled person. And so it is with our service to humankind, our service in the Church, our professions. If we don’t strengthen ourselves, then we will never be in a position to strengthen and to help others.
Now this is a four-fold responsibility, which I’ve mentioned. How do you balance these four responsibilities in our lives? President Hinckley says, “I don’t think that’s difficult. You just have to sit down now and look at your resources. The major resource in this matter is time. I think you can do it.” You balance it. You organize yourselves, as the Lord said, so that you can make that balance.”
President James E. Faust, speaking of the need for balance in our lives, remarked: “It is much easier for those who have a righteous balance to yield “to the enticings of the Holy Spirit” ( ). Then we can leave behind the attributes of the natural man or woman and become someone much more enlightened.” (“The Need for Balance in Our Lives,” Ensign, March 2000)
Amulek counseled his brethren to “contend no more against the Holy Ghost.” ( Alma 34:38) The gifts of the Holy Ghost have special strengths for those who study and learn. The Holy Ghost, shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance. Yes, “the Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and…it shall flow unto thee forever and ever,” (D&C 121:46) President Faust continued, “Balance, in large measure, is knowing the things that can be changed and put in proper perspective, and recognizing the things that will not change. Much of the rest in obtaining sound balance lies in our attitude.” (Ibid).
Let me share three personal experiences. I grew up in Panguitch, Utah, a small town of 1500 people. I was a big fish in a little pond. When I graduated from high school, I received a scholarship—academic and athletic—to attend Brigham Young University. When I got there, I quickly discovered that I was a little fish in a huge pond, and I became quickly discouraged. I thought, “I want to get out of here.” I started to go home on weekends. I attended church at home, not on campus. I didn’t keep my grades at level where I ought to have kept them. I didn’t get acquainted with people. By the end of the year, I said, “I’m not going to return. This is not for me.”
I went home and lifted hundred-pound bales of hay all summer and rode horses, and I finally discovered about mid-August that indeed, I wanted to return. So I did. But I immediately joined a social fraternity and a service organization. I moved into the dormitory. I started attending church on campus rather than going home on weekends. I began to realize that life on campus was really a good life, and I was happy I was there. My grades improved. I didn’t get my scholarship back because I missed trying out for the basketball team, but I was having a happy experience now.
My first year of law school, after having gone through a pre-medical course at BYU, was very difficult. I was studying a different discipline altogether, and my grades, again, were not as good as they should have been. The second year, I got a job in a law firm, a part-time job while going to school. I noticed that my grades began to improve. At the end of my second year, I married my wife Joy. I noticed that with that added responsibility along with working and going to school, everything started to go better. My grades became even better than they had ever been before.
Lastly, when I passed the bar exam, a salty old trial lawyer came to me and said, “Bob, you can’t be a successful, effective trial lawyer and an active member of the LDS Church at the same time.”
I thought, “Well, that’s an interesting perspective.” I looked around, and I saw the James E. Fausts and the Eugene Hansens and others who were very successful in their law practice and extremely active in the Church, and I thought, well, I’m going to be active in the Church. It didn’t affect my success as a trial lawyer at all. In fact, it enhanced it. It made me a better lawyer. Why? Because I had balance in my life. Another reason is, I was trying to do what the Lord had asked me to do, and I think He gave me added strength, added understanding, and added help.
Now most of us are on the brink of making at least one of these major life decisions: How much education should I pursue? Should I serve a mission? Should I marry, and if so, whom should I marry? What if I don’t have the opportunity to marry? What then? Should I work outside the home? Where should I live?
Answers to these and other major life decisions will be more likely to produce balance and happiness in one’s life if they come through the promptings of the Spirit. How does one obtain the Spirit, and then the answers he seeks? I have some suggestions. I know I’m not going to be able to go through all of them, but let me suggest that first we need to attend sacrament meeting every week, and we need to partake of the sacrament. I’d like to read from the sacrament prayer on the bread, and you’ll quickly see what I’m getting at. “O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ,” and so, we’re praying together, along with the priests at the sacrament table, to God, in the name of Jesus Christ, our Advocate before the Father, “to bless and sanctify [or make holy] this bread to the souls of all those who partake of it.” Why? “That they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son.” And so, as we partake of the sacrament, we remember Christ, and we remember his suffering for us. “And witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son.” And so we covenant, when we partake of the sacrament, as we did at the edge of the waters of baptism, that we will take upon us the name of the Son. “And always remember him, and keep his commandments which he has given them.” We have to keep the commandments, and we renew our covenant to do that each week as we partake of the Sacrament. Now why? Why do we do all this? Why do we agree to do all of this, and why should we do it? Well, the last clause in this sacrament prayer answers that question: “That they may always have his Spirit to be with them.” (D&C 20:77)
So therein lies the key to having the Spirit with us, which will help us answer the vital questions of life which we face here today. We should kneel down upon our knees and pray, regularly. We should serve. We should be willing to serve our fellow men. We should reach out in love and fear not. “[Thou] should not have feared man more than God,” said the Lord. (D&C 3:7) “Perfect love casteth out fear,” said the Lord. (1 John 4:18)
I did a mission tour with F. Enzio Busche a few years ago, and he told us of his conversion. Missionaries came to him for over a period of a year, and they invited him to go to church, and they invited him to be baptized. And he said, “I didn’t want to go to church, and I didn’t want to be baptized. I didn’t believe in the doctrine.” And he said “The missionaries were somewhat devastated after teaching me for a year, when I said that.” But he said, “Finally, two young men came along whom I hadn’t met before, and every time I went on a business trip,” and this was a very successful businessman, “there was a note waiting at my hotel, saying, ‘Mr. Busche, just wanted you to know we were thinking of you, and hope you’ll have a good trip.’”
He said, “They would stop by my office and leave a similar note, quite regularly. And they would pass by my home, even when they didn’t have an appointment with me, knock on the door and say, ‘Mr. Busche, we were just in the neighborhood. We won’t come in because we have another appointment, but we just wanted you to know we’re thinking about you.’”
He said, “After a few weeks of that, I began to believe that those two young men cared for me. I began to believe even that they loved me, and I had never had that kind of a feeling from anyone in my whole life, even from my parents.” And here’s the clincher. He said, “When I knew that the missionaries cared for me, and when I knew that they loved me, the doctrine began to make sense.”
And so, more and more meaning to the statement that on love hang all the law and the prophets. (See Matthew 22:40) So let’s partake of the sacrament worthily. Let’s pray regularly. Let’s stand up to serve. Let’s reach out in love and fear not. And let’s find our wilderness, like Christ did after his baptism and before he entered into his ministry. He went into the wilderness for forty days and forty nights to be with God. He was tempted of the devil, but He came down out of the wilderness after that forty day and forty night experience, in the power of the Spirit, and He taught in the synagogues. And those who heard him saw that he was different, that he taught now with power and with authority.
Let me conclude by saying that if we will do what is necessary to have the Spirit with us, the Spirit will teach us all things. The Spirit will help us in our studies. The Spirit will help us make decisions about our life’s pursuits. And the Spirit will give us peace, and a feeling of calmness. Do we have to ask for it? Well, yes. We do have to ask the Lord for the Spirit.
I’ll conclude by reading this passage from Luke, chapter 18: “And he [the Lord] spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;
“Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man:
“And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary.” She wanted help from the judge because someone had done her wrong.
“And he, the judge would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man;
“Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her , lest by her continual coming she weary me.
“And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith.
“And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?
“I tell you that he will avenge them speedily.” (verses 1-8)
The Lord hears and answers prayers. Sometimes I think we tend to give up too soon when we pray to Him. We need to persist in our prayers to Him. The concluding lines of Yeats’ “The Second Coming” cited earlier seem a fitting conclusion:
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Now apply that to the situation in the world today. In counterpoint to the passionate intensity of the worst, the Savior’s admonition refreshes us like an oasis. “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
My testimony to you today is that we can overcome the world, if we will seek balance in our lives. If we will seek to have the Spirit with us at all times and be faithful in responding to the promptings of the Spirit, we will be blessed. I testify to you as an especial witness of Jesus Christ, called to bear testimony to the nations of the world, that Jesus Christ lives. He’s our Savior. He knows you and He knows me. He knows what’s in our minds and what’s in our hearts. And He will be our advocate before the Father if we will keep the covenants we make as we partake of the sacrament each week. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

You May Know the Truth of All Things

03 Jan. 2012

Transcript

You May Know the Truth of All Things

 
Well, it’s a pleasure to be here.
As was mentioned, business is my background. Recently, President Hinckley called me, in addition to other things, to be the chairman of the Church Audit Committee.
He asked, “You’re a CPA, aren’t you?”
And I said, “Well, yeah.”
And he said, “Have you kept up with it?”
And I said, “No.”
And he said, “All right, get caught up. You’re called.”
I left my CPA occupation 35 years ago on purpose, and didn’t think I’d ever need it again after I was called to be a “man of the cloth,” and then this happened. So I may be sitting in some of your classes with you the next little while, because I’ve made a determination, at 67 years of age, to get my CPA certificate current again. And I don’t know if I could ever pass another test again if I had to. But if you see me in your class, that’s why.
How many of you are from West Africa? Where are you from?  Ghana, Accra.  Aqualba.  That means “welcome.” That’s about all I learned, by the way. One of the happiest, hardest, and most fulfilling three years of my life was living in Accra, Ghana. We covered everything from Sierra Leone to the Congo. And it’s the fastest growing area of the Church right now, as far as membership in the Church is concerned.
Well, as students of this College, you’ve got a unique opportunity to accomplish two objectives, which is what I’d like to speak about today.  Number one is to prepare yourselves to earn a better living. And number two is to better prepare yourselves for life. It’s the second part that I’m going to address.
As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we find ourselves a miniscule percentage of the world’s population. The beliefs we hold are being challenged at an accelerated rate. Unless you’ve been living in a cave lately, you’ve noticed some of that increased criticism. “Mormon bashing” has become a popular sport, and has been elevated to a whole new art form. Therefore, I plead with you to increase your knowledge of the Gospel while you’re here, and through that process, deepen your testimony. I’d say to you what Paul said to the Ephesians:  “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.” (Ephesians 4:14)
Last year in general conference, I spoke of a conversation I had with an impressive 16-year-old young woman. I discovered that she was the only member of the Church in her high school, and I asked her, “What’s the most difficult challenge you’ve got, being the only member?”
She was very thoughtful, and gave a very astute answer. She said, “It is believing something is true when everyone else believes it is false. And believing something is wrong when everyone else believes it is all right.”
The first part of her answer had to do with challenges to her beliefs coming from other members of her school. The second had to do with the lifestyles being promoted by the secular world, and being adopted by her peers, which were contrary to her values. Those were her two most difficult challenges.
I’ll address the first challenge being made by other Christian religions…that is, the challenges being made to our church. They’ve been leveled at us ever since Joseph walked out of the woods, out of the grove, and told his story. Ever since then, we’ve been under this attack.
I think we can relate somewhat to his surprise, and the amazement he had at the reaction of the people. I’m quoting from the Joseph Smith History: “Some few days after I had this vision, I happened to be in company with one of the…preachers, who was very active in the before mentioned religious excitement; and, conversing with him on the subject of religion, I took occasion to give him an account of the vision which I had had. I was greatly surprised at his behavior; he treated my communication not only lightly, but with great contempt, saying it was all of the devil, that there were no such things as visions or revelations in these days; that all such things had ceased with the apostles, and that there would never be any more of them.” (Joseph Smith—History 1:21)
Continuing the quote: “I soon found…that my telling the story had excited a great deal of prejudice against me among professors of religion, and was the cause of great persecution, which continued to increase; and though I was an obscure boy, only between fourteen and fifteen years of age, and my circumstances in life such as to make a boy of no consequence in the world, yet men of high standing would take notice sufficient to excite the public mind against me, and create a bitter persecution; and this was common among all the sects—all united to persecute me.
“It cause me serious reflection then, and often has since, how very strange it was that an obscure boy, of a little over fourteen years of age, and one, too, who was doomed to the necessity of obtaining a scanty maintenance by his daily labor, should be thought a character of sufficient importance to attract the attention of the great ones of the most popular sects of the day, and in a manner to create in them a spirit of the most bitter persecution and reviling. But strange or not, so it was, and it was often the cause of great sorrow to myself.” (vv. 22-23)
Does any of that sound familiar today? These reactions have continued to the present day, and recently seem to be at a fever pitch. The majority of the criticism comes from a populace who is uninformed or misinformed about our doctrines and beliefs. I’ve always welcomed questions about the Church, and even healthy debates about the differences in us and other religions. However, my patience runs thin when others, in a mistaken way, say what our doctrine is. In other words, they state our doctrine incorrectly, and then argue against it. That’s going on all over this country right now.
I’d like to tell the people of the world, “If you really want to know what we believe, ask us. We have an army of 50,000 who would be happy to oblige. You can identify them, because they wear those little name tags.”
After Joseph’s early experience with the reaction of those he thought would be thrilled to hear of his experience, he had a visit from the Angel Moroni, who gave him the bad news that it wasn’t going to get any better. “He called me by name, and said unto me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me, and that his name was Moroni; that God had a work for me to do; and that my name should be had for good and evil among all nations…[and that it would] be both good and evil spoken of among all people.” (v. 33)
We all know how Joseph’s history ends. He sealed his testimony with his blood. Studies of ancient and modern scriptures testify to the fact that we’re in good company with those of other dispensations who had similar revelations. Noah wasn’t the most popular kid on the block. He built an ark. He was popular with animals; he wasn’t too good with people. The House of Israel were hated and despised by most of the world.  Our Savior was persecuted, crucified, and the original Twelve were persecuted and eventually killed. In other words, it comes with the territory.
The fact of the matter is that, over centuries of time since the crucifixion of our Lord, many of the plain and precious things have been lost to the world. As Nephi put it, “And after these plain and precious things were taken away it [meaning the Bible] goeth forth unto all the nations of the Gentiles;… and because of these things which are taken away out of the gospel of the Lamb, an exceedingly great many do stumble.” (1 Nephi 13:29)
We must keep in mind that if our beliefs were completely consistent with all the other Christian religions, there would have been no need for a Restoration. Too often, I think, that defensively we say, “We have so much in common.” Well, we do. But if we had everything in common, there would have been no need for Joseph Smith. And so there are always going to be very refining differences.
Now, it’s not my objective to give a treatise on the Apostasy and Restoration, but to try to place in perspective the environment in which we are finding ourselves. May I suggest by the way, that we respond to these attacks that are coming from other Christian religions by relaxing, chilling out, taking a deep breath, not getting all defensive, argumentative or huffy, and give respect to their points of view, even though that respect isn’t returned?
I have a great example of someone who not only survived criticism, but made the best of it. It’s an example from Ghana. In 1989 the Ghanaian government froze the activities of the Church. Were any of you members of the Church when this happened? Probably not. This meant, among other things, that all North Americans were sent out, chapels were taken over by the government, and it became against the law to congregate. Some of our local African missionaries from Ghana were thrown into jail. This all came about basically because the Church was growing very rapidly. Local ministers became alarmed, and consequently, anti-Mormon literature was intense, most of it shipped in from preachers in this country.
The freeze lasted for a year and a half, but the members didn’t know how long it was going to last. Six months after the freeze began, I received a letter from a sixteen-year-old boy, a local African boy from Koforidua, who said—you can tell he’s been reading the Book of Mormon—this is the way he starts out: “So it came to pass that I was resting in my father’s car when he called, ‘Michael, have you heard what has happened?’ I said, ‘No.’” This is a direct quote. “He then went on to tell me that the government has frozen the activities of the Church.
“From this, I just got up and said, ‘They’re joking. For no power on this earth can stop this church.’ From that minute onwards, in the newspapers, news bulletins, and even in our town, it was a topic of heated discussion. The Church was made to look very ugly and evil. In my high school”—now picture this, after that description, he goes to school where he may be about the only member.  He goes to school—“in my high school, some students came to me and said, ‘Brother Michael’”—this was a Catholic school—“‘are you a Mormon?’”
Think of Peter. “I said yes. They then said, ‘Tell us more about this church, and the Book of Mormon.’ After hearing this, I said to myself, ‘This is the hour.’ So I explained everything to them.”
 I was so impressed by this young man. The depth of his testimony was so great, he turned this negative climate into a positive experience.
The majority of those who are launching the attacks against the Church currently are good and decent people. They are just not well informed with the details of our doctrine. They’ve been given false information and half-truths. We need to join with other churches in teaching and defending those values we have in common, because there is a larger and common threat to all religions looming on the horizon. So I have directed myself to other Christian’s criticism; now I’m talking about secularism—that is, those who believe in no God. I speak of the secularism which is running rampant and has infiltrated our culture at every level.
In the words of the 16-year-old young woman I was talking about earlier, when she was asked about the biggest challenge she has, it was, “It is believing something is wrong when everybody else believes it is all right.” It’s astonishing to me how much moral ground this nation has lost in my own lifetime, values commonly practiced by our nation as a whole when I was growing up—and I know that seems like a long time ago to you, but it wasn’t. Not to me, anyway. In my teenage and young adult lives, the values that I espoused, by other churches and everybody else were, in our nation as a whole, commonly accepted. Now those common values are being ridiculed by everybody, in my lifetime, in this country. Organized religion of any type is being attacked. “You don’t need an organized religion.” And churches are diminishing in membership all over this country.
On the other hand, there are many who claim to believe in God, and have an uncanny ability to compartmentalize and separate their beliefs from their actions. The commandments seem to be relegated to an old-fashioned past, no longer relevant in our enlightened world. As a people, we seem to have found it easier to deny the existence of absolute spiritual truth, including commandments. It’s easier to deny there are commandments than it is to repent of breaking them.
Isaiah saw this time very clearly, and warned us, “Woe unto them that call evil good and good evil, that put darkness for light and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” That describes our nation right now, and the secularism that’s creeping in.
Nephi also saw our day. “Oh that cunning plan of the evil one! Oh, the vainness, and the frailties, and foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the council of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish. (2 Nephi 9:28) “For behold, at that day shall he rage in the hearts of the children of men, and stir them up to anger against that which is good.” (2 Nephi 28:20)
There’s a more subtle threat which may cause more damage than direct confrontation. I call it “The Tolerance Trap.” It was aptly described in just a few words by Alexander Pope:  “Vice is a monster of so frightful mien, as to be hated needs but to be seen. Yet, seen too often, familiar with her face, we first endure, then pity, then embrace.” We have a lot of cries in the world that tell us we are intolerant to some of the behavior going on in the world.
I’ll give an example of this evolution from vice being a monster to being embraced. Recently some professors at BYU in Provo did a study on pornography. The study involved six colleges and universities—BYU was not included. It found that pornography is perceived as mainstream and acceptable among college students in the United States. BYU professor Jason Carroll said, “We found that pornography is a common part of college life and young adult life in America. In fact, our data shows that pornography is acceptance and its use is as common on college campuses as drinking.” Pornography is as acceptable as binge drinking. The findings show 67% of college men and 49% of college women believe pornography is acceptable. First we endure, then we embrace.
In my opinion, attacks from the secular world will continue to increase as society drifts from the moorings of revealed truth and commandments. This is partially due to a world rationalizing its own behavior. As a society continues to break eternal laws, it runs the risk of losing the light with which we were all blessed at birth. Paul pointed this out when he said to the Ephesians, “This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind,
“Having [their] understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness in their heart;
“Who being past feeling”—our country is getting past feeling of that which is wrong—who being past feeling “have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.” (Ephesians 4:17-19)
My conclusion is that we will continue to be bombarded by other churches as well as a secular world who disagrees with our doctrines. Get used to it.
Now, the balance of my message will address the more important question, “What are you going to do about it?” This brings me back to my opening comment that this college provides you with a unique opportunity to prepare yourself for life through your Institute and your study of religion. The first thing we need to do is increase the breadth of our knowledge of the Gospel, and the depth of our convictions about it. If we do this, we can stand firm when the tornados of criticism sweep through our lives.
My assumption in preparing this talk is that there may be some of you who are troubled by the questions being asked and the criticisms being leveled by other religions and the secular world. Some of you may have your testimonies being challenged. Some of you may not be troubled now, but may be in the future. The good news is the Lord has provided a way for you to stand anchored. You’ve been given the power to become self-assured spiritually, no matter what anybody else says. You can put every principle and doctrine of the Church to the test. Your convictions can stand up to any challenge which the world can throw at you. You’ve received the gift of the Holy Ghost.
This is referred to in Moroni’s oft-quoted promise: “And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.” (Moroni 10:4)
Too often, I think we separate this promise, or we equate this promise solely to gaining a testimony of the Book of Mormon. In my opinion, we should never quote the fourth verse without quoting the fifth: “And by the power of the Holy Ghost, ye may know the truth of all things.” As I just mentioned, we ordinarily use this scripture to encourage non-members and members alike to obtain a testimony of the Book of Mormon. The fifth verse makes it much broader than that. Every principle and doctrine of the kingdom carries with it the promise of our being able to determine for ourselves the truthfulness of that principle or that doctrine, including current statements of our prophets, seers and revelators.
Some members accept the Book of Mormon but are a little more reticent when it comes to following our current prophets. This is especially true as it relates to current cultural trends which have been addressed by our prophet. Some Latter-day Saints practice selective obedience. A prophet is not one who displays a smorgasbord of truths from which we’re free to pick and choose. However, some persons become critical and suggest that the prophet should change the menu. The prophet doesn’t take a poll to see which way the wind of public opinion is blowing. He reveals the will of the Lord to us.
The world is full of deteriorating churches whose leaders have succumbed to public opinion and have become more dedicated to tickling the ears of their members than obeying the laws of God. In the early days of the Restoration, some converts wanted to bring a few of their previous beliefs into the Church. Our problem today is with members who seem vulnerable to the trends in society (and the pointing fingers that come with them) and want the Church to change its positions to accommodate them. The Lord’s counsel in 1831 is relevant today: “Behold, I say unto you, that they desire to know the truth in part, but not all, for they are not right before me and must needs repent.” (D&C 49:2)
We need to accept the full truth and put on the whole armor of God. We have some members who are a little bit critical. Member critics testify they know the gospel is true, but they believe the Brethren are just a little out of touch. Out of touch with what? Don’t confuse a decision to abstain from participating in a trend in society with a lack of awareness about its existence. These Brethren prove all things, and hold fast to that which is true. To accomplish that, they’re in constant touch with Him who created the earth and knows the world from beginning to end. They’re in touch with the right spirit.
If you ever find yourself questioning the Church’s doctrine relative to that being espoused by the secular world and embraced by some other churches, put it to the test. Remember, by the power of the Holy Ghost, ye may know the truth of all things. Each doctrine—every single doctrine—and principle, carries with it a confirmation of the Spirit as to its’ truthfulness. Every single one. Put it to the test, by studying it, pondering it, praying about it.
As a summary and conclusion, I’d like to suggest a simple 15-page study plan. I hesitate to call it an assignment. I don’t think I have the authority to give you an assignment. This is a 15-page study plan which can form a base of protection from the bombardment of negative comments some individuals are spewing out over the media. I think you’ll find this suggestion very compatible with your study of the Book of Mormon in Sunday School and the Teachings of Joseph Smith in priesthood and Relief Society this year. Please read them—that is, these 15 pages—read it with what I’ve been talking about in mind, that is, the onslaught of criticism we are getting from the world.
Start first with the basic history of the Church contained in the Pearl of Great Price called the Joseph Smith History. It’s thirteen pages, right out of the Pearl of Great Price. I quoted a little bit from it earlier. Read it in the context of what we’re being challenged. Ponder it. Pray about it. It carries with it the promise, “By the power of the Holy Ghost, ye may know the truth of all things.” After all the debate, the events described within these 13 pages are either true or false. There’s no in between. It isn’t maybe. It either did or it didn’t happen, and I testify it did.
The fourteenth page of my recommended study addresses the claim from other Christian religions that Mormons are not Christian. This document, released on January 1, 2000, capsulizes our beliefs in the Savior. It’s called The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Many of your homes have this hanging on the wall. Have you ever read it? Read it. Ponder it. Pray about it. Are we Christian? By the power of the Holy Ghost, you may know the truth of all things. Ultimately, in my mind, with all the voices in the world, the only opinion that matters to me about whether I’m a Christian or not is Jesus the Christ’s opinion. As long as He knows I’m a Christian, I don’t care what anybody else thinks.
Bickering among religions claiming to be Christian must be heartbreaking to Him. I can’t imagine how heartbreaking some of this is. We have nothing to gain from becoming defensive and responding in an unChristian-like manner. We have everything to gain from explaining our position to those who will listen and put our doctrines to the test. As President Hinckley has said, and I can hear him saying this, “I can’t understand why the Christian world does not accept the Book of Mormon. I would think they would be looking for anything and everything that would establish without question the reality and the divinity of the Savior of the world.” Just can’t understand it.
In response to the people in the secular world who criticize the Church relative to our stance on many of the current social issues, I recommend another one-page document. This rounds out my 15-page assignment: The Family: A Proclamation to the World. It was introduced in the general Relief Society meeting September 23, 1995. A lot of you have this hanging on your wall. I want to give you a little perspective into this, or something to think about. If you understand the principles and the doctrine taught in this document, every question raised about the Church’s position on the hotly debated moral issues of the time will be answered. I don’t care what issue you’re speaking of, if you will take it and read this, in my opinion, this proclamation is not only spiritually instructive and edifying, but it is also a literary masterpiece.
As you read it, think about this: Every moral issue being intensely debated right now is covered in the Proclamation, and yet not one of them is mentioned by name. That’s what I mean by literary masterpiece. This is done by teaching principles which can be applied on each of these subjects. Read it. Ponder it. Pray about it. By the power of the Holy Ghost, you may know the truth of all things.
It would be my guess that, if it wasn’t for the expense we’d all go through, this would become the 139th section of the Doctrine and Covenants. But if that doesn’t ever happen, whenever anything starts out with “We, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles…solemnly proclaim,” take it to the bank. It is a testimony to me that these two documents address the volumes and volumes of anti-Mormon literature trying to tear down our beliefs. It’s a testimony to me that these documents were released well ahead of the storm we find ourselves in today. Once we understand the doctrine and principles, we are entitled to a confirmation of the Spirit as to whether they are true or not.
Being supposedly trained in logic—that is, accounting, debits and credits, they all have to balance—one of the things I love about this Church is that it is not only spiritually true, it is completely logical and intellectually sound. When you know all the doctrine, it makes all the intellectual sense in the world. I have no doubt that the Church as a whole will turn our current challenges into tremendous opportunities.
You can enhance your usefulness in the kingdom by increasing your knowledge of the Gospel and deepening your testimony. I return to where I started by pleading with you to make this a part of your preparation for life while attending this College, and you’ll be able to stand in any of the storms that come along.
I testify to you of the truthfulness of these fifteen pages, and I bless you as you begin your own study and prayer about them, that you will have come into the depths of your soul, where nothing else can touch it, a confirmation of the reality, the truthfulness, of the Gospel contained in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to which I testify, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Introduction:  President Woodhouse
What a great pleasure it is to have Elder Pace with us today. He’s a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy; he was first called as a general authority in 1985, to serve as 2nd counselor in the Presiding Bishopric. He has served as president of the North America Northwest Area, and president of the Africa West Area, and as president of the North America Northeast Area. Would those students from Africa please stand? We have a number out there. Just great to have you with us today. I understand Africa is a long ways away.
Elder Pace worked for nine years in the Welfare Services Department, and was the managing director of that department as well. He graduated from Brigham Young University and worked for an international accounting firm. Elder Pace is a native of Provo, Utah, and served the Church as a full-time missionary in the New England States, and as mission president in the Australia Sydney North Mission. He’s married to Jolene Clayson of Provo. They have six children and, as of this writing, 27 grandchildren. What a great pleasure it is to introduce Elder Glenn L. Pace.
 

College: More than Papers, Tests and Grades

03 Jan. 2012

Transcript

College: More than Papers, Tests and Grades


Thank you, Brother Richards, for that introduction. Now students, did you notice, that the most important part was at the end? The recognition of my David, my husband, my eternal companion.
Twenty years ago this month, my chief earthly counselor, my mentor, my mother died.  During my grief work at that time, I read about a young man who died in an army hospital.  Nine minutes later, he returned to life.  What happened to him during those nine minutes was so compelling, it changed his life forever.  In his book, Return from Tomorrow, Dr. Ritchie describes his experience of dying and having a brief encounter with the Savior before he was allowed to return to earth.   During that encounter, he was given the chance to review every detail of his life:  “The good, the bad, the high points, the run-of-the-mill.  And with this all-inclusive view came a question.  It was implicit in every scene . . .  and seemed to proceed from the living Light of Jesus beside [him].”  The question? What did you do with your life?
How would you answer that question?  What kind of an accounting would you give of your earthly life?  The Danish philosopher Kierkegaard said:  “Life must be lived forwards but can only be understood backward.” Preparing this talk has given me yet another opportunity to ponder that question—this time in terms of our cultural belief “Be Accountable,” or more specifically in terms of you as students, “I take responsibility for my obligations as a student.” I’d like to share some of those ponderings and insights, looking backwards on my experiences as a college student and as a college teacher. 
College is more than papers, tests, and grades. From an eternal perspective, college is that slice of time in your mortality which is about determining first, what you’re going to do with your life and second, what kind of person you’re going to be.
Let’s look at the first aspect:  what you’re going to do with your life. The scriptures remind us that part of our mortal responsibility is to prepare ourselves and to increase in learning.  For example, in the Doctrine and Covenants 1:12, the Lord admonishes us:  “Prepare ye, prepare ye for that which is to come,” and again in section 88, verse 118: “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.”
The Brethren have echoed this counsel many times.  As a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, Elder Howard W. Hunter in 1975 pointed out more specifically the “why” of this counsel when he said:  “There are impelling reasons for our sisters to plan toward employment also.  We want them to obtain all the education and vocational training possible before marriage.  If they become widowed or divorced and need to work, we want them to have dignified and rewarding employment.  If a sister does not marry, she has every right to engage in a profession that allows her to magnify her talents and gifts.”  (Ensign, November 1975, p. 124) 
In 1998, Sister Aileen Clyde, a member of the State Board of Regents and a former member of the General Relief Society Presidency, said “Sixty-five percent of all women under 65 will be their own source of support at some point in their lifetime.” (Deseret News, April 10, 1998) And President Thomas S. Monson in 2004 said to the sisters:  “Often the future is unknown; therefore, it behooves us to prepare for uncertainties.  Statistics reveal that at some time, for a variety of reasons, you may find yourself in the role of financial provider. I urge you to pursue your education and learn marketable skills so that, should such a situation arise, you are prepared to provide.” (Ensign, November 2004, p. 116)
Let me demonstrate visually just how important this counsel is today. I need 10 sisters to come to the podium. You won’t have to speak, I promise; just in case you’re hesitating for that reason.  Let’s have five of you on this side and five on that side. Thank you.
Let’s start with the five of you right here. You five represent the five out of ten women who will need to find employment at some point in their life because they are widowed or divorced.  Thank you; you may sit down. Now, this is not a prediction—it’s just a visual aid.
You two who are closest to me represent those who will need to find employment because they have financial problems with a husband being disabled or unemployed, or for some other reason.  Thank you.
The next closest to me, you represent those who will need to find employment because they won’t have the opportunity to marry.  Thank you.  Remember that’s not a prediction.
You represent those who will need to find employment because they married later in life and did not have the blessing of children. Thank you.
And you, the last one, you represent the 1 out of 10 who will never be in the role of financial provider. Thank you, sisters, for helping with this visual demonstration.
Statistically then, 9 out of 10 women for one reason or another will need to be the financial provider. If you look through your own circle of family, friends, and fellow students you’ll discover the accuracy of these statistics and you may even be identifying with one of these individuals right now.
I learned the reality of this statistic from my own childhood. My father died of a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 46 and my mother at 45 was left with four children. Because she had prepared herself professionally prior to her marriage, she renewed her teaching certificate, returned to the classroom, and provided for us. Clearly, as members of the Church, we have been counseled and should strive for the ideal family, where the wife can stay at home with the children and the husband can provide financially for them. But it is crucial, as we have been counseled, that we prepare ourselves for the exigencies of life.
And so the question becomes: What field of study should you pursue to prepare yourself? I remember that when I entered the University of Utah, I wanted to be a teacher but I didn’t know what to major in.  English, History, Business? There were so many opportunities. I counseled with my mother and with my professors.
You likewise may find it is your first semester and you don’t know what to major in, or you may feel you thought you knew and now that it’s your second semester, you’re not so sure.  You have at this unique college a collective community of interested faculty and staff who have a wealth of experience and understanding and are here not only to teach you their subject matter but also to help you determine a course of study and to help you build on your strengths.  Ask for their counsel and be sure to counsel with the Lord.
You will find as I did that you won’t be told what to do but your academic advisors will help you reason through different kinds of questions such as:
Are you majoring in something marketable?
What talents has the Lord given you that enable you to do certain things really well?
And what kinds of things do you feel that you and the Lord can do with your life that will make a difference for good in the lives of others?
I still vividly remember doing my student teaching at my old high school. I taught an English class to 10th graders. After the first week, I realized I had made a terrible mistake. The students were more interested in goofing off. Once again I found myself counseling with my mother and my professors. One of my professors, Dr. Nelson said:  “Well, Carolyn, I always thought you were going to go on for your doctorate.” The thought had never entered my mind. After all, I really wanted to get married. I wondered, “How can I afford more schooling?” and “Am I even smart enough?”  I fervently prayed to the Lord for guidance and was prompted to apply for a graduate fellowship even though the English Department had awarded none to women before. Upon receiving the fellowship, I realized I was pursuing the right direction the Lord wanted me to, and then I prayed even more fervently that I would have the intellectual capacity to complete the degree. Little did I know how and where the Lord would use me with this educational preparation in His kingdom. Well, I began teaching at the College fresh out of grad school. I finally found David in my mid 30’s, only for us to be disappointed in not being blessed with children; and here I am where the Lord planted me and where I have had wonderful experiences with my colleagues and with my students, whom over the years on many occasions I have affectionately called my children.
College is more than papers, tests, and grades.  From an eternal perspective, college is that slice of time in your mortality which is about determining first, what you’re going to do with your life, and second, what kind of person you’re going to be.
Well, what kind of person are you going to be?
In the Book of Mormon, Alma tells about Lehi and the Liahona and their curriculum in the wilderness:  “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.” (Alma 37: 41)   President Gordon B. Hinckley has said: “The Lord has mandated that this people get all the education they can. And so I say to you . . . rise up and discipline yourself to take advantage of educational opportunities.”  (Ensign, November 2006)
How are you progressing in your journey at LDS Business College? Are you slothful or are you exercising your faith and diligence—being “disciplined” as President Hinckley counsels?
It’s been said that discipline requires sacrificing what we would like to do or want at the moment for what we want most.
I remember my first load of classes at the “U,” especially English Composition 101 from Dr. Jones.  She was tall, slender, and austere looking—no, she didn’t have a bun at the back of her head.  She was precise, articulate, and had an unbelievable vocabulary. I was sure it rivaled Shakespeare’s. I was intimidated to the point that I didn’t participate verbally in class but feverishly took notes in shorthand. Do any of you know what shorthand is? It’s truly a lost art to your generation—but I digress. At any rate, it seemed like every other word she used was new to me. Now, I could have dropped the class or switched to an easier teacher of another section. But I decided to persevere.
Before I could begin my writing assignment, I’d have to check the dictionary for the meaning of all those new words. But that wasn’t the most frustrating part of the course. I did not like to do my homework at the last minute and yet try as I might, the ideas simply wouldn’t connect until the eleventh hour of every Sunday night. To add to my frustration, my older sister liked to watch the Perry Mason rerun at 11:00. Now, television was a new novelty in our home and I really liked Perry Mason, too. But more than that, I really wanted to do the assignment right and, of course, get an A out of the class so I’d put in my earplugs, pray for inspiration and concentration, and begin the arduous task of creating my paper.  The result? I was rewarded with an A in the class. But more than the grade, I was rewarded with a much larger vocabulary and a better ability to compose my thoughts under the most trying of circumstances. Little did I know that such discipline would help me throughout college and through many tough assignments at LDS Business College.
When I began teaching here, I would remind students the first day of class that they could be either an active learner or a passive learner.  The responsibility was theirs. And so I ask of you—you don’t have to raise your hands on this, but answer it to yourself—are you a passive learner? Do you consistently saunter into class late? Do you attend class unprepared? Do you sit there in a semi-conscious state dimly aware of what is being discussed or explained? Do you take mental excursions like thinking about what you did yesterday, deciding what you’re going to do after class, or text messaging a friend? And as a result, do you ever leave class saying, “Oh, what a waste of time that was”?
Or, are you an active learner? Do you go to class on time? Do you read the assigned chapters or complete the homework before class? Do you participate by asking questions and exchanging ideas in order to learn how to think critically? And as a result, do you leave class saying, “Wow, I learned a lot today”?
I remember one time when a student came to my office and said dejectedly, “I’d like to withdraw from my classes. How do I go about doing that?” It’s typical for a handful of students to do this during a semester. And typically, I always inquire why. The student responded: “Well, I’ve never been a good student and college is even harder than I expected.”
“In what ways is it harder?” I inquired.
He gave me two main reasons: first, getting behind in his assignments because of not balancing his social life with his studies, and second, feeling guilty about not working more hours to help pay for his education because his parents had already sacrificed to send him on a mission and now to LDS Business College (he was the oldest of several siblings). Well, we talked some more. And finally, I shared two examples I thought might resonate to these reasons and help him reconsider.
The first example came from a paper written by one of my students in the Communications 122 course. The assignment was to read a book, select a concept being taught, and site a personal experience applying that concept. The student had read As a Man Thinketh by James Allen and had selected Allen’s concept about “Knowing and understanding yourself brings you the ability to let others lean on you. One who knows how to control his actions and govern himself has the ability to adapt to others and their needs.” The student then cited this personal experience: “School has always been more or less a social activity and during high school I socialized more than I did homework. I didn’t have much discipline or self-control. I decided, now that I am in college I have to really settle down and work hard which has taken quite a bit of effort on my part in developing self-control. In the process, I had to give up a portion”—notice, a portion. Not all, but a portion—“of what had been the number one thing in my life, socializing. As a result of having time to myself, I have had the chance to find out who I am. I have control over how I want to govern myself instead of following the way of the crowd. Now I find more people leaning on me and learning from my influence.”
The second example came from Elder Robert D. Hales who told about the 1968 marathon runner by the name of John Stephen Akhwari who represented Tanzania in an international competition. “A little over an hour after [the winner] had crossed the finish line, John Stephen Akhwari . . . approached the stadium, the last man to complete the journey. [Though suffering from fatigue, leg cramps, dehydration, and disorientation,] a voice called from within to go on, and so he went on. Afterwards, it was written, ‘Today we have seen a young African runner who symbolized the finest in human spirit, a performance that gives meaning to the word courage.’ When asked why he would complete a race he could never win, Akhwari replied, ‘My country did not send me 5,000 miles to start the race; my country sent me to finish the race’.” (Ensign, April 1998, p. 37)
The student had sat there listening intently and when I finished, he said: “I’ve decided to reconsider; would you help me?” We looked at how he was performing in each class, decided what he could rescue, and redirected his efforts. And with discipline, he graduated, the first in his family—thus setting the example for the remaining siblings. As he walked across the stage after receiving his diploma, this husky guy gave me a bear hug and whispered in my ear: “My family did not send me to LDS Business College to start a degree; my family sent me to finish a degree.”
College is more than papers, tests, and grades. From an eternal perspective, college is that slice of time in your mortality which is about determining first, what you’re going to do with your life and second, what kind of person you’re going to be. 
Your ability to prepare yourself and to be disciplined is determined by what kind of self-image you are shaping and molding. The story is told about a little boy who watched Michelangelo for days working on a huge mass of carrara marble. Michelangelo would chisel here and there; and then stand back and look at the marble; chisel some more here and there, stand back and look at the marble; and chisel some more. When the Statue of David was finally finished, the little boy tapped Michelangelo on the shoulder and asked, “How did you know he was in there?” 
Each day at the College, like the great sculptor, you are shaping and molding yourself in the exact image you want to be. It is this “self-image” that shapes your personality, that programs your dress, appearance, and mannerisms, that determines how you feel about yourself. And like the great sculptor, you need to stand back from time to time to look at what you’ve chiseled out so far. Whenever I asked my students to take five minutes to write down their strengths and weaknesses, they typically listed more weaknesses than strengths.
Studies have shown that people who have self-confidence and high self-esteem do so by building on their strengths.  Of course they have weaknesses; we all do. On the other hand, people with low self-esteem have a habit of rehearsing negative mind binders as we call them in Comm. 122. Often those mind binders are imposed on them by others, and those mind binders remind them of their weaknesses. This habit undermines and chokes off your talents and prevents you from achieving your goals. 
The destructiveness of rehearsing weaknesses was made clear to me when I was dancing with the Utah Civic Ballet Company. The founder of the company, Mr. Christensen, or “Mr. C” as we called him, decided to groom a few of us for solo roles to spell off current soloists.  He picked a different ballet for each one of us and mine was Coppelia. How many of you have seen a ballet? Oh, I’m so grateful. Those of you who haven’t—you must! You must see a ballet.
Now, Coppelia was a tough ballet because Mr. C had choreographed lots of balances and turns. In the world of ballet, you have to be good performing at least two out of the three – balances, jumps, or turns. I was really good at balances and jumps and my turns were so-so, but I felt fairly confident. However, the task of moving from demi-soloist to soloist is an arduous one because instead of a flashy five minutes on stage you have to be on stage for 30 minutes at a time and so the stamina factor is huge. In Coppelia, Mr. C choreographed all these unbelievable balances at the beginning of the ballet and left all the tough turns at the end. As a new-comer to soloism, that meant at the point I was already exhausted and my legs felt like jelly, I had to finish the ballerina’s solo by performing 24 fotes on the left leg, followed by chene turns down stage, and finally a double pirouette without falling into the orchestra pit. 
Mr. C changed the ending for Janice, for whom turns were a snap, because her back was giving her problems. But for me, who struggled with turns, he would not change the ending. When I appealed to the ballet mistress to intercede in my behalf, she retorted, “You’ve always wanted the role, now let’s see if you’re strong enough to do it.”  Ah, the negative input from others, right?
Have you ever done a “Yes, But” routine? This is what mine sounded like. “I want to do the lead in Coppelia, YES, BUT I don’t have enough stamina; YES, BUT I can’t do turns as well as Janice;  YES, BUT my legs feel like jelly at that point; YES, BUT if I fall I’ll never get another chance again.” Well, I whined all these YES BUTS to my mother. She was a wise teacher. She asked me if I had thought of an action plan, and I told her that after my prayers and just before falling asleep at night, I’d rehearse the entire ballet in my mind. She suggested I add to that visualization process the use of positive affirmations. 
She pointed out that the Lord and his prophets consistently used affirmations. And so I searched the scriptures, and I found that yes, the Lord had indeed given each one of us a most powerful affirmation when he said as recorded in Psalm 82:6, “You are children of the most High.” Or in other words, I am a child of God
Ammon said: “In God’s strength I can do all things.”  (Alma 26:2, emphasis added)
And Nephi said: “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded.”  (1 Nephi 3:7, emphasis added)
And so when I rehearsed the ballet at night before falling asleep and when I got to the 24 fotes, I would mentally say to myself:  “With the Lord’s help . . . 
I am filled with an enormous amount of energy;
I can feel my left leg as strong as steel;
I will turn like spinning top.
And, of course, I practiced daily to increase my strength.  You know the homework your instructors assign?  Some of you would probably like to skip it, and in fact, you may do that on occasion. Well, homework is like practicing; it’s like a dress rehearsal before your performance on an exam. 
Finally, the big day arrived and I had given a stellar performance to the point of the 24 fotes. As I started those turns, I could feel an unmistakable surging from those in the wings encouraging me “1-and-a-2-and-a-3-and-a-You can do it-4” and all of a sudden, I was filled with an enormous amount of energy; I felt my left leg as strong as steel, and I  finished 24 fotes, chened down stage in a straight line, did three pirouettes turning like a spinning top, and landed on both feet—not in the orchestra pit. Well, those in the audience jumped to their feet and gave me a standing ovation they were so excited and I just beamed because I had achieved one of my goals—dancing the lead role in a ballet.  
Years later, I remember witnessing one of my students experience something similar.  Several weeks into the Interpersonal Communications class, I noticed that Susan had not given a one-minute, group leader report even when I inconspicuously arranged it so she would have to be a group leader. Now we all know that speaking before an audience is the number one fear most people have, next to drowning. 
After class one day, I said: “Susan, I noticed you haven’t given a group leader report and I’d like to help you with that; do you have some time we could talk?” She shook her head hesitantly. I asked her to give me a call so we could schedule some time and then assured her I wouldn’t put her on the spot and just call on her. She faithfully attended and participated in the group discussions but wouldn’t schedule a time to talk, even though I asked her numerous times. Because part of the class was getting to know everyone, the students sat in a different group each week. 
It was now two weeks before the end of the quarter. The students had finished the last project for the class hour. I asked for a volunteer group leader to stand and report. Susan stood up. I held my breath. It was as if everyone in the class knew that this group leader report was extra special. As Susan began her report, I felt a familiar surging; all the students looked at her with encouraging eyes. At the end, before I could lead with the customary “group clap,” all the students jumped up and clapped for her. Susan just beamed; it was amazing.
Later that day, she came to my office and said: “Thank you for being patient with me. I’ve been criticized all my life at the dinner table and at other times in public by my family with things like ‘That was a stupid idea!’ or ‘Can’t you think of anything better to say than that?’ And so, I was afraid. I was afraid I’d be criticized and that no one would clap for me.” She had been afraid to risk potential failure, ridicule and embarrassment. But in that special classroom environment that only an instructor and fellow students can provide each other at this unique institution, Susan trusted, risked, and was affirmed that day.
As Elder Neal A. Maxwell said: “We, more than others, should carry jumper and tow cables not only in our cars but also in our hearts, by which means we can send the needed boost or charge of encouragement” to help another grow in self-esteem, in self-confidence, in hope. (All These Things Shall Give Thee Experience, p. 56)
College is more than papers, tests, and grades. From an eternal perspective, college is that slice of time in your mortality which is about determining first, what you’re going to do with your life, and second, what kind of person you’re going to be. 
In preparing for our final exam before the Lord where we will all be asked to give an accountability report on our entire mortal life, how will you answer the question: “What did you do with that slice of time at LDS Business College?” 
I hope and pray you will be able to respond that you developed discipline, that you grew in self-esteem and helped others grow in theirs, that you discovered the talents the Lord has blessed you with, and that you prepared yourself to be financially self-reliant and a faithful parent and leader in His kingdom, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Introduction:  Larry Richards
Brothers and sisters, it’s a pleasure to introduce to you today Dr. Carolyn S. Brown, who serves as the vice president for academic affairs here at the College. Dr. Brown joined the College in 1973, and has held numerous positions here, including Dean, Acting Vice President of Student Affairs, program director, committee chair, Accreditation Liaison Officer, and instructor. She has been instrumental and deeply involved in the development and supervision of many aspects of the College, particularly those relating to classroom instruction and the learning experience, the array of our academic programs, and the development of the library and the Learning Assistance Lab.
Sister Brown attended the University of Utah where she earned her bachelor’s degree in English, Business and Ballet, and continued on to get a master’s degree and a PhD in English. She received several honors during her educational pursuits, and graduated with the highest of honors through her doctoral program. She has published and presented several papers, been involved in professional organizations, and received numerous honors in the community, [as a] volunteer and a lecturer.
In her church service, Sister Brown has served in numerous callings, including ward Relief Society education counselor, gospel doctrine and Relief Society teacher. She most recently served as a temple ordinance worker with her husband David, and I know they also served as hosts at the Conference Center. During the music today, David leaned over and said their goal when retirement finally comes is to do as many temple missions as they possibly can.
Now, Sister Brown’s greatest contribution to this college is her commitment to the students and the faculty who have instructed them. This is her life’s work, and it is her passion. It is a passion that is reflected in all that she does. Any who work with her are blessed because of her influence and her enthusiasm for the mission of the College. I invite you to open your hearts and to listen by the Spirit, that you may be edified by her thoughts and her testimony.

As a Son and Daughter of God, You Are of Great Worth

03 Jan. 2012

Transcript

As a Son and Daughter of God, You Are of Great Worth

 
As I thought about this talk, my mind went back to last November. Some of you may have had the same experience that we did, and that was that my family decided that we would try to go out and see if we could see the comet “Holmes.” It was located just up here about that direction by the constellation Cassiopeia. Late one evening we went into our back yard to look into the night sky, away from the lights of the neighborhood.
At first we used just our natural eyes to look for this comet. Finally, we located what appeared to be a fuzzy blur in the dark night sky. Then my son suggested that we use our binoculars. Looking through the binoculars, we could see the comet with a little more definition against the darkness of space, but still not clear. And then he said to us, “Hey, let’s use a military night-light scope that I have.”
When I placed that scope to my eye, I was startled by the sudden viewing of thousands, even millions of bright stars that appeared where before there was only the darkness of space. The comet then came into my range of sight, and it was blazing with a bright core of light. However, the one thing that caused all the members of our family to express feelings of awe was not the comet. It was the fact that by using the night-light scope, we could see millions of stars we had never observed before. The beauty of space was absolutely thrilling.
A few nights later, my wife and I were invited to the dedication of the new Royden G. Derrick Planetarium at Brigham Young University. That night, after listening to Elder [Richard G.] Scott about the immensity of our Father in Heaven’s creations, we were able to see photographs taken by the Hubble Telescope of all of the immensity of our Father’s heavenly creations. Seeing all of those marvelous things, I began to feel like Moses, after God had shown him the vastness of his creations.
In the book of Moses we read: “And God spake unto Moses, saying: Behold, I am the Lord God Almighty and Endless is my name; for I am without beginning of days or end of years; and is not this endless?
“And behold, thou art my son; wherefore look and I will show thee the workmanship of mine hands; but not all, for my works are without end, and also my words, for they never cease.
“Wherefore, no man can behold all my works, except he behold all my glory; and no man can behold all my glory, and afterwards remain in the flesh on the earth.
“And now behold, this one thing I show unto thee, Moses, my son, for thou art in the world, and now I show it unto thee.
“And it came to pass that Moses looked, and beheld the world upon which he was created; and Moses beheld the world and the ends thereof, and all the children of men which are, and which were created; of the same he greatly marveled and wondered.
“And the presence of God withdrew from Moses, that his glory was not upon Moses; and Moses was left unto himself. And as he was left unto himself, he fell unto the earth.
“And it came to pass that it was for the space of many hours before Moses did again receive his natural strength like unto man; and he said unto himself: Now, for this cause I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed.”  (Moses 1:2-4, 7-10, emphasis added)
As I contemplated the immensity of space that evening, and my feelings almost of nothingness, I was immediately reminded of the fact that when the Lord appeared unto Moses, he called Moses by his name—the Lord personally knew Moses. Moses was not just one of God’s creations; the Lord called him “My son.”
Joseph Smith had a similar experience in the Sacred Grove. There he prayed to God seeking to know which of all the churches he should join. In answer to his prayer, Joseph beheld God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. He related the experience by saying: “When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” (Joseph Smith—History 1:17, emphasis added)
Think of that occasion. The great Creator of the Universe personally appeared to Joseph Smith and, again, called him by name. Once again, we have a witness that our Heavenly Father personally knows each and every one of his children, both sons and daughters.
I have heard people say, “Well, these types of experiences only happen to men who are prophets, not to ordinary people.” However, President Harold B. Lee said, “My brethren and sisters, my friends, humbly I bear witness to you that there is a God in heaven and that he knows that we are his. He knows who and where we are, and he stands ready to help us at any time.” (President Hugh B. Brown, Conference Report, October 1969, Third day—morning meeting, p. 107)
President Spencer W. Kimball said about our relationship with our Father in heaven: “The Primary song says, “I am a child of God.” Born with a noble birthright. God is you father. He loves you. He and your mother in heaven value you beyond…measure. They gave your eternal intelligence spirit form, just as your earthly mother and father have given you a mortal body.
“You are unique,” he said, “One of a kind, made of the eternal intelligence which gives you claim upon eternal life.
“Let there be no question in your mind about your value as an individual. The whole intent of the gospel plan is to provide an opportunity for each of you to reach your fullest potential, which is eternal progression and the possibility of godhood.
“May you realize,” he said, that it is in your control. You can decide what you may be “and what you are going to do. Remember that your choices may control to some extent others whose lives will be a part of your life.
“Remember also that if you succeed, it isn’t because of luck. Success comes from faith and work and prayer and…constant righteous effort. It is a question of agency—of what you choose to do with gifts of God—everything upon the earth, wherein there is life” can be used by you. “This reverence for agency and life makes us greatly concerned about the world in which we live….It is a world beset with evil, with frustrations, with ugliness. It makes us realize that we must make a strong stand for the right or we may not stand at all.”
In conclusion, he said, “The Lord has never promised us that we will be free of problems and challenges. He has, however, promised that with faith we will have the strength to meet any eventuality in this life.”  (President Spencer W. Kimball, Ensign, November 1978, p. 101) 
As I prepared to spend this time with you this morning, I prayed that I might know what truths I might share with you to both instruct and to edify. In the early morning hours, the answer came very clear that I was to remind you of your special heritage as a son or daughter of our Father in Heaven, born and reared in celestial glories, instructed and taught in royal courts, even as princes and princesses born of royal birth.
As President Kimball said in the quote I just read, you are literally known to your Father in Heaven and your Mother in Heaven. They value you beyond your even your comprehension and mortal understanding. In addition, our Father in Heaven provided that there would be a Savior to perform a great Atonement in our behalf, which would break the bands of death for all of us, which would provide forgiveness of sins based on the principle of repentance, and finally—a power that we sometimes overlook, even the enabling power known in the scriptures as grace, to help us face and overcome the challenges we would encounter in this mortal life.
On October 23, 2001, then-president of BYU-Idaho David Bednar, now Elder Bednar of the Twelve, gave a marvelous devotional talk at BYU on the enabling power of the Savior’s Atonement. I would like to share two quotes with you from Elder Bednar’s talk. He defined first the enabling power which we know as grace by saying:
“I…want to describe in greater detail the enabling power of the Atonement. Brothers and sisters, please notice the use of the word “grace” in 2 Nephi 2:8 to which we just referred. In the Bible Dictionary in our scriptures, we learn that the word “grace” frequently is used in the scriptures to connote “enabling power.” On page 697 in the Bible Dictionary under the word “Grace” we read:
“ ‘A word that occurs frequently in the New Testament, especially in the writings of Paul. The main idea of the word is divine means of help or strength, given through the bounteous mercy and love of Jesus Christ.
“ ‘It is through the grace of the Lord Jesus, made possible by his atoning sacrifice, that mankind will be raised in immortality, every person receiving his body from the grave in a condition of everlasting life.’
“Now,” Elder Bednar said, “please note these next sentences:
“ ‘It is likewise through the grace of the Lord that individuals, through faith in the Atonement of Jesus Christ and repentance of their sins, receive strength and assistance to do good works that they otherwise would not be able to maintain if left to their own means. This grace is an enabling power that allows men and women to lay hold on eternal life and exaltation after they have expended their own best efforts.’” (emphasis added)
To help us more fully understand and appreciate this divine assistance, Elder Bednar concluded by saying: “There is no physical pain, no anguish of [spirit], no suffering of [the soul], no infirmity or weakness that you or I ever experience during our mortal journey that the Savior [has not already experienced]. You and I in a moment of weakness may cry out, ‘No one understands. No one knows.’ No human being, perhaps, [does know]. But the Son of God perfectly knows and understands, for He felt and bore [your] burdens before we ever did. And because He paid the ultimate price and bore that burden, He has perfect empathy and can extend to us His arm of [grace] in so many phases of our life. He can reach out, [He can] touch, and succor—[He] literally runs to us—and strengthen us to be more than we could ever be and help us to do that which we could never do through relying only upon our own power.” (“In the Strength of the Lord,” David A. Bednar, president of BYU-Idaho, devotional address given at Brigham Young University on 23 October 2001)
This great Atonement was made possible by the infinite sacrifice performed by the Lord Jesus Christ, our Elder Brother, who also loves and cares for us beyond our understanding. He is ready to “run to us,” to help us when in need. I am always humbled and filled with great gratitude when I read His words that are found in the 45th section of the Doctrine and Covenants: “Listen to him who is the advocate with the Father, who is pleading your cause before him—
“Saying: Father, behold the sufferings and death of him who did no sin, in whom thou wast well pleased; behold the blood of thy Son which was shed, the blood of him whom thou gavest that thyself might be glorified;
As I read and you heard those words, did your heart not thrill to hear how much the Savior loves you? Think of it. He is pleading your case before the Father by expressing His deep and abiding love for you.
Sometimes in your life, you may contemplate the question, “Who am I, really?” I’ve wondered what difference it might make in your life and in my life, if we were able to understand who we really are and what our potential really is in this life. President Harold B. Lee, I think, gave the answer to who you really are, and then challenged all of us to keep that remembrance in our hearts and our minds daily. In October general conference 1973, he said this:
“Well then, ‘Who am I?’ Those lacking in that important understanding, and, consequently, in some degree those failing to hold themselves in high esteem, which they would have if they did understand, are lacking in self-respect.
“…I recall the prayer of the old English weaver, ‘O God, help me hold a high opinion of myself.’” Brothers and sisters, “that should be the prayer of every soul;’ not an abnormally developed self-esteem that becomes haughtiness, conceit, or arrogance, but a righteous, self-respect that might be defined as ‘[a] belief in one’s own worth, worth to God and worth to man.
“…What a difference it would make if we really sensed our divine relationship to God, our Heavenly father, our relationship to Jesus Christ, our Savior and our elder brother, and our relationship to each other.”
President Lee continued: “Now,” he said, “as I come to the closing of this address, I trust that I might have given to you and others who have not yet listened to such counsel, something to stimulate…sober thinking as to who you are and from whence you came; and, in so doing, that I may have stirred up within your soul the determination to begin …to show an increased self-respect and reverence for [yourself]. I would charge you to say again and again to yourselves, as the Primary organization has taught the children to sing, ‘I am a (son or daughter) of God’ and by doing so begin today to live closer to those ideals which will make your life happier and more fruitful because of an awakened realization of who you [really] are.” (Conference Report, p. 10)
Those of you here at LDS Business College are, by your attendance following the counsel of the Lord’s latter-day prophet, even President Gordon B. Hinckley.  You might remember, he declared: “We live in a very challenging world. It isn’t likely to become less challenging, but [I believe] more challenging. We encourage our young people to educate their minds and their hands and qualify themselves to take places of responsibility in (the) society in which they will become a part. And in the process of [doing so], remain faithful and true [to] the Church which they love and in which they are members.” (LDS Church News, 1995, 03/18/95)
Some of you may be the first member of your family to ever attend college. Others of you have been out of school for a number of years, and have decided to obtain additional education in order to possibly get a better job. Please remember that President Hinckley’s prophetic counsel was to “obtain an education.” That education may not result in your becoming a medical doctor or a scientist. For some it means to obtain the kind of education that will help you in finding a job, the means to provide for yourself and your family and to provide service to others. Several years ago, then-Elder Eyring talked about the purpose of an education.
He said, “Let’s start with the purpose of our learning. The Lord and His Church have always encouraged education to increase our ability to serve Him and our Heavenly Father’s children. For each of us, whatever out talents, He has [a] service for us to give. And to do it well always involves learning, not once…for a limited time, but continually.
“In the scripture[s]…the Master is clear about the process. Through [faith,] prayer, fasting, and hard work, with a motive to serve Him; we can expect [that] His grace [will] attend us. I can assure you from my own experience, that does not mean we will always be on the high end of the grading curve. It means that we will learn more rapidly and grow in skill beyond what we could [have done] …with our [own] unaided natural abilities…
“….Your life is carefully watched over, as was mine. The Lord knows both what He will need you to do and what you will need to know. He is kind and He is all-knowing. So you can with confidence expect that He has prepared opportunities for you to learn in preparation for the service you will give. You will not recognize those opportunities perfectly, [even] as I did not. But when you put the spiritual things first in your life, you will be blessed to feel directed toward certain learning, and you will be motivated to work harder. You will recognize later that your power to serve was increased, and you will be grateful.
“Your service may not be in what the world would recognize as a lofty calling. When the real value of service becomes clear in the judgment of God, some people who worked in quiet anonymity will be the real heroes. Many of them, perhaps most of them, will be the underpaid and [the] underrecognized people who nurtured others. I never visit an elementary school and watch the teachers without thinking about that future day when the rewards will be eternal. I never visit a hospital and watch those who nurse and those who clean without thinking of that. I never visit a workplace where someone serves me and others [very] well, earning wages barely enough to provide the necessities for a family, without thinking of the future. …I never see a mother juggling three little children who are crying while she is smiling, as she shepherds them gently, without seeing in my mind’s eye that day of honor in the presence of the only judge whose praise will finally matter.”
President Eyring said: “Our”—your—“education must never stop. If it ends at the door of the classroom on graduation day, we will fail. And since what we will need to know is hard to discern, we need the help of heaven to know which of the myriad things we could study we would most wisely learn. It also means that we cannot waste time entertaining ourselves when we have the chance to read [and] to listen to whatever will help us learn what is true and useful. Insatiable curiosity will be our hallmark.”  (“Education for Real Life,” Ensign, Oct. 2002, p. 14)
Now, in conclusion I’d like to emphasize a couple of things that I have shared with you today. First, I want you to remember who you really are. Remember President Lee’s admonishment again: “I would charge you to say again and again to yourselves, as the Primary organization has taught the children to sing, “I am a (son or daughter) of God” and by doing so begin today to live closer to those ideals [that] will make your life happier and more fruitful because of an awakened realization of who you really are.”
I would ask that you would each remember President Kimball’s sweet revelation: “The Primary song says, ‘I am a child of God.’ Born with a noble birthright. God is your Father. He loves you. He and your Mother in heaven value you beyond…measure. They gave your eternal intelligence spirit form, just as your earthly mother and father have given you a mortal body.
“You are unique. One of a kind, made of the eternal intelligence which gives you claim upon eternal life.
“Let there be no question in your mind about your value as an individual. The whole intent of the gospel plan is to provide an opportunity for each of you to reach your fullest potential, which is eternal progression and [possible] godhood.”
As I look into your faces on this wonderful day, I see hope. I see the future. I see sons and daughters with great potential. I sense that there may still be some of you here struggling to learn and sometimes wondering what your future really holds. In those times of discouragement with your education, I invite you to remember President Eyring’s encouraging counsel: “Your life is carefully watched over, as was mine. The Lord knows both what He will need you to do and what you will need to know. He is kind…He is all-knowing. So you can with confidence expect that He has prepared …for you to learn in preparation for the service you will give. You will not recognize those opportunities perfectly, [even] as I did not. But when you put the spiritual things first in your life, you will be blessed to feel directed toward certain learning, and you will be motivated to work harder. You will recognize later that your power to serve was increased, and you will be grateful.”
In all humility, I stand as a witness before you that we are truly eternal sons and daughters of a loving Father in Heaven who personally knows each and every one of us. Across the vastness of the universe, my wife and I observed by looking at those photographs of the Hubble Telescope, that it is marvelous and comforting to know that He lives and He is very interested and He is very involved in all of our lives.
I also witness that the empowering aspect of the Atonement of Jesus Christ is real. His grace will help you in your schooling here at LDS Business College and in your life’s decisions if you will only abide in His covenant and sincerely ask for His help. I know that my witness I true, for I am a recipient of His marvelous grace in my own life. And I leave this witness and testimony with you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
 

Ears to Hear

03 Jan. 2012

Transcript

Ears to Hear

 Progressively over the last few years I have lost more and more of my hearing.  I wasn’t surprised when this happened because my father and two grandmothers also lost much of their hearing in later years.  It’s another evidence of aging, like bifocals, and I feel blessed to be alive in an era when I can use two little gadgets that you can’t even see, rather than a huge ear trumpet, in order to hear.  Other changes have marked this transition for me.  I sit closer to the pulpit in sacrament meeting and closer to the teacher in Sunday School.  I miss important dialogue in movies.  I miss pieces of conversations.  I feel I have to limit the number of times I say “excuse me,” “pardon me” or “what” so I don’t frustrate family members, friends, or colleagues. 
 While my loss of hearing is sometimes embarrassing and the cause of a few misunderstandings, I have learned that the consequences are not nearly as eternal as the spiritual deafness about which we have been warned in the scriptures and by modern prophets.  Our spiritual health and progression toward exaltation depend on two important things:  First, having ears to hear.  Second, and closely related to the first, learning to hear counsel.
 Ezekiel (12:2) warned that the rebellious have ears to hear but will not hear.  Jesus explained the great mission of John the Baptist as an Elias, the one who would herald the coming of the Messiah who would answer all the ends of the law and the prophets, and then said, (Matthew 11:15) “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.”  The Lord taught the early Saints, (DC 29:7) “And ye are called to bring to pass the gathering of mine elect:  for mine elect hear my voice and harden not their hearts.”
 I would like to discuss four ways that “having ears to hear and learning to hear counsel” will help us keep our sacred covenants and continue in our eternal progression.  These are:
1. Having ears to hear and learning to hear counsel are essential to being healed by the Savior from our sins, transgressions, and weaknesses.
2. Having ears to hear and learning to hear counsel are necessary to being able to know true doctrine.
3. Having ears to hear and learning to hear counsel are a prerequisite for receiving personal revelation.
4. Having ears to hear and learning to hear counsel are the only means of aligning our efforts with the Lord’s plans for us and for building His kingdom.
Let’s talk first about being healed by the Savior.  Jesus compared those who rejected him and those who followed him and became his true disciples in this way, “For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their hearts, and should be converted, and I should heal them.  But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears for they hear.” (Matthew 13:15-16) 
To be truly healed, we must acknowledge or admit that the course we are pursuing is not in harmony with the Lord’s will.   Unfortunately too many of us can sometimes be like Laman and Lemuel, who, when the Lord called them to repentance through their brother Nephi, became surly and antagonistic, complaining that the words were too hard, too sharp and too hard to understand.  I think in modern terms Laman and Lemuel would have said that Nephi, at best, had “offended them” and at worst, had “disrespected them.”  The pride of Laman and Lemuel made their ears dull of hearing.  They started a pattern that would be echoed and re-echoed throughout the Book of Mormon and has certainly reappeared, embellished and magnified, in the latter days.   As Helaman wrote, “…how quick [are the Children of men] to be lifted up in pride:  yea, how quick to boast, and do all manner of that which is iniquity; and how slow are they to remember the Lord their God, and to give ear unto his counsels, yea, how slow to walk in wisdom’s paths; behold, they do not desire that the Lord their God, who hath created them, should rule and reign over them; notwithstanding his great goodness and his mercy towards them, they do set at naught his counsels, and they will not that he should be their guide.”  (Helaman 12:5-6).
To be truly healed, one must not only stop doing the wrong thing, but also make every effort to right the wrong as far as possible.  May I suggest that one isn’t interested in righting a wrong when they begin with a small word with huge implications, “if.”  How often have we heard someone who has cheated, lied, spoken evil of someone else, or been unfaithful say, “If I have hurt anyone I am sorry but that is behind me now and I am ready to move on.”  Such an attitude puts the problem not on the actor and his or her behavior, but on those who discover the action or have been hurt by it.  “If” is a statement that reflects no remorse and no intent to restore what has been lost.  
The Lord said in section 56 of the Doctrine and Covenants (vs. 14), “Behold, thus saith the Lord unto my people – you have many things to do and to repent of; for behold, your sins have come up unto me, and are not pardoned, because you seek to counsel in your own ways.”  In other words, when we seek to cover our sins, to deafen our ears and harden our hearts, and avoid listening to the Lord’s direction for us, we push ourselves away from forgiveness, and deny ourselves the great miracle of the atonement.  Through the atonement we can put off the natural man, we can grow, and our weaknesses can be made strong.  Hearing the Lord’s counsel helps us make course corrections, assists us in turning away from error, and puts us in a position to be forgiven.
To be truly healed one must also then endure and persist in doing good.  This  valiant effort to continue to do good, having no more the disposition to do evil, is the hallmark of those who have relied on the merits of the Savior and who have come humbly to him with open ears to hear his counsel.
Perhaps the most dramatic illustration of this principle is found when the Children of Israel were nearing the Promised Land.  Remember, these people had been “wandering in the wilderness” for nearly forty years in order to get Egypt out of their hearts and loyalty to the Lord into their hearts.  As they were passing on the eastern borders of what we know as the Dead Sea, the terrain was arid, rocky, desolate, and difficult to traverse.  The people became miserable and discouraged.  Instead of turning toward God, they turned away from him and complained against God and his prophet,  Moses (Numbers 21:4-9)  As a punishment the Lord sent fiery serpents among them, fiery and very poisonous, for those bitten by a serpent became very ill and many died.
As is often the pattern, in their distress the people turned to Moses and confessed that they had sinned.  They begged Moses to ask the Lord to remove the serpents.  The Lord told Moses to make a brass serpent and put it on a pole in the middle of the encampment.  If anyone was bitten they should look on the brass serpent and they would live.  Alma later taught that the brass serpent was a type of Christ, that many of the Children of Israel did look upon the brass serpent and did live.  But, he also explained, “…few understood the meaning of those things, and this because of the hardness of their hearts.  But there were many who were so hardened that they would not look, therefore they perished.  Now the reason they would not look is because they did not believe that it would heal them.  O my brethren, if ye could be healed by merely casting about your eyes that ye might be healed, would ye not behold quickly, or would ye rather harden your hearts in unbelief, and be slothful, that ye would not cast about your eyes, that ye might perish?”  (Alma 33:19-21) 
I am a nurse by profession.  I have seen many people try every possible therapy, even scientifically questionable ones, be willing to spend countless dollars and undergo the most miserable treatments in hopes of being healed.  It is hard for me to fathom someone so hard hearted (or deaf of hearing) that he or she wouldn’t try something as simple as looking at a brass serpent on a pole if they could possibly be healed.  Yet, those who do not have ears to hear are often unable to turn their ears or their eyes to the Savior of the World, who suffered and bled for them in the Garden to give them the opportunity to be healed.
We also need ears to hear in order to know true doctrine.  One of Satan’s strategies in the last days is to confuse people about what is true.  Without knowledge of the truth men and women are driven in the wind and tossed.  We can’t obey the truth if we don’t know it.  And knowing the truth frees us from the chains of doubt, despair, confusion, and error.  With our ears open to hear counsel and our hearts open to receive counsel, we can distinguish between our own desires and the Lord’s ways.   We can recognize the difference between truth and how Satan can distort truth to lead us away from saving principles and ordinances.  By knowing true doctrine we can anchor ourselves firmly in the hope offered in the gospel of Jesus Christ. 
We especially need to know true doctrine about the atonement and the process we go through to receive mercy, redeeming grace, and forgiveness.   I believe one of the reasons for the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, in a time when “creeds were an abomination in the Lord’s sight” and the doctrines being taught were “the commandments of men, having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof” (Joseph Smith History 1:19), is so that we might know true doctrine, the true doctrine necessary for salvation and exaltation.  We know that Joseph Smith said (intro to the Book of Mormon) that “the Book of Mormon was 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.”  The Lord, himself, said the Book of Mormon contains the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ (DC 20:8)   Elder Russell M. Nelson has explained that the reason the Book of Mormon has the fullness of the gospel is that it tells us more about the doctrine of the Savior’s mission and atonement than any other book of scripture.  Some may have knowledge of more facts about ancient history, symbolism, or the political setting of each event in scripture but those who have a testimony and knowledge of the atonement will be able to unlock miracles in their lives. 
Third, the prerequisite for receiving or hearing counsel from the Lord, whether it be given to us through our personal study of the scriptures, our own personal fasting and prayer, temple attendance, or through wise Church leaders, is the humility necessary to listen to the Holy Ghost and lean on the Lord and not “on the arm of flesh.”  The Holy Ghost can teach us when we are humble and want to be teachable.  The more we hunger and thirst after righteousness, the more we can be filled with the Holy Ghost (3 Ne 12:6).  Those who desire his companionship and live so as to receive it in meekness can feast on the words of Christ and be given all things they should do (2 Ne 32:3). 
Having ears to hear and being willing to hear counsel is also the one way we can align our efforts with what the Lord would have done to build his kingdom and do his work.  A number of years ago Elder Charles Didier was an area president in the Southwestern United States.  A reporter from a small LDS-oriented newspaper in Arizona asked him what he worried about the most for the members in Arizona.  His reply was that he was concerned that they would manage their church callings the same way they managed their professions or their careers and they would never pay the price of the humility necessary to learn what God wanted them to do in their callings.
 I have learned that most Latter-day Saints really do want to “build up the Kingdom with earnest endeavor.”  (Hymns #309)  We have made sacred promises to do so.  I have also learned that some of us want to build up the Kingdom in our own way, not necessarily in His way.  Sometimes we can be so sure that what we want to do is best for the Church that we are unwilling to hear counsel otherwise.  I am often reminded of the scene in the move, The Sound of Music, when Captain Von Trapp determinedly tells Uncle Max Detweiler that his children will not be performing in the music festival in Salzburg.  Max tries to convince Captain Von Trapp that having the children sing would be good for Austria.  When the Captain rolls his eyes, Max admits that it wouldn’t do him any harm either.  Sometimes we need to give ourselves the “Uncle Max” test and find out if our own pride or our own rewards are foremost in our hearts when we say we are thinking about what is best for the Church.
When the Church was newly formed some who had been baptized in other denominations did not think they needed to be baptized again in order to “join” the Church.  They expressed their opinions strongly to the Prophet Joseph Smith.  The Lord however, revealed to Joseph what was right, and summarized with this statement, “(DC 22:4) “Wherefore, enter ye in at the gate, as I have commanded, and seek not to counsel your God.” 
We have a powerful example of someone who had ears to hear and could also hear counsel in the Prophet Joseph Smith.  We know from Joseph’s own history that after he reported the events of the first vision to others he was ridiculed and tormented.  If ever there was a young man who wanted the safety and security of good friends to stand by him, that young man was Joseph Smith.  And he eventually found such a friend in Martin Harris.  Martin Harris was much older and was a respected business man in the community of Palmyra.  To have such a friend and benefactor was truly a blessing to the young prophet.
And so, when Martin Harris requested permission to take the first 116 pages of the translation of the plates home so that his wife could see them (and stop nagging him about his support of Joseph Smith), Joseph took the request to the Lord.  The answer was no.  Yet, Martin Harris continued to ask the prophet if he could take the manuscript of the translation.  Finally, on the third time, the Lord said, “yes” and Martin departed from Harmony, Pennsylvania with the 116 pages to show his wife in Palmyra, New York.  Martin was given strict instructions about the precious document.  It was the “only one” in existence.  No scribe had made a copy. 
Tragic family circumstances kept Joseph Smith from thinking about Martin Harris and the manuscript for a while.  But, as the days went by, he eventually became worried, so worried that he traveled to Palmyra to retrieve the 116 pages.  When finally confronted with the fact that Martin Harris no longer had the manuscript Joseph felt that he had lost his soul.  He knew the parameters the Lord had set.  He also knew that he had wearied the Lord with repeated requests.  I can’t imagine how devastated Joseph must have been.
Yet, because Joseph had ears to hear and was willing to hear counsel after this terrible error (an error anticipated by the great prophet Mormon who had ears to hear when the Lord told him to include the small plates of Nephi with his abridgement for a wise purpose (verse 7) he knew not).  Joseph spent agonizing days in repentance.  The gift of translation was taken from him for a time.  To top it all off, the Lord’s counsel to him was written in a revelation published in the Doctrine and Covenants to be read by generations of members of the Church who would know of his mistake. 
Listen to the Lord speaking to Joseph Smith, a young man who felt he needed a powerful friend in Martin Harris.  “The works, and the designs, and the purposes of  God cannot be frustrated, neither can they come to naught….Remember, remember that it is not the work of God that is frustrated, but the work of men; For although a man may have many revelations, and have power to do many mighty works, yet if he boasts in his own strength, and sets at naught the counsels of God, and follows after the dictates of his own will and carnal desires, he must fall and incur the vengeance of a just God upon him.  Behold, you have been entrusted with these things, but how strict were your commandments; and remember also the promises which were made to you if you did not transgress them, And behold, how oft you have transgressed the commandments and laws of God, and have gone on in the persuasions of men.  For, behold, you should not have feared man more than God.  Although men set at naught the counsels of God, and despise his words – Yet you should have been faithful; and he would have extended his arm and supported you against all the fiery darts of the adversary; and he would have been with you in every time of trouble.  Behold, thou art Joseph, and thou wast chosen to do the work of the Lord, but because of transgression, if thou art not aware, thou wilt fall.  But remember, God is merciful; therefore, repent of that which thou hast done which is contrary to the commandment which I gave you, and thou art still chosen, and art again called to do the work.”  (DC 3:1-6)
Joseph heard the Lord’s counsel, he had ears to hear, and became the great prophet of the restoration who did “more save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it.”  (DC 135:3) 
We have another wonderful, more modern example of someone who had ears to hear and who could hear counsel.  We all know the story of President Hinckley’s discouragement on his mission; that he wrote to his father saying perhaps he should come home because he wasn’t accomplishing anything in the mission field.  We know his father wrote him a short note that told him to forget himself and go to work.  President Hinckley heard his father’s counsel and went to work.  Someone without ears to hear may have thought to himself, “What does my father back in Utah know about my difficulties here in England?  Doesn’t he know I am already working as hard as I can?”  No, President Hinckley had a humble heart, heard the counsel, and did his very best to follow it.  And, all of us who are members of the Church have benefitted from his ability to hear the wise counsel of his earthly father.
On the other hand we have numerous examples of those who don’t have ears to hear and who cannot hear counsel.  One of the most dramatically spiritually deaf in Church history was Thomas B. Marsh, a man of great intellect and ability.  Soon after he was baptized in 1830 a revelation was given to him through Joseph Smith.  In this revelation the Lord counseled Brother Marsh to “pray always, lest you enter into temptation and lose your reward.  Be faithful unto the end, and lo, I am with you.  These words are not of man nor of men, but of me, even Jesus Christ, your Redeemer…”  (DC 31:12-13)  For a time Brother Marsh had ears to hear and heeded the counsel the Lord had given him.  He became the President of the Quorum of the Twelve.  But, in taking his wife’s side in an argument over cream skimmings, Brother Marsh became hostile to the leadership of the Church who had decided against his wife in the clash between two sisters over the cream.  His support of his wife carried him to criticism and then to apostasy and excommunication.  He, indeed, had lost his reward.  Brigham Young became the President of the Council of the Twelve and led the Church from Nauvoo to the West after Joseph Smith was martyred.   Brother Marsh had weathered Kirtland and Jackson County but when something as serious and as far reaching as milk skimmings came along, he could no longer hear the counsel given to him not by man, but by the Savior.
Nineteen years later Brother Marsh made his way to Salt Lake City to ask Brigham Young to forgive him and permit him to be rebaptized.  He wrote to Heber C. Kimball saying, “I began to awake to a sense of my situation;…I know that I have sinned against heaven….[I learned] the Lord could get along very well without me and He has lost nothing by my falling out of the ranks; But O what have I lost?!  Riches, greater riches than all this world or many planets like this could afford.”  (quoted by James E. Faust in the Ensign, May 1996, 7).
Not only are there significant consequences for failing to have ears to hear, there are also magnificent blessings for those who do hear counsel.  Consider these few among many.
“Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good.”  Alma 37:37
“And inasmuch as they follow the counsel which they receive, they shall have power after many days to accomplish all things pertaining to Zion.”  DC 105:37
“My sheep hear my voice and I know them.”  John 10:27
“Behold I stand at the door, and knock:  if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”  Revelation 3:20
How do we increase our capacity to have ears to hear and to obtain the blessings of hearing counsel?   I used to be the Primary pianist, my favorite church assignment.  There were some Sundays when the children arrived at Primary with more wiggles, squeals, shouts, and giggles than the adults could manage.  The chatter and noise would sometimes over power the piano.  On those occasions, the Primary President would patiently stand in front of the children and tug gently on her ear, saying, “children, it is time to put on your ears.  Can everyone put on their ears?”  And like magic, the children would quiet down and get ready to listen.  Like these Primary children, we need to simply “put on our ears.”  We need to get ready to hear.  We need to tune out distractions and turn our minds to listening.
Developing ears to hear, once we have tuned in, is much like the process of developing faith.  After all, having faith in the omnipotence, omniscience, and complete love of God motivates us to desire and trust his counsel.  Alma (chapter 33) describes seven factors in this process.  First, we must humble ourselves through repentance so that we can be receptive to counsel (verses 15-16).    Second, we must awake and arouse our faculties to experiment upon the word of counsel given (verse 27).  Third, we need to exercise a particle of faith to act on the counsel (verse 27).  Fourth, we continue to nurture what we have been told despite a tendency to doubt or be discouraged (verse 28).   Fifth, we recognize the confirmation that what we have heard is good and right and true (verse 31).  Sixth, we nourish what we have heard with care, and continue to act on it (verse 37).  And Seventh, we come to know and appreciate the counsel as sweet and feast upon it (verse 42). 
I did the research for my dissertation in Nigeria.  When I arrived in Nigeria I could tell that almost everyone around me was speaking English, but I couldn’t understand all that was being said.  I had to concentrate, I had to practice by listening to many people, and I had to compare and contrast accents.  Sure enough, over time not only could I understand all that was being said, I enjoyed it and when I came home I longed to hear those unique expressions and accents. 
Finally, in order to really keep our ears open to hear counsel we must be willing to recognize and conquer our own episodes of pride and be able to learn from them.   We will make mistakes, but we can learn, we can be teachable, and we can commit to listening better. Let me give you a personal example.
Three years ago I traveled to the Dominican Republic with a good friend to pick up her son from his mission.  We planned to visit several of his missionary areas, meeting the people he knew and loved.  I rented a car and bought several maps.  But, I quickly realized that one of the most nerve wracking experiences of my adult life was driving a rental car in the Dominican Republic.  It was a white knuckle experience.  I am good at reading maps and the maps I had were accurate – unless road work was being done, or a new road had been added, or my route turned into a one-way street.  My driving improved over the five days we were there but I was impressed to know that driving the long distance from the hotel to the airport in the dark at 4 am probably wasn’t a good idea, especially in the drenching rain storm that had descended during the night.  I decided to hire a taxi to guide me to the airport. 
I strategically placed the Spanish speaking missionary and his mother in the taxi with instructions to drive slowly and not to lose the “gringa” following behind.  If it took longer to get to the airport, so be it.  I would pay the extra charge.  The plan was to drop off the missionary’s mother and the luggage.  Then the taxi would lead me to the car rental return location, wait while I checked in the car and then return the missionary and me to the airport.  I hasten to add that we had rented the car in town rather than at the airport because our flight had landed after the rental car sales desk had closed.  I had absolutely no idea where the car rental agency was at the airport.
Everything worked as planned.  The taxi driver drove carefully and I followed him with exactness.   I did not deviate one bit.  We arrived at the airport, unloaded the luggage and the missionary mother.  I was so happy.  We had made it.  I followed the taxi out of the departure lanes and then, for some inexplicable reason, I was overcome with a fit of figurative deafness.  I happened to see a sign “rental cars” with an arrow pointing off to the left.  When the taxi driver ignored this sign and kept driving straight ahead, I thought, at that moment, “I surely know better than he does.”  I decided to follow my own counsel instead of that of the local expert, an expert I had hired because he knew the area.  Instead of following the taxi as I should have, I turned on to the road to the left.
I still cannot explain why I experienced that prideful, conceited, and stupid moment.  I don’t know what made me think that suddenly I knew my way around and had no need to follow the experienced local person who knew the way.  But, it happened.  I just ignored him and went off on my own.
What a mess.  I hadn’t gone in the correct direction at all.  I was now totally lost.  I tried to get back on the road the taxi had been on and was successful.  But, I couldn’t find the taxi anywhere.  I passed rental returns for every company except the one I needed.  I didn’t know the roads and suddenly ended up back on the freeway headed to Santo Domingo.  Large concrete barriers made it impossible for me to reverse direction.  I couldn’t imagine how lost I would be once I arrived back in the city.  I was praying those desperate foxhole prayers, begging the Lord for forgiveness for my pride and stupidity.  He had mercy on me and I noticed a gas station that serviced both sides of the freeway.  I was able to drive in and turn around.  I asked the workers at the station in broken Spanish, ““ayuda mi por favor, donde esta Nacional” but they couldn’t help me.  I ended up back at the airport and went back down the road the taxi had taken with the exact same result.  At least this time I knew I could turn around at the gas station, which I did the second time (paying toll charges each time I must say). 
I had now spent more than an hour driving around with no success.  The sun was starting to come up and it wouldn’t be long before the plane was scheduled to leave.  I was an emotional wreck.  I doubled the intensity of my foxhole prayers.  I promised the Lord I would never be so stupid again if he would just help me out this time.  The third time around the airport I felt impressed to try a road I hadn’t tried before.  I ended up in a rental car return, but not the one I needed.  Still, the good workers there were willing to go with me to show me the way to the car rental agency I needed.  Then they took me to the airport.  I had been saved from my own idiocy. 
Naturally the missionary and his mother were getting worried.   The missionary and the taxi driver had also circled the airport numerous times looking for me without success.  Finally the taxi driver felt he needed to get back to his real business and left them there on the curb with the luggage.   But, I had the airline tickets so they couldn’t even try to check in.   What a reunion we all had when I was finally dropped off by the kind Dominican workers.  I was so relieved I couldn’t stop praising the many mercies of the Lord in rescuing me from my own prideful counsel.
I had an entire flight to meditate on the lessons I learned from that experience.  One little glitch in your “hearing” can really get you off track.  I thought about how foolish I was to have followed the taxi driver so carefully for so long and then suddenly believing I didn’t need guidance anymore, gone off on my own.  I recognized that no matter what you learn, or what you think you know, you never want to put yourself in the position of thinking you know more than the Lord does and heeding your own counsel instead of his.
 You all remember the story of young Samuel.  While Samuel was asleep in his room, the Lord called him twice.  Samuel thought it was Eli, the high priest, speaking to him and went to Eli asking what he wanted.  Eli finally perceived that it was the Lord who was calling Samuel and gave him wise counsel.  The third time the Lord called to Samuel, Samuel was prepared and answered, “Speak Lord, for thy servant heareth.”  (1 Samuel 1:4-10).
My prayer is that when the Lord seeks to speak and counsel us – through the scriptures, through our prayers, through parents, through others, through our leaders, through the Holy Spirit – that we will have our ears on and say as Samuel did, “Speak Lord, for thy servant heareth.”  In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
 

What Does It Mean to Be Successful?

03 Jan. 2012

Transcript

What Does It Mean to Be Successful?

We not only want every graduate to succeed in life,but we also want you to feel that success deep inside of yourselves and understand what it means to be successful. Recently I attended the funeral of one of my closest friends who died in a sudden accident. Family, friends, and those people whose lives my friend had touched deeply packed the stake center. Unlike many of us, he had expressed his love constantly to his children and grandchildren. He had a strong reputation among his professional colleges. Many came to pay their respects. He had served the people of Latin America as a mission president. He left those people infinitely better for his wise and energetic service. His missionaries traveled long distances to honor their great president and his wife, a full companion in that mission. He loved and trusted and taught them. Surely if any person could be judged successful, my friend was that person.
The funeral was a happy occasion, almost a celebration. One element, however, left me somewhat saddened. He did not seem to know and feel that he had achieved greatly. Somehow he erroneously concluded that his life had been a failure. His wife and children had tried to convince him that he had lived a wonderful life. I had also done my best to communicate my love and admiration for his great accomplishments by e-mail messages from Germany during the last month of his life, but he could only momentarily accept and understand the great impact he had on many people. I bring this up to introduce a vital subject: what does it mean to be successful? We desire that all of you will lead successful lives and know and feel that success for yourselves.
A growing body of literature explains how to achieve great goals in this life. For example, Dr. Charles Garfield wrote a book on peak performers and how they achieved the heights in their lives. His years of research uncovered these principles that set apart the peak performers from the rest. They (1) had missions that motivated them, (2) set goals to achieve results in real time, (3) achieved self-mastery in managing their lives, (4) were team builders and team players, (5) made necessary course corrections, and (6) maintained overall momentum and balance in working with their game plan.
But that is not my subject. As great and desirable as it may be to become a Michael Jordan, a Bill Marriott, a Helen Keller, or a George Marshall, most of us will never know that thrill. Some of you may become peak performers, but I suggest that such achievements is not necessary to be a success in life. It may even be a hindrance. All of you can, in my judgment, become successful.
We can define success in a variety of ways. We could say that to achieve success is to gain a favorable result, reach our goals, and have a good and wished for ending to our life’s quest. We could say that a successful person is one that accomplishes what she or he desires or intends in life, or one that succeeds in gaining wealth, position, or other advantage. Let’s snatch a few other thoughts from here and there.
In a talk before the Hamilton Club in Chicago in 1899, Theodore Roosevelt said this about success:
Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory or defeat.
In that way of thinking, the successful person is one who tries mightily, who is not afraid to venture because of timidity or fear. That is a good and relevant thought for our subject.
One of my favorite thinkers is the great jurist, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. Once he replied to a reporter’s question on his ninetieth birthday, two months before I was born. He said: “Young man, the secret of my success is that at an early age I discovered I was not God.” Humility is surely an ingredient of success and helpful as we reach for its meaning.
The great British statesman, Benjamin Disraeli, besides saying, “I hate definitions,” gave us an element of success when he said: “The secret of success is constancy to purpose.” Another great British leader, Winston Churchill, as most of you will remember, delivered this impressively brief address at Harrow School in 1941: “Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never–in nothing, great or small, large or petty–never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.”
I shall conclude this exercise in defining success with one of my favorites; In his book They Call Me Coach, the legendary John Wooden of UCLA said:
“Success is peace of mind
which is a direct result of
self-satisfaction in knowing you
did your best to become the
best you are capable of becoming.
The reason this definition appeals to me is that such success is within the reach of every one of us. We all need that peace of mind. If, at the end of the day, we know we did our best and we know we became the best we are capable of becoming, isn’t that success? Doesn’t that leapfrog past counting our money, being number one, and gaining fame? We all can continue to improve, continue to try, never give up, and give the world and our families our best. We may be misunderstood, belittled, and mistreated, but if we have done our best and continued to try, we are successful. In the final analysis, it is our attitude that counts. Also, what we are matters infinitely more than what we do. Coach La Vell Edwards, the wonderfully successful BYU coach, told other coaches who came to him seeking professional advice: “Coaching is what we do, not who we are.”
Viktor E. Frankl, the Jewish psychologist, who spent World War II in a Nazi concentration camp where only one in twenty-four survived, learned there a magnificent lesson about success. He said that those men who did not let the situation destroy them, who comforted others and gave their bread to save others, offered “sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms– to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
He said that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but what matters is what life expects from us. We are being questioned by life–daily and hourly. Our answer must consist of right action and conduct. Success is not giving in to self-pity and inaction when the going gets tough, when we are disappointed by results, or when things haven’t worked out the way we expected. If we haven’t achieved a position or recognition, it doesn’t matter in the final analysis. Success is what we do with the situation life has handed us. And when we discover meaning in our trials and tribulations, when we learn the lessons of life from them, we are well on our way to success. Jesus showed us the way on the cross.
Frankl noted that “the prisoner who lost faith in the future–his future–was doomed.”
Churchill also said: “Success is never final. Failure is never fatal. It is courage that counts.”
Wooden added: “It is what you learn after you know it all that counts.” He also said: “Things turn out best for those who make the best of the way things turn out.” This observation underlines Frankl’s findings, already quoted.
The final aspect of success I desire to share is this: As we achieve success, we should never forget that we are part of the human race, and act accordingly with love and compassion for others, especially the poor. Otherwise our success is merely vanity, as Ecclesiastes observed. I like the parable Jesus shared about the rich man who had an abundant harvest and “thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room were to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And, I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall these be, which thou hast provided?”
If our life consists in merely gathering in our fruits, our bank accounts, and our stocks and bonds, of what value is our life. We need enough for our needs and perhaps our modest wants, and we need to take care of our families. But we should never forget the poor and those of our fellow men that we can help. I wonder if we haven’t gotten away from the principles behind the old law in ancient Israel pertaining to the poor. The law was that in harvesting our fruits and grains, we should not take everything, but leave some on the trees and stalks for the poor to glean. The law required everyone to leave behind some of their crops for the poor and the stranger.
The Lord must love the poor because most of the world’s people could be classified as poor. Let’s not, in all of our success and striving for gain, forget those in need. Isaiah inveighed against Israel because they “beat my people to pieces, and grind the faces of the poor.” The author of Proverbs captured the principle simply: “He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord.”
In helping the poor, we should never forget their own desire and ability to help themselves, nor trample on their inherent dignity. In her autobiography published by Utah State Press, my Grandmother, Effie Marquess Carmack, described the conditions in her Kentucky home, poor by any standards we would apply today. Without apology, she then observed: “Anyway, we never felt poor, as we had a frugal, industrious mother, who did her level best to keep good food and clothing for her children, and to keep good warm, clean beds.” Notice the quiet pride and dignity these rural Kentucky folks enjoyed.
One of the most inspirational examples of the power of that dignity to raise as poor person of ambition to a higher level comes from the autobiographical story of Booker T. Washington in Up From Slavery. Washington was working for a pittance in the mines when he overhead two of his fellow workers talking about a great school that admitted young people of his race and made possible for them to work for board and room. He determined to go there against his families’ wishes, even though Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute was in Virginia, about 500 miles away. The story of how he walked, rode in wagons, and in train cars to reach Hampton is poignant. Hungry, cold, with only the clothes he wore, he often walked the streets at night without a place to stay. We pick up his story in his own words:
As soon as possible after reaching the grounds of the Hampton Institute, I presented myself before the head teacher for assignment to a class. Having been so long without proper food, a bath, and a change of clothing, I did not, of course, make a very favorable impression upon her, and I could see at once that there were doubts in her mind about the wisdom of admitting me as a student. I felt that I could hardly blame her if she got the idea that I was a worthless loafer or tramp. For some time she did not refuse to admit me, neither did she decide in my favor, and I continued to linger about her, and to impress her in all the ways I could with my worthiness. In the meantime I saw her admitting other students, and that added greatly to my discomfort, for I felt, deep down in my heart, that I could do as well as they, if I could only get a chance show what was in me.”
After some hours had passed, the head teacher said to me: “The adjoining recitation-room needs sweeping. Take the broom and sweep it.
I swept the recitation-room three times. Then I got a dusting-cloth and I dusted it four times. All the woodwork around the walls, every bench, table, and desk, I went over four times with my dusting-cloth...When I was through, I reported to the head teacher. She was a ‘Yankee’ woman who knew just where to look for dirt. She went into the room and inspected the floor and closets; then she took her handkerchief and rubbed it on the woodwork about the walls, and over the table and benches. When she was unable to find one bit of dirt on the floor, or a particle of dust on any of the furniture, she quietly remarked, ‘I guess you will do to enter this institution.’
We can feel the dignity and power of this man who became one of the greatest men of the world in his day. I think the wise and generous man or woman who established the Hampton Agricultural College deserves our accolades and can serve as a model for you in your future.
In his humble way, George Albert Smith showed us the way to live. He, the grandson of the great George A. Smith, rose to be President of the Church. This is part of the personal creed by which he lived: “I would be a friend to the friendless and find joy in ministering to the needs of the poor.” Who could forget the picture of President Smith taking off his overcoat in winter and placing it on the shipment of clothing the Church sent to Europe during the bleak winter following World War II. He was deeply respected by this community because of his tolerance and compassion for the poor.
He also said: “I would live with the masses and help to solve their problems that their earth life may be happy.”
The writer of Psalms taught: “Defend the poor and fatherless. Do justice to the afflicted and needy. Deliver the poor and needy.”
Billions of poor reside in the world. No matter how things go for you, stay close to the ordinary, garden variety, run-of-the-mill people of the earth. We are part of them and they of us. As John Donne so beautifully observed: “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main...any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
In 1978 President Gordon B. Hinckley told BYU students: I heard a man of prominence say the other day, “I have amended the language of my prayers. Instead of saying, ‘Bless the poor and the sick and the needy,’ I now say, ‘Father, show me how to help the poor and the sick and the needy, and give me resolution to do so.”
And therefore, what? Succeed, every one of you. You can, you know. Adopt the tremendous concept that success is not necessarily achieving high place, great wealth, or preeminence among your fellow men. Success will come to all if you, in your endeavor, do your best. Become the best you are capable of becoming. Choose honorable endeavors, if you have a choice, and stay constantly and always with those endeavors. Never give in to baser things. Success is largely in keeping your attitude solid, strong, and pure, no matter what circumstances you face. Never lose hope or purpose.
And remember who you are. You are a human being, a part of the whole, and but for the grace of God would be among the billions of the poor. Leave a part of your fruit and wheat on the vines of the poor. Help the poor as you have means in your success to do so. Never despise them and to what you can to join others in delivering them.
We honor you. We congratulate you. We fervently pray for your success and have confidence that if you heed what you know to be right all of you can be successful.

The True Measure of Success

03 Jan. 2012

Transcript

The True Measure of Success 


My wife has done a remarkable job with our children. We have eleven children and she has done a wonderful thing in teaching all of them how to cook and so, as our sons have left home and gone away to college, at least two of the three that have left home of the boys know how to make bread. They would make bread but would be to busy studying so their roommates would take it to the girls and really impress them. They had a lot of girls just hanging out at their apartments. Guys, if you want to learn how to make bread, I'd suggest that that's a pretty good way to meet others.
President Woodhouse in the introduction mentioned our grand-snake. I probably should make a quick comment about that. Our second daughter, fourth child to get married, from the time she was just a little teeny girl always wanted to have a pet snake. Christine, my wife thought it was pretty safe in saying, "Look, we will not have a snake in this house. If you want to have a snake, you'll have to grow up and marry someone who will let you have a snake." It turns out that she met her soul mate, because our son-in-law is majoring in pre-veterinary medicine and wants to specialize in reptiles.
When they talked about having a snake, they actually came to see us before they went to the reptile fair to get one and said, "You know, we've been thinking a lot about it, and we are not sure we are going to be able to have children, so we decided to give you a snake instead." Our three other married children have given us a grandchild. From this couple, at this point, all we have is a snake.
As I gave some consideration of what I would share with you today on this occasion, I started thinking about an experience I had a number of years ago. I was traveling internationally with a good friend and colleague of mine and over the course of a number of days we spent a lot of time together. As we were in an airplane traveling from one place to another he turned to me and said, "What do you think are the keys to being or becoming successful?"
You can appreciate that this question stimulated quite an interesting conversation because success can be measured a number of different ways from a number of different vantage points. For example, what does success mean personally? What does it mean professionally? What does it mean socially? What does it mean intellectually? What does it mean financially? There are a lot of different ways you can consider success.
As we talked about it for a while, we came up with four points that I suggest might be important no matter which direction or course your life may take. First of all, make learning a life-long process. Second, be honest in all that you do. Third, do the very best you can at whatever you do. And fourth, make sure that your life is anchored in the Savior. These four items are interrelated and they're synergistic. You can probably write volumes on any one of those four things. I will just touch on them very briefly today and let you contemplate on how they apply to you individually.
First of all, make learning a life-long process. When I was in college I had an English teacher who told me that our college education is not complete until we have read the entire, unabridged works of Shakespeare. That is not the Cliff Notes version, that's the entire unabridged works. Even though I graduated from college a long time ago, I have continued to learn and to study and a lot of things have fascinated me. But I have to confess that my college education is still not complete at this point because I have not finished reading the entire works of Shakespeare yet. But sometime I will.
I believe that the purpose of a college education is to stimulate your interest in learning, and then help you learn how to learn. Many of the facts that you'll gain while you are here at the business college and in other educational pursuits will either be forgotten or outdated over time.
I would like to use an example, and this will probably be more meaningful for those of you who are studying accounting than anybody else, but at least it's illustrative. When I graduated in accounting over 25 years ago, FASB 13 was still a discussion draft. For those of you in accounting, you might understand what that means. But since then, there are now over a 150 professional accounting pronouncements.
Over the years, much of what I learned in college has either become obsolete or superseded. In the area of taxes, those of you who are studying accounting know that just a couple of weeks ago, President Bush signed new legislation changing the tax law. So what you've learned is already outdated unless you keep learning and growing. I think that if we learn how to learn, the things that we are learning help us keep expanding and growing and learning new things, and thinking about things in new ways. In this organization we teach the principle of eternal progression.
Another fun example is a slide rule. How many of you know what a slide rule is? I can see some grey hairs that know what one is. I guess if I would say how many of you have ever used one, probably the same hands would go up. I was actually going to bring a slide rule as a visual aid today but I have a son who is in graduate school and I think he might have my slide rule with him. I think he's fascinated with old things because he took my slide rule and he's currently studying Greek as well. He has this fascination with things that are out of date.
Back in the olden days, we used a slide rule instead of a calculator. When I first started college I was a chemistry major and I decided when I got to college, instead of using a cheap old plastic slide rule like I used in high school, I would invest in a really nice slide rule. So I went down to the bookstore, got a really nice metal slide rule, used it for a year and then went on a mission. When I came back two years later, slide rules were obsolete. A new technology had come into being and it was called a hand-held calculator. The calculators in those days could just do the basic math functions and cost about $400 a piece.
Over the years technology has changed and become much cheaper. Today you can buy the same kind of calculator with basically the same math functions for fewer than $20 dollars, probably fewer than $10 even.
Technology has changed so much over the years that it's really quite amazing. If you think about just an average automobile, today there is more computing power in a new car than there was in the Apollo 11 space module that landed on the moon in 1969. If you think about it, the guys that figured out how to get the space capsule from the earth to the moon and back again did all of their calculations on good old slide rules.
If you value learning and make it an integral part of your being, you will keep growing. Elder Maxwell stated, "For the disciple of Jesus Christ, academic scholarship is … actually another dimension of consecration. Hence one who seeks to be a disciple-scholar will take both scholarship and discipleship seriously; and likewise, gospel covenants. For the disciple-scholar, the first and second great commandments frame and prioritize life. How else could one worship God with all of one's heart, might, mind and strength?" (Luke 10:27).
The Lord said, "Seek learning even by study and also by faith." (D&C 88:118). I think that means that you cannot successfully get through your finals with faith alone. You do have to prepare by studying. And the more you learn, you will continually marvel at the knowledge and majesty of God and His creations. When you think that we are going to have to create worlds, we have a lot we have to learn. Yet in the process you'll prepare to be of greater service to our Father in His Kingdom. So paraphrasing Dory from the movie, "Finding Nemo," I would suggest you keep on learning.
Second, be honest in all that you do so that those around you will have confidence in you and be able to trust what you say. My wife and I had a very interesting experience recently. We were attending parent-teacher conference and met with one of our daughter's teachers. She has had this teacher each year for the past three years. Through his experience with her, he has come to realize that he can trust whatever she says.
One day at the beginning of the week he announced that the students were going to have a test that week. When they got to mid-week, he'd forgotten which day he had told them it was going to be. He got up at the beginning of the class and said, "Okay, kids we are going to have the test today," and a lot of the students said, "Wait a minute, today's not the day, it's tomorrow." I'm sure none of you would try to postpone taking a test, right? He knew from his experience with our daughter he could turn to her and say, "Is today the day we are suppose to have a test?" Without embarrassing him or isolating herself from some of her friends, she said, "Boy, I hope not." He knew just because of her answer that was not the day, because he knew he could count on her to say yes if it was and to have been prepared if that was the day of the test.
We happen to live in a world where socially acceptable behavior in many circles has engendered a mindset of situational ethics. I'd like to use just a couple of examples if I may. I'm sure that all of you are too busy to know what's happening on Saturday Night Live. A short time ago, there was a pop singer by the name of Ashley Simpson who was asked to perform on Saturday Night Live. She got up and started singing and then on her second song, the band started playing but the words came on for the song she had just finished singing and they discovered that she was lip-synching. She had been hired to perform and yet was doing something that was perhaps a little bit on the edge. She has taken a lot of flack from the press since then.
Let's assume in the future you get a job and you are working for a company and you're getting paid less than you're really worth (because you are of infinite worth nobody can pay you what you are really worth.) But you are getting paid less than you should be and you are filling out an expense report. You turn it in to be reimbursed and you have a couple of receipts, one is a credit card receipt and one is another receipt and you have so much going on that you turn in your expense report and then the next week you come across a bunch of other receipts and say, well I will just attach these two and get reimbursed more than what you actually spent. These are things that happen out there in the world.
Lets assume that you are a contractor and you bid a house, and when you go to buy your materials you think that if you put two by four studs in the wall, nobody is really going to see them and so if you just get the cheapest stuff you can get, nobody will really know and it will help reduce your cost and therefore increase your profit on this job.
Another example: I'm sure that some of you may have heard about Enron a couple of years ago. Let's assume that you are an accountant and that you work for a company and your boss comes to you and says, "We've got to keep the stockholders happy and so our profits have got to go up every quarter. You do whatever it takes to make sure that our profits look better this quarter than they did last quarter." What are you going to do?
Let's assume that you are in nursing and you're caring for a patient who is terminally ill and is suffering and every time you go in to take care of him, the patient says, "Why don't you just help me die so that I don't have to keep going through this," and you know that you have enough knowledge and capability to allow that to happen. What kind of choice do you make?
Another example: I know that probably none of you would do this but it is an interesting phenomenon along the Wasatch Front. Sometimes we talk about temple marriage as something that is socially acceptable and important to do in this culture. So some young people plan to go to the temple but don't prepare to go to the temple and when they go into an interview with their bishop or stake president, they may not necessarily be worthy to enter into the House of the Lord. But they know that if they don't go, their parents or friends or family will think less of them and so they go and answer the questions incorrectly, inappropriately, dishonestly just so they can get a temple recommend.
James pointed out, "A double minded man is unstable in all his ways." (James 1:8). In contrast, Mormon, while abridging the Book of Mormon record, makes an editorial comment about the people of Ammon by stating, "They were distinguished for their zeal towards God, and also towards men, for they were perfectly honest and upright in all things and they were firm in the faith of Christ even unto the end." (Alma 27:27). I encourage you young people to make a personal goal to distinguish yourselves in being honest at all times and in all things and in all places.
Third, do the very best you can wherever you are and opportunities will present themselves to you. Some of you may have heard about Rex Lee, the former president of Brigham Young University. At one point in his career, Rex Lee was the Solicitor General of the United States. The Solicitor General is the second highest legal office in the country, after the Attorney General. The Solicitor General is the attorney who represents the United States, arguing cases before the Supreme Court. When Rex Lee was the Solicitor General, he had argued more cases in front of the Supreme Court than any other person alive at that time.
A reporter from the alumni magazine from BYU went to Washington to interview him and the student asked a very interesting question. He said, "Brother Lee, what kind of career goals have you set in order to get from law school to become the second most powerful attorney in the United States?"
Rex Lee was a masterful teacher, and I think he wanted to take advantage of a teaching moment and so he paused for just a moment, looked the student in the eye and said, "Well basically I have found that setting career goals is a waste of time. I think what really matters is that you do the very best you can in whatever you do. Opportunities will come to you and then you have a choice to make. You choose whether you continue on the same path or whether you take a different path. If you take a different path, then you just do the very best you can at whatever it is you're doing. And if you do, then more opportunities will come your way and when that opportunity comes, then you make another choice."
Rex Lee, after being the Solicitor General of the United States, became a partner with a law firm in Washington D.C. He was then called by the Brethren and asked if he would be the president of Brigham Young University.
Another example I share with you is someone you will get to know a lot more about in the near future-Elder David Bednar. Elder Bednar was the youngest son in a family growing up in the Bay Area in California. He is very athletic. In fact, as the president of BYU-Idaho he would run up and down the bleachers about twelve times every day just to stay in shape. He had a lot of students who tried to challenge him and none of them could keep up with him.
When he was in high school, he was very athletic. He was quarterback on his football team. In preparation to be a good quarterback, his father who was about 60 at the time was his receiver. He would take his dad out to the football field and have his dad run pass patterns so he could practice with him. He also was an excellent golfer. He was rated number ten in northern California as a senior in high school. He had a lot of offers for scholarships in different places but he chose to go to BYU. They didn't offer him a scholarship so he had to walk on as a football player at BYU. That is what he wanted to do. If you look in the record books, you won't find anything on David Bednar as a quarterback at BYU.
As a student he was good, but probably not top of his class. But he just kept working and doing the very best that he could, went to Purdue and got a PhD. He ended up as a professor of business at the University of Arkansas. If there are any of you from Arkansas, I hope I don't say anything offensive. An Arkansas business professor is not in the main stream of being noticed as someone who would be selected to be a college or university president. But Elder Bednar just kept doing the very best that he could in serving his family, serving the Lord, and growing professionally.
One day he got a call from the President of the Church who said, "Brother Bednar, we'd like you to be the president of Ricks College. Ricks College is a two-year junior college, it has always been a two-year college, it will always be a junior college, so don't try to change it." Brother Bednar's expertise was organizational behavior and change by the way. He was instructed very firmly not to try to mess with a good thing that was happening at Ricks College, but when the Lord inspired the Prophet to make a change and make it BYU-Idaho, he was the perfect individual to be in place at that time, to help that happen.
These are just two examples of people that are very visible. However, you don't need to be famous in order to be great. Elder Robert L. Simpson who was a General Authority from my era spoke of the importance of spear carriers. He said that as in a stage play, there are always a few who have leading roles and are always standing in the spotlight. Those who make the scene complete, however, are the rest of us who fill the stage by standing in the background holding the spears. He stated, "Every great Church leader of today was a spear carrier yesterday…. But most importantly, thousands who perhaps at one point spent time in the spotlight have stepped back from the front ranks to pick up a spear."
Elder Maxwell noted, "An important part of discipleship is to become high yield and low maintenance members of the Church." He also stated, "Whether one is a neurosurgeon, a forest ranger, a mechanic, a farmer or a teacher is a matter of preference not principle. Although career choices are clearly important, these do not mark your real career path… you have been invited to take the path that leads home…. But the capacity to work and work wisely will never become obsolete. And neither will the ability to learn."
Most people will change careers, not just jobs, from four to seven times throughout their lives. So what you are thinking you want to do right now might be different than where you are five years from now or ten years from now or twenty years from now. Just remember this: cream always rises to the top. If you put in the effort, your efforts will be rewarded whether it's academically, professionally, spiritually or in your personal relationships.
Fourth and most importantly is anchoring your life in the Savior. President Hunter stated, "If our lives and our faith are centered upon Jesus Christ and His restored gospel, nothing can ever go permanently wrong. On the other hand, if our lives are not centered on the Savior and His teachings, no other success could ever be permanently right." If you want to know the mind and will of the Lord, you have to come to understand what they are.
Sterling W. Sill, who was another General Authority, taught that if we want to understand someone else's thoughts, we need to learn to think the way they do. For example, thinking about my son studying Greek, if you want to understand Plato as a Greek philosopher, you have to read the words of Plato, ponder them and let Plato's words flow through your mind. Then you will start to understand the way that Plato thought. Similarly, if you want to understand how Shakespeare thought, you have to read Shakespeare's words and let his words flow through your mind and ponder them and think about them and you will then start to understand how Shakespeare thought.
If we want to understand the thoughts of Christ, we need to read His words and let His thoughts flow through our minds. The Savior is a perfect example of charity. Moroni admonished us to "pray with full energy of heart that we may be filled with this love, that when He shall appear we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is." (Moroni 7:48). Elder Maxwell again said, "If we don't choose Christ and the kingdom of God first, in the end it doesn't really matter what we choose."
President Woodhouse didn't mention that when I was released as a stake president, they let me be the Primary pianist for a year. That's a great calling. I love being in the Primary and being able to play the piano.
Perhaps in the way of anchoring our lives in the Savior, there is a Primary song that has some very wise and firm counsel that I'd like to share with you. I have a pianist here and I told her to be on call just in case we happen to have time and I felt impressed to do this. I will just sing one verse so that no one is late for class.
"I feel my Savior's love in all the world around me.
His spirit warms my soul through everything I see.
He knows I will follow Him, give all my life to Him.
I feel my Saviors love, the love He freely gives me."
Brothers and sisters, you may have goals and a direction for your life. However, He who sees the end from the beginning may cause you to make some course corrections in order to accomplish His plan for you. Change, if required, is not always comfortable. But if you are firmly anchored in Christ, you will always be on safe ground. "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding," (Proverbs 3:5) and "the Lord thy God shall lead thee by hand." (D&C 112:10).
Success, like beauty, is probably in the eye of the beholder. However, "the Lord seeth not as a man seeth, for man looketh on the outward appearance but the Lord looketh on the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7). If you continue to learn and make learning a life-long endeavor, if you are honest, if you do the very best you can, if your life is anchored in the Savior and "if you keep His commandments and endure to the end, ye shall have eternal life which is the greatest of all the gifts of God." (D&C 14:7). That is the true measure of success.
May the Lord bless you as you seek His success in your life, I pray, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

© Intellectual Properties Inc.

Seeing Things as They Really Are

03 Jan. 2012

Transcript

Seeing Things as They Really Are

Thank you very much. Thank you for being here—great faith and trust. Brother Tuttle, would you do me a favor, please? My sweetheart couldn’t make it—would you assume her role for a little today? I say that because Brother Tuttle is from—his family is from the same area that my sweetheart grew up in. So at the appropriate time, start doing this, all right? So that I’ll know where we are.
Brothers and sisters, I hope that you believe those hymns that were rendered. I am a child of God—I hope you believe that.
My children—that concerned the first hymn there—they did not believe that in their early years. I could tell that because they changed the words. “I am a child of God, and He has sent me here, has given me an earthly home with parents kind of weird. Lead me, guide me, walk beside me.” That’s a plea to Heavenly Father, not to me as a parent.
I would hope that you would believe these great hymns. You are children of God, the most powerful Man in all the universe. You are His child. And He doesn’t need to—as I would with my children—He doesn’t need to give a litany of names trying to find which one you’re talking to. I’ve even been known to include the dog’s and cat’s names. And I name my vehicles, and so my children really don’t know how many we have.
If you really believe that—those hymns—then you will be able to maybe render some feelings that I have concerning this day and some things about you. May I just say this in maybe a little story that all of you I’m sure have been familiar with. We’ll start the story off with “Once upon a time.”
There was a stake center that had just recently been built. Directly above the organ of that beautiful building was a nail in the ceiling. Day after day, that nail looked down on the organ and wished, “Oh, if I could be that organ! The organ does so many things. If I could sing the way you do.” And we say those things. This nail kept saying, “Oh, if I could just do that, then I would be doing something important.
The nail would look at the other parts of the chapel. “Oh, if I could be the altar. If I could hold the bread and the water, the emblems of that Easter day. If I could do that!” And as the nail continued to think this way, he shrunk in importance in himself. One day a great storm came. Therein caused the tragedy. The little bit of space in the shrinkage of this nail, the rain got to the organ and destroyed the organ.
Brothers and sisters, my great desire and hope for you is that you will realize and know that no matter where Heavenly Father has placed us, where in the stake center of life, there is an eternal reason for that. As Lehi said, he prayed that we would be a worthy instrument—wherever we are placed. (See 2 Nephi 1:24) May I compliment you on being placed here? A great trust has been placed upon you. Where much is given, much will be required. So may I just give you a few little thoughts on fine-tuning? As Brother Mumford said, I know many of you. I know who you are, both from association and through the gospel doctrines. So I don’t want to say to change anything, just maybe thought of fine-tuning.
Many years ago, I accompanied one of my daughters to see an orthodontist. We were escorted into a room, and there was that chair, and, you know, the bright lights and all those gadgets. And in this particular office there was another chair just like it. And seated there was a young man about the same age as my daughter. His sister was with him to give him encouragement and hope, and when the orthodontist walked in he went first to this young man. And he sat down—in your mind’s eye, can you see him sitting on his little chair, this orthodontist?—and as he was talking and greeting, he said, “Please open your mouth,” and “Open wide.” You know the route that he was taking. And then he leaned over and looked into the mouth of this young man. And all of a sudden, what drew my attention, especially as the orthodontist just kind of revolted back, reeled back and looking at the sister and the young man, he just simply said to the sister, “If I gave your brother some warm water in which to rinse out his mouth, we could have some soup. Please, take your brother home. Clean, brush, bring him back. Then I can make some adjustments.”
I have learned, brothers and sisters, from that. As I’ve looked back over my experiences, as I have learned—if I am clean, adjustments can be made.
If I may give you an example. One evening, in interviewing a sweet sister for her temple recommend renewal, the question came up towards the end, “Is there anything in your conduct,”—sorry, that’s not the right question—“Is there anything you have done in your life that would keep you from having an experience in the temple?” And she thought for a moment, and you could tell with her pondering she was serious with that question. And then she looked me in the eye and said, “President, I believe I’m okay. Thank you.”
So then I asked the next question. And then, we signed her recommend. As she left the room, I was very comfortable. I knew this sister, and I was comfortable with it. That was my last interview, so then as we were—I was kind of putting some stuff away, and a knock came on the door. I thought, “Who could this be?”
I went to the door, and it was this sister, and she had kind of a different expression. I said, “Please come in. How can I be of assistance?”
She said, “President, as I was unlocking my car, a thought came to my mind. I remembered something of my teenage years.” Now, this was a great-great-grandma. And she said, “I had never thought of this until now. May we talk?”
We did. And as she left, she left with her recommend still intact, but having had an opportunity of expressing a few feelings to her president. I know that when she went to the temple the next time, some tremendous things were taught her, because the Holy Ghost brought things to her memory. Not serious things. She had already taken care of those, I’m sure. She was worthy, but there was a slight adjustment in her braces that Heavenly Father wanted to have made. I have learned, brothers and sisters, adjustments can be made when we come properly. Will you please always have a current recommend? Always, even if you’re not able to physically go. Always have a recommend.
The second kind of learning I’d like to share with you is shown in a story from President Marion G. Romney. He was worried about his wife’s hearing. He was afraid she was losing her ability to hear. He went to his physician and asked him what he could do, and what might happen. And the doctor gave advice. He first of all asked him the question, “How bad is it?”
“Well, I don’t know.”
“Here’s what I’d like to ask you to do,” he said. “Go home, speak a certain distance from her, and then if there’s no answer, move up and so on, until you know how bad it is.” So President Romney went home as instructed, went to the bedroom—his wife was in the kitchen—and there he called her name. And there was no answer, so he dutifully moved forward. Called again, no answer. And this went on a few times, until finally he was standing in the kitchen doorway.
“Ida,” he called her, “Can you hear me?”
She turned from the sink, or from wherever she was, and said, “Marion, what is it? I’ve answered you three times.”
If I may, because Brother Mumford says I’m supposed to do this, take a weird approach to this. I have learned something, brethren and sisters, about judging priesthood leaders that we assume cannot hear as good as we can hear. I would hope that you would never assume you can hear better or differently than your bishops. They are called of God. They are His representatives.
May I just give another little story. Years ago—some of you will remember this, those of you up here; you will not—there used to be a thing called “Budget” in the Church. Bishops were responsible for the maintenance of the building, the utilities, payment of custodial salaries, whatever—that came from the local membership, the ward. So bishops would develop a budget. Then he would review his membership list, trying to figure and ask the Lord, would there be an assessment, and how much. Two elderly sisters, widows, were called in at the appropriate time for their turn to be with the bishop to find out what their assessment would be for the ward budget.
The first sister—and they were good friends—the first widow went in to the bishop. This was not that long ago, brothers and sisters, but they went in and the bishop was kind of nervous, speaking to these sisters. He said to the one in the room, giving her assignment or assessment, “Do you think you can do this?”
She went ashen—and then said, “Bishop, are you sure?”
Then he, being a new bishop, said, “Yes.”
She said, “Then I will. I can.”
And she left the room, for the next person, her friend’s, turn. This next widow came in and lo and behold, same conversation. The assessment was given. “Can you do this?”
“Yes, I can, Bishop. That’s fine.” And she left the room, not questioning the bishop at all.
The next week the first widow came back to her bishop, caught him after the meetings and said, “Bishop, we need to talk.”
“Okay, let’s do it right now. I have time. Can you?”
“Yes.”
When they were in the office, she says, “Bishop, my friend did not understand what you asked us last week. She thought you meant this was an annual assessment for the budget. You mean it’s every month, don’t you?”
Tears flowed as a bishop realized this sweet sister had not heard clearly what was intended. She worried about what her bishop had done to her, but she went willingly, “Yes, Bishop, I can pay this every month.” The “Widow’s Mite” is not just a New Testament story. Brothers and sisters, the sister was corrected; she walked out of the room having received a multitude of blessings from a loving Heavenly Father for what she placed on the altar.
I hope that you will always honor your bishops. I hope that you will always follow their counsel.
President Monson, in the last conference, spoke to the priesthood, especially the Aaronic priesthood. There was one phrase that caught my eye, and that is he asked those young men—and all of us—to have vision, to especially have vision in our small decisions.
May I be a spiritual optometrist for just a minute? And will you be optometrists with me? Vision number one: The Jews, said Jacob, were a stiff-necked people. Thus they became blind to the things of the spirit, and began to look beyond the mark. (See Jacob 4:14) 
You know the results of that lack of vision. When we look beyond the mark today, I believe we just call it simply far-sightedness. As I drive down the road, I cannot see that which is in front of me, but I see long things off. And that is a problem for those back then. If you know things about the Jews, you know they were too busy looking beyond the mark by staring in search of a political liberator, and they missed the Messiah.
People who look beyond the mark are not without sight. They can see, but they just see what they want to look for, or to look at. This might be compared to us today in a little simple way of saying, as you’re driving down the roads here in Salt Lake, you’re looking down two intersections ahead of you—at that intersection—and not realizing that a truck is entering the intersection that you’re entering. That would be a disastrous situation for us all, wouldn’t it? We ought to pay attention, not only down there, but also see those things that are around us.
Another example would be—a little bit more pertinent to what I’ve observed—someone waiting for a major assignment from the Lord, and missing some smaller assignments, what’s considered smaller. Someone waiting to be of great service to the Lord, and missing daily opportunities to see the Savior as one an hungered, or as a stranger, or as one imprisoned. I am just very pleased with what I see here at this campus. I have seen many doors being opened for another. I have seen many times when someone drops something and another picks it up. I compliment you for seeing those small moments and not missing, or not assuming that consecration is a once-in-a-lifetime event. You know it’s a daily devotion. Thank you for not always being blinded by seeing afar off.
The Apostle Peter referred to another malady in our vision. He said in 2 Peter, that “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness…that by these [things] ye might be partakers of the divine nature….He that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off.” (vv. 3-4, 9)  Notice how these people are different than the Jews. These do not see the big picture. This would be someone that is in the midst of their earthly trials and cannot see a purpose for those trials. This would be someone who would make a decision without considering Heavenly Father’s plan. These are people that know not the plan. We should not judge them harshly, for they’re making decisions on the light they have, but unfortunately, they would err in their decision, not seeing afar off.
If we, in the midst of our trials, would maybe cry out to Heavenly Father asking the question, “Why hast thou forsaken me?”—not in the way the Savior did, but in accusation—I would maybe want to suggest that that kind of vision would assume that Heavenly Father is no longer on our side.
President Abraham Lincoln is one of my heroes. When he was approached during a critical crisis that he was facing, some clergymen came into his office and had conversation with him. Pay attention to the conversation:
“Mister President. Do you think that the Lord is on our side?”
President Lincoln replied to this effect: “That is not a matter that concerns me so much. The thing that concerns me most of all is, are we on the Lord’s side?” It’s not a concern if He’s on mine; my concern is, am I on His? Who’s on the Lord’s side? Each day, our righteous living can demonstrate a faith in Jesus Christ that sees beyond mortal heartaches, disappointments and unfulfilled promises.
I have had many, many students. As Brother Mumford said, I have tried to do this for over thirty years. May I choose one student that would reflect many many, including you. His name is Luther Perkins, Holbrook, Arizona. Inactive in the kingdom. Enrolled in seminary because his friends are. Member of the Church, family totally inactive. Luther hardly ever came to seminary on time. He would stand out in the hall and goof off. At the appropriate time, meaning after the thought and prayer and song was over, he would come into class. Our class president asked me one day, “Do you care if I bring treats to class?”
I said, “That’s not part of the requirement.”
She said, “But I’d like to.” I was happy. She was a good cook. So she announced to the class that the next day there would be treats. She didn’t warn. Maybe she should have. I don’t know. When the bell rang, she closed the door, and only those in the room got the treats.
Can we learn a principle there? Luther didn’t get a treat. The next day he did. And the next day and the next day, and from then on, until he needed no longer the treats.
He was in line for lots of money from colleges to play football. The Pac-10 was after him; many major colleges from back east—they wanted Luther Perkins. After his senior year of football, which was very successful, he was also a varsity basketball player. He decided to go out for wrestling to strengthen some other areas that would help him in his football career. During a particular match, he blew out both knees. He found himself laying in the hospital, looking to heaven, blaming Heavenly Father. “Why did you do this to me?”
As Luther and I were visiting later, he said that a voice came to him as clearly as any he’d ever heard: “If I had not done this, you would not listen.” Luther listened. He felt there was an unfulfilled promise. He felt disappointed, in those beginning days. Then he came to seminary much more seriously. As we talked, I could see him growing.
I’m going to skip now to another part of the story—that of his father. His father at this time in the story, was sitting in the stake president’s office to receive a call as a church high councilor. Now do you understand the middle part? Luther had come home from the hospital, getting his braces clean, made some adjustments. One day, his father said that he came home—his father was in the living room smoking—and his son said to him, Luther said, “Dad, I will not allow you to smoke any more in this room, or in this house.” Role reversal.
Luther’s father found himself out in the alley with a teenager, smoking. And then he said, in his words, “I looked at that cigarette and looked inside the house at my son, and asked, ‘Which do I love the most?’” You know where he went.
Luther called me a few years ago and explained to me he had just been released as a bishop. Thank God for Molly, that did small consecrated acts of service to one that was imprisoned. She saved him. She saved the family. Thanks to our Heavenly Father that Luther made the adjustments of unfulfilled promises. He developed the kind of faith that in the scriptures would be called seeing things as they really are.
Moses was one of those, brothers and sisters, that saw things as they really are. When Satan came to him, the scriptures record, “And it came to pass that Moses looked upon Satan and said: Who art thou? For behold, I am a son of God, in the similitude of his Only Begotten;…where is thy glory, that I should worship thee?” (Moses 1:13)
Brothers and sisters, I hope you will continue to develop the vision that sees things as they really are. Trials will come. You agreed to that before your birth. This is a test. It’s almost like coming to my class and saying, “Why do we have a test?” You’re in school. It goes with the turf. So when we pray, maybe it ought not to be asking for no tests, but maybe the prayers ought to be to help me in the test to have vision, to see things as they really are.
Joseph Smith said, “I had actually seen a light…in the midst of that light I saw two Personages…they did in reality speak to me;…though I was hated and persecuted for saying that I had seen a vision, yet it was true;… while they were persecuting me, reviling me…speaking all manner of evil against me…for so saying, I was led…in my heart: Why persecute me for telling the truth? I have actually seen a vision…who am I that I can withstand God, or why does the world think to make me deny what I have actually seen? For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew…God knew it.” (Joseph Smith—History 1:25) Joseph saw things as they really are.
During these last days, when all things shall be in commotion, the restored gospel of Jesus Christ provides us many essential things, including the precious perspective of seeing things as they really are.
There really is a living God. There really is a living Church. There really is an empty tomb. He is alive. This is His Church. That’s the way it really is. There are living prophets on the earth today. There are living scriptures. Those are the things that really are, and you really are children of God, and He loves you. He has a place for you in the various parts of His stake center. May you please serve where asked to serve, no matter the circumstances?
As introduced, I know that God will always provide a way for you to receive an education, raise a family, provide for a family and serve in the Church. You can do it. You are the royal generation. You are a peculiar people, and you can do all, for God has provided a way. I know that. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

 

Learning from Life’s Lessons

03 Jan. 2012

Transcript

Learning from Life’s Lessons

 
This is an interesting and very humbling experience to stand before you, and thanks, President Woodhouse, and to your staff, for making me feel at home. Well, my mother would be proud to hear that as she sits in a rest home in Brigham City. She always said that I may be able to accomplish something.
It’s been 40 years since I walked the halls of LDS Business College. We didn’t have the facilities that you have now. We did not have individual computers. We had paper, pens, pencils, carbon paper, typewriters. We used these columnar pads—not the spread sheets that you have now, but actual paper—columnar pads. Yes, the College has changed. Its location and curriculum have changed. But the spirit of helping and the education still abounds, as it has in the past.
Each of us will also see great changes in our life, and we must adapt and plan to survive in a very fast changing world. I came across a list that I’m going to intersperse within the remarks that I give today. Some of them I agree with, such as: I’ve learned that it’s those small daily happenings that make life spectacular.
Last Saturday, my wife and I along with my son and his wife, their two small children ages one and three, went to a park to participate in an Easter egg hunt. There were areas set aside for 3 and under, 3 to 6, 7 to 9, 10 to 13, 14 to 17, adult women over 18, and adult men over 18. As we got close to the park, it was very evident that there was a large number of people there. As each group participated, the spirit of competition became fierce. I, thinking that I’m still young and flexible, thought, “No problem. I’m going to go and gather a few prizes and candy and have some fun.” As the group of adult men gathered, it was very obvious that the competition was going to be very fierce. The men watched as the women went to their area, and within a few seconds were pushing and shoving and fighting over a few pieces of candy and prizes.
As the men got ready, I also—still thinking I could do this—was ready, right in the front. The countdown started—ten, nine, eight. The men moved forward a few steps. “Five” and they were gone. They weren’t going to wait until “one.” I was tripped, fell to the ground, stepped on, hit—by grown men running after and picking up a few pieces of candy and prizes. I thought later as I iced my shoulder, “Is this what life’s all about—fighting over a few pieces of candy and prizes?”
What prizes are you working for? Alma 34:32 of course, states, “For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors.” I hope we’re striving to prepare to meet God. That is our plan, and there are other things that we must plan for as we go forward in this life.
Here again, I’ve learned that we should be glad God doesn’t give us everything we ask for.
I’d like to tell you a few experiences I’ve had throughout my life that have helped me plan, or that I should have planned for. As stated, I served as a Young Men’s president for a group of young men that were physically and mentally challenged. We had over 30 young men and 30 youth counselors that met every week in a Young Men and Young Women activity.
There was a young man that had Downs Syndrome. He only grunted when he wanted something. He went with his mother each week to a communications therapist to help him learn how to communicate. I served in that calling for five years, and not once did I hear him say a word. But one night his mother brought him into the chapel and sat him down and asked, “Can we go talk?” We found an empty classroom, and this is what she told me. She said, “I have been taking him to the speech therapist for years, and for the last few weeks, we have been doing an exercise where we have a plate of cookies and the therapist would pick up a cookie and say, ‘This is a cookie. What is this?’”
The young man would grab the cookie and eat it. She would go to the next one. “This is a cookie. What is this?” He would try to get it and she would say, “What is this?” And he would grab it and eat it. This had been going on for several weeks, but that day the plate of cookies was in front. Every time—“This is a cookie. What is this?”—he would eat it. The speech therapist left one cookie on the plate and said, “The session’s over. I’ve had it. It’s done for the day.”
The mother, very discouraged, was putting on her coat when the young man reached down, picked up the cookie and said, “Mother, this is a cookie.” Now the plan was to have him say just “cookie.” But he said, “Mother, this is a cookie.” She cried and cried that night. I never heard him say another word.
He never said another word all the time I worked with him for five years. But I did get a phone call from his bishop one night, asking me for counsel about whether he should be ordained a priest in the Aaronic priesthood. As I always do, I said, “It’s not up to me, Bishop. That’s your decision, with the parents. The handbook says they don’t need to, because they already are able to gain the celestial kingdom.”
After several weeks had passed, the mother called and asked me if I could confer the Aaronic priesthood and ordain him to a priest. After sacrament meeting when he was presented, we went into the bishop’s office and I had the opportunity to confer the Aaronic priesthood and ordain him to a priest. That next Sunday, as he was helped to pass the sacrament, the feeling of love and devotion in that ward was overwhelming. It may not have been for the salvation of this young man, but for the spiritual uplift of that ward.
I’ve learned that under everyone’s hard shell is someone that wants to be appreciated and loved.
Sometimes we’re planning one thing and expecting something else. I’ve learned the Lord didn’t do it all in one day—what makes me think I can?
I have three older brothers. When my two older brothers were in high school, my father devised a plan. He thought that it would take all summer. We had a very large barn, an old barn, behind the house. My father wanted to replace it with a new one that fall. So he went out and gave my brothers the instructions to tear down the barn and pile the lumber in a pile. Sounds straightforward, doesn’t it?
Well, Dad went to work the next day. He was a carpenter and was building homes. After some very hard prodding from my mother, the two boys got up, went outside and started tearing down the barn. My oldest brother after a few hours said, “This is enough for me.” He wanted to do other things during the summer, so he pulled a tractor around to the barn, hooked a large chain around the support columns, and pulled the barn down. Then he took the front-end loader and pushed all the lumber into a pile. It was done.
I remember the incident because I was playing on a fence next to the barn. When the crash came down, I fell off the fence and broke my arm. Well, Dad came home, thinking that he was going to find the starting of a pile of reusable lumber with all the nails pulled out. Instead, he found a broken arm and a pile of unusable junk. What happened with the communications between Dad and his sons? Different expectations? Different perceptions? Get the job done, and really getting the job done the way you expect it done? Plans need to be agreed upon by all parties. The motives were different. Dad’s plan was that it would take all summer, and that he would have a pile of usable lumber. The boys’ plan was, of course, to get the job done as quickly as possible so they could do other things during the summer.
I’ve learned that life is tough, but I’m tougher.
My brother also had a plan. He wanted three prize steers during high school to enter in the county fair, and then be sold so that he could pay for his mission and his college. He purchased the three steers and went to work. The summer before the county fair, the three calves were full-grown and they looked like they would take the grand prize at the county fair and he would be rewarded for all of his hard work.
One day my brother was away, and I and my mother were home. I came running in the back door, saying, “Why are the three steers in the hayfield on their backs with their legs in the air?” My mother went screaming from the house, crying. All three steers had pushed through the fence into the alfalfa field, and were bloated and dead on the fresh hay. Was my brother’s plan a good one? Oh, yes. It would have paid for his college and mission. Did he have a contingency plan? I don’t know. I do know that he did go on a mission, and has had all of his college tuition paid for by scholarships, clear through his doctorate degree in nuclear physics.
What happened? Do we let discouragements change our plans?
I’ve learned that opportunities are never lost. Someone else will take the ones you miss.
Joe J. Christensen, in the New Era in February, 1989, gives a story that I just love, from his devotional address to Ricks College on September 8th of 1987. It reads:
Another element that leads to success and happiness is to discover early in life that those things of most importance in life you cannot buy for money. They are priceless. To illustrate, let me tell you about an elder from Austria whom I met at the Missionary Training Center.
I noticed that he seemed to be a little older than the average 19-year-old elder. He and his mother had joined the Church when he was 16. His father, who was a successful banker, was not interested in religion, but he did not care if his wife and son joined the Church.
This elder’s problems began occurring, however, when he would be studying his seminary materials. He would have his scriptures and papers out on his desk, and his father would come in and say something like: “Don’t waste your time studying those things. Get back into your regular school studies so that you can enter the university.” At times, his father would become so upset that he would pick up his son’s scriptures or papers and throw them across the room.
At age 18, this young man began thinking more about a mission. In fact, one night he even dreamed that he had been called on a mission to Japan. It was such a warm and good feeling; but when he talked to his parents about it, his father said, “Oh no. You are not going to waste two years of your life in the mission field. You must go to the university.” The father wanted the son to become a banker and follow in his footsteps.
Realizing that he had better do what his father wished at that point, he chose to go to the university. I am not sure he made his father totally happy because he chose to come to the United States and enroll at BYU. He went through his program in business, received his bachelor’s degree, and then received a master’s degree in administration. He was soon hired as a junior executive in an international banking firm in Munich, Germany.
At this time he was 25, obviously old enough to make his own decisions. He still had a great desire to serve a mission. He went to his stake president and informed him of his desires. He even told him about his dream. The stake president laughed and said, “Well, I don’t think you will be called to Japan. Nobody is called to Japan from here. They may be called to other countries in Europe, but not to Japan.”
His father was very upset when he learned his son was thinking of leaving his position at the bank for two years. He came over from Vienna and did everything he could to convince his son not to go. His boss flew down from Frankfurt, Germany, and spent time with him, attempting to convince him that he should not leave his work for two years.
“My boy,” he said, “do you realize what this will cost you professionally in terms of salary loss as well as opportunity loss? Sit down and calculate what these two years will cost you.” The young man did, and found that the mission would cost him a great sum of money.
But tears came to his eyes when he told me, “If it would have cost several times that amount, I would still be here, because I know this is where the Lord wants me to be.”
Well, he was called to Japan. He served a very successful mission, and I suppose there are many international banking firms that would be pleased to hire a well-trained junior executive who speaks German, English, and Japanese—the three major languages of the economic free world. But even if he didn’t earn an extra dime as the result of this additional experience, it still would have been worth it. If you want to be happy and successful, you will come to a realization that there are some values in life you cannot purchase with money.
I’ve learned that one should keep their words both soft and tender, because tomorrow, I may have to eat them.
I was involved in an Explorer Scout training course for several years. We would take a group of 14- to 16-year-old young men to the Explorer Canoe Base in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. On one course, a young man came to camp with a chip on his shoulder and a ponytail down to his waist. We were there to teach them leadership skills and have them go home and teach others to their Post. During the week, we would have several teaching and fun activities, so the young men would have success in planning and carrying out their activities.
The first day, I told my leadership corps, which was made up of past participants that would lead the new ones during the week, that I would give anyone who brought me that ponytail a five-dollar bill. In today’s society, you couldn’t do that. On Wednesday, the young man approached me and asked, “Did you put a bounty of five dollars on my ponytail?”
I said, “I sure did.”
“Will you take me to town, to the barbershop, so I can get a haircut?”
So gladly, I took him to the barbershop, had his hair cut, and gladly paid him the five dollars. The rest of the week was very successful. We returned home from the leadership camp on Saturday. Early on Sunday morning I received a call from a frantic mother. “What have you done to my son?” she said.
I did not know what to say. I just replied, “What’s the matter?”
She said, “We have been trying to make our son cut his hair for several months. Each time he has rebelled and said he wanted to leave the house. He came home from camp acting and looking like a changed young man. He went to church today without prodding, and is excited about himself and has a new self-confidence in himself like we have never seen. Thank you.”
Boy, was I blown away. I thought I was going to get a real talking to from a mother. Long hair was not the problem, but how do you feel about yourself? Are you working towards the right eternal goals? Are you working your plan? Take stock in what your plan is.
One of my favorite songs, and one we sang this morning, is “Improve the Shining Moments.” (Hymns, No. 226) Listen to the words again:
Improve the shining moments;
Do not let them pass you by.
Work while the sun is radiant;
Work, for the night draws nigh.
We cannot bid the sunbeams
To lengthen out their stay,
Nor can we ask the shadow
To ever stay away.
Time flies on wings of lightning;
We cannot call it back.
It comes, then passes forward
Along its onward track.
And if we are not mindful,
The chance will fade away,
For life is quick in passing.
‘Tis as a single day.
As wintertime doth follow
The pleasant summer days,
So may our joys all vanish
And pass far from our gaze.
Then should we not endeavor
Each day some point to gain,
That we may here be useful
And every wrong disdain?
Improve each shining moment.
In this you are secure,
For promptness bringeth safety
And blessings rich and pure.
Let prudence guide your actions;
Be honest in your heart;
And God will love and bless you
And help to you impart.
I’ve learned that the easiest way for me to grow as a person is to surround myself with people smarter than I am.
One day in family home evening, we were practicing how to sit during the sacrament. My young son of five said he wanted to become a deacon. So I said, “Okay,” not knowing what to expect, because this is the one we were having a problem with sitting quietly during the sacrament.
He came to the front of us, bowed his head for a moment, reached up like he was taking the tray, came to each one of us and “passed the bread.” Then he came back so the priest could take the tray from him. He bowed his head for a moment, then reached up, took the tray once more, and came to us as if he was passing us the water. He then returned to the front and pretended to give the tray back to the priest, and then returned to his seat on the couch. I asked him, “How did you know how to pass the sacrament?”
His reply was, “I have been watching the deacons during sacrament meeting.” What a shock! My wife and I were having trouble keeping him quiet during the sacrament. What an example these young men were to my son. Brothers and sisters, who is watching you? Your ward members? Young people? People you don’t even know are watching you.
I’ve learned that every one you meet deserves to be greeted with a smile. I’ve also learned that a smile is an inexpensive way to improve your looks.
How is your plan? Do you have a plan? You must have a plan. Write it down, your plan. Keep it with you. Pray about your plan. Compare your plan with your patriarchal blessing. If you haven’t got a patriarchal blessing, get one. Follow the inspirations you receive about your plan. Build in contingencies in your plan. Act on your plan. Work your plan. Evaluate your plan, then review and revise your plan as necessary.
In many management classes, I have been taught to plan, act, evaluate and then re-plan. 2 Nephi 31:20: “Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.”
Another song that I really like—I like the hymns—
Have I done any good in the world today?
Have I helped anyone in need?
Have I cheered up the sad
and made someone feel glad?
If not, I have failed indeed.
Has anyone’s burden been lighter today
Because I was willing to share?
Have the sick and the weary
been helped on their way?
When they needed my help was I there?
There are chances for work all around just now,
Opportunities right in our way.
Do not let them pass by, saying “Sometime I’ll try,”
But go and do something today.
'Tis noble of man to work and to give;
Love’s labor has merit alone.
Only he who does something helps others to live.
To God each good work will be known.
Then wake up and do something more
Than dream of your mansions above.
Doing good is a pleasure, a joy beyond measure,
A blessing of duty and love.
 (Hymns, No. 223)
My wife and I had the opportunity to serve as inner-city missionaries. During that time we served a man that, if you saw him on the street, you’d want to walk across the street and pass on the other side. He was clean, but he liked his hair very long, and his beard.
Over the space of 18 months, as we served him and helped him, he taught us a couple of principles. First of all, he taught us that the choices we make in life will determine how we live in this life. But he also taught us that he was our fellowman, and we are all Heavenly Father’s children.
I’ve learned that everyone wants to live at the top of the mountain, but all of the happiness and growth occurs while we’re climbing it.
Moses 1:39, as we close: “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”
May the Lord bless you and help you in your plans, and lead you to that eternal life. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
 
 

A Wise and Understanding Heart

03 Jan. 2012

Transcript

A Wise and Understanding Heart


In 1st Kings, chapter 3, we read,
And Solomon said, Thou hast shewed unto thy servant David my father great mercy, according as he walked before thee in truth, and in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with thee; and thou hast kept for him this great kindness, that thou hast given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day.
And now, O LORD my God, thou hast made thy servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in.
And thy servant is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude.
Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?
And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing.
And God said unto him, Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life; neither hast asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine enemies; but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment;
Behold, I have done according to thy words: lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee. (1 Kings 3:6-12.)
Elder John H. Vandenberg said, "The fruit of wisdom ripens slowly." To have a wise and understanding heart may take a lifetime without a special endowment from God. However, it is a glorious quest and will reap a harvest of blessings beyond your comprehension.
Many years ago President David O. McKay received the "Man of the Year Award" for the State of Utah. J. Patrick O'Keefe, C.E.O. of Kennecott, made the award to President McKay. In accepting the award President McKay responded humbly, after accepting the award, in these words of Portia "To Bassonio" from the works of Shakespeare.
"You see, me Lord Bassonio, where we stand, such as I am, though for myself alone I would not be ambitious in my wish to wish myself much better, yet for you I would be trebled twenty times myself a thousand times more fair, 10,000 times more (pure) that only to stand high in your account I might in virtues, livings, beauty, exceed account."
Remember, beloved graduates, that compliments are not necessarily what we are but what we should be. Accept compliments and honors graciously, but remember glory is temporary and fleeting at best. President McKay understood this principle.
Pericles said, "Surely the bravest are those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, both danger and glory alike, and yet notwithstanding move forward to meet it." Danger and glory require a type of bravery. You will find that knowledge is not necessarily wisdom, that intellectuality may not be the result of a high I.Q. A learned man said:
"The essence of intellectual living is not measured in the extent of science nor in the perfection of expression; but rather in a constant preference for higher thoughts over lower thoughts and that preference may be the habit of a mind which has not any considerable amount of knowledge." (P.C. Hamerton, The Intellectual Life.)
Now with that foundation let me talk to you about wisdom. The Master has told us how to succeed.
SEEK YE FIRST THE KINGDOM OF GOD
And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matthew 6:28-33.)
If this were the totality of my talk to you graduates, there is nothing more wise I could say to you. You may accomplish many great or special things in life, but if you ignore the Master's counsel, you will come up dreadfully short in life.
Henry Drummond laments,
"I lived for myself. I thought for myself, myself and none beside;
Just as if Jesus had never lived, as if Jesus had never died."
Should we fail in our reverence and duty to God, it makes little difference what success in life we achieve. We will have failed in that which is of most worth.
YOU MUST CLIMB TO SUCCEED
Life is not easy. It is not necessarily comfortable. Duane R. Kuelberg in a poem "Mother to Son" helps our understanding.
"Well, son, I'll tell you:
Life for me ain't been no crystal stair
Its had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor
Bare
"But all the time
I's been a-climbin' on,
And reachin' landin's,
And turnin' corners,
And sometimes going in the dark
Where they ain't been no light,
So, boy, don't you turn back
Don't you set down on the steps
‘cause you finds it's kinder hard.
Don't you fall now -
For I'se still goin', honey,
I'se still climbin',
And life for me ain't been no crystal stair."
(Vital Speeches of the Day, 1988)
Life isn't a crystal stair. It isn't necessarily easy. Few may believe in you; but it is essential to believe in yourself when no one else does; and remember Eleanor Roosevelt said, "No one else can make you feel inferior without your consent." Believe in yourself.
HAVE YOUR OWN PERSONAL GOALS
Next, there is a difference in people. Ted Olsen said:
"And 90 and nine are with dreams content
But the hope of a world made new
Is the hundredth man who is grimly bent
On making the dream come true."
We have too many dream stealers in life. Be that person who makes dreams come true. Set goals and achieve them. Labor in the realm of the "final inch."
VIRTUE IS ESSENTIAL TO REAL SUCCESS
A second thought I would like to share is one that will have a profound impact on your self-esteem and how other persons of worth will feel about you. It has to do with morality.
No one can be truly great who is immoral. They can be successful but not great. Great passions accompany great minds. It will take discipline, restraint, and strong moral values to keep you pure. Ella Wheeler Wilcox puts this in verse.
"It is easy enough to be virtuous
When nothing tempts you to stray
When without or within, no voice of sin
Is luring your soul away;
But it is only a negative virtue
Until it is tried by fire,
For the soul that is worth the honor of earth
Is the one that resists desire.
"To the cynic, the sad, and the fallen
Who have no strength for the strife
Life's highway is cumbered today
They make up the sum of life
But the virtue that overcomes passion
The sorrows that hide in a smile
It is these that are worth the honor of earth
For we find them but once in a while.
All of you will be tested and the temptations will be great; but the rewards of virtue and chastity are numerous.
A few years ago Bishop Merrill Bateman met with Elizabeth Dole. She was the national president of the Red Cross. She was complimentary of all the Church had done through humanitarian services, then she said, "Do you know what we really need from your church? We need your blood. It is one of the few remaining sources for uncontaminated blood." How about that?
President McKay said, "No act is ever committed without first having been justified in the mind."
I recall a good friend, a valiant and respected priesthood leader who abandoned all that was precious and dear for a mess of pottage. He lost his wife, his children, his membership in the Church, his respect in his profession and in the community.
These words from the Rape of Lucrece by Shakespeare are sobering,
"What win I if I gain the thing I seek—
A dream, a breath, a froth of fleeting joy?
Who buys a minute's mirth to wail a week,
Or sells eternity to get a toy?
For one sweet grape, who will the vine destroy
Or what fond beggar, but to touch the crown
Would with the scepter straight be strucken down?
Thy secret pleasure turns to open shame
Thy private feasting to a public fast,
Thy smoothing titles to a ragged name."
There is a strength and a dignity and confidence that comes from purity.
TESTING IS A PART OF LIFE
Trials and obstacles will clutter your life. Some will test you beyond anything you would believe.
On the grave for Robert F. Kennedy in Arlington are these words by Aeschylus, a Greek, who wrote,
"In our sleep, pain that cannot forget
Falls drop by drop upon the heart,
And in our despair, against our wills
Comes wisdom through the awful grace of God."
Let me share a few gems of wisdom that have gone through the process Aeschylus describes. These come from various sources. I am not the author.
Never try to catch a falling safe.
Never walk on the message.
Never wound the king.
Use all the tools in your toolbox.
Don't be a dream stealer.
Every time you are confronted with a problem ask if it is 1/8 of an inch long or a yard long and handle it following that principle.
Each of the above could be worthy of a lengthy sermon and there is one more, "Don't die on every hill." Be grateful for the trials in life. There will always be compensating blessings.
ENJOY LIFE'S JOURNEY
Another: Go out and enjoy life. Wilfred Petersen wrote the following,
"A master at the art of living makes no distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues with excellence what he is about and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. He, himself, always knows he is doing both."
PRIORITIZE WHAT YOU VALUE MOST
You will enjoy life when you keep things in their proper priority: your spouse, children, church, vacation, hobbies, etc.
If you get these priorities mixed up, it will create serious problems in your life. Remember the family comes first at the right time. There may be priesthood meetings you are expected to attend. There may be responsibilities at your work that must be met or you endanger your job. Fulfilling your callings in the church and doing what is expected of you at work cannot be at the mercy of every little whim of the family. But what I am saying is that when real needs are urgent, choices must be made regardless of dire consequences. Put the things you value most at the top of the list. Remember your companion and children will be with you throughout your life and in the eternities. Prioritize.
Abraham Lincoln said, "When a man is over forty, he is responsible for his own face." We see the results all around us especially in our parents, bishops, stake presidents, and the Brethren. Alma said it in a little different way, "have you received his image in your countenance?" Wisdom would dictate that you make decisions that will put integrity and character into your face.
FLY HIGH BUT KEEP YOUR FEET ON THE GROUND
On May 27, 1927, Charles Lindbergh crawled into the cockpit of the Spirit of St. Louis. Everyone thought he was going to fly from the east coast to the west coast. His plane took off. Instead of banking west, he turned eastward and across the Atlantic Ocean. Thirty-three hours and 30 minutes later he landed at Le Bourget field in France to the cheering crowds. The message of this accomplishment was telegraphed back to the United States. It was on the radio and in all the newspapers. An executive from General Motors ran into the C.E.O.'s office, Charles Kettering, and shouted, "Charles Lindbergh just crossed the Atlantic alone." To which Charles Kettering said, "Let him try to do it with a committee." You may not understand the subtleties of that yet. One day you will.
I believe it was a newspaper writer for the "Washington Post" who picked up on that theme of crossing alone and wrote for his newspaper,
"Is he alone by whose right side rides courage, who has skill sitting within the cockpit and faith on his left hand. What is solitude to him who has self-reliance to show the way and ambition to read the dials. Does he lack company for whom the air is cleft by daring and the darkness made light by enterprise? True the bodies of other men may be absent from his crowded cabin but as his aircraft keeps its charted course, he holds communion with those rarer spirits who sustaining potency give strength to his arm, resourcefulness to his mind, and contentment to his soul. Alone? With what more inspiring companions could he fly?"
Thirty-three hours and thirty minutes to cross the Atlantic. Now we see the progress man has made.
John Gillespie Magee reminisced in this verse,
High Flight
"Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds—and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of—wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
"Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew—
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God."
–John Gillespie Magee, Jr.
You live in a day of high flight—accelerated knowledge—unparalleled opportunity. Fly high but be wise and keep your feet on the ground. You will succeed.
BE A REAL MAN - A REAL WOMAN
Let me close with a poem by Edgar A. Guest. It was one of President Ezra Taft Benson's favorites. In fact two stanzas were on the memorial brochure at his funeral. This is a standard for living and if anyone ever qualified, President Benson did. As I quote this to you, take a test to see if you qualify to be a real man or a real woman.
A Real Man
"Men are of two kinds, and he
Was of the kind I'd like to be.
Some preach their virtues, and a few
Express their lives by what they do.
That sort was he. No flowery phrase
Or glibly spoken words of praise
Won friends for him. He wasn't cheap
Or shallow, but his course ran deep,
And it was pure. You know the kind.
Not many in a life you find
Whose deeds outrun their words so far
That more than what they seem they are.
"There are two kinds of lies as well:
The kind you live, the ones you tell.
Back through his years from age to youth
He never acted one untruth.
Out in the open light he fought
And didn't care what others thought
Nor what they said about his fight
If he believed that he was right.
The only deeds he ever hid
Were acts of kindness that he did.
"What speech he had was plain and blunt.
His was an unattractive front.
Yet children loved him; babe and boy
Played with the strength he could employ,
Without one fear, and they are fleet
To sense injustice and deceit.
No back door gossip linked his name
With any shady tale of shame.
He did not have to compromise
With evil-doers, shrewd and wise,
And let them ply their vicious trade
Because of some past escapade.
"Men are of two kinds, and he
Was of the kind I'd like to be.
No door at which he ever knocked
Against his manly form was locked.
If ever man on earth was free
And independent, it was he.
No broken pledge lost him respect,
He met all men with head erect,
And when he passed I think there went
A soul to yonder firmament
So white, so splendid and so fine
It came almost to God's design.
Whether we become a "real" man or a "real" woman, it is up to each one of us. Just remember, "seek ye first the kingdom of God and all else shall be added unto you." Following this counsel will bring you closer to having a wise and understanding heart.
Congratulations to all of you.

© Intellectual Properties Inc.

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