Fall 2011

Solve Life’s Problems by Wisely Exercising Agency

02 Aug. 2011


Solve Life’s Problems by Wisely Exercising Agency

It's a pleasure to be here. The president reminds me of my students. Regardless of what I tell them, they seem to forget quickly. So for those of you who are keeping score, MG stands for "Morris Garages." It's a bit of trivia you will never need for the rest of your life.
It's a pleasure to be here. I love being among you. You are a royal generation. My talk this morning has to do with problems. I seem to be an expert on problems; it seems wherever I go they increase. But I've had the opportunity after I sold my business a number of years ago to start doing some business consulting. Consulting small businesses is absolutely the easiest thing that there is to do. The reason is that every small business has exactly the same problem. That's the owner.
A few months ago I was consulting with a friend who has a business. We're trying to return it to some profitability, and in that process I had an opportunity to meet with his wife. I asked his wife what being successful in the business would mean to her—what she might suggest we might do in order to fix the problems. She sent me a letter, an email, the other day, and answered the question. What she said to me shocked me. She told me exactly what she thought the business could do to solve the problems. What she was describing was a life completely without problems. Her very definition of success was the absence of any opposition. She genuinely felt that having problems meant that there was something wrong in your life.
I could see where people would get such an idea. As you go to church, as you come here to school, as you see other people, people are genuinely happy. And the assumption is that people are happy because they have no problems. This is false. People are happy in spite of their problems. Living a life without problems is describing the life that we led in the Garden of Eden, but as I recall, we left that garden. It may be describing the life that we may eventually once live. But it does not describe this life. Life as we now have it has problems. We have problems to test us, to teach us, and to help us grow. It is resistance training for the soul.
We can suffer through our problems or we can embrace them. We can learn from them and be strengthened by them, but we cannot ever avoid them. Such was the attitude of Joseph, sold into Egypt. If ever there was a cause to justify the blaming of others for his current lousy circumstance, it was Joseph. But Joseph did not spend his time blaming others for his problems; he went about solving his problems. He spent his time applying gospel principles to the problems at hand. He remained faithful by living the commandments in spite of his feeling that all was lost. He continued to pray and to listen to the promptings of the Spirit. It was years after he interpreted the dream of the baker that his prayers were finally answered. In spite of overwhelming discouragement, he never lost hope.
After years of being separated from his family and spending his life as a slave in a foreign country, when Joseph was finally reunited with the very brothers who had sold him into slavery, what was his attitude? Was it one of revenge? Did he seek to get even? No, he promptly forgave them, and he had the foresight and the knowledge to not ascribe his problems to his brothers but to actually give credit, interestingly enough, to the Lord. He said, "So now it was not you that [sold me into Egypt], but God." (Genesis 45:8)
The power of good and evil are not equal. They never have been and they never will be. The actions of a jealous brother, though vile, wicked and hurtful, were nothing in the hands of God. Yes, there is opposition in all things, but never believe that the outcome is in doubt or that the forces are equal. They are not. God's power is infinite, and the power of Satan is limited. It will be bound and is finite. In God's due time, Satan and his minions will be banished forever. Because of his matchless power, God knows the beginning from the end. All things work together for those who serve Him.
The president mentioned that I grew up here in Salt Lake City. I grew up on a wonderful street, Michigan Avenue. It is an idyllic street—tree-lined with huge sycamore trees, so large their branches actually cover the entire street. It makes a canopy of leaves so deep and so dense that the summer sun cannot penetrate through it. Another great aspect of this street is that it has a slight incline to it. Now an incline to you or me may not be a big deal. When I turned 16, it could be said that the cars that I drove are less reliable than the ones I drive now, so the incline on this street was very valuable to me. And something that you may not know how to do, I became an expert at, and that was starting a car by compression. The cars that I drove rarely had batteries that held a charge, and rarely had starter motors that worked regularly. And so I learned, and some of you have learned, that in some cars you can actually start them by pushing them. And so you push them, and oh, if you have a hill, the pushing is much easier. You push them to a running start, then you jump in the car, shove it in gear, and pop the clutch. And hopefully, if everything else is working, it starts. I made a habit of going to school this way.
So years later, when I was visiting my parents at this same home on Michigan Avenue, as I was driving down to their house, I noticed another young man pushing a car down the street. I knew immediately what was going on. So I parked my car and jumped out and started to push. He didn't ask me any questions; I didn't ask him any questions. It was obvious. We pushed the car down Michigan, he jumped in, put it in gear, popped the clutch. Nothing happened. We turned the corner—we go south down 17th East. It's a little bit better hill. He jumps in again, puts it in gear, pops the clutch. Nothing.
Now we turn west, going on Yalecrest. It's not as good a hill, but we have no other choice. The third time he jumps in, puts it in gear, pops the clutch. Nothing. Now I'm out of breath. I'm three blocks from my car. But I say, "Listen, I've got battery cables in my car. Let me go back there and I'll bring my car, we'll jump the battery."
He says, "Oh, it's not the battery that's the problem. I'm out of gas."
See, you cannot apply correct principles to the wrong problems. It never works. Solving problems in the Lord's way requires the following steps:
1) Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Faith is the unmatched power of the universe, and it will be now, and it will be throughout eternity.
2) Repentance. Now repentance does not mean that you have done something morally wrong. Too often we associate problems with sin. Not all problems are the result of sin. But by repentance I mean that we change our behavior. We change our attitude. We increase our patience and our understanding. We change our behavior to more closely resemble that of the Savior. Never be afraid of change. This is the only means by which things can ever improve. It is the only way that you will ever be better than you are now.
Do you know that in order to become perfect you will need to change everything about you? Think about it. What part of you today is perfect, or so wonderful that you cannot be made better by your Father in Heaven. Everything you need to change or improve will make you perfect. Why hold onto something that is not as good as it can be? Why not embrace change that brings you closer to your Father in Heaven?
3) You must search out solutions before you ask your Father in Heaven for help. You must do all that you can do to solve the problems before you have standing before the Lord. Remember the Lord's correction to Oliver Cowdery: "Behold, [Oliver,] you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me. You must study it out in your [own] mind; [and then Oliver] if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you." (D&C 9:7-8)
Here is where the growth takes place. Here is where the learning occurs. It is in studying it out that we learn the principles and how to apply them. We must also ask in faith, listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and proceed line upon line, precept upon precept.
Solving problems and agency are closely linked. You cannot solve problems without agency. I had a young man come into my office years ago to apply for a job as a manager. As I visited with him, he told me that he had at one time owned his own business. I immediately listened to this and I said, "Tell me about it. What happened to it?"
He said, "Oh, we went out of business."
"What happened?"
He said, "Well, we were undercapitalized."
I thought to myself, "No, you, young man, were poorly managed."
You see, we like to blame everything else on the problems we have. We rarely want to take possession of them. But by failing to take possession or ownership of our problems, we lose all power to correct them. The wonderful thing about being the problem is that you automatically have the power to solve it. You cannot and never will correct a problem for someone else. You can only correct problems where you are at the center. You can only correct your problems. Isn't that wonderful?
Elder LeGrand Richards, grandfather of our good president, was fond of quoting this little poem by an unknown author, and I hope I have this right:
For every worry under the sun
There is a remedy or there is none.
If there be one, hurry up and find it.
If there be none, then never mind it.
I know that many of you are facing immense challenges. You may have received bad news from home. You may have sent bad news home. You may be failing in school, and you may feel as though you are failing in life. And what's even worse, it may actually be true. But your Father in Heaven is aware of you, and has already fashioned a solution for your problems.
A young man was walking along the streets of New York and he fell into a large hole. The hole was so deep and the sides of the hole were so steep that he could not possibly get out. And so he called to the pedestrians above, seeking someone's help. No one stopped to help him. Finally a man heard his pleas and jumped into the hole. The man at first was shocked. He couldn't believe what had just happened. And he was bewildered. "What are you doing?" he asked. "Now we are both stuck in the hole."
The second man waited patiently for the first to finish, and then he said, "You do not understand. I have been in this hole before, and I know the way out."
My brothers and sisters, I have been in this hole before, and I know the way out. Years ago, I suffered discouragement beyond that that I could ever have imagined. My life seemed to be without purpose. I had been offended; I had been hurt by dear friends. The discouragement lasted for an extended period of time, and I sought help at every turn. I talked to those friends that stood by me. I had a good friend in the ward where I grew up, who had become a general authority, whom I trusted. I went and visited with him. He gave me a blessing and great advice, but the discouragement continued.
Oftentimes, I went to visit my mother and she counseled with me. I can only now imagine how frightening that must have been for a mother to talk to a son who was contemplating serious mistakes. In desperation, she said, "Ralph, what does your patriarchal blessing say?"
I was indignant. I said, "Mother, I've read it. It doesn't say anything about what I'm dealing with. In fact, I can tell you exactly what it says; I have it memorized." Now, when I got my patriarchal blessing, by a good patriarch, when I was in high school, I loved it. It was wonderful. And as I read it over and over, I saw in that patriarchal blessing what I termed were a few little literary phrases. They were just little tiny phrases that seemed to connect the paragraphs. And I dismissed them as flourish. Now, years later, I'm reciting my patriarchal blessing to my mother, and I come to the first phrase. Here's what it was: "Live for these things."
Do you think that had an impact? Do you think I knew at that point that my Father in Heaven knew years earlier what I would be going through then, and that He had already fashioned a solution? Wherever you are, whatever problem you are facing, there is a solution. Never give in to despair. Never give in to discouragement. Never give in to giving in. Because the Lord God knows the beginning from the end and already knows the solution to your problems, it will come at the right time and in the right manner, if you will live for it.
Now, do you know that there is no other creature on this earth that has problems? It's something that we have all to ourselves. Isn't that wonderful? Cows don't have problems, neither do fish. They don't have the capacity to have problems, because they have no agency. They have no capacity to think or to reason or to make choices.
I have here in my hand some seeds. They are corn seeds, and I picked them out from the food I fed my pigeons this morning. These seeds—they could be wheat, they could be corn, they could be barley, they could be mustard seeds—they are entirely dependent upon my actions for their growth. They cannot decide where or when they will be planted, when they will be watered, or when they will get sunlight. If they are never planted, then never grow. They cannot have agency without choice. The seeds cannot act, but can only be acted upon. You cannot have agency without knowledge of right and wrong, or without being able to distinguish good from evil.
Our agency is God-given, given to us in the pre-earth existence, but it was also in the preexistence that this agency was first threatened. Lucifer tried to destroy our agency and for this rebellion was cast out. And yet many of us destroy our own agency in much the same manner. We do this when we deny the choices that we have.
Let me give you an example. Years ago, as I had Little and Company, as a condition of employment I had my employees sign a confidentiality and nondisclosure agreement. The agreement was written as such that they could work for any company in the world except one, who was our direct competitor here in Salt Lake. This agreement seemed reasonable and fair when they signed it, but after that it became less fair. It surprised me, then, that when one of our employees left the company for personal reasons unrelated to job performance—I think she left to take care of a mother who was aging—when she returned, we did not have employment for her, and so she went directly down to our competitor and applied for a job.
I was shocked. I asked her about it. I said, "Tell me, I don't understand. How can you do this? You know you have an agreement with me not to do specifically this exact thing."
She dismissed it out of hand. She said, "Ralph, you don't understand. I have to work. I don't have any other choice."
I thought to myself, "Of course you do. You always have choices. You always have the choice to do what is right." We deny our agency when we deny the choices that we really have.
Let me return to the analogy of the seed. If I plant these seeds and they begin to grow, what will they become? Will they become a tree? Will they become a monkey? Of course not. Corn seeds will always produce cornstalks, and an ear of corn, and eventually corn itself. If I have two dove eggs, what will they become? Will they not become doves, almost identical to their parents?
Now the seed may never get planted, but if the seed does, it may not grow. The eggs may not hatch, but if they do hatch, they will continue to grow, and they will become exactly like their parents. The eventual course of the seeds and the eggs are set. They will become just like that which gave them life.
What about you? Who are you and what will you become? You are a son or a daughter, and you will become exactly like your parents. If we were noting this, we would say, "A seed becomes a plant, becomes a stalk of corn, becomes an ear of corn. An egg becomes a hatchling, an adult dove, and then eggs again." In the language of math, would we not write this as N1, N2, N3 ? N to the infinity. Would we not write it, "Son or daughter, parents, grandparents, great-grandparents ?" Eternal parents. What you become is not up to you. It is set. The only choice you have is to stop the progress. But if you continue to progress, your destination is assured.
One last story about choice. Years ago, Elder Marion D. Hanks, while an assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve, spoke of a story about someone and his or her opportunity to learn. The story is about Louis Agassiz, a distinguished naturalist of the 19th century, who was approached by an obscure spinster, who insisted that she had never had a chance to learn. In his response, Dr. Agassiz, asked her to consider the chances that she already had:
" 'What do you do?' he asked.
" 'I skin potatoes and chop onions.'
"He said, 'Madam, where do you sit during these interesting but homely duties?'
" 'On the bottom step of the kitchen stairs,' she replied.
" 'Where do your feet rest?' [he asked.]
" 'On glazed brick.'
" 'What is glazed brick?'
" 'I don't know, sir.'
"He said, 'How long have you been sitting there?'
" 'Fifteen years.'
" 'Madame, here is my personal card,' said Dr. Agassiz. '[If you will] kindly write me a letter concerning the nature of a glazed brick.'
"The woman took the challenge seriously. She read all that she could find on brick and tile and then [sent it to Dr. Agassiz in a 36-page letter].
"Back came [a reply from the doctor]: 'Dear Madam, this is the best article I have ever seen on the subject. If you will kindly change the three words [that I have] marked with asterisks, I will have it published and pay you for it.'
"A short time later, there came a letter [with a $250 check], and penciled on the bottom of this letter was this query: 'What is under those bricks?' She had learned the value of time and answered with a single word: 'Ants.'
" 'Tell me about the ants.'
"After wide reading, much microscopic work, and deep study, the spinster sat down and wrote Dr. Agassiz 360 pages on the subject. He published the book and sent her the money, and she went to visit all of the lands of her dreams on the proceeds of her work." ("Good Teachers Matter, Ensign, July 1971, 61-62; quoted in Jay E. Jensen, "The Power of Diligent Learning," Ensign, September 2008)
In ancient times, building work was overseen by guilds. The guildmasters were the ones who saw to it that the integrity of the craft over which they labored was the best it could possibly be. If you wanted to enter the guild, you had to begin as an apprentice and dedicate long years with little or no pay. Sounds like school. The master under whom you labored gave you room and board and your tools. Eventually you became a journeyman in the guild and you got paid. However, if you wanted to become a master of the guild, you had to present a sample of your work to be judged by the other masters. It had to be a work of outstanding beauty and flawless quality, for it was the work by which your skills would be judged. It had to be a work that would weather the ages. It was appropriately called "a masterpiece."
As you go to school, as you plan to live your lives, as you begin to learn to solve problems, know that you have abilities beyond your present understanding. However, to unlock these capabilities, you must learn to go beyond what you now think is possible. You must become very good at doing difficult things.
When President John F. Kennedy challenged the United States to commit itself to putting a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth, these are the words he used to describe that task: "We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard . . . "
I challenge you to do hard things. I challenge you, each of you here today, to go beyond what you now think is possible, to go beyond existing boundaries and chart new territory. I challenge each of you to go beyond what is expected of you. If you are given an assignment, make it a masterpiece. Do not be content with anything less than your very best work. Give up those things that have little or no value. When studying a topic, read more than is assigned. Find your own sources. Learn at an accelerated rate.
I challenge each of you to read more, to study more, and to learn more. Read a book a week. Read the Book of Mormon, not just once a year, but once a month. Learn how to do the impossible and do it constantly. Your future is bright, your future is secure, if you will make excellence a habit and not just a singular event.
My brothers and sisters, I express my love to you. I love working with you, I love being among you. You inspire me. Never underestimate the power of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Never lose sight of Him or His gospel. Have confidence in your ability to solve each and every problem under His watchful care. He will never let you down. He is the Master of the universe, the Creator, and our Savior. He understands our grief, He understands how to succor His people, for He has borne our sins and is acquainted with sorrow. He is also the giver of all good gifts, and gifts of goodness He will give you. In Him we can have, and must have, complete confidence. And of this I testify, in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Remember, Remember...

13 Sep. 2011


Remember, Remember...

LDS Business College Devotional
September 13, 2011

Every Monday morning, the faculty and staff gather in a classroom. We share a spiritual thought, recite the Pledge of Allegiance, and then we pray. Most often the focus of that prayer is on you. We pray for your success and an increase in our capacity and ability to help you be successful. We have had wonderful moments together on Mondays. I give credit to a colleague who shared with us a week ago  an idea that caught my attention and has been lingering in my thoughts since then.

Here is a little sidebar. When thoughts from the scriptures or good principles spoken by another linger with you longer than usual, my advice is to redirect  your behavior in the direction of that scripture or principle. And so, that being the case, I want to move in the direction that I felt when Brother Glenn McGettigan gave this thought.

Remember Who You Are!

Let me introduce the idea this way. When I was growing up, we had a dog named Honey. She was a honey-colored Cocker Spaniel and thus her name. Honey was my best friend next to Pete and Billy. In the summertime, Honey, Pete, Billy and I would spend a lot of time together playing outside in our large yard. Football games and baseball games, and digging giant holes in the vacant lot next door were our favorite activities. Though Honey was not very good at football or digging holes, she was a good retriever of a baseball. She was excellent in lying in the cool soft dirt as we boys fantasized about digging to China. When we would get tired, we would lay on the cool grass, look up at the passing clouds and challenge each other to see objects and creatures in clouds as they passed over our heads on their journey eastward.

Whenever Pete and Billy would come ring our doorbell to get me to join them, I would try to sneak out of the door before my mother could repeat her daily reminder to me. It was like a contest between us. It wasn’t that I didn’t like the reminder; it was that it got tedious, ritualistic, and at the age of 10, I needed some valuable interpretation and application. Maybe your mothers said the same phrase to you when you would leave the house every day to play or go to Elementary School. If you had the same experience that I had, join me on the count of three and we will recite those four words contained in our mothers’ daily admonition: Remember who you are! See, we all had the same mother, or it was in the same Relief Society manual, in great repetition.

What was it mother was trying to tell us? What was so important in that reminder that she felt it was necessary to say it every day whether it was summertime or off to school every day?

It was only when I had children of my own that the insights came as I found myself saying to them every time they left the house: Remember who you are!

Who am I?

The challenge to remember who we are begs the question: Who am I? It is a centuries-old question and was asked by great men and women in the past. In the Book of Exodus, we read of Moses’ reply to God when given the duty to go “bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt.” Moses replied, “Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh?” King David said the same thing, as he sat before the Lord and said, “Who am I, O Lord God?”[1] President Howard W. Hunter stated, “The greatest search of our time is the search for personal identity and for human dignity.”

As members of the Church in the latter days when the fullness of the gospel has been restored, we do not need to search for the answer to the questions: “Who am I” and “What am I supposed to do?” The Proclamation on the Family states it clearly: “…each [of you] is a beloved spirit son or daughter of Heavenly Parents, and as such, each has a divine nature and destiny.” Our greatest challenge is believing it and then acting consistent with that belief. I mean really believing it. Believing it to the point where we know how to act, and have protected and maintained our agency—our power and will—to act as we should.

And so when we are faced with the challenges that are before us now at the beginning of the semester and those that will surely come, the questions are: What will we believe about ourselves, and how will we act? In large part, the answers are based on how well we have remembered who we are.

You know the desire of the adversary. You know how he would have you believe and act. He has known you for eons of time and therefore knows that at first the subtlety of “flaxen cords” works better than binding chains.[2]

And so I invite you to remember. The word is used 404 times in the scriptures. Six of those times it is recorded as “remember, remember.” That double expression has important meaning in Hebrew. In that language, there is no superlative—no good, better, best. Rather the word is repeated. So pay particular attention to the words, “remember, remember” within the Book of Mormon:

And now, my sons [and daughters],remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.[3]

We are not like Joseph Smith pondering the great questions of life. He declared: “… for how to act I did not know, and unless I could get more wisdom than I then had, I would never know…”[4] Because he found the answer and acted upon the knowledge he gained, you and I have a “more sure word of prophecy.”[5] Because of Joseph’s actions, we can know what to do, if we will but remember:

“…behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God and to serve him, is inspired of God…. It is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night … wherefore I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; Wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.”[6]

Can anything be simpler than that? Can anything be clearer than that? Can anything be easier to remember if you are willing to plant it in our hearts? When we remember who we are and what our potential is, then we know how to act. Then we do not need reminders about living the Dress andGrooming standards and acting with integrity in our course work. “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every returned missionary here could be counted on to live the way the Lord would have him live and to be willing, able and worthy to serve at a moment’s notice.”[7] Here is how President Monson feels about serving at a moment’s notice: “…I always want the Lord to know that if He needs an errand run, Tom Monson will run that errand for Him.”[8] He also stated, “I am a very simple man, I just do what the Lord tells me to do.”[9] When we follow the counsel in the scriptures and the example of the prophet, we can rely upon these promises of the Lord:

“Wherefore, as ye are agents, ye are on the Lord’s errand; and whatever ye do according to the will of the Lord is the Lord’s business….Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great…. Behold, the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind; [10] … [and] I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.”[11]

That is a wonderful promise. That is a promise worth living for, and you are able to live it when you remember who you are.

Elder Dean L. Larsen speaking in the priesthood session of April Conference in 1983 stated:

“As President Kimball has warned us, it will neither be acceptable nor safe to remain on the plateaus where our present conduct has kept us. Abrupt downward forces, represented by increasing wickedness in the world, can only be offset by forces that move correspondingly upward. Our lives must be better than they have ever been before. This simply means that we will become increasingly different from those around us whose lives follow the world’s way. It is not easy to be different. There are intense pressures that work against us. But we must clearly understand that it is not safe to move in the same direction the world is moving, even though we remain slightly behind the pace they set. Such a course will eventually lead us to the same problems and heartaches. It will not permit us to perform the work the Lord has chosen us to do. It would disqualify us from his blessing and his protecting care.”[12]

Life, my young friends is like trying to go up a down escalator. When we pause in our efforts to consistently move forward, we lose ground. So every day the choice is ours. We make that choice every hour of every day. We can gravitate toward the world or toward things of the spirit. We cannot have one foot in Babylon and one foot in Zion. We cannot have it both ways.

And so as Robert Frost penned:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

The road we have been asked to take is clearly one less traveled, yet at its end and along the way we will find greater joy and contentment, not just the fleeting happiness of a passing moment.

Remember these words of Edward W. Bok:

“Once we are convinced … that we are put here for a purpose: that the seed of divine energy has been given us and that it is for us to cultivate it to its fullest bloom, the way will be shown us. It is our part to make the effort and to put the fullest force and integrity into that effort. It is the young man of little faith who says, ‘I am nothing.’ It is the young man of true conception who says, ‘I am everything,’ and then goes out to prove it.”[13]

Shakespeare penned: "Be not afraid of greatness; some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them."[14] William F. Halsey added: "There are no great men [or women], only great challenges that ordinary men [and women] are forced by circumstances to meet." Whether you like it or not brothers and sisters, greatness has been thrust upon you and great challenges lie before you. A loving Father in Heaven knew that and, therefore, you have been blessed with the all that is necessary to rise to the challenge and opportunity. This you must remember!

And when you go to the temple, you covenant for those blessings in special ways. And any of you who have been endowed and have not gone back recently to do initiatory work, I invite you to do that. And you tell that good brother or sister who officiates to slow down, and you listen carefully to those blessings. You cannot come out of that experience thinking that you do not have what it takes to succeed here or anywhere else in your life. They are powerful, they are eternal blessings, and they are yours if you have been so blessed. They are yours to look forward to if you have not had that experience in your life.

Therefore, the advice of Marianne Williamson applies to you:

“We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Finally, this counsel from Henry Eyring, a theoretical chemist and father of President Henry B. Eyring:

"Let us consider the nature of true greatness in men. The people who can catch hold of men’s minds and feelings and inspire them to do things bigger than themselves are the people who are remembered in history. . . . those who stir feelings and imagination and make men struggle toward perfection."[15]

So brothers and sisters, I recognize that some of you come to school and you may not have had some great experiences in life. Your previous school experience may not have been terrific. I was one of those. The school system didn’t work well for me. But I also learned this: that every fear hides a vision. So I invite you to apply the blessings of the Atonement and cast out your fears about who you are and what you are capable of becoming. And start with remembering who you really are.

Now, let me give you six tips for remembering. Six ideas.

Six Tips for Remembering

  1. Ponder your blessings. As you thank God for each one of those blessings in your life individually, more will come to mind. You will remember them. You will feel more gratitude, humility and thus have an increased ability to hear and increased capacity to heed the still small voice.

  2. Write down the impressions you feel from the Spirit and commit to take action. Learning to hear, heed, and act upon the quiet incremental impressions of the spirit will be an important skill for the rest of your life.

  3. Do genealogy work. As you follow the counsel of Isaiah to “look unto the rock from whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit from whence ye are digged,”[16] you will come to know and remember the strength of ancestors. You will take courage from their stories. You will learn and remember the sacrifices they made for which you benefit.

  4. Apply what you learn to your life’s situation. There is power, brothers and sisters, in pondering. The Lord will help you remember what is important and how to apply it. However, inspiration comes best when we have taken action to move our feet in positive directions – acting and not waiting to be acted upon.[17]

  5. Feast upon the scriptures.[18] That is different than studying; that is different than reading. I invite you to feast, and I pray that the Spirit will teach you what it means to feast upon the scriptures. They have a familiar voice. The spirit that accompanies feasting in the scriptures will “teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance…”[19]

  6. Commit to your covenants and avoid taking the sacrament as just a weekly church ritual. Every week, in those sacramental prayers, we are invited twice to “remember.”


Believe in yourself, believe in the power you have that comes from righteousness, and from remembering who you really are. I pray that you will be prepared for the blessings heaven is willing and waiting to pour out upon you this academic year. I pray you will have strength to live up to what you know to be true, that you brethren will have strength to honor the priesthood authority you hold. And sisters, that you will have the strength to honor womanhood. I pray that you will be wise, that you will exercise the power to choose the right course based upon life experience and what  you know to be true.

I testify to you that Jesus is the Christ. He stands at the head of this Church, and every subsidiary of that Church, including LDS Business College. His Spirit is here, His direction is here. I invite you to walk the halls, to sit in classrooms, and find it. I invite those that are part of the staff and administration to behave in such ways that there is nothing that we do or say that stands in the way of having the Spirit magnifying all that is done here. I pray that the Lord will magnify your abilities as you pray for them as well, that you will learn at rates that will just amaze the world, that you will come to know why you are here—the real reason, and it is not what you think, but you will find it if you pray for it, if you look for it, if you strive for it. And I leave you that as my testimony and my prayer for you, who I love as if you were my own. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

[1] 2 Samuel 7:18
[2] 2 Nephi 26:22
[3] Helaman 5:12
[4] JSH 1:12
[5] 2 Peter 1:19
[6] Moroni 7: 13-16
[7] Author undetermined
[8] http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/56532/President-Monson-First-year-reflections.html
[9] To the Rescue, page unknown
[10] D&C 64:29,33-34
[11] D&C 84:88
[12] http://lds.org/general-conference/1983/04/a-royal-generation?lang=eng&query=%22A+Royal+Generation%22
[13] Bok, Edward William, Dollars Only,
[14] William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night (II, v, 156-159)
[15] Eyring, Henry, Science and Your Faith in God
[16] Isaiah 51:1
[17] 2 Nephi 2: 14,16,26
[18] 2 Nephi 32:3
[19] John 14:26

Sign in to the Things of the Spirit

20 Sep. 2011


Sign in to the Things of the Spirit

I am grateful for the opportunity to be here and especially for all of the arrangements that have been done, the flowers, even working with the sound and the power problems that we are facing. I know that some people might be kind of nervous trying to get these functioning. I am grateful for this school that has blessed so many people, and I’m grateful for your president, President Larry Richards, and his associates. They are a blessing for you and for all of us—especially for you and many others who have gone through this school as well.
I am especially grateful for you, the students. Some time ago, President Monson quoted an Englishman. I should say that I am also grateful because, before saying more about the students, I would like to say something about the faculty as well. Because one member of your faculty is a returned missionary from Guayaquil, Ecuador, and served when we served there together when I was president—that’s Sister Jacobson. There you are. And we are grateful for this opportunity. We might have other returned missionaries, but at least we see you there.
President Monson, some time ago, quoted an English poet regarding young people, and that’s Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. He said:
How beautiful is youth! how bright it gleams
With its illusions, aspirations, dreams!
Book of Beginnings, Story without End,
Each maid a heroine, and each man a friend!
(“Morituri Salutamus,” 1825)
That reflects to a great extent my own feelings. We may quote a Spanish poet as well—one who speaks Spanish but who was born in Nicaragua. Do we have people from Nicaragua here? No Nicaraguense here, eh? Then I will tell you what he said, and nobody will be able to correct me. Rubén Dario said, “Youth, thou divine treasure.” Juventud, divino tesoro. And he went on with other words, and those that know the poem … my wife had a very positive version of those words about young people—and will you share with them your version?

Sister Gonzalez:

Juventud, divino tesoro
Juventud para recocijarse
Y aprender
Quan amados
Quan bendicidos son.

Elder Gonzalez:

Thank you. She is a better poet than Rubén Dario, don’t you think so? You are alive in the days of the Restoration. We have so many blessings. The heavens have been open. Now we have knowledge that was hidden for some time, but the ancients, the inhabitants, a few, have been blessed with the knowledge that we have today. And with all the priesthood restored we are so blessed because that knowledge is available to us, and we can make and keep covenants. But also because these are the days of the Restoration, the Lord has allowed science and technology to progress so much, and we have so much of that knowledge available to us. I heard a report that you can be at the computer 24/7 during your entire life, and you will not open all the pages that are available, offering knowledge for free. Isn’t that interesting? So the abundance of knowledge is the great challenge that we face; therefore, we are to be selective, and we need to have priorities.
That’s why I’d like to share with you one decision that I already told you about. And I wonder what is happening with the sound. Are you hearing me? The radio, OK. Now it’s my voice only, right? No interference.
One decision I’d like to share with you that needs to be made, and two actions that are related to that decision. The decision to be made I already said. It is sign out and sign in. And of course, this decision will facilitate the two actions that I would like to mention.
Technology, in itself, is very good. We use technology to spread the gospel, and as you know, more and more we are using technology to communicate with others, to find people. And the day will come that we will use it even more intensely than we are doing now. So technology and all the things that come—those good things that come with it—are good. And we are very happy that we have that technology. And we have wonderful communication tools.
For instance, for those that like soccer, you could have watched the World Cup in South Africa a few seconds delayed, you can watch your favorite team, USA for us, and others here of course, worldwide as well—you can watch those games seconds later than the actual game was taking place. You can use a social network today to communicate with my mother, for instance, who lives there in Uruguay. It’s unbelievable the communication tools that we have today. If my grandfather were alive today, he could die immediately under the shock of the things that we can do in our days and he couldn’t do in his days.
Now, the risk is that we spend so many hours with those ideas that may come through those channels of communication, we can spend hours watching TV and surfing the Internet, or whatever. But the point is, when we are doing that, usually we are thinking of the things they want us to think. We are bombarded by ideas of the others—they are not my ideas, they are the ideas the other people want me to think. I am not under control. The others are controlling what I want to think. And that is the challenge. And that happens even with video games, even if you are playing soccer with your video game, you are thinking with the players they play there, and probably I’m not your favorite player anyway.
Now this is what comes through the channels of communications. We may be also concerned with things that are good—how to pay tuition, how to pay the rent. You may spend hours thinking of your future spouse. Those things of course may be some concerns that we have, but we need to sign in to those things. Sometimes it can be hard to sign out. We need to make the decision to sign out, and get the inner power to sign into knowledge that is a stream from heaven. And that is the invitation of the decision.
Regarding the actions I related to that decision of signing out of those things, we need to sign in to that kind of knowledge that comes from heaven. I like the word “stream” because that’s the new technology, right?
The first action is to make the decision that every day I will take time to think of heavenly things. In modern revelation, the Lord said to Joseph Smith in D&C 43:34: “Treasure these things up in your heart, and let the solemnities of eternity rest upon your minds.” You might be wondering what is the meaning of “solemnities.” La solemnidad de la eternidad. It sounds very [good] in Spanish. But what is the meaning of that? I’m taking time for that every day. You know what? This principle is not new for this dispensation. As I said, the ancient people knew about principles for our eternal happiness. Or, according to our divine nature. And the old inhabitants of this America knew about that.
In the Book of Mormon, it tells the story of a father, Mormon, and his son, Moroni. You know this story; the last time of the Book of Mormon, the last period. That was not an easy time. They were surrounded by news that was no good news, and as you know, that was an egregious situation. I don’t even want to repeat the kinds of things they were doing. But we can call that atrocities that were taking place. Even Moroni did not know his future. He knew that at any minute, his head could be cut off. And those were his circumstances. Is it easy to sign out of that? Well, that was the advice that his father Mormon gave to him, that he needed to sign out of those things, of that situation that was so pressing.
He said, “And now, my son, thou knowest the wickedness of this people; thou knowest that they are without principle, and past feeling.” (Moroni 9:20) You can think of that when you think of some of the dirty things that come through the airwaves. So there are some parallels there. Then he said to his son, thinking of this sign out, sign in: “My son, be faithful in Christ; and may not the things which I have written grieve thee … but may Christ lift thee up, and may his sufferings and death, and the showing his body unto our fathers, and his mercy and long-suffering, and the hope of his glory and of eternal life”—see what he said—“rest in your mind forever.” (Moroni 9:25)  He could be completely signed in to his circumstances, but hear his father saying, “Think of the Atonement, the Resurrection, Christlike attributes. Take time every day for that.”
And you know what happens? If you read the Book of Mormon, the first chapter of Moroni, we are grateful for those ten chapters, wonderful chapters, and wonderful doctrine. And hope is streaming from those chapters. But those chapters were written after that, when we thought in any minute I’m going to be assassinated. He could not have done so if he did not learned to sign out of those circumstances—the brutality and the mundane … well, not so mundane … but hard circumstances, and sign in to knowledge streaming from heaven. That was the advice for Moroni from his father, and the same applies to us today.
In other words, we can say that we sign out of the pressures of the day and be signed in to the things of eternity. Now I have a question for you. We are to do the same right now. Can you think, even today or yesterday, for how long have you been connected to those things that are so pressing—rent, tuition, knowledge, future spouse, and those things? We need to think of those. But have you taken time, even today or yesterday, to think of Him, of His name, which is more than Him alone? Have you taken that time? And for how long? Only with a quick prayer to put a checkmark in your to-do list? You can do that in several ways, but to make sure this happens, we are to sign out of mundane thoughts and to sign in to knowledge streaming from heaven.
You know the blessings that come with that? The Spirit comes to our lives. And you know what, if we think of His name, what is one of the functions of the Holy Spirit? Testificar. Of whom? Of Christ, of His name. So here you are, a way of bringing the Spirit to your life. And I promise you that you will have the strength, even the inner power, to sign out of other things and to sign in to the right things. You’ll get power over temptations as well, through signing in to things you should.
Thinking of the name of Christ includes pondering his attributes and the great plan of happiness. Thinking of His attributes will help increase your faith in Him. We will need added faith in Him to sign out of bad things and to sign in to righteous things. And I say that because, In the Lectures on Faith, the Prophet Joseph Smith said that to increase our faith, we should have a correct idea of our Lord’s character, perfections and attributes. As we learn about Him, we need an actual knowledge that the course of life which we are pursuing is in accordance with His will.
For instance, Mormon advised his son, Moroni, to allow the attribute of mercy to rest upon his mind forever. I will do this very quickly to show this attribute as an example, because it is one mentioned by Mormon. He was advised to let that attribute of mercy rest upon his mind forever, and not now and then. We can learn about His mercy as we read about His attributes in the scriptures and the teachings of the living prophets, and then think about those teachings. We will learn about His attributes because, as we think about it, we will receive impressions and promptings of the Spirit. And we can think about that attribute as evidenced in our own lives. And you will go with those relationships between justice and mercy and those scriptures, but we all need not only to think of that, but President Joseph F. Smith said, “Pure intelligence comprises not only knowledge but also the power to properly apply that knowledge.” (Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. [1939], 58)
So it’s not only thinking. In the case of mercy, for instance, we are to be merciful with others and with ourselves. I like to think that the Lord’s mercy is way, way different than what I can imagine with my mortality here; it is way, way more. His arms of mercy are there open, as he said in 3 Nephi 9. What’s next? Embrace.
You can think of other attributes and take time to think of Him. And this will help you to learn also about math, geography, social science, medical terminology. That will help you because, you know what, when the Spirit comes to you, the Prophet Joseph Smith said that you will have the prompting of pure intelligence, and you may come to know what things or topics in a given subject are more real or relevant. With so much knowledge available, this is a great blessing. About medical terminology, I think you can be learning new words, and with computers and other things, all day long. I’m trying to learn all day long new words about English, but some words are more relevant than others. So that is wonderful. I advise you to learn also Spanish, by the way. That will bless your lives.
Now you can say these are secular topics I have to learn. The Spirit can help you also with that. At the end of the day, even those things are religious topics as well. Even math, if you want.
Think of this in this regard. If you take time to sign out, to sign in to heavenly things, think of this statement from Joseph Smith: “Could you gaze into heaven five minutes, you would know more than you would by reading all that ever was written on the subject.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 324) So our best ally in life and in our studies is the Holy Spirit. Can you imagine all you can learn about math or history or social science by receiving inspiration from heaven? If you sign out of some things and sign in to knowledge streaming from heaven, you will have the upper hand. That’s an English version meaning you have the advantage.
And of course, Paul in the book of Romans—we are studying the New Testament—said, “For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” ( 8:6) Just by signing out and signing in to things from heaven, there is the promise by Paul that you will have peace, as the Lord giveth, not as the world giveth. Peace. And I know that’s something you want to get, right? We all want to get it.
An excellent way to sign out and to sign in to knowledge streaming from heaven is, for instance, attending the temple, praying, studying the scriptures. Or you may create additional things.
The second action is to sign out of mundane and sometimes important things and to sign in to your purpose in life by using the eye of faith. The principle of using the eye of faith was well known by the ancient prophets of the Book of Mormon. It is part of exercising our faith in Christ and His Father. It means to look forward to the fruit or to behold or view the purpose of your life. The principle was taught by Alma in Zarahemla, and up on the hill of Oneida, and was also taught by Mahonri Moriancumer, the brother of Jared, to his people the Jaredites, two thousand years before Christ.
The warning from this ancient prophet was that, if we do not behold the fruit, we would never partake of the fruit of the tree of life. In the long run, we are to view our future exaltation and eternal life. We are to find out our purpose in life and look forward to achieving it. In summary, the principle is everybody’s life needs a purpose. Each of us has a purpose, and the Savior is a perfect example of that purpose-oriented life to which we need to sign in frequently.
As you know, He said, “To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world.” (John 18:37)  And He explained His purpose often, especially in the book of John we can read that He was saying that His will was to do the will of the Father and was only thinking of His Father and fulfilling the purpose that His Father had for Him. And the Book of Mormon is so clear that Abinadi taught that the Savior’s purpose was, or is, “The will of the Son [is] swallowed up in the will of the Father.” (Mosiah 15:7)  Here, as a resurrected being, He even said that His purpose was to “draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil.” (3 Nephi 27:14)
In the eternal perspective, our purpose for all of us in common is to follow Christ. And we are to increase our faith in Him, make and keep covenants, and endure to the end. That’s common to all of us. Now in such a track, we all have different purposes to fulfill in this life. We need to find out that purpose—probably we already know, but we may change ideas as we go in life. And you don’t need to copy your neighbor—if his purpose is this, my purpose should be the same? No, we are all different. We are unique. So don’t copy; be yourself.
You must sign out of the mundane distractions and sign in to viewing the purpose of your life frequently and not just now and then. Additionally, you should have short-term purposes or goals. You can use the same principles to achieve your short-term goals or purposes. For instance, being enrolled at the LDS Business College should have a purpose for you. Y va a ser diferente para cada uno, right? Thinking of such a purpose will help you to achieve it. If you are thinking all of the time of social connections through the Internet, you’re losing power to achieve your goals. You must have the inner power to frequently sign out of other things in order to sign in to looking forward to your righteous goals. This will help you to sign out of wasting your time and to sign in to using the eye of faith, or in other words, this will give you the power of deliverance if you need it.
The Savior will help you with the eternal purpose of your life, and you will need to work with Him regarding the short-term purposes. And it should be noted that there is an eternal plan. But He also has a plan for each of us, tailored to you. And that’s why we need to ask for His blessings, pray to Him. And I think that sometimes we do that and find our plans and we have our plans, but I think that at the same time, He lets us do our plans and He smiles at the same time.
My wife and I have made a lot of plans, but I never imagined, and it was not our plan to be here today at LDS Business College speaking to you. I think we did our plans, and the Lord smiled while we were making plans.  But he couldn’t say to us anything. And we are very happy, by the way, with His plans. We like that way.
The question you can ask yourself at the end of each day is, how long did I sign in today to look forward to my purpose and goals? I’m sure that you have an idea of how long you spend using the Internet or watching TV or playing videos yesterday or even today. Do you have an idea how long do you spend time thinking of things from heaven and things that have to do with your life?
As you take time to think of the name of Christ and use the eye of faith, I promise you that you will have more power to overcome temptations. You will know when enough Internet time, watching TV or playing video games is enough. These things can be good, but if you are not moderating their usage, you have a challenge. You have the power to disconnect from that and connect with the source of divine knowledge. Knowledge that streams from heaven will come to you if you let it rest upon your minds every day. When you want to check your email for five minutes, make sure that is what you do, instead of taking several hours at the computer.
I would like to finish my request for you. I want to request of you the very same things that Mormon asked for his son, saying, “And may the grace of God the Father, whose throne is high in the heavens, and our Lord Jesus Christ, who sitteth on the right hand of his power, until all things shall become subject unto him, be and abide with you forever.”
In addition to that, may you have clear the purpose of your life and your goals. May you know when to sign out and when to sign in. I know this gospel is true. These are gospel principles that will bring therefore blessings and happiness to our lives. I know heaven has been open. Joseph Smith is the prophet at the head of this dispensation, and President Monson is his legal successor today, and he is the spokesman of the Lord on the face of the earth for all of us who follow him, and also for those who are not members of the Church as well. He is the prophet for the planet today.
I know that the Quorum of the Twelve are apostles, as those of ancient times. I know the Lord wants us to exercise power and develop our inner power by doing simple things as those I have mentioned. And especially I know that Jesus Christ lives, that this is His organization, His Church. I know the principles that we have referred to with modern words of signing out and signing in are part of His gospel. And especially, I would like to testify that He is the Holy Messiah, the living Christ, the Son of the living God. And I testify so in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Charity and Problem Solving

04 Oct. 2011


Charity and Problem Solving

I’d like to talk with you today about problem solving.  Let’s take an example of a problem that might be familiar to you.  Imagine that you are in a class requiring group work.  In fact, a big percentage of your final grade will be based on a single group project.  You didn’t get to choose the other members of our group; they were assigned.  And there is no formal team leader.  The purpose of the project, your professor said, includes learning to collaborate as peers.
From the very beginning, you could tell that you were in trouble.  The other two members of the group don’t seem nearly as concerned about grades as you do.  As the semester has progressed, you have begun to carry a disproportionate share of the load.  When the other two submit work for interim deadlines, you end up redoing it.  You have begun to wonder whether they are actually doing less than they’re capable of, because they know that you’ll cover for them.
There is more than just your personal pride and desire for fairness at stake.  A bad grade on this project could prevent you from getting an A in the course.  And the extra time you’re spending on this project is also affecting your performance in other courses.  This group project could end up costing you a scholarship, as well as admission to the transfer school of your choice. 
If you are like me, you already see some quick, effective solutions to this problem.  You could go to your professor to explain the facts, and demand either to get a new group or to have yourself graded independently of your two teammates.  In the process you could play upon the guilt that the professor ought to be feeling for putting you in this situation in the first place.  Another approach might be to threaten your teammates by telling them that you’re about to have this kind of conversation with your professor.
If those approaches fail, you might just have to take matters into your own hands.  You’ve discovered that it’s harder to fix your teammates’ work than it would be to do it yourself.  Why not just plan to do everything alone?  That would save the time you’re investing in group meetings, and you’d be sure of a good final product.
Now that I’ve got your stomach roiling, let me tell you about another way to think about solving the problems in our lives.  I have learned it by watching three people I admire.  They are President Henry B. Eyring, Elder Robert D. Hales, and President Kim B. Clark of BYU-Idaho.  I have been blessed to spend much time with them.  In addition to being father and son, President Eyring and I were home-teaching companions for four years in my youth.  Later, I served as Elder Hales’ bishop.  Particularly during several years when he was battling life-threatening illnesses, I visited him often.  President Clark is both my boss at BYU-Idaho and was, until last month, my home teacher. 
Each of these men is an outstanding problem solver.  Because all three are products of the Harvard Business School, there was a time when I assumed that they learned their problem-solving skills there.  But as I have watched them closely, I have discovered another source of their analytical abilities, one that surprised me.  It is a set of four verses from the 13th chapter of Paul’s epistle to the Corinthians.  Those verses are very familiar to us:
4 Charitysuffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
 5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
 6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
 7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
Now, you might ask, “This describes the way I should feel, but how will it help me to be a better problem solver?  Doesn’t that require thinking clearly and doing good analysis?”  For most of my life, that is what I believed.  I went to school and honed my thinking skills so that I could be a good problem solver.  But watching President Eyring, Elder Hales, and President Clark has helped me see that good thinking begins with the right kind of feelings.
To see why that is so, let’s group the 15 attributes of charity into four categories of our own creation:  selflessness, optimism, generosity, and patience.  For example, “selflessness” seems to embrace these five attributes of charity: 
  • Envieth not;
  • Vaunteth not itself;
  • Is not puffed up;
  • Doth not behave unseemly;
  • Seeketh not her own.
The word “optimism” seems to capture three more attributes:
  • Rejoiceth in the truth;
  • Believeth all things;
  • Hopeth all things.
Likewise, a person who is kind, is not easily provoked, thinks no evil of others, and does not rejoice in their iniquity could be described by the term “generosity.”  And one who suffers long, bears all things, and endures all things certainly qualifies for the label “patient.”  So, with apologies to Paul, one of the most sophisticated thinkers in the scriptures, we’ll simplify our study of charity and problem solving by using the four terms Selflessness, Optimism, Generosity, and Patience.

Selfless Problem Solving

Let’s begin by exploring the problem-solving benefits of selflessness.  Throughout my life, I’ve heard my father say, “Motive is everything.”  He almost always says that when I bring an important personal choice to him, such as what graduate school I should attend or what job to take.  It used to frustrate me to hear him say, “Motive is everything.”  For one thing, I assumed that he was questioning my motives in general.  For another, I couldn’t understand how my motives could make a particular choice right or wrong; the way I saw it, the rightness or wrongness of a choice was a quality inherent to that course of action, not something affected by my feelings.
What my father knows is that selfishness creeps into our analysis without our perceiving it.  Unwittingly, we tend to see extra merit in a choice that would benefit us personally.  A course of action that will ultimately make us look good or bring other personal rewards is one that we may rationalize as good for others as well. 
That tendency is manifest in the options we considered for handling our group-work problem.  When we thought about a conversation with the professor, we could have reasoned that going directly to the person in authority is best for everyone.  But the Savior instructed otherwise.  Matthew 18:15 records his guidance:
Moreover, if thy brother trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone:  if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.
The Savior goes on to say in verses 16 and 17 that we retain the option to involve third-party witnesses and those in authority, if necessary.  But the first thing to do is to engage our spiritual brother privately, before he faces the potentially humiliating experience of being confronted publicly.  The Savior’s statement, “If he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother,” suggests that this approach to the problem could produce more than just an immediate resolution of a disagreement.  It could deepen a relationship and help us avoid future problems.  In fact, it could make our brother or sister our partner in problem solving. 
This is what President Eyring means when he says motive is everything in decision making and problem solving.  Selfishness blinds us to our personal biases.  Selflessness, by contrast, helps us see beyond our immediate, personal desires to broader potential outcomes that may be better not only for others but for ourselves as well. 
Selflessness also allows the Holy Ghost to inspire us.  This inspiration may include feelings to make a choice that defies rational analysis because important facts can’t be known until the choice is made.  That is one important reason why my father would say, “Motive is everything” when I explored school and job options with him.  Neither of us could foresee the people I would meet in those schools and jobs who would make all the difference in my life.  I needed pure revelation, and the only way to get it was by wanting nothing but what God wanted for me.
The scriptures teach what is possible when our motives become purified in this way.  You recall what the Lord said to Nephi as he gave him sealing power to command the elements on this earth:  “[A]ll things shall be done unto thee according to thy word, for thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will.”[i]
You and I might naturally assume that successful people like President Eyring, Elder Hales, and President Clark have been careful to calculate the impact of their decisions on their careers; otherwise, how could they have been so successful in competitive places such as the Harvard Business School?  I can testify from close observation that their success in serving the Lord and His children is rooted in the attitude, “Not my will, but Thine.”[ii]  When their hearts are entirely free of self-interest, when their motives are pure, then they can think clearly and receive the Holy Ghost’s confirmation of their ideas and His whispers to their minds.  The same can be true for us.

Optimistic Problem Solving

We can see from the Lord’s statement to Nephi that selfless motives are essential but not enough to being effective problem solvers:  Nephi had the Lord’s assurance that his motives were right, but he still had to decide what to ask for.  As we begin to tackle a problem such as the underperformance of our two teammates, the Gospel gives us the advantage of seeing the bigger picture.  We know that each of these struggling students has divine heritage and potential; each is a god in the making.  In addition to knowing that individuals are destined to get better, we know that the same thing is true of conditions on this earth.  Though the world is certainly rough in spots, it is destined to be a temporal and spiritual paradise.  Of all people, we Latter-day Saints should be optimistic about the future.
Along with knowing that good will triumph and righteousness prevail, we also know that divine forces are at work, preparing the world and the people in it for the Savior’s return.  Elder Hales has a metaphor for this.  When, in the midst of difficult problems, potential solutions unexpectedly present themselves, he will sometimes say, “The bushes are rustling.”   What he means is that forces we cannot see are at work, advancing our righteous causes.  The scriptures teach this reality.  Think of the Lord’s promise in the 84th Section of the Doctrine and Covenants:
[I] will go before your face.  I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you to bear you up.[iii]
I also love this promise in the 30th chapter of Isaiah, which indicates that we can have guidance not only from ahead but also from behind:
And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.[iv]
The fact is that Heavenly Father not only guides us along the path, His influence suffuses everything we encounter, as declared in the 88th section of the Doctrine and Covenants:
[H]e is above all things, and in all things, and is through all things, and is round about all things…[v]
Knowing that the Lord is in all things gives us an advantage in problem solving.  We don’t need to fear that the forces acting on us are random.  There is order and purpose even in what appear to be desperate situations.  If we are patient and persistent in treading the Lord’s path, things will work out.  It is akin to playing a game that we know we are destined to win.  Where others might conclude that the rational thing is to quit or flee, we can confidently stay and expect that at some point the bushes will start to rustle.
The challenge, though, is that the game will sometimes look unwinnable, and we may be tempted to doubt, particularly as we become older and more reliant on our own powers of reason.  I admire the way that C.S. Lewis portrays this temptation in his Chronicles of Narnia.  As Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy face trials, Lucy, the youngest, sometimes sees Aslan pointing the way.  Her older brothers and sister, though, doubt her spiritual vision, preferring to trust their own instincts.
The older we get and the more disappointment we experience, the more inclined we may be to see evil and apparent randomness in the world.  Indeed, the adversary would have us see it that way.  “Hell,” said T.S. Eliot, “is a place where nothing connects with nothing.”  But we can be confidently optimistic that in the Lord’s plans everything connects.  Trials and apparent setbacks are only temporary; they are connected to ultimate triumphs.  The right course of action is right even when it may not appear to be working out well. 
We also have the advantage of knowing that wickedness and sorrow are only temporary conditions in this world.  The world’s wickedness can be distracting, but there is a way to see beyond it.  I learned that from two people who taught me about driving cars.  One, a driving instructor, said, “The surest way to hit a pothole is to fix your eyes on it and try to miss it.”  The other fellow, a test-track driver, taught this principle that we get what we look for in a more positive way.  He said, “The way to navigate a sharp curve is to focus on the point where the curve ends, the place you want to go.” 
We can be better problem solvers by focusing on the place we want to go, and optimistically trusting that the Lord will take us there if our hearts are right.  Let’s look again at our group-work problem.  Our tendency to view the problem pessimistically and selfishly is based on the assumption that a poor grade could thwart our dreams of a scholarship and transferring to a good university.  But the Lord can compensate for whatever apparent sacrifice might be required to help our teammates.  President Eyring followed his father’s counsel to major in physics at the University of Utah.  The grades he earned in that difficult major were far below those he needed to have a reasonable chance of getting into a good graduate program.  Yet the Lord compensated by arranging for outstanding work experiences in the U.S. Air Force, along with a crucial recommendation by a senior officer, allowing him to win admission to the Harvard Business School.  Moreover, the things that President Eyring learned as an undergraduate physics student have served him well as he has served the Church.  What Paul taught the Roman saints is true:  “[A]ll things work together for good to them that love God…”[vi]
Generous Problem Solving
In fact, you may be surprised to find that slowing down a bit to help your teammates isn’t as dangerous as it sounds.  I am amazed at how President Clark puts other people first when there are problems to be solved.  He is one of the smartest people I know.  He can see the essence of a problem almost immediately, and he seems to have an answer only a moment or two after that.  But instead of announcing the answer to the other people involved, he begins thinking about ways to help them see both the problem and the answer for themselves.  He is a genius not only because of how quickly he “get’s it,” but because he knows how to help other people “get it.” 
I am sometimes frustrated by President Clark’s patience in this process.  Because I work closely with him, I am among the first people he helps to see what needs to be done to solve a problem.  Once I “get it,” I want to get on with implementing the solution.  But President Clark prefers to leave no one behind.  That is true even when some of the people who need to be convinced seem to have impure motives.  When that appears to be the case, my impatience grows exponentially.
Yet he generously focuses on the good in people.  When he faces opposition, he assumes that it is a matter of misunderstanding.  Instead of attributing impure motives, such as we might do when our teammates give us shoddy work, President Clark says, “They must have a problem I don’t see.”  He is even humble enough to ask, “I wonder how I might be unintentionally contributing to the problem.”  I think of President Clark as I ponder the response of the Savior’s apostles when He said that one of them would betray Him:  “Lord,” they asked, “Is it I?”[vii] 
Time after time, I have seen the rewards of President Clark’s generous views of others.  By looking for the good in people, he finds more of it than first appeared.  And those people appreciate his generosity.  By taking a glass-half-full view of them, he often inspires them to fill the other half of the glass by themselves.  The result is that the groups he leads gets better both collectively and at the individual level.  I can testify that people who work with President Clark not only get to play on a winning team, they grow in personal competence and goodness.
You and I might not have time for this strategy of generous problem solving to be fully rewarded in our three-person group, which will be together for only one semester.  But viewing our two teammates generously is likely to pay unexpected dividends almost immediately.  We might learn, for example, that their failure to produce good work isn’t just a result of insufficient time and effort but also failure to understand key principles that have been taught in class.  A few moments of tutoring them in a few difficult concepts might do more good than a semester’s worth of demands and threats.
Even if this generous approach didn’t produce an A on our group project, it would build invaluable leadership skills in us.  In my experience, there are far more people who can earn A’s for themselves than there are people who can lead whole organizations to get A’s.  That may be true in part because “Type A” people have a preference for self-paced learning.  In other words, they take pride in progressing as fast as they can.  But you won’t hear anyone preaching the value of self-paced leading.  In fact, that kind of leadership is doomed to fail.  A wise employer will care less about your ability to earn A’s for yourself than your ability to help a C group learn to perform a little better. 
Patient Problem Solving
Perhaps the quality I appreciate most in President Eyring, Elder Hales, and President Clark is their patience.  All are quick to observe the commands of the Lord and His servants, but they know that the Lord will hasten His work in His time, not necessarily according to their preferred timetable.  Rather than worrying or doubting when plans unfold more slowly than expected, each of these great men embodies the Lord’s injunction to, quote, “In patience possess your souls.”[viii]
In fact, the Lord seems to prize patience in His servants so much that they receive special training in it.  More so than in any earthly organization, the senior leaders of the Church are time-tested.  I began to notice that after a conversation with President Monson in 2002, when he was the first counselor in the First Presidency.  With the playful look that you and I know well, President Monson said, “Your father is going to pass me pretty soon.”  I couldn’t imagine what he meant, and I knew that the last thing my father would ever want to do was to pass President Monson in anything. 
Smiling at my puzzled, worried look, President Monson explained:  “I served as the twelfth man in the Quorum of the Twelve for over eight years.  That’s more than anyone except for John A. Widtsoe, who had the position for ten-and-a-half years.  But your father has been sitting next to me in that twelfth chair since 1995, and I’m afraid that soon he’s going to pass me.”
President Monson then described how the members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve sit in meetings together.  The president of the Church sits at the head of the table, with his first counselor on his right and his second counselor on his left.  To the left of the second counselor sits the most senior member of the Twelve.  The Twelve sit in order around the table, so that the most junior member completes the circle by sitting to the right of the first counselor in the First Presidency.  Beginning in 1995, that put President Eyring to President Monson’s right.
President Monson also explained how food is served when they eat together.  Plates are passed to the Brethren in order of seniority, beginning with the president of the Church and ending with the junior member of the Twelve.  President Monson said, “I like to give your father a hard time.  Sometimes, when my plate is put in front of me, I’ll lean over and say, ‘Boy, Hal, those potatoes look good; I hope there are some left by the time they get to you.’ ”
President Eyring did finally pass President Monson:  He sat in that twelfth chair for nine-and-a-half years.  Just a few years after that, he was called into the First Presidency.  Then, when President Monson became the president of the Church, President Eyring took the first counselor’s chair from which President Monson had teased him when he was the twelfth-most-senior apostle. 
According to a patient, divine plan, President Eyring now sits again at President Monson’s right hand, as he did for nine-and-a-half years.  During that time, President Eyring did more than just hope that some potatoes would be left for him.  He watched President Monson and learned to understand and love him deeply.  The Lord patiently prepared President Eyring for his present service.
You may need to be similarly patient with your group members.  One attempt to work with them selflessly, optimistically, and generously probably won’t be enough.  But your patience will pay off, and you’ll see that the Lord has prepared solutions for your problems.  When that happens, you will appreciate the power of charity in problem solving.  And you will have a feeling in your heart that reminds you of these words:  “Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things:  enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”[ix]
May you and I qualify to hear these words, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
[i] Helaman 10:5.
[ii] See Luke 22:42.
[iii] Doctrine and Covenants 84:88.
[iv] Isaiah 30:21.
[v] Doctrine and Covenants 88:41.
[vi] Romans 8:28.
[vii] Matthew 26:22.
[viii] Luke 21:19.
[ix] Matthew 25:23.

Cultivate Righteous Routines and Habits

18 Oct. 2011


Cultivate Righteous Routines and Habits

Because your great president knows you better than I do, I sought his counsel about what I might discuss in our time together this morning. I must be clear that I am solely responsible for my comments, which I have not asked President Richards to prospectively correct or confirm. His suggestions did lead me to think about a theme I have valued and personally considered in various ways for many years. Let me use an example that might be helpful to you.
About five and a half years ago, I had the privilege of sitting at the same table with Elder Dallin H. Oaks and others during a dinner for new mission presidents and their wives while they were attending their training seminar at the MTC in Provo. Elder Oaks remarked that he had heard a stake president give an excellent talk in New York titled “Holy Habits and Righteous Routines.” Elder Oaks didn’t share any of the substance of the address, and I’ve never seen a copy of the talk, if one actually exists. But it did cause me to think about many of my own habits and routines, a practice I’ve tried to do throughout my life. I invite the same of all of you today. That is, to ponder the patterns of living you follow and decide which ones are helpful and should be kept, as well as those that need to be changed or discarded.
As Sister Samuelson could testify, I have multiple habits and regular routines. Some are likely to appear quirky to you if I were to tell you about them, and others might be, hopefully, better understood. I don’t have any obvious addictions except for excellent ice cream, but I do arise in the morning at the same predictable time, generally, and go to bed at night when the news ends if we have the good fortune to be home by then. Many years I have not had the problem of deciding what color of shirt to wear when I get dressed in the morning, but I do try carefully to make sure that my socks are matched mates. I had a friend who showed up one day with a brown sock and a grey sock, and as people started to chuckle he said, “You know, I’ve got another pair just like it at home as well.”
I have patterns in the way I brush my teeth and shine my shoes and read the newspaper and so forth. I mention these trivial and relatively unimportant matters only to suggest that most of us conduct and maybe even govern our lives largely through habits and routines. If this is so, and I’m convinced that it is, then it follows that our habits and routines ideally should be positive and productive. And if this is true with routine matters of daily living, then it seems to me that it should likewise be the practice for things of greater importance.
The Savior was very direct and sharp with those he perceived to be missing the mark with respect to setting proper priorities. Said he: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the others undone.” (Matthew 23:23)
I believe none of us is a hypocrite, at least intentionally. But our behaviors need to correlate with our beliefs, and we must always strive to be clear about what the “weightier matters” in our lives are. Sometimes, for example, we might feel more inclined to respond immediately to our emails, phone texts and Facebook messages than we are to follow a regular and consistent pattern of scripture study or doing our homework before the last minute and thus not doing our very best. I sense that’s a problem here, since I saw a lot of phones when the president gave his good counsel.
Over the years, I’ve heard several of the Brethren in general conference mention the notion attributed to various people of early generations that we seek “that the things that matter most are not left at the mercy of things that matter least.” Another way of looking at this idea is to make sure that the unimportant things of life do not crowd out or deflect us from the most important.
While most of you at LDSBC would not quibble with the obvious value of giving priority to things that matter most, a careful analysis of our habits and routines might reflect something quite different. I doubt that any of us would choose consciously to be unproductive or slothful. I also believe many of us would be surprised if we were to analyze carefully how we prioritize the use of our resources, particularly our time.
I congratulate you that LDSBC does not have a student body afflicted with the serious problem of alcohol abuse found on many campuses. But we may have some less-obvious deficiencies that we might wish to correct. Incidentally, I’m sure President Richards received the same email that I did, inviting us to conferences to deal with how we are going to handle binge drinking on our campus. You know how we handle that, don’t you?
Let me share another potentially humorous example with you from my previous professional experience. A common theme in many weight-loss management programs and strategies is to keep a careful record each day of what is eaten, and the calories consumed. Successful dieters often remark after a period of substantial weight loss that they had never previously been aware of exactly how much food they had consumed. Dr. Kempner, one of the bariatric physician professors at Duke University when I was there many years ago, asserted that a common refrain among the morbidly obese patients he treated was that they couldn’t understand why they gained so much weight. According to him, a frequent claim among this group was, “I eat like a bird.” He then went on to remark that some species of birds may eat up to 25 percent of their total body weight in a 24-hour period. I hope you agree that none of us should eat like the birds that Dr. Kempner described.
My topic today is not about weight loss. But this illustration may help us to understand why it can be helpful for us to be more aware, not only of our routines and habits but also more accurate in our assessments of the time and effort we dedicate to each of them. Could we honestly report, for example, how much time each of us spends each day on video games, MP3 music, television, social media on the Internet, and other similar activities? Even though the prophets and apostles have counseled us to be involved in meaningful dating during our college years, do we still find ourselves mostly just “hanging out” because it is easier, cheaper, and requires less commitment? Only you can give the completely honest answer. But I would predict that there are those who know you well who could assist you in achieving the proper balance if you are open to their assistance.
Do very important matters like our prayers, scripture contemplation, and our class study and preparation have high priority, or do they fall into the category or pattern of doing them when we can’t think of anything else to do? You can imagine many more and likely relevant issues from your own lives that need careful consideration, but I hope you sense my general concern with these examples.
Now please understand—I do not represent the Church Educational System’s guilt and shame committee. Neither CES nor the Church has such a group. In the larger sense, I wish to commend all of you for your success and your intentions thus far in your relatively young careers. You’re more than good, but you have the potential to be even better. And your church, family, community and nations need you to be.
It’s not an accident that you are here at LDSBC. You are here at a time of important preparation, because you are going to be the leaders of the next generation. That is why we are so concerned, but also quite optimistic, about your future habits and routines.
Like you, I have high regard for the heroes of the scriptures, and I firmly believe that you are in the same class and rank as so many who have served with devotion and effectiveness in ages past. One of my favorites is Captain Moroni. Although I did not spend a long time in military service when I was just a little younger than most of you, I was in uniform long enough to appreciate those officers and leaders who were able to inspire and lead with effectiveness. All of us can likely identify leaders we have known and admired. Perhaps we also have observed leaders whom we have found lacking in some important leadership traits or characteristics. In the Lord’s plan, where we have the opportunity to interact with so many people during our lifetime, we can find ample examples of both kinds.
Perhaps the same kind of positive leadership will be required of you wherever you are or however you serve. Because this is so, let me draw your attention specifically to Captain Moroni. Many of you know a lot about him, but you can learn even more by carefully studying the various chapters where he is involved in the last half of the book of Alma. Moroni not only had a remarkable military mind, but he was also an exemplary priesthood leader and teacher. In the midst of his tremendous responsibilities in a time of serious warfare, the scriptures record that he had been “preparing the minds of the people to be faithful unto the Lord their God.” (Alma 48:7) That sounds just like what the Lord expects of you as you complete your educational training and enter into your lives of service.
Likewise, I think it would be fair to say to you that your college and church leaders have the same expectations for each of you as the compliments paid to Captain Moroni and to Helaman as they lived in very trying times in the century before the mortal advent of the Lord Jesus Christ. Think of yourselves and your associates as I read this assessment of Moroni and Helaman: “Yea, verily, verily I say unto you, if all men [and women] had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men.
“Behold, he was a man like unto Ammon, the son of Mosiah, yea, and even the other sons of Mosiah, yea, and also Alma and his sons, for they were all men of God.
“Now behold, Helaman and his brethren were no less serviceable unto the people than was Moroni.” (Alma 48:17-19) And you here at LDSBC are no less serviceable, and will be no less serviceable, to those with whom you live and interact.
President Richards, your teachers and professors, your church leaders and others who know you well are witnesses that you students have the potential to be as serviceable to your people and families and to God as these Book of Mormon heroes I have mentioned. As I report this to you, and as you read both the scriptural accounts themselves as well as feeling what the Holy Ghost is trying to teach you as you read, you will conclude, as I have, that great leaders like them and those that you have the potential to become, have helpful habits and reliable routines.
To do what these extraordinary examples of yesteryear did and what we expect that you will do in the years ahead requires that you reflexively know how to think, to act, to work, and to accomplish what heaven expects of you. Now some of you are likely thinking that I and your leaders expect too much of you. That is not true. But what is true is the understanding we must all have that life is not easy for any of us. While we try to do our best, we make mistakes and exercise poor judgments on occasion. To be like Moroni, and ultimately the Savior, we must recognize that our agency is crucial and we need to learn to make better choices that are often difficult and surrounded by temptations and challenges.
That is why the gift of the Atonement was so essential to our lives, and why learning how to repent when we fall short is vital. That is also why proper habits and productive routines in our lives are so very important.
Many years ago, when I was not very much older than most of you, I was taught a very important lesson by President Spencer W. Kimball, who was then president of the Church. Without going into details of my sacred experience, let me share the scriptural reference that he said was the foundation of the lessons that he taught. I will just say that I was trying to help a young person who had made a terrible mistake but was changing his life and was seeking the forgiveness he hoped might be forthcoming. These are the verses President Kimball referenced from the Doctrine and Covenants: “Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more. By this ye may know if a man [or a woman] repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them.”
Some of you will recognize that is the 42nd and 43rd  verse in the 58th section of the Doctrine and Covenants. President Kimball remarked how wonderful it is that we can be completely forgiven when we have truly repented of our sins. We should also know that, while we are grateful that the Lord remembers them no more, we should also have gratitude that we ourselves may not completely forget our past sins and our serious mistakes, so we don’t foolishly repeat them again.
Now a key point for our consideration today is that while it may be difficult to confess our sins, it is likely much easier to admit them freely than to completely forsake them. What does “forsake” mean? The dictionary on my desk offers this definition: “To renounce or to turn away from completely.” Forsaking is more than intention. It is action, and it must be lasting and permanent.
Let us be clear. Confession is a vital part of the repentance process, but equally significant is the requirement that we abandon and eliminate our shortcomings. That requires breaking and forsaking old habits and routines, and developing new, positive, and productive ways of living. And this process of reshaping, subtracting, and adding frequently takes more than a little time. I’ve never forgotten the kind counsel of the Lord’s prophet that we give my young friend a little more time to prove to himself that he had actually forsaken his sin.
Like so many other things, we don’t need to prove that to the Lord, but we do need to assure ourselves that our lives have changed, or, as Alma taught, we have “experienced this mighty change in our hearts.” (Alma 5:14) Aren’t we happy and grateful that the Savior’s Atonement is not a single event but continues to operate always and ever in our lives, when we do our best and continue to repent even when we trip and fall?
Most people with seriously negative habits initially suffer from setbacks when they attempt to forsake the unwanted vice. This is true not only with smoking or other use of tobacco, but is also true with alcohol and drug abuse. It is usually the case with improper thoughts or profane or vulgar language. Often, or perhaps even usually, this gradual repentance process requires the special assistance of priesthood leaders and even professional help. This is especially the situation for those of you dealing with the challenges of pornography. I urge you to meet with your bishop, who can help you get on the correct path of repentance and change. Some of the hardest habits to break are the least worthy or desirable to keep.
A mighty change in our hearts that is taught in the scriptures most often is accomplished by seemingly little but necessary alterations in our habits and routines. May I speak of one change the Brethren have wished to encourage but which you might not consider to be a problem or an issue at all? You will be aware I hope of the recent decision of our Church leaders and the implementation that adjusts the nomenclature for the wards and stakes where students and other young single adults attend, and in which you participate. We’ve had a tremendous history of student units in this valley that stretches over the last five decades. They were instituted because of particular needs at that time, and have blessed many lives. The program of the Church is that now we involve and incorporate all young single adults in units based on location and age, rather than on academic or other status. This requires an adjustment for everyone, and the early results are very encouraging. You and other students bring extraordinary strength to these wards and are doing a wonderful job of including and activating other young adults who have felt uninvolved or even unwanted. Thank you for what you are doing in this regard.
This is a vital part of the rescue mission in which President Monson has charged each of us to take an active part. Likewise, we hope that you will be firmly committed to being fully active in your own wards. We never object to your visiting other wards or friends and family on occasion, but we do strongly counsel you to be very regular in your attendance and participation in your own ward. That is where you should have your calling or pay your tithes and offerings. That is where you should be interviewed for your limited-use temple recommends, so you may do baptisms for the dead, or if you are endowed already as many of you are, your recommend to participate in the other ordinances of the temple. You are needed in so many ways, and participation in your own ward is one of them.
Naturally, those of you who are yet unmarried or unattached will want to shop for suitable potential eternal companions in as large a market as is possible. Let me counsel you to do so, and participate in social activities that allow you to become acquainted with a broader circle of faithful young Latter-day Saints. But let me also ask you not to forget that among your classes and in your own wards are wonderful young worthy people for you to date. And when you both feel the same, plan together for a temple marriage.
Your leaders that are here at LDSBC can tell you the many happy and successful marriage matches that have occurred between students here. I am not hesitant to say that this opportunity to look right here for a proper companion is not a small consideration among the leaders of the Church, who appropriate so much tithing money to this important institution.
While I’m talking about church-related habits and routines that we fervently encourage, let me add my strong endorsement of your institute of religion. Your teachers have been carefully screened and selected, and will help you round out your education, which will help you provide not only for your future success in the world of work but will also help you build and strengthen your testimonies of the restored gospel. It is important to know the gospel is true, but it is also vital to know the gospel.
The habits and routines that will assist you in successfully progressing through the institute of religion curriculum will be precisely the ones that, if you keep them, will sustain you in the challenges and struggles you will surely encounter as you serve missions, become wives, husbands, parents, and leaders in your communities and in the Church. It is likely that never again will you be in a situation or circumstance where you will be able to study the gospel in such depth and clarity as you have here with your remarkable faculty and devoted classmates.
Now let me, in our concluding moments, just visit with you specifically about private habits and routines. Admittedly, you are assessed by the world and evaluated by other people largely by what you say and do publicly. We hope that it is appropriate. But the Lord also knows you privately and intimately. He knows your actions, but He also knows your hearts. He knows what you are thinking when no one else does, and also knows what you are doing when your doors are shut and your blinds are drawn shut. He shares your hurts and disappointments, and is also with you when you succeed and find happiness.
Many years ago, the Church leaders began a series of studies of the young people of the Church, which have been updated from time to time with very similar results. The fundamental question this research asks is, what are the important factors in a young person’s life experiences that lead to a lifetime of happiness, church activity, service, and faithfulness to the Lord’s commandments? Obviously, the impact of solid families, church leaders, seminary and institute preparation, good friends are all involved—very important.
One factor generally not appreciated is that private religious practices and behaviors, or in the context of today’s discussion, our private religious habits and routines, have a tremendous role in our lives. You will be surprised when I tell you what things have been reported as being most important and have the most positive influence. This short list is not all-inclusive, but it’s very significant and within the reach and capacity of each of us. I invite you, as you examine your own lives, to make a list of your most influential private religious practices.
It came as a shock to some Church leaders that personal prayer morning and night is not always a pattern or habit, even among some young people who are active in the Church, attending their meetings and keeping most of the commandments. Those who have the habit of consistently taking their thanks and their concerns to Heavenly Father morning and night deal with the challenges of life much better than those who don’t pray regularly or thoughtfully. They have more strength to resist temptation, avoid serious mistakes, and quickly correct their sins through sincere repentance when they misstep or disappoint themselves and others. I hope you are all regular in your prayers. I hope you will consider the scriptural invitation to pray always.
Amulek put it this way in very descriptive language, targeted at the specific circumstances of the people he was teaching. Said he: “Therefore may God grant unto you, my brethren, that you may begin to exercise your faith unto repentance, that ye begin to call upon his holy name, that he would have mercy upon you.
“Yea, cry unto him for mercy; for he is mighty to save.
“Yea, humble yourselves, and continue in prayer unto him.
“Cry unto him when ye are in your fields, yea, over all your flocks.
“Cry unto him in your houses, yea, over all your household, both morning, mid-day, and evening.
“Yea, cry unto him against the power of your enemies.
“Yea, cry unto him against the devil, who is the enemy to all righteousness.
“Cry unto him over the crops of your fields, that ye may prosper in them.
“Cry over the flocks of your fields, that they may increase.
“But this is not all; ye must pour out your souls in your closets, and your secret places, and in your wilderness.
“Yea, and when you do not cry unto the Lord, let your hearts be full, drawn out in prayer unto him continually for your welfare, and also for the welfare of those who are around you.” (Alma 34:17-27)
Now most of you, according to what I understand, don’t have crops and fields and flocks to tend. But you do have part-time jobs, tests and examinations to take, church assignments to fill, and many other responsibilities and concerns. Sincere meaningful prayer needs to be one of your helpful habits and regular routines.
Jesus, in his instruction to those living in this hemisphere immediately after his resurrection, said this: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, ye must watch and pray always, lest ye be tempted by the devil, and ye be led away captive by him.
“And as I have prayed among you even so shall ye pray in my church, among my people who do repent and are baptized in my name. Behold, I am the light; I have set an example for you.
“And it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words unto his disciples, he turned again unto the multitude and said unto them:
“Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, ye must watch and pray always lest ye enter into temptation; for Satan desireth to have you, that he may sift you as wheat.
“Therefore ye must always pray unto the Father in my name;
“And whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you.” (3 Nephi 18:15-20)
Regular and serious prayer, scripture study, listening to general conference, reading the Church magazines, and pondering the instructions of Church leaders and especially the Holy Ghost, are all private religious behaviors or actions that should reflexively be part of our lives, if we are to be successful in accomplishing all the Lord has in store for us to do.
Know again that you have the confidence of your college and Church leaders. Know also that we and so many others are counting on you to fulfill the promises you have been given by your loving Heavenly Father. He knows you. He loves you. And together with our Savior, Jesus Christ, will provide you with the opportunities you need to be successful in returning to their presence with honor when your lives and service are complete. The gospel is true. We are led by living prophets and apostles who care about you. And they, together with heaven, care about LDS Business College and all who are here, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

A Righteous Life Has Great Influence

01 Nov. 2011


A Righteous Life Has Great Influence

I’d like to share with you a few thoughts today. Back in the “olden days,” when I was growing up, the Church was invited to participate in the 1964 World’s Fair that was held in New York City. The Church created an exhibit and a new film that was to be shown in that exhibit, called “Man’s Search for Happiness.” Toward the end of the film, there is a scene where throngs of people are pressing forward as though they are working toward a common goal. Now to give those of your generation a mental image of that scene, imagine being in Disneyland, waiting in a line with a lot of other people trying to get onto “Splash Mountain” or “California Screamin’” or “Tower of Terror.” If you have ever been to Disneyland, you know what I am talking about, especially if it was between Christmas and New Year’s. So that’s the image in your mind.
When I first saw “Man’s Search for Happiness,” the scene impacted me greatly. Seeing what appeared to be masses of people, I was struck by the number and diversity of God’s children. I often wondered then and have done so many times since, how can God know all of the people on this earth, and can He really hear and answer our prayers? I do not know the specific answer to the question, “How?”  But I do know that He does, because I know that He knows me personally and I know that He knows you. He loves you and wants the very best for each of you. He wants to bless you and to help you. In fact, this is a very interesting fact about geography and physiology—that when you are on your knees, no matter where you are on this earth, you are always the same distance from your Father in Heaven. You are the very focus of His work and His glory, and He always has your best interests in mind.
Because we are all children of a loving Heavenly Father, we are connected in a very special way, and that is why we refer to each other as “brother” and “sister.” As brothers and sisters, we should be mindful to love one another and to serve one another. In order to accomplish that effectively, each one of us was born with a set of physical, spiritual, and emotional attributes and gifts. “To some is given one, and to some is given another, that all may be profited thereby.”  (D&C 46:11) And all these gifts come from God for the benefit of the children of men. Part of our mission in mortality is to learn what our individual gifts are, to seek the best gifts, and then to use those gifts to bless others.
One of the unique gifts that I have been given—and I’m not sure why this particular gift was given to me—but from time to time, I’ve noticed that my tear ducts have a tendency to overflow. If that happens today, I apologize in advance. But a wise man once said, “The tears wash the windows to our soul,” and since having a clean soul is one of my personal objectives, I suppose that shedding a tear or two is okay.
Now to introduce my topic today, I’d like to begin by touching on certain elements of chaos theory. Chaos theory is a specialized field of mathematics with application in other fields such as physics, biology, economics, or philosophy. Although there is not a universally accepted definition of chaos theory, it generally can be summarized as follows: It involves a dynamical system where three conditions exist. Number one, there must be a degree of sensitivity to initial conditions. Two, there must be a topological mixing, and three, the periodic orbits must be dense. Now if you are wondering what all of that means, I can’t be of much help to you, because I am not a theoretical mathematician. So maybe the best way to look at it is in less-complicated terms, and that is that the most frequent explanation of chaos theory is referred to as “The Butterfly Effect.” Simply put, that means that a small change or event in one place can ultimately trigger something having a much larger impact sometime, somewhere else.
Here are a couple of examples, the first, from whence the pseudonym is derived: If a butterfly flaps its wings, does that result in a disturbance in the atmosphere that results in a hurricane somewhere? Now the second: A person, going through their normal routine getting ready for work—or school, in your case—one day, forgets their keys or their purse or their books or their backpack or something in the room, and has to go back inside to get it. Would that timing difference result in being on a different bus or train in order to get to your location, where you sit next to a new person, and that person introduces themselves, which results in—and you can fill in the blank. It might be a new best friend, it might be a new job, and in some cases it might even be a new spouse.
One of those small and simple things that impact each of us acutely is the association with individuals that we encounter throughout our lives. We all have daily interactions with dozens, if not hundreds, of people, and some of those people may have a profound and lasting influence on our lives. When a child is born, however, it is hard to know exactly what influence that individual may eventually wield in the world, upon us or on others. With a lifetime of hindsight, it is easier to look back and see what the impact has been.
Eighty-seven years ago, there were three babies born within three weeks of each other. Two of them grew up and had a profound influence in the lives of each one of us. They were Elder Russell M. Nelson and President Boyd K. Packer, born September 9th and 10th, respectively. The third was someone that I suppose you will never have heard of. He inspired those who knew him, but his circle of influence was relatively small by comparison. However, he left a lasting impact on my life. That child was my father, born November 1st, 1924. Since today would have been his 87th birthday—he died nine years ago this month—I’d like to share some lessons that I learned from my father and why they have impacted me so much, and hopefully his practical insights will have an influence and benefit for you as well.
For context, let me give you a brief biographical sketch of his life, and I hope we’re ready to go. I’ll need to start with his parents and their family circumstances in order to put some of the pieces in perspective. First of all, my grandfather, Peter Christensen, who was 31 years of age at the time, married Kristina Jeppson, who was 25, in the Manti Temple on November 26, 1902. A little over 10 years later, Kristina and her fifth child both died from complications related to childbirth. Kristina’s younger sister, Olena, was asked to move from Salt Lake to Sevier County to help her brother-in-law take care of the four surviving children. Out of a sense of duty, she left her job as a seamstress at ZCMI and the social environment of Salt Lake, where she was involved with the Utah Genealogical Society, religion and gospel study classes--what would have been today’s equivalent of the Young Single Adults--and her circle of friends.
A few months later, Olena and Peter traveled back to Salt Lake where they were married in the Salt Lake Temple on November 26, 1913. The details related to their marriage are sparse, but it appears to have been more out of duty to bring stability into the children’s lives. However, together they had seven more children. Now my father was born in this small, two-room log home in Elsinora, Utah. This picture (shown on screen) was taken in about 1935, so my father would have been about 11 years old, so this is the home that he grew up in. He was the youngest son and 10th of 11 surviving children in the family—five boys and six girls. My father is the one with the circle around his face. My grandfather died in an accident when my dad was 6 years old, so he grew up without the influence of a father in his home. So this picture was taken about a year or so before my grandfather passed away.
My grandmother, Olena, being widowed at a relatively young age, was left with very few resources and several young children to raise. Because of her situation, she wanted more for her children, particularly the girls. She didn’t want them to be trapped by their circumstances, as she felt she was in hers. She worked hard as a seamstress, took in laundry, and did just about anything else to save money to make sure that all of her girls were able to receive a college education. Apparently, she figured that the boys would learn to provide for themselves by working on the farm and must have believed that they didn’t need formal education beyond high school, because she did not encourage the boys to seek education as she did with her girls.
In the summer of 1945, my grandmother took her six girls on a camping trip, what we would call today a “Girls’ Night Out.” During the night, my grandmother died of a heart attack. My father was 20 years old at the time, and he spent his adult life without the association of either of his parents.
Now I will quickly review some of my father’s circumstances as he grew up so that you will understand his view on life. Growing up as one of the youngest children in a large, poor family, my father tended to be rather shy and never desired to be in the limelight. He just wanted to quietly fit in, kind of hiding in the shadows. The cutoff date for starting elementary school at that time was October 31st, so my father would have been the oldest in his class had he registered at the appropriate time. But all of his friends were a few months older than he was, and because he wanted to just fit in, he wanted to be with his friends, and so was allowed to register for school early. As a result, he ended up not only being the youngest but also the smallest person in his class, which coincided with his position in the family, so it kind of contributed to his shyness. But he was very bright and placed great value on education. He always ranked academically in the top three or four in his class all the way through high school.
He graduated from high school in the spring of 1942, shortly after the United States had entered World War II. He did not pass the necessary military physical, so he could not enlist in the Army. The responsibility, then, fell to him to remain at home and run the farm while some of his older brothers and most of his friends served in the armed forces. At the end of the war, at age 22, he was called to serve a mission in the Northwestern States Mission, which included Washington, Oregon, parts of northern Idaho, and western Canada. Upon his return from his mission, his stake president, who also served as the president of the local bank, encouraged him to date a young woman who was also working at the bank. So six months later, my parents were married in the Manti Temple.
Due to his natural leadership abilities and his love of people, he spent much of his life serving in priesthood responsibilities. He was called as a counselor in the bishopric shortly after he and my mother were married. From that time until he passed away, most of his time in church service was spent either in a bishopric—and this is when he was a brand new bishop, with his bishopric—on a high council, in a stake presidency, or as a stake patriarch. He also loved being a temple ordinance worker and a sealer.
Now because of his circumstances, he developed a common sense, pioneer pragmatic approach to life. So as a tribute to him, I will share some of his life view with observations and quotes that were either from him or attributed to him, or frequently quoted by him. I could cover a variety of categories, but today I’d like to just touch on three of them: 1) education, 2) money management, and 3) personal character.
Because my father had performed well academically, following graduation from high school and without much support from home, he was able to attend Utah State University for a short time. I don’t know all of the classes that he took, but he spoke frequently and fondly of his institute class. I remember that it was a courtship and marriage class. I suppose one of the reasons for taking that class at the time was because he said that for a single young man, it was a great time to be in the university. Because of so many people involved in the war, when he was there, for every young man that was enrolled in school, there were at least six female students enrolled. He said that years later, when counseling with young people about the importance and purpose of marriage, he would relate the advice of his institute instructor, who said, “One reason for marriage is to provide an environment where you can go at the end of a hard day, where you will have a best friend and you can escape from the cares and challenges of the world, just relax, be silly, and have fun together.”
I can report from personal experience that the counsel is sound, but it requires continuing effort if your personality is such that you don’t know how to relax, be silly, or have fun.
After his first year, because of limited finances because of the wartime economy, and pressing needs at home, he returned home to help manage the farm and subsequently to serve a mission. Since my parents were married shortly after my father returned from his mission and they started their family right away, being able to go back to school seemed like an unattainable goal. However, my mother could see such potential in her new husband and knew that greater opportunities were available outside of their little community. So she encouraged him to consider pursuing prospects at more distant horizons. So after a season, they decided to venture out and fulfill their aspirations in the big city, so they moved with their little family to Salt Lake in the early 1950s.
At first, my father had a couple of menial jobs but finally was hired as a salesman in a chemical company, and he enjoyed the challenges of business. However, he recognized his educational limitations compared to others in the company. So with support and encouragement from my mother to improve his education, he enrolled in some evening classes at LDS Business College. He enjoyed his business and accounting classes, but due to increasing time demands from work, church callings, and a growing family, he never completed his education. He wanted to be an accountant but ended up being involved in sales throughout his entire career. Now if he had been a student at LDS Business College today, he would be able to earn a degree in business with an emphasis in professional sales, and I’m sure that would have been an added benefit to him.
Throughout his working life, he recognized that his potential to be considered for certain jobs and advancement within the companies he worked for were limited because of his lack of formal education. Failure to complete his education at LDS Business College or elsewhere was a situation that I believe he always regretted. As a result, he developed a fundamental philosophy about life and education and expressed it this way: “Be led by your dreams, not pushed by your problems.” Through hard work, common sense, personal integrity, and general intelligence—which were hallmarks of his personality—he was able to have a reasonably successful career. Everyone that did business with him knew that they could trust what he said and what he did, because he always had their best interests in mind. As a result, he also made this observation about work, which also applies to many aspects of our lives. He said, “A job is a lot like playing tennis. A player who doesn’t serve well seldom wins.”
In his last assignment, the company wanted to have someone with a PhD in agriculture. However, my father’s experience and knowledge of the field made him more qualified and valuable to the company for that job than any others being considered for that position who did have PhDs. Because of his sense of inadequacy relative to his own education, however, as we were growing up he encouraged us to work hard and do well in school so that we could get a proper education. He knew that getting an education would open doors to opportunities that he never had.
Notwithstanding his shortened financial training, he did learn a lot about money management. Through his life, in teaching us, his children, in business settings, and advising members in his ecclesiastical callings, some of his most memorable quotes related to money. Like all those of his generation, growing up during the years that we refer to as the Great Depression impacted everyone’s view of money and of managing temporal assets. Some of you may recall President Hinckley, who by the way was one of the most fiscally conservative people I have ever met, made references in some of his talks to lessons he had learned growing up in the “bottom of the Depression.” President Packer also frequently quoted the phrase common to that era. He said, “Eat it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.”
Recognizing that my father was of that same generation, growing up in a very modest single-parent home without much money, it was natural that he developed a practical perspective about being frugal. However, some of his first personal experiences in developing fiscal responsibility came as a result of his mission call. When his bishop interviewed him about serving a mission, he suggested that there were people in the ward or the stake who could help and be willing to help financially. My father, without parents to support him, and being somewhat independent and with a bit of a stubborn streak—that I am told is not uncommon among those of us who are Danes—told the bishop that he would work hard and pay for his own mission. He would stay as long as his money lasted, and then he would come home.
After serving faithfully for two years, he returned home with two dollars and 37 cents. He learned early in his life that the Lord’s laws of finance are different than man’s. The Lord can make money extend further than either logic or careful personal budgeting, especially for those who are faithful in keeping His commandments.
Now that leads to another commandment and principle that I know that all of you are aware of, and that is, pay your tithing first, and always pay your tithing. If you pay your tithing first, the Lord can help you make the remaining nine-tenths go a lot further than you can make ten-tenths go. I cannot explain how that works as an accountant. I cannot describe how that works. I just know that it does. For the Lord stated, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, [and] neither are your ways my ways….For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways.” (Isaiah 55:9-10)
However, I need to insert here a corollary to that principle. My wife has expressed the idea that paying tithing does not compensate for stupidity. You cannot expect to pay your tithing and then have the Lord bail you out because you are a poor money manager. You will still need to use wisdom in managing finances, for all financial things must be done “in wisdom and [in] order.” (Mosiah 4:27)
When applying wisdom and order to finances, my father often said, “The key to financial success is simple. Spend less than what you earn.” He never earned an enormous salary at any time during his career, but with careful planning and asset management, he provided well for the needs of his family. Now, one critical aspect of managing money is rigorously differentiating between needs and wants.
Following the period of the Great Depression until now, we have lived in an era that is largely consumer-driven. Billions of dollars are spent every year to encourage each one of us to buy the latest and greatest of whatever product is being proffered. During the post-World War II era and through the 50s, 60s, and 70s, it was largely based on the philosophy of keeping up with the proverbial Joneses. Starting in the 1980s and continuing into this decade, consumerism has centered on self-indulgence and entitlement. The catch phrase has become, “Go ahead; you deserve it.” In order to facilitate buying more and more stuff, access to easy credit has been unbridled.
My father’s rebuttal to the consumer-driven world was two-fold. He said, “You can run into debt, but you have to crawl out.” And secondly, “Don’t spend money that you don’t have for things that you don’t need to impress people who don’t care.” He was also fond of the line that has been attributed to different sources that states, “I love interest; but I’d rather collect it than pay it.” There are very few things that justify going into debt. Some sacrifice now will likely pay great dividends later on, whether it’s a financial benefit or just the peace of mind that comes from not having the burdens of debt sitting on your shoulder 24-7 until you are finally able to crawl out.
Almost all financial arrangements require some form of negotiation or agreement. My father taught us that it was important to be fair and equitable in all of our dealings with others. In negotiating with others, whether it’s in business, education, or personal relationships, he encouraged us to look at things from all perspectives. He reminded us that for everyone who gets something for nothing, there is always someone who gets nothing for something.
Being fair and honest were core principles that influenced his behavior and everyone he dealt with. That influence was reflected in the teachings transmitted to his children. My brother became a very successful businessman and made a lot of money in his career. When he was called to be a mission president, he counseled his missionaries about the value of money and the value of people. He taught, “Use your money, and love the people; never love your money and use the people.”  That teaching is consistent with what Jacob taught in the Book of Mormon.
Over a lifetime of experience, my father would have agreed with Brigham Young, who stated, “A fool can earn money, but it takes a wise man to save and dispose of it to his own advantage.”
In light of time, let me just jump to the most important part of a person’s life, and that is his or her character. Of the many great characteristics of my father, perhaps paramount were his love of people, his sense of duty, and his service and sacrifice for others without any consideration of himself. There are many examples with his children, his grandchildren, his neighbors and friends, and in his roles as bishop, stake president, patriarch, and temple sealer. I’ll just mention a few specific examples.
One: While serving as a bishop, my father made a note of the birthday of everyone in the ward and would call each person on his or her birthday. He wrestled some in determining where the appropriate cutoff date should be—in other words, what would be the appropriate age where it would really make a difference and be memorable for the individual. One day as he was looking at the list, the only birthday on that day was a Primary child who was turning about seven or eight. He debated whether or not he should make the call, but he finally picked up the phone, dialed…and he said that phone rang only once, and a young voice came on the phone and without hesitation said, “Hello, Bishop. I knew it would be you.” He said he never missed a single member of the ward after that experience.
My father had the unique ability to make nearly everyone feel like they were his friend. It didn’t matter whether the person was the president of a company or the janitor—he treated everyone with courtesy and respect. He could look past the outward characteristics of any person and treat them as though they were important to him. And they were. At his funeral, many people came up and said, in effect, “I know there are a lot of people here, but I was his best friend.” They each truly believed in, and he treated each person that way.
He also loved my mother and wanted to make sure that she was happy. I remember a little plaque on the wall in the kitchen of our home when I was growing up that said, “I am the master of this house. Whatever my wife wants shall be done.” He taught us to speak kindly to her and about her. He taught us to respect women of all ages by the way we treated them, and he tried to set an example of loving and treating a wife with tenderness. For reference on this topic, by the way, I’d suggest that you go back and read Sister Elaine S. Dalton’s October 2011 conference address.
Another important aspect of character that he taught us was the importance of being honest in keeping confidences. He frequently said, “You don’t have to tell everything you know to everyone you know, except those who have a right to know what you know. And then, let everything you say be true.” He looked for opportunities to compliment others and always was a true friend. He was loyal, steadfast, and immovable in defending what was right. In his work, he traveled a great deal, and because he always had a time-demanding church calling, he had to juggle his travel schedule with his ecclesiastical duties. It was not uncommon for him to leave home really early on a Monday morning after a long and busy Sabbath, drive about 200-300 miles to be where he needed to be, and then return on Tuesday night to be involved with his church meetings, then turn around early in the morning on Wednesday to drive back to the same place because that’s where he needed to be.
He always took the approach that if you had a responsibility to take care of, you were to do whatever it took to be there. As a temple sealer, my father similarly went out of his way to make sure that he was there to fulfill his assigned shifts and was readily available to help others. He loved being in the temple, I’m sure because of the Spirit that he felt there. But I also believe that he felt closer to his parents as well.
He stated that in life there are two absolutes: “We are going to live, and we are going to die. So we’d better do both of them well.” My father died nine years ago on Thanksgiving Day in my home. Not long before he passed away, I was visiting with him, and he made this very insightful observation: “One of the challenges in growing older is that by the time in life when you think you have all the answers, people stop asking you the questions.” I wish I had more time with my dad, because I still have several questions I’d like to ask him.
In the words of John Taylor, reflecting on the life of the Prophet Joseph Smith, I would restate in respect to my father: “He lived great, and he died great.” (D&C 135:3) The few of us up here—well, I guess there’s a few out there as well—but those of us in my generation will recall the words of a 1970s song by Harry Chapman called “Cat’s in the Cradle,” sung by Cat Stevens. It reflects the relationship of a father and son. Putting a positive spin on the chorus of that song, I would say, “You know, I want to be like you, Dad.”
My father was a great influence in my life. But it’s important for you to realize that each of you, as a child of God, has been blessed with great capacity and tremendous potential in influencing others’ lives. There are so many things that you can accomplish. You have been endowed with a unique set of gifts. There is no one in the world just like you. Hopefully, as you press forward in your own search for happiness, and go out to make your mark in the world, you can apply some of these simple axioms of life and impact those in your sphere of influence, as my father did in his, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Turning Points Are Times to Trust

15 Nov. 2011


Turning Points Are Times to Trust

For several months, we have been celebrating with many special events the 125th birthday of the LDS Business College. In preparing this talk, I found myself asking [slide 1]: What do these 125 years of experience look like? Lynn M. Hilton paints the picture for us in
The History of LDS Business College and Its Parent Institutions 1886-1993 (published by LDS Business College, 1995). It is a vivid picture of men and women preparing thousands of students with employable skills in a spiritual environment and of those same men and women [slide 2] applying the principles of faith, patience, and trust amidst Turning Points, where one decision could have changed everything.
In July of 1886, William Dougall proposed to several citizens that the youth of Salt Lake City should have a school like the Brigham Young Academy that Dr. Karl G. Maeser had started in Provo. They all agreed to help. While Dr. Maeser selected a teacher to train as the principal, the name they were called at the time, William Dougall got pledges of $1,000 each from Wilford Woodruff, president of the Twelve Apostles; Elias Morris, a prominent and successful local businessman; and George Q. Cannon, counselor to President John Taylor in the First Presidency. Woodruff, who was handling Church financial matters under President Taylor, also pledged $10,000 from the Church. This donation was money the Church did not have, but it illustrates the faith of these brethren. (Hilton, 118)
And so exactly 125 years ago today, November 15, 1886, the Salt Lake Stake Academy, now known as LDS Business College, opened its doors to 84 students. Since that day, the fate of the College has hung in the balance several times. There is a powerful theme running through the history of three of those turning points,where one decision changed everything. From its infancy, funding was an issue for the College. Salaries were paid through Church appropriations, which consisted of part cash and part produce from the Church General Storehouse.
The Turning Point came in 1893 when the Church was not able to furnish appropriations for the institution any longer. As a result, President Done [slide 3] and the faculty [slide 4] were compelled to allow the institution to die, or work at a financial loss.” (Hilton, 60.) Acting with faith, patience, and trust [slide 5], they chose to continue working diligently even at a financial loss. President Done approached The First Presidency and the Church Board of Education with a plan. They agreed.
Now we all know, when men and women act in faith,obstacles tend to arise. And five years later on June 27, 1898, President Done reported to the board: “With your consent, I . . . assumed the entire financial management of the school, engaging to pay the teachers associated such proportion of their nominal salaries as income from tuition would justify. The result [has been] a loss to all of us of about fifty per cent of our nominal salaries.” (Hilton, 60-61, from William Done’s report to the board, College Journal History, unpublished, June 27, 1898)
How had these early school leaders and faculty continued for five years amidst such impoverished circumstances? The school was considered a temporary entity, it used borrowed or rented quarters, and each new academic year was planned only after funds had been found, which always occurred just a week or two before classes were to begin (Hilton, Preface), and yet the president and faculty had still acted in faith, diligently putting forth their best effort and then waited patiently trusting in the Lord that the right thing would happen.
By May of 1899, many believed the College would be closed because of its financial problems. John Henry Evans of the faculty described the graduation exercises as being “gloomy as a funeral. They were held in the Assembly Hall [on Temple Square]. Friends greeted one another in silence and extreme gravity. The very day was cloudy and foreboding.” Of those taking part on the program, Dr. Karl G. Maeser, the first superintendent of the Church Board of Education and the first principal of the school, was the only one who had encouraging words concerning the future of the College. In his broken German accent, he declared [slide 6]:
“The school is not dead! Nor is she going to die! On the contrary, her future will be more glorious than her past!” (Hilton, 68, from John Henry Evans’, An Historical Sketch of the LDS University, published in S. Book, 1919, 24-28.)
And now we see how the Lord works. That remarkable prediction together with letters
of protest written against closing the school inspired Joseph E. Taylor, first counselor in the
Salt Lake Stake stake presidency, to undertake the task of saving the College. With conviction, he preached, “The Lord will be displeased with us if we let this institution die.” In less than a month, Taylor succeeded in raising the $15,000 necessary to begin the next year. (Hilton, 121) Within two years, enrollments had doubled and financial support had more than doubled and
the College was relocated [slide 7] to a new campus at 70 North Main Street. Dr. Maeser’s prophecy had come true. During the tenure of the next three presidents, the LDS College advanced rapidly to become one of the foremost educational institutions in the state and eventually ranked highest among schools in the West.
Feramorz Y. Fox [slide 8] became president in 1926 when enrollments were at an all-time high of 2,195. The Great Depression hit in 1930, and by December of 1931, President Fox found that in addition to his administrative duties at the College, he and his son were working desperately to sell apples and potatoes. His diary entry for February 16, 1932, speaks of his personal financial distress. “Local banks are closing. Times are certainly precarious. In my
own affairs, my assets have been frozen. Interest on the farm is nearly a year overdue. Anna [his wife] takes these things philosophically and cooperating 100% in self-denial.” (Hilton, 79, from Fox’s, Diaries, 54)
The College also suffered financially during those difficult days. The Turning Point came when enrollments gradually fell to 703 students. The Church Board of Education decided to close the entire educational enterprise consisting of the high school and the junior college. President Fox, much like Willard Done, approached the board with a plan to allow the
business department part of the junior college to continue as LDS Business College (Hilton, 3). The board agreed. (Hilton, 78)
The very next month, President Fox went to the Utah State National Bank for a loan to keep the school open. The bank agreed upon the condition that the Church would countersign the note, which it did. This assistance kept the doors open, and the debt with interest was carried several years until it was paid in full. President Fox said “the intent was to pay the interest and principal on the note from future student tuition.” That was a real act of faith. (Hilton, 123)
Sure enough, obstacles arose.The 1933-34 academic year began with very low enrollments, with the result that only 78 percent of the contracted salaries were paid. The balance was simply canceled because there were no funds to pay it and no possibility to borrow more money. Once again the president and the faculty [slide 9] suffered the shortfall. (Hilton, 123) But they didn’t give up. Having faithin the College [slide 10] and its purpose in the Lord’s kingdom, they worked with diligence and patience . . . trusting in the Lord that the right thing would happen. By fall of 1934, the worst had passed and President Fox and the faculty rejoiced over increasing enrollments once again.
In 1961, yet another major turning point occurred. The Church Board of Education decided the College’s operational budget would not be subsidized any longer, the LDS Business College would be operated like a business, and the next president would be paid a salary plus an incentive based on the financial success of the school. R. Ferris Kirkham [slide 11], an experienced accountant, businessman, entrepreneur, and adjunct faculty member, was offered the job. (Hilton, 125)
As President Kirkham expressed it, “Nobody else wanted that job. . . . because there was nothing there. . . . [The College] was so far in the hole you couldn’t see your way out. . . . I saw the thing as a challenge and took it over . . . with the specific understanding and charge . . . [to] make this school self-sustaining.” (Hilton, 81)
The LDS Business College was moved to the Enos Wall Mansion [slide 12] at 411 East South Temple. As the chief financial officer and the president, Kirkham focused on all aspects of the College, especially building a surplus of funds, which provided a new financial foundation. Soon, the College was able to add new academic programs, purchase new land and erect student dorms, build a library wing, achieve accreditation status from the Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges, and leave behind the manual typewriter era for the computer era. Most of all, the College had been preserved once again to provide thousands of students with a quality, skills-based education in line with LDS standards and ideals. (Hilton, 125)
When I was hired fresh out of graduate school in 1973 to teach English, I remember President Kirkham at the first fall faculty meeting [slide 13] announcing that the College was “solvent.” To me that word had something to do with a cleaning solution. But I quickly learned that “solvent” was the watchword for all of us and meant the College was still meeting its financial obligations under the charge the president had been given. In short, we still had jobs.
In the late 70’s, President Kirkham informed us that even though the College was solvent with a consistent healthy enrollment of 1,800 students, the Church was considering selling it to a national chain. At our insistence, President Kirkham obtained permission for the faculty and staff to accompany him to the Board of Trustees meeting where the topic was to be discussed. [slide 14] Acting with faith and trust in the Lord, we walked with President Kirkham from the College to the Church Administration Building. Moyle Anderson, the senior faculty member, pled our case for the College not to be sold. Several weeks later, we were filled with overwhelming gratitude to the Lord and the board for deciding to keep the College.
As usual, obstacles arose, and by 1985 President Kirkham could see the perfect storm on the horizon. Changes in market conditions, increasingly high maintenance costs of the Mansion, new costs of assuming the retirement fund of the faculty and staff, and continually expensive computer upgrades (Hilton, 126), all combined to threaten the solvency of the College and thus President Kirkham’s ability to honor his charge to keep the school out of the red and in the black.
The Turning Point came when President Kirkham, desiring to save the College from being sold to a national chain, approached the Board of Trustees with a plan to buy the College – the name, campus, and educational programs. There was general approval by the board for this offer until two faculty members wrote a letter expressing strong faculty support for the College to be brought back under Church administration. And so we waited with faith and patience, trusting in the Lord that the right thing would happen. President Ezra Taft Benson made the final decision to bring the College back into the Church Educational System, to provide an operating budget, and to appoint a new president. (Hilton, 82) When President Gordon B. Hinckley decided to move the College to this spot in 2006, those of us who remembered the ups and downs of those years sighed with relief.
Clearly, the Lord was involved at each Turning Point in the decision to keep the College, a decision that changed everything. Why? Why do you suppose the Lord preserved the LDS Business College? For the students! For those students [slides 15 & 16] who have gone before you [slides 17 & 18]. Richard L. Evans, known for the Sunday program of Music and the Spoken Word; four apostles, including Elders Bruce R. McConkie and LeGrand Richards (President Richards’ grandfather), Elders Marvin J. Ashton and Russell M. Nelson; and my father and mother, Andrew Delbert and Olive Crane Smith, who met while attending LDS High School. And for you students now! For each one of you! The Lord knew that you would want to come to a campus where the learning of employable skills would be infused with gospel principles, where the Learning Model would be used for a pattern of learning, and where the faculty and staff would work together to cultivate a nurturing and spiritual environment.
And so what does the Lord expect of you? His expectation of you is the same as it was for each president of the College from the beginning down to our President Larry Richards. The Lord knew theirs would be a daunting task. But he also knew each one was prepared with the necessary skills and talents to handle the unique challenges during his own administration.
It is the same expectation the Lord had for Joshua who faced the daunting task of taking the children of Israel into the promised land. To Joshua, who must have been feeling inadequate, overwhelmed, and discouraged like many of you might be feeling at this point in the semester, the Lord commanded: “Be strong and of a good courage.” Notice it was not a suggestion; it was a command. Joshua must have hesitated because the Lord repeated the command a third time:
“Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed:” Now here comes the reassuring promise: “for the Lord thy God is with thee . . .”
(Joshua 1:9)
Do you think that like Joshua, Willard Done must have felt inadequate to the task? He was 21 years old at the time. What about F.Y. Fox who was 45 and Ferris Kirkham who was 32? They might have started out with great anticipation and enthusiasm, just like you started this semester. But as obstacles arose, what did they do to remain strong and of a good courage?
What does being strong and of a good courage look like? We find the answer in three gospel principles: faith, patience, and trust.
Joshua became strong and of a good courage as he acted with faith, patience, and trust, allowing God to shape his character and the course of his life. Similarly, when we consistently act in faith long enough, patiently persevere long enough, and trust in the Lord long enough, God’s purposes for our lives begin to unfold and we, too, can be strong and of a good courage, prepared to accomplish the things the Lord wants us to do.
Let’s look briefly at the application of each principle. First, faith.The Lord tells us in the Joseph Smith translation of Hebrews 11:1 that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Elder Neil L. Andersen said: “Faith is not only a feeling; it is a decision.” (“You Know Enough,” General Conference, October 2008) A decision to DO something, a decision to ACT.
When the Israelites arrived at the Jordan River, it was harvest time and the river was overflowing its banks. The Lord instructed Joshua to assign one man from each of the 12 tribes to lead forth carrying the Ark of the Covenant. The Lord promised to divide the Jordan, but the 12 men had to step into the overflowing waters first. Do you suppose any of those men looked at those raging waters thinking, “I’m not moving till I see dry ground”? Do we approach our obstacles with this secular attitude: “seeing is believing”? Just as with Joshua and the 12 priests, the College presidents and faculty, the Lord requires us to demonstrate our faith through action. He blesses us for our faith in him and his word only after we take those first steps into any worthwhile enterprise.
When Presidents Done, Fox, and Kirkham took up their charge, they worked diligently to fulfill their commitment to the Church Board of Education, and when the Turning Points came with low enrollments during the lean years, they did not wait to be acted upon but instead acted with faith by bringing a plan to the Brethren.
Second is patience. It can be all too easy for you to bypass faith and patience in exchange for temporary solutions because your generation more than any other is used to on-demand response. You text and within seconds get a reply; you google and within jiffys access tons of information. There’s instant credit, instant messaging, instant everything but one thing . . . the Lord’s timing. He has called our attention many times to the principle of patience. He warns us in Hebrews 6:12: “Be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”
Patience, then, is the ability to persevere with faith as we work diligently through obstacles toward a goal, which may be for many of you just finishing this semester, taking a deep breath over the holidays and finishing next semester until semester by semester you’ve reached your educational goal. The Lord allows us to struggle along the way so we can develop the skill of exercising our faith and patience. He knows what we are capable of, but we need to discover that for ourselves.
Third is trust.According to Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary, the Latin word for faith is fido, which means to trust. “To trust is to be confident in God’s character and declarations with an unreserved surrender of our will to his guidance.” I believe many of us find it easy to trust in God’s character and declarations. However, we find it much more difficult to trust with an unreserved surrender of our will to his plans.
I discovered after finishing my bachelor’s degree that the major obstacle to trusting in the Lord was my self-will. I had planned to teach for a while at a high school in the valley, get married, and have children. In short, following the pattern of my mother and my older sister. But while doing my student teaching, I discovered that teaching high school was not for me and to make matters worse, there was no husband anywhere on the horizon. Then, the Lord provided a fellowship for me to go onto graduate school. It was difficult to say, “Thy will be done” and to set aside what I thought was a very good plan in favor of His plan, His methods, and His timetable. I had to be willing to let go and as Proverbs 3, verse 5 says: “Trust in the Lord with all thy heart and lean not unto thine own understanding.”
I believe the hardest work any of us will ever do in this life is to arrive at that place of total trust and to humbly surrender our will to His. Experiencing the rigor of my doctoral studies taught me the truth . . . that the Lord did not expect me to prove myself by myself . . . but to be brought to that place of total trust in Him to help me.
Those experiences in life, no matter how difficult, that pull these three principles of faith, patience, and trust from theory into practice will help us to “be strong and of a courage.”
I have been given the opportunity to experience the power of this triple combination during many a Turning Point in my own life. Let me share just one.
After waiting on the Lord’s timetable for many years, and to be honest, not all the time with patience, my knight in shining armor finally arrived. I naively thought the difficult part was over. David and I built our dream home up Emigration Canyon and settled in. But obstacles arose as I kept having miscarriages and finally my biological time clock ran out. The next year, David’s two business partners left us with unfulfilled promises and all the debt. Our emotional roller coaster ride began . . . you know the feelings . . . shock, disbelief, fear, and doubt. I found my “trust teetering,” as Elder Neal A. Maxwell would say, and my world of peace filled with turmoil.
I searched the scriptures for comfort and for counsel. That’s when I found the Lord speaking to me through the scriptures on faith, patience and trust. Mosiah 23:21-22 sunk deeply into my soul: “Nevertheless the Lord seeth fit to chasten his people; yea, he trieth their patience and their faith. Nevertheless – whosoever putteth his trust in him the same shall be lifted up . . .”
And Elder Maxwell’s words kept resounding in my ears: “How can you and I really expect to glide naively through life as if to say, ‘Lord, give me experience, but not grief, not sorrow, not pain, not opposition, not betrayal, and certainly not to be forsaken. Keep from me Lord, all those experiences which made Thee what Thou art! Then let me come and dwell with Thee and fully share Thy joy!” (“Lest Ye Be Wearied and Faint in Your Minds,” Ensign, May 1991, 88)
At such Turning Points, rather than giving up, the challenge is to try to figure out where the Lord really wants us to go, who he wants us to become, and what we should do with what we have been handed. David and I asked ourselves a litany of questions. Without a family of our own, what should we do with the rest of our lives? Should we stay in this home, which was built for a family, or should we move? If we move, should we move to another house or a condominium?
We struggled through the summer to maintain focus on the eternal perspective and not let our temporary circumstances cloud our vision. Daily, we experienced sharp side-by-side opposites. But ultimately, by praying, fasting, searching the scriptures, and diligently doing all we could, fear gave way to faith; impatience gave way to patience; and “my will” gave way to “Thy will.”
By mid-November we had decided to hang on rather than take out bankruptcy and try to sell the home in the spring. David came home late one night and while getting the mail from our mailbox at the side of the road, he was prompted to go next door to the couple from California who was renting. Tom was shoveling the snow and David grabbed a shovel and helped him. Afterward, David asked Tom how he and his wife, Kathy, liked living up the canyon. They loved it. They wished they could buy a home up the canyon. David told them ours was for sale.
Tom and Kathy came over after Thanksgiving, walked through our home and said they were interested. They left and I cried and cried. David reassured me: “Carolyn, we can wait until the spring.” I responded, “Oh, David, they are going to buy the home and she is pregnant.” “How do you know that?” he asked. “Women just know those things,” I replied. All the while, I was opening the Doctrine and Covenants to Section 111 verses 5 and 8 that I had read the previous week. The Lord is speaking to the Prophet Joseph Smith but I felt he was speaking to us: “Concern not yourselves about your debts, for I will give you power to pay them. . . . And the place where it is my will that you should tarry, for the main, shall be signalized unto you by the peace and power of my Spirit, that shall flow unto you.” We knew the Lord had literally sold our home to a couple from California in the dead of winter when nothing had sold up the canyon for three years.
It was a tremendous relief. But at the same time, I felt like Elder Boyd K. Packer who told about confiding one time in Elder Harold B. Lee that he could see no way to move in the direction he had been counseled by one of the Brethren to go. Elder Lee said: “ ‘The trouble with you is you want to see the end from the beginning.’ I replied that I would like to see at least a step or two ahead. Then came the lesson of a lifetime: ‘You must learn to walk to the edge of the light, and then a few steps into the darkness; then the light will appear and show the way before you’. Then he quoted these 18 words from the Book of Mormon: ‘Dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith’.” (BYU Today, March 1991, 22-23)
David and I had heard the Lord through the scriptures, we packed up, paid off our debts and with $5,000 left over and with increased faith, we stepped into the darkness and patiently tarried in a little two-bedroom apartment for a year, trusting in the Lord to guide us where he wanted us to be.
And so why does the Lord expect you, despite your current challenges, to be “strong and of a good courage;” to act with faith and patience, trusting in the Him? Because just like the generations of past students, you, too, need to prepare to provide for yourself and your family. You, too, need to prepare to serve in the kingdom wherever the Lord needs you. You, too, need to prepare to bless your children and others as you tell them of the times when you diligently worked through the obstacles, whether educational, physical, or financial, with nothing but your faith, patience, and trust in God to sustain you.
And just like the generations of past students, you, also, have devoted faculty, staff, and administrators who have faithin this College and its purpose in the Lord’s kingdom and who are working diligently to teach, uplift, and assist you in preparing for whatever your future may hold.
Even as you learn the applied skills of accounting or professional sales, of medical assisting or interior design, I hope and pray that you will also develop the skills of acting with faith and patience, trusting in the Lord that the right thing will happen at your personal Turning Points. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Thoughts on Thanksgiving

22 Nov. 2011


Thoughts on Thanksgiving

In just a few days we will celebrate Thanksgiving here in the United States. Early settlers from Europe brought with them harvest celebrations and added them to similar Native American traditions to create what we now call “Thanksgiving.” It is a holiday primarily celebrated in the United States and Canada(though on different days in each country), but it is also observed in the Netherlands, Liberia, Norfolk Island in Australia, and Puerto Rico. Although you might be familiar with the traditional Pilgrim origins of Thanksgiving, some scholars actually believe that Spanish explorers in Florida celebrated the first Thanksgiving in the “new world” in 1565.1
Although traditional meals and activities like football may be the first things people remember about this holiday, Thanksgiving and all it precursors were based on the principle of gratitude. Whether it was being grateful for a harvest,for the end of a war, for the relief of a city under siege, a safe journey, or for freedom, the underlying purpose was an expression of thankfulness.
I would like to share with you during the next few minutes a few thoughts on the principle of gratitude. Gratitude is a feeling of thankfulness, an attitude of appreciation, and a gift we choose to give not only to others but to ourselves. It is the habit of focusing on the blessings of life rather than on its misfortunes.
One of the most poignant stories regarding gratitude in the New Testament is found in the Book of Luke. Ten men who were lepers stood afar off and called to Jesus when he entered into their village. They had been shunned and cast away because of their disease. They could no longer mingle with family and friends, or pursue normal work or religious worship services with others. People avoided them and they were among the most marginalized members of society. They begged Jesus to “have mercy on us.”
Christ did have mercy and he healed them, telling them to go show themselves to the priests so that they could be officially pronounced clean and able to return to home, family, work, and church activity. Luke records,“And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at [Jesus’] feet, giving him thanks, and he was a Samaritan. And Jesus answering said, were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.” 2
The gratitude of the one is made more obvious in comparison to the ingratitude shown by the other nine. Note that this one grateful man, a Samaritan – and you all remember that the Jews of the New Testament looked down upon the Samaritans as being less worthy and faithful -- was the only one who returned to praise Jesus.
The Lord told the Prophet Joseph Smith, “Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things…and in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things.” 3
President Monson said, “If ingratitude be numbered among the serious sins, then gratitude takes its place among the noblest of virtues.”4
Alma taught that we should “live in thanksgiving daily.” 5
The early Saints were told that “he who receives all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious.” 6
I learned years ago that many times the Lord often asks us to do things that we easily see as being beneficial to others. We are commanded to pay tithing, and we can see how that blesses the Church. We are asked to teach Sunday School, and we can see that the students will be helped by our effort. We are asked to forgive, and we can see that forgiveness is a wonderful gift to those who have hurt or offended us. But I have also learned that blessings to others are secondary and small when compared to the blessings that come to us in following God’s counsel. We are blessed with the opening of the windows of heaven when we pay tithing; with an increased knowledge of the doctrines of salvation when we teach; and with freedom from the burden of constantly contemplating how we have been wronged and thinking about how unjust life is.
Being grateful blesses us even more than it blesses those who receive our thanks. President Hinckley said, “When you walk with gratitude, you do not walk with arrogance and conceit and egotism, you walk with a spirit of thanksgiving that is becoming to you and will bless your lives.”7
Elder Haight taught that “as gratitude is magnified and developed and expanded, it can bless our hearts and our minds and our souls to where we’d like to continue to carry on and do those things that we are asked to do.” 8
President Joseph F. Smith said that “The grateful man sees so much in the world to be thankful for, and with him the good outweighs the evil. Love overpowers jealousy, and light drives darkness out of his life.” 9
Brother Vaughn Worthen, who worked in the Counseling and Career Center at BYU, noted that “cultivating and practicing gratitude can reduce symptoms in cases of mild to moderate depression and anxiety. Practicing gratitude can also lead to increases in optimism, vitality, happiness, a sense of well-being, and a greater satisfaction with life.” He noted that “gratitude” interventions promote well-being and bring a more positive focus to troubled relationships. 10
Gratitude, then, is a great antidote for many of the struggles that we experience. It offers hope and allows us to escape many of the fears that bind us down.Cultivating and expressing gratitude can help us – regardless of our circumstances – feel closer to our Heavenly Father and our Savior, Jesus Christ. Cultivating and expressing gratitude can lead to a happier and fuller life. President Monson said, “We can lift ourselves and others as well when we refuse to remain in the realm of negative thought and cultivate within our hearts an attitude of gratitude.” 11
Louisa Mellor Clark came to Utah with the Martin Handcart Company. Her mother had become discouraged and finally told the others she could go no farther. As the company moved on, Louisa stayed with her mother. She went a few yards away and prayed that God would help them and protect them. As she walked back to where her mother was sitting on a boulder, she found a pie in the road. She wrote in her journal, “I picked it up and gave it to mother to eat. After resting awhile we started on our journey, thanking God for the blessings. A few miles before we reached camp we met my father coming out to meet us. Many times after that mother felt like giving up and quitting, but then she would remember how wonderful the Lord had been to spare her so many times, and offered a prayer of gratitude instead. So, she went on her way rejoicing while walking the blood-stained path of snow.”12
Being thankful in all things13 often brings unanticipated benefits even in the worst of circumstances. Corrie ten Boom and her sister Betsie were devout Christians who were sent to a concentration camp for hiding Jews in their home during World War II. Their story is found in a book called The Hiding Place. Upon arrival at Ravensbruck the two sisters were assigned to Barracks 28. Corrie tells the story this way.
“Betsie and I followed a prisoner-guide through the door at the right. Because of the broken windows, the vast room was in semi-twilight. Our noses told us,first, that the place was filthy: somewhere, plumbing had backed up, the bedding was soiled and rancid.
“Then as our eyes adjusted to the gloom we saw that there were no individual beds at all but great square tiers stacked three high, and wedged side by side and end to end with only an occasional narrow aisle slicing through.
“We followed our guide single file—the aisle was not wide enough for two—fighting back the claustrophobia of those platforms rising everywhere above us…At last she pointed to a second tier in the center of a large block.
“To reach it, we had to stand on the bottom level, haul ourselves up, and then crawl across three other straw-covered platforms to reach the one that we would share….
“The deck above us was too close to let us sit up. We lay back, struggling against the nausea that swept over us from the reeking straw…Suddenly I sat up, striking my head on the cross-slats above. Something had pinched my leg.
“’Fleas!’ I cried. ‘Betsie, the place in swarming with them! … how can we live in such a place?’
“’Show us. Show us how.’ It was said so matter of factly it took me a second to realize she was praying….
“’Corrie!’ she said excitedly, ‘He’s given us the answer! Before we asked, as He always does! In the Bible this morning. Where was it? Read that part again!’
“I glanced down the long dim aisle to make sure no guard was in sight, then I drew the Bible from its pouch. ‘It was in First Thessalonians,’ I said. In the feeble light I turned the pages, ‘Here it is: “Comfort the frightened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See that none of you repays evil for evil,but always seek to do good to one another and to all.’”
“’Go on,’ said Betsie. ‘That wasn’t all.’
“’Oh yes’ I said,”…Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.’”
“’That’s it, Corrie! That’s His answer. That’s what we can do. We can start right now to thank God for every single thing about this new barracks!’ Istared at her; then around me at the dark, foul-aired room.
“’Such as?’ I said.
“’Such as being assigned here together…. such as what you are holding in your hand…. for the very crowding in here. Since we are packed so close, then many more will hear the message [in the Bible].”
“’Thank You,’ Betsie went on serenely, for the fleas and for….’
“’The fleas! This was too much. ‘Betsie,’ I said, “there’s no way even God can make me grateful for a flea.’
“’Give thanks in all circumstances,’ she quoted. It doesn’t say, ‘in pleasant circumstances.’ Fleas are part of this place where God has put us.
“And so we stood between tiers of bunks and gave thanks for fleas. But this time I was sure Betsie was wrong.”
Betsie and Corrie began to have worship services. Other women gathered with them to read the Bible and to pray. They even had to hold two worship services per evening to accommodate everyone who was interested. While the guards kept them under rigid surveillance in all their activities, including the center room of the barracks, there was no supervision in their bunk area. And one day Betsie learned why. Some prisoners were knitting socks and there was confusion about sizing and they asked a supervisor to come and settle the argument. She wouldn’t enter the room and neither would any of the guards because they said “the place was crawling with fleas.”
As Corrie wrote, “my mind rushed back to our first hour in this place. I remembered Betsie’s bowed head, remembered her thanks to God for creatures I could see no use for.”14
The expression of gratitude, even in miserable circumstances, was rewarded with the opportunity to bless many other women’s lives with faith and an understanding of God’s love.
Since gratitude has such miraculous power to bring light to our lives in any circumstance what can we do to cultivate this virtue in our lives?
First, we can look for things to be grateful for; remembering that gratitude is expression of our faith. Our lists would go first to eternal things – for the Plan of Salvation, for the Atoning Sacrifice of our Redeemer that rescues us from death and hell, for the restoration of the Gospel and priesthood keys, for the knowledge of our divine worth, for temples, for living prophets, for scriptures and for the opportunities we have to grow and learn. My list also includes the chance to serve a mission, to have Church callings that have helped me improve, parents who taught me and encouraged me, brothers and their wives who are now caring for our aging parents, wonderful neighbors, good friends, a home, the opportunity to get an education, and the blessing of being alive when glasses and titanium knees have been invented.
Stretch yourself when you count your blessings. Think deeply about even small things. Especially think about the blessings in your life that have come from adversity. I share just a small example. During the first semester of my master’s program I took a required course in research methods. I hoped to do my coursework and my thesis in one year because I had saved just enough money to attend school for a year.
One day the professor said that if we wanted to finish our thesis and graduate by the following August, we needed to have found our topic and a chair for our thesis within a few weeks. I made an appointment to ask for her counsel on my idea and was elated when she volunteered to serve as the chair.
I worked hard on my culminating project for the course and turned it in at the end of the quarter. A few days later, all papers and final exams under my belt, I stopped by her office to see if my project paper had been graded. It had – and I had received a failing grade. I was especially embarrassed because she had agreed to chair my thesis and now I had failed her course. I asked what I could do and the professor said she would meet with me after the first of the year. Needless to say, a cloud hung over my Christmas holidays.
I went back to school early to meet with her. She counseled with me. She showed me what I had done incorrectly. She then gave me the opportunity to redeem myself by doing the paper again. I worked and worked and submitted the paper again. This time I passed with flying colors. But the important thing was that because of what I had learned in that experience, when it came time to write my thesis I had only one small revision to make on the first draft.
I am grateful for that experience. Things I learned from that experience helped me later in my doctoral program. And that experience made me a better teacher. It was a small thing – and at first a very hard thing --but it is something that has blessed me over and over again.
Like the words of one of our hymns, once we earnestly begin to count our blessings we will be surprised at what the Lord has done.
Second,if we are struggling to feel grateful, we can pray for the blessing of a grateful spirit. Ask the Lord to help you recognize the many blessings He has given you. Practice being grateful. Practice saying thank you, even for little things. Practice seeing the silver lining in every experience. Some may feel they only need to be grateful for big things. But a professional counselor, Richard Nicastro, taught, “Small gratitudes are the antidote to taking life and others for granted.”15
Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin suggested three things to help us feel more grateful. The first is to open our eyes to see the wonders and beauties of this world and to “enjoy every sight, every smell, every taste, every sound.” The second is to open our hearts and let go of the negative emotions that “drag us down and destroy the spirit” and to remember the cleansing power of the Atonement through repentance. And third is to open our arms to reach out to others.”16
Brother Worthen suggests several things that would make us more aware of tender mercies extended by the Lord or others, including a gratitude journal, making gratitude visits, creating a gratitude catalog, eliminating ungrateful thoughts, expressing prayers of gratitude, training ourselves to use gratitude language, and learning the art of being content with what we have.17
Learning to count our blessings and feel thanksgiving in our hearts meets only half of the conditions for having gratitude change our lives. The second half comes in actually expressing gratitude to God and to others.A renowned business leader once remarked that the two most important words in the English language were “thank you.”18
I know from personal experience how the simplest “thank you” can have a profound effect.” I taught 17-year-olds in Sunday School for four years. One Sunday I was particularly discouraged because I felt I wasn’t making any progress with the students no matter what I prepared. I was beginning to feel like a failure. Later in the week I ran into one of the students in the grocery store. He said, “thank you for the lesson on Sunday. I learned a lot.” That single expression of gratitude kept me going for months.
In King Benjamin’s powerful sermon we learn that we should constantly thank our Heavenly King. King Benjamin taught that we can never get ahead of the Lord because whenever we are obedient he pours out additional blessings upon us. I think this is the reason that whenever someone is taught to pray, following the Savior’s example, we begin with offering our gratitude before we make any new requests.19
Whether it is face-to-face, through a phone call, an e-mail, a note (most people still truly appreciate the handwritten note), a text message, or a Facebook posting, an expression of gratitude will make the difference in the lives of at least two people – yours and the one to whom you expressed your thanks. We read in the scriptures that rejoicing,celebrating (like our Thanksgiving on Thursday), singing, and even dancing were all expressions of gratitude for God’s blessings.20 David often wrote psalms of gratitude. Psalm 100 is one of my favorites.
Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.
Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing.
Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.
For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.
While expressions of gratitude are necessary and important, if left alone our gratitude will be incomplete.
President David O. McKay said, “Gratitude is deeper than thanks. Thankfulness is the beginning of gratitude. Gratitude is the completion of thankfulness. Thankfulness may consist merely of words. Gratitude is shown in acts.”21
An old American childhood poem tells of three children who told their mother that they loved her. One then forgot his work and chores and went out to play. Another teased and pouted until her mother was glad she went out to play. The third rocked the baby, swept the floor and was “as helpful and busy” as a child could be. The poem ends with this question, “Which one of them really loved her best?”22
The For the Strength of Youth pamphlet teaches that one of the best expressions of gratitude to the Lord is the way we live. Like faith and love, we show our gratitude through our works23
All of us benefit from the goodness of others.We enjoy the blessings of the Restored Gospel because pioneers made sacrifices to keep the faith strong and alive.Missionaries somewhere along the line made sacrifices that brought us or our families into the Church. The missionary who converted the first person in my family eventually left the Church after the Missouri persecutions.But my family has always revered his name because he is the one who brought the gospel to all of us through my great-great-great grandfather. Imagine my delight two years ago when, by chance, I happened to meet the great-great-great granddaughter of this missionary while we were working on a project together. I was able to finally share with her my family’s deep love and gratitude for the missionary who gave our family the gift of the gospel.
We also benefit in other ways from many we will never know. We owe a debt to servicemen and women and patriots who made the supreme sacrifice for the freedoms that everyone who lives in America enjoys. We owe a debt to pioneer educators who made great sacrifices to ensure that the Church’s schools – like LDS Business College-- were able to grow and thrive, even through very tough economic times. We owe a debt to those who invented marvelous things that help us communicate, and do family history, and travel, and learn.
Our gratitude for them is played out in the way we take advantage of the opportunities that have been given us.When you work hard and obtain a degree from LDS Business College you are expressing gratitude for an opportunity given you by many who have gone before – including the tithe payers of the Church, the many administrators of this school through its wonderful 125 year history, and to teachers and staff along the way who have worked so hard to build the school and to educate and prepare and serve the students.
We express our gratitude though acts of honesty, integrity, courtesy and kindness. But most of all we express gratitude through our obedience to God and keeping our covenants. Through our faithful actions we glorify God and let him know of our love and appreciation.We express appreciation for the gift of life and time in the choices we make about how we use our time. We express our appreciation for the scriptures when we read and study them. We show our gratitude for the temple by worshiping there regularly. We show our thankfulness for the Atonement of the Savior by repenting and serving others. We show that we are grateful for a living prophet by following his counsel.We show we are grateful for the truths of the gospel by serving others as Christ served us, as this poem by Janell R. Arrington suggests.24
With what coin shall I repay my eternal Father
For the gifts He hath bestowed upon me?
How shall my gratitude be made manifest and acceptable?
My payment shall not be in measure harsh and cold, the clink and chill of mineral,
But in warmth and kindness shall I honor my Creator,
In loving-kindness, as did the Son of Man, to all who stand in need of strength to heart and limb.
May I, as He, serve all who daily walk with heavy loads---
Those who hunger and thirst for warm words and small kindnesses.
So may my debt of mortal and immortal life be marked in columns paid,
To serve His children.
Thus, daily succor to them doth bring eternal praise to Him and peace of soul to me.24
Yes, my friends, thanksgiving is more than a holiday. It is a feeling from the heart that propels us to live a Christ-like life. May we belike the grateful Samaritan and numbered among those who always return to give thanks.
[2] Luke 17: 12-19
[3] Doctrine and Covenants 59:7, 21
[4 ]Thomas S. Monson, “An Attitude of Gratitude” April 1992 General Conference. http://lds.org/general-conference/print/1992/04/an-attitude-of-gratitude
[5] Alma 34:38
[6] Doctrine and Covenants 78:19
[7] Gordon B. Hinckley, Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley (1997), p. 250.
[8] David B. Haight, “Were There Not Ten Cleansed?” October 2002 General Conference. http://lds.org/general-conference/print/2002/10/were-there-not-ten-cleansed
[9] Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 5th Edition (1939), p. 263.
[10] Vaughn E. Worthen, “The Value of Experiencing andExpressing Gratitude,” Ensign, March 2010. http://lds.org/ensign/print/2010/03/the-value-of-experiencing-and-expressing-gratitude.
[11] Thomas s. Monson, “The Divine Gift of Gratitude” October 2010 General Conference. http://lds.org/general-conference/print/2010/10/the-divine-gift-of-gratitude
[12] Kate B. Carter, OurPioneer Heritage (1975), 17:305.
[13] 1 Thessalonians 5:18
[15] In Nancy Henderson, “Giving Thanks: The Benefits of Expressing Gratitude,” AmericanProfile, November 20-16, 2011, pp. 8-9
[16] Joseph B. Wirthlin, “Live in Thanksgiving Daily,” Ensign,September 2001. http://lds.org/ensign/print/2001/09/live-in-thanksgiving-daily
[17] See Worthen
[18] In Thomas S. Monson, “The Profound Power ofGratitude,” Liahona, September 2005.
[19] Mosiah 2:18-24
[20] Doctrine and Covenants 136:28, Ezra 3:11, Leviticus7:12
[23] James 2:18
[24] Janell R. Arrington, “Psalm of Gratitude and Service” Ensign, April 1984.http://lds.org/ensign/1984/04/poetry/psalm-of-gratitude-and-service