Fall 2007

6 Cultural Beliefs to Live By

05 Sep. 2007


6 Cultural Beliefs to Live By


Welcome, students. I wanted to tell you, as we started this new school year, the President had a fall workshop for all the faculty and staff—basically, everyone that works within these walls. And he titled it “Cultural Transitions—from Good to Great.” We had a facilitator come and help us define our cultural beliefs. After much soul searching, tough questions were asked and answered, opinions given and debated, and there was a consensus, a coming together of these cultural beliefs. Not an easy task, you might say, with all of the diverse minds and backgrounds of all those of us who work within these walls. But surprisingly, it was wonderful to see how similar our thoughts, our feelings about the College were.

Now why am I so surprised? When you ask in all sincerity for the Spirit’s guide and attendance in all your doings, you become “determined in one mind…in one heart, united in all things,” as stated in 2 Nephi 1:21. So here are our cultural beliefs—this is what we came up with. Now if you ask any teacher, any bookstore manager, the financial aid administrator, cashier—anyone who works here—they should be able to respond to what our culture is here, and what we believe with these six statements:

  • “Do Right. I will do the will of Heaven to bless the youth of Zion.” You should be glad we picked this one. Listen to what we decided—“I will do the will of Heaven to bless the youth of Zion.” Guess who that is? That is you. We want to bless you.
  • “Champion Every Student. Help every student reach their full potential.”
  • “Value Others. I show gratitude for the work and contribution of others.” That of course includes everyone.
  • “Counsel Together. I counsel with others and consider all viewpoints before acting.”
  • “Be Accountable. I take responsibility for supporting decisions made, achieving results and reporting progress.”
  • “Measure Success. I value and use measurement to achieve strategic initiatives.”

Now this was for those of us who work here—faculty, staff and everyone who works here. Brother Craig Nelson, vice president of student affairs, and a myriad of other titles—I can’t give you all of them, he’s way too busy—anyway, he brought you on board. Not just the faculty and staff, but you, our students, as well, so that we can all be, with the Spirit’s guidance, “determined in one mind, in one heart and united in all things.” So here’s how Brother Nelson defined the LDS Business College student cultural beliefs, and I think you all got a card as you walked in that gives you these, and also faculty and staff have a card for them. So these are the students’ cultural beliefs. You can read them as we go along. I will be discussing the first three. So I’ll start with:

  • Do Right. I honor my commitments.

That covers a lot. You made a covenant with the Lord at baptism; you probably committed to your mom and dad that, since they’re supporting you here at the College, that you’d do well in your studies. The thing I want to emphasize today is your commitment to the Honor Code you signed. It says a lot about you, how seriously you take your word. When you sign it and put your good name to it, that you are committed, and you will do what you promised to do. Read the Honor Code again. Understand it. Be committed to it. And you will recognize if we all honor our commitments, it takes us from being just good to [being] great.

The Lord says in D&C 82:10, “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.” I, for one, when I get on my knees in the morning and ask for help and guidance for the day from the Lord, I want to have done my part. “Keep my commitments,” so the Lord is bound in love to hear and answer our prayers.

  • Champion Every Student. Help others reach their full potential.

How do you do that? Jacob says, “Think of your brethren like unto yourselves, and be familiar with all and free with your substance, that they may be rich like unto you” (Jacob 2:17). Now, Jacob was warning against pride in this scripture. He also says that “after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good” (Jacob 2:19). May I substitute “knowledge” for “riches” at this point in your life? You will obtain knowledge if you seek it, with the intent to use knowledge to do good—not to be prideful and say, “Look what I know and you don’t.” Sometimes, because we receive grades, others’ failures make us feel we look better. That is not what we want at LDS Business College.

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, in a talk given in a CES fireside, said, “Some mistake the Church [and I’m going to say LDSBC] for a place where perfect people gather to say perfect things and think perfect thoughts and feel perfect feelings.” Doesn’t that just sound so nice? He says, “May I quickly dispel such thoughts? The Church [LDS Business College] is a place where imperfect people gather to help strengthen each other as we strive to return to live with our Heavenly Father.”

He also said, “The Church is a mutual improvement society, with a goal to help every son and daughter of God return to His presence. The way you can measure your value in the kingdom of God is to ask yourself, ‘How well am I doing in helping others reach their potential? Do I support the Church or do I tear them down?’ If you are tearing others down, you are tearing down the kingdom of God. If you are building others, you are building the kingdom.”

So our cultural belief is to champion each other, or build each other up.

  • Value Others. I respect different viewpoints and cultures.

I quote the scripture, “Go and do thou likewise,” found in Luke (10:37). And I did that because of the parable. It’s at the end of the parable of the Good Samaritan. When Jesus told this parable, he used the Samaritan as the hero. We know there was great animosity between the Jews and the Samaritans at that time. Elder M. Russell Ballard, in his talk, “Doctrine of Inclusion,” states:

“His [Jesus’] deliberate use of Jews and Samaritans clearly teaches that we are all neighbors; that we should love, esteem, respect and serve one another, despite our deepest differences, including religion, politics and cultural differences.”

Elder Wirthlin in his talk, “Lessons Learned in the Journey of Life,” states: “Every one of us will travel different roads in mortality. We will each progress at different rates. Temptations that afflict your brother may not trouble you at all. Never look down on those who are less perfect than you. Never be upset because someone can’t speak as well as you, can’t read as well as you, can’t serve as well as you, can’t sew, hoe or glow as well as you.” I love the way he put that.

Now, I’m not saying that you should associate in any relationship that would put you at spiritual risk. What I am saying is, get to know each other. Value each other. Respect each other’s differences and build on each other’s strengths.

I know Jesus Christ is our Savior and our Redeemer, and I know He would want us to love one another. Do right. I honor my commitments. Champion every student. I help others reach their full potential. Value Others. I respect different viewpoints and cultures.

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


President Woodhouse:

Isn’t she wonderful? You know, when I was in college, I was friends with her big sister. And one day, her big sister brought the little sister with her to study, who was in high school. Now, I was kind of interested. I was getting my masters degree, and she was in high school. I talked to her sister about this—her older sister—and I said, “You know, I’m kind of interested here. How do you think we can work this out?”

She said, “You come over to my house one night and we’ll study together.” And so we did that, and invited Sytske to come study. And she wondered why this returned missionary who was graduated from college was over studying with them. And anyway, it all worked out. So if you get the Spirit, just go after it, and look what you might end up with. She’s been a terrific companion. We’ve done so many great things together.

She talked about our cultural transition. This has been a great experience the last few weeks, as we’ve gone through, with the faculty and staff, a cultural transition. And now we’re beginning on a cultural transition with you, the students. Now why would we do this? Is it necessary? Maybe not, but we think it’s a good thing to do.

As I look out over this audience, I am absolutely thrilled because I see beautiful young people who are here, you’re here for a specific purpose--you’re here to learn. So I’m going to ask you to ask yourself life’s three most important questions.

First of all, who are you? Think about it. Define that, and take that a step further and define who you want to be. Where do you want to go? Where do you want to be in five years? Now, let us help you get there.

What’s the purpose for you being on earth? Now, that’s a little bigger than just who you are. But it’s also important for you to know why you’re here.

And number three, are you here to do something, or are you just here to have something to do? Now think about that for a minute. If you want to accomplish something in your life, you’ve got to set goals, you’ve got to do something about it, and you have to achieve it.

I went to a conference where we were talking about—and these are a couple of slides I brought from the conference—the four generations that we’re dealing with, that are on earth today. My generation is that very first one, called the Traditionalists. Things are a little different in today’s culture, different than the way I grew up. Look down at some of the technology, and I think I’ll dwell on that for a minute.

When I was a young man, I remember—we didn’t have TVs, but I remember my grandfather, you know, who had been through the second World War and the first World War—every day when I would go over to his house, he was always sitting there next to the radio. He wanted to hear the news. He wanted to find out what’s going on in the world. He used to always listen to the radio, and he used to always tell us kids to be quiet, because he wanted to hear the radio. Now think how much different that is than today. My grandparents didn’t even have refrigerators. They had ice boxes, and you know, you’d put ice in the top and it would keep things cool for a while.

Go on to the next group, which are the Baby Boomers. I don’t know if any of you will remember this, but I can remember when we got our first telephone in our house. It was a four-party line. Now what did that mean? That meant four other families on the block shared that one telephone line with you. You’d have to organize your time into blocks when you could use the telephone. Is that different than today?

Now we move on to the Baby Busters, and that’s the group who were born in 1965 to 1976. I think most of you students are probably in that last group, which we call the Millennials, the Gen-Y'ers, the Net Generation, the Echo-Boomers. Lots of names for your generation. But look how things have changed, and it’s just a short period of time, just in that many years. I can remember meeting with our technology people, and I still remember the day when we did phone messages, we used to use these little pink pads of paper, and we’d write on them and we’d pass them around, about who had called—and one day, I think Brent Cherrington came to me, and he said, “You know, there’s this thing they’re starting. It’s called the Internet.”

And I said, “Explain what that means.”

“Well, right through our computer we can talk to each other, and we can put phone messages through the computer.”

I said, “Gosh, we have to do that. Let’s get started on that.”

So we did. Now you students are getting instant messaging, you’re doing text messaging. In fact, people have told me—and I can’t do this—but people have told me you can text message in your pocket with a telephone. Now, that’s a phenomenon. I can’t do that, but a lot of you can.

So our values—our values are a little different. If you look at this, my generation—they called it the loyal generation. Honor was the big thing. Your word was your bond, those types of things. And look who our heroes were. Our heroes were John Wayne. Any of you remember John Wayne? He was the man, you know. But look how we move through the generations to this generation.

Who are some of the people —I don’t know whether we call them heroes—we’re calling them influential people. But the people you read about in the newspaper every day are Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, you know. I don’t think they’re the finest examples for your generation, but they’re out there, and so you have to deal with that. And you have to make a choice. Do you want to go that direction, or do you want to go this direction. You really do have to choose. And so that’s why I say set your goals out there and then work backwards.

Let me tell you a little story about Sir Christopher Wren. He was an architect that lived several hundred years ago in Europe, and he actually was responsible for building some of the great cathedrals of Europe. He was the architect. And he decided to go around and talk to some of the workers. He wanted to see what their feelings were; how they felt about what they were doing. So he walks up to one of the workers and says, “What are you doing here?”

And this young man said, “I’m pounding on a rock.” And that didn’t inspire him a whole lot.

So he goes to the next one. He says, “What are you doing here?”

He answered, “Well, I’m making two rupees an hour.” That was what was important to him at the time.

And he goes to the third, and the third says, “I am helping Sir Christopher Wren build a magnificent cathedral.” Now that was the answer he wanted to hear. Someone who was on the same page as he was—he being the architect, they being the worker, but they had the same vision, the same goal.

That’s what we’re trying to do here. So I’m going to ask you a question, a very simple question. Is good good enough? We saw on that very first slide, we used the words “Good to Great.” We did not create those words. Those words were used by Jim Collins, who wrote the book Good to Great. He was a professor at the Stanford Business School. Then he left to be a consultant for business and, in reading his book you learn some great things. You learn that good is not good enough. Because if you’re good, that means you think you’ve gone as far as you’re going to go, and you’re a little bit complacent about it. You’re just fine. Everything’s going well; you get up in the morning, you go to bed at night, you do your job.

But that is not good enough. If you want to be great, you have to make a transition; hence, we decided to do a cultural transition for the College. And I might say it’s actually being done all over the Church, because the Church is changing at a very rapid rate. Our facilitator at the time told us that his responsibility and his team’s responsibility is to help the leaders of the Church as the Church grows from 13 million, where it is today, to 50 million people. Now that’s a huge, a giant leap forward, and it requires a different culture.

Here’s a quote from him: “How do you get to greatness? Well, it’s discipline. You have to have discipline about your thoughts, about your actions, about your principles. You have to know who you are. You have to know where you’re going, and you have to realize that you’re not just here taking up space.”

I went to a retreat—the Utah Campus Compact is an organization that we belong to, and all thirteen colleges and universities in the State of Utah are members of the Utah Campus Compact. Several of you students will have a chance to be leaders in that organization. We had a retreat a few weeks ago, and this was one of the things that was posted on the door as we walked in: “There is no power for change greater than a community that discovers what it cares about.”

Now those of you who have something to write with, think for a moment. What do you care about? Write something down. What do you care about? Because whatever you care about is what’s going to facilitate change in your life. If you care about something more noble, that’s the direction you’re going to go. If you care about something that is not so noble, that’s the direction you’re going to go. So by writing this down, what you care about, you are choosing your future, and you can see the future by looking at the page.

I’m going to give you a homework assignment to go along with that. This is your homework assignment for tonight. If you care about things that are above yourself at this point in time—there are things that you want to accomplish that you haven’t yet accomplished—I would suggest that you’re going to have to change some things. That’s why we call it cultural shift. You have to change from what you’re doing to the things that you should be doing. And therefore, you have to stop some things, and you have to start some things. So I’m just going to give you one example.

I think I’ll ask for a raise of hands. Have any of you ever been pressured by your friends to do something that you didn’t want to do? Raise your hand. Look at that. I see almost every hand going up. Stop doing that. Stop yielding to pressure and start demonstrating honesty and integrity. Now what does that really mean? I’m going to read you a story. I actually got this story at a Boy Scout conference over here at the Salt Palace. One of the speakers was Bob Evans from Fox 13 News. You’ve probably seen him. And this is the story that he told, and I asked him if he would send me a copy, and he did. True story—not his story, but a story about someone that he was reading about:

“As a high school coach, I did all that I could to help my boys win their game. I rooted as hard for victory as they did. A dramatic incident, however, following a game in which I officiated as a referee, changed my perspective on victories and defeats. I was referee in a league championship basketball game in New Rochelle, New York between New Rochelle and Yonkers High. New Rochelle was coached by Dan O’Brien, Yonkers by Les Beck. The gym was crowded to capacity and the volume of noise made it impossible to hear. The game was well-played and closely contested. Yonkers was leading by one point, as I glanced at the clock and discovered there were thirty seconds left to play.

“Yonkers, in possession of the ball, passed it off, shot, missed. New Rochelle recovered, pushed the ball up the court, shot. The ball rolled tantalizing around the rim and fell off. New Rochelle, the home team, recovered the ball, tapped it in for what looked like a victory. The tumult was deafening. I glanced at the clock and saw that the game was over. I hadn’t heard the final buzzer because of the noise. I checked with the other official. He could not help me.

“Still seeking to help in this bedlam, I approached the timekeeper, a young man of seventeen. He said, ‘Mr. Covino, the buzzer went off as the ball rolled around the rim before the final tap-in was made.’

“I was in the unenviable position of having to tell Coach O’Brien the sad news. ‘Dan,’ I said, ‘Time ran out before that final basket was tapped in. Yonkers has won the game.’”

“His face clouded over. The young timekeeper came up and he said, ‘I’m sorry, Dad. Time ran out before the final basket.’

“Suddenly, like the sun coming out from behind a cloud, Coach O’Brien, his face lit up, said, ‘That’s okay, Joe. You did what you had to do and I’m proud of you.’

“Turning to me, he said, ‘I’d like you to meet my son.’”

Could you stand up to that? Just think of that young man. All he would have to do is say no. So our fourth cultural belief is:

  • Counsel Together. Learn from others.

We do something here called collaborative learning. You’ll do this in your classrooms, where you will work together. We hear you. Remember, two minds are better than one. Instead of accusing people, why don’t you go around trying to catch someone doing something right? And when you do, counsel with them. Befriend them. Let them be your example.

The Nephites, when they decided to separate from the Lamanites, had to make some decisions. So I’m just going to draw a little parallel universe here, from 2 Nephi 5. They had to make a decision, and what did they do? They counseled together. They counseled together; they decided to call the name of their place Nephi, and they decided to call themselves Nephites. But they did this by counseling together.

  • Be Accountable. I take responsibility for my obligations as a student.

Now when you leave today, we’re going to give you a card that we got when we did our cultural transition. On one side, it says, “Below the Line”; on the other side it says, “Above the Line.” Well, what is the difference? Let me give you some examples.

Some of the “Below the Line” excuses—and this really works. I carry these cards around, so we’ve stopped arguing about everything. When we’re talking, we just hold up our card. “Dear, that was below the line.” Okay, let’s move it to above the line. It really works. Some of the excuses for being below the line:

  • To ignore it or deny it. “I didn’t do it. It must have been Joe, over there. Not me.”
  • “It’s not my job.” Have you ever heard that? That’s the one that tires me the most, when people say, “It’s not my job.” Because all that means is that they’re not taking responsibility for anything.
  • Or you point the finger. I get in meetings when this happens. We deal with a lot of Church entities here—other people do the yard, other Church entities provide food for us, provide the dorms for us, a lot of things. And in some of our meetings, I can tell you, we sit there and do this. And I try to cut through that very quickly. It doesn’t do anybody any good to say, “Well, this person should have done it, or that person should have done it.” The point is, something should have been done; let’s get the job done.
  • Or, confusion. Just saying, “I’m confused. Just tell me what I’m supposed to do and I’ll do it.”
  • Cover your tail. You know, that’s a waste of time. Some people do that, but it’s a waste of time. What that means is, you’re worried about what somebody might say, so you sit and write…you watch people, and when they make a mistake, you write it down, you put it in a little file in your drawer in case you ever need it to use against them.

These are all Below the Line. And probably the worst one is just to procrastinate. Just to not do anything, just to wait. Wait and see what happens.

Okay, let’s get “Above the Line.” It’s really very simple. It’s hard to do, but the words are simple. First of all, you have to see it. You have to decide what it is. You have to own it. That means you take the responsibility yourself. And then, probably with the help of others, you solve it. You solve the problem. You set up a plan. You set up a solution. We do this every day. And then you just do it. You just do it, and you make sure that it happens.

I’m just going to touch on the Honor and Dress Code. Sytske has brought that up, and you know, what I see here is wonderful. We have concerns about the way students dress. Now you’re all dressed appropriately, the ones that I can see. But on a regular school day, that’s not always the case. I’m asking you, and I’ll ask you now, to step it up. We’re going to try to work with your student leaders and decide how together we can just step it up, and to be accountable. Think of some things, as you’re stepping it up. When you’re sitting in class, look at yourself and say, “If I were going out on a career interview right after this class, how would I be accepted?”

The business community has gone several ways with dress codes. I can tell you that. I first joined the IBM Corporation. Back in the 1960s you could see somebody from IBM coming a block away, because they were always wearing a white shirt, a blue suit, wing-tip shoes. It was almost like the uniform.

And then it kind of swung back the other way; they dressed down a little. I can tell you now it’s come back, and the business community dresses for success, and that’s the code word we ought to use here.

Here’s a quote from Elder D. Todd Christofferson, who’s one of the Presidents of the Seventy. He was also in our prior stake. He says, “If one does not appreciate holy things, he will lose them. Absent a feeling of reverence, he or she will grow increasingly casual in attitude and lax in conduct.” I’m just warning you, be careful. Be careful about this. How you dress affects how you act and the opposite is also true: how you act affects how you dress. So, let’s step it up together.

Another…from the same scripture. I’m just following the same scripture in 2 Nephi 5: “It came to pass that I, Nephi, did cause my people to be industrious, and to labor with their hands.” (v. 17) They were accountable all the way along. They made it happen.

  • Measure Our Success is the sixth cultural belief which was written down.

And I took the example about where the Nephites built the temple similar to Solomon’s Temple, and “the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine” (2 Nephi 5:16). So as you measure yourself, ask yourself that question: “Was the work that I did today ‘exceedingly fine’?”

How can we measure our success? I’ve often said that everything I ever needed to know in life I learned in Primary. That is: Do what is right and tell the truth. I lean back on that all the time. If you do those two things, you’re going to be successful in life.

I was going to ask one of you students to stand up and recite the 13th Article of Faith. I learned it in Primary, but I can’t recite it today. But I wanted to close with that. “We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men. If there is anything virtuous, lovely or of good report, we seek after these things.”

We would hope that you seek after those things. We do, and we hope you do, and we hope that together we’re going to have a wonderful, wonderful year together. I want to leave you my testimony that I know that Jesus is the Christ. I know that we have been given this great opportunity to come to earth at this time—a time when there’s a lot of tumult in the world, and I guess there always will be. But together, we can succeed together. We have the gospel that we can grab on to. We have our leaders telling us which directions we should go. I want to leave you with my testimony that Gordon B. Hinckley is a prophet of God. Fortunately, I get to meet with him on a monthly basis, along with the other presidents of BYU and Seminaries and Institutes, where we discuss what is happening within the Church Educational System. We discuss it together. He loves you. He cares about you. For those of you who have heard about our dedication of this building, and when he spoke—his parents, in fact, met at LDS Business College.

I want you to know that I love you. I know that Sytske loves you, and I know your teachers love you. I share this with you, and I do this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


Mine Eyes Are upon You

12 Sep. 2007


Mine Eyes Are upon You

This is a very, very special place for very, very special people. I hope that each and every one of you feels the meaning of those words and feels it personally. Yes, this is a special place, but more importantly, this is a special place for special people. You students and the faculty and staff who serve you are known by the leaders of the Church to be very special; and I certainly have those feelings about you. One of the realities that come with being a special people is that there is a Heavenly awareness of you, as well. The Lord said, “But behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, that mine eyes are upon you. I am in your midst and you cannot see me” (D&C 38:7).

I testify that His eyes are upon you, that He knows you, and that He loves you. I will say much more about that later. 

I have some special feelings about LDS Business College that some of you, particularly President and Sister Woodhouse and some of the faculty who have heard me speak before, would recall. Most of you students would not know that one of the reasons why I have such special feelings about this place is that over 75 years ago my parents met each other as students here at LDS Business College. Where would I be if it were not for LDS Business College? Who would I be? Well, this is a special place for more significant reasons than that, but I want you to know of the feelings of attachment that I have for you and for this institution. 

It is important that you consider what this place means to you now, and what it will mean to you as you continue your studies and move on through the stages of your lives. I would predict that as the years pass, and as you look back on your experience here, you will realize far more than you do now how special this place is, how special the experience will have been that you look back upon, and how special the people are who you have come to know and to love and respect, both among the students as well as among the faculty and staff and administration.

The transitions that have taken place in bringing LDS Business College to this location provide a very significant signal as to the importance of this institution and of the young people of the Church that it serves and will yet serve through the years. This move is a marvelous endorsement from prophets, seers and revelators, and it provides the assurance for all of you and for all of the Church that LDS Business College is here to stay. And it will be here to serve students such as yourselves coming from literally all around the world to receive the kind of training they need for life and for making a living.

We have just listened to a beautiful hymn, Come Unto Jesus.  Its inspiring message provides an introduction to the subject that I would like to have you think about today. The hymn suggests an invitation that we literally come unto Him. With that thought in mind, I would like to reread the verse of scripture I read a moment ago and invite you to listen carefully, hearing the words, and feeling their deep meaning as I read. This is the Savior Himself speaking to the Prophet Joseph Smith. There is a message here for all of us, as members of His Church, the Lord’s Church. The Lord said, “But behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, that mine eyes are upon you. I am in your midst and you cannot see me” (D&C 38:7). While we are invited to come unto Him, we are also assured that His eyes are upon us. We may not see Him, but He is in our midst. The Lord also said, “For 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” (D&C 84:88).

What I’m hoping to do, as we visit here today, is to have you feel rather keenly and rather personally, this connection that exists between each of us and the Savior. We’ve been invited to come unto Him, but we also must ever bear in mind that, in a way, He comes to us, because His eyes are upon us, and He is in our midst. He knows each of us, and He has some feelings about us. He knows we are here. He knows what we’re about. He knows what our potential is, and He knows that there will be some of us who will fall short of our potential, or who will, in our own vision for ourselves and our future families and our professions, think of ourselves less than we should. In doing this we tend to diminish the kind of impact that we individually can have. More importantly, we tend to diminish the impact that the Savior can have on others through us.

Think of the Savior’s eyes being upon you not with a sense of concern, not with a sense of anguish about His being able to see everything?” Yes, He can. Be aware of that, but let it have a positive, rather than a negative, impact upon you. Let it inspire and motivate you to a better life, to a better preparation for life, and to a greater sense of worthiness, and greater commitment to service in the Lord’s church and kingdom. 

Now, let’s focus a little more clearly and precisely. There are endless things that we could talk about that might relate to the Lord’s eyes being upon us. I want to identify only three–three ideas or principles that I hope you’ll retain in your memory—three ideas that will be a source of inspiration, a source of motivation, and a source of direction in your lives.

I know that the Savior’s eyes are upon each of you, and that He has high expectations for you. High expectations! This is the first principle that I suggest for your thoughtful consideration. The second principle suggests that the Lord, with those high expectations and His eyes upon you, expects you to have lofty ideals. And the third principle is that the Lord expects you to have deep and abiding testimonies. If you remember nothing else that I say, just keep those three thoughts in your mind: first, that the Lord’s eyes are upon you with high expectations for you and your achievements; second, that He expects you to have lofty ideals and to adhere tenaciously to them; and, third, that the Lord expects you have deep and abiding testimonies of the gospel.

The Lord has high expectations for you in terms of your education. You are here. Each of you has made your decision to pursue an education, and to pursue it here at LDS Business College. Your decisions have been made for different reasons, each unique to yourselves. But you are here. And you are to be commended for being here, because you have sensed the importance of getting a good education. It’s not just a matter of getting a good education. You have probably heard President Hinckley talk about getting all of the education you can. He said, “Education is the key to opportunity. The Lord has placed upon you, as members of the Church, the obligation to study and learn of things spiritual, yes, but of things temporal also. Acquire all the education you can, even if it means great sacrifice. You will bless the lives of your children. You will bless the Church, because you will reflect honor to this work. You will be doing the will of the Lord as you educate your mind and your hands to make a contribution to the world of which you are a part” (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, page 172).

That is a marvelous, marvelous statement from President Hinckley. There’s no question that the living prophet of God recognizes the absolute importance of getting a good education and getting all of it that you can. Most of you are here to acquire specific learning, specific skills that will equip you to be employable, to be prepared to access the kind of occupational opportunities that will make it possible for you to provide for yourselves and your families in the years ahead.

That is the unique and central object of this institution, to equip you with employable skills.

Some of you are here with the desire to acquire those skills and credentials and then to pursue further education formally at other institutions. Either course that you pursue is appropriate and consistent with the mission of this institution. Even you, for whom immediate employability is the objective, must not lose sight of President Hinckley’s invitation, his charge, to acquire all the education you can. That may be formal education at other institutions, or it may be continuing to learn all that you can about your chosen occupation and profession, to continue to learn all that you can about the world around you. The main idea is that learning is one of the few things that we can take with us to the other side.

You’ll recognize these words of scripture: “Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection. And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come” (D&C 130:18-19). That’s a pretty clear indication that we do take our learning with us. And the more we have of it, the better we will be in the eternities of the hereafter. So, the Lord has high expectations that you will acquire all the formal and informal education you can.

As you pursue your education and occupation, think in terms of learning and knowing more than is expected of you. Each of you, in the employment opportunities that you will pursue, will have a certain base of knowledge that will be required of you to perform your work. Don’t let that minimum requirement be the ceiling of what you learn about your work. I am convinced that opportunities come to those who know more than is expected of them. And then, of course, it would follow that real opportunities will come to those who then do more than is expected of them. Don’t just meet the minimum requirements. The high expectations the Lord has for you anticipate that you will come to know more than is required of you and that you do more than is minimally required. Set the pattern for this approach now as a student, and it will follow you into your employment. The Lord expects us to excel in our chosen fields. I promise that you will be rewarded for the extra effort.

Now for you sisters, the highest and most noble thing you can do in your future is to be a marvelous wife and a mother. Nothing could be more honorable, nothing more admirable, nothing more fulfilling than to be a “stay at home mom.” Reality tells us that some of you of necessity may have to seek employment to sustain or assist to sustain your family. That’s appropriate where born of necessity. A good education will not only prepare for that possible need, but it will also aid you in becoming better mothers. But make sure—and this also should be seen as part of the high expectations the Lord has of you—that you keep very clearly in mind the proper balance and your proper priorities. Acquire employable skills so you can draw upon them as they may be needed, but study and learn also that which will bless your family as well. An educated woman will educate her children as she nurtures them.

The second principle that I have suggested for your consideration today is the importance of having lofty ideals. Please take seriously the meaning of the Honor Code that guides your behavior, your demeanor, your very appearance, even your dress and grooming while you are students here. I happen to think that the Honor Code contains appropriate guidelines for living even beyond your days as a student. The Honor Code is nothing more than a means of helping you live the standards of the gospel, and as you live them, to look and be what the Savior would have you be. Don’t be critical of the Honor Code. Don’t be cynical. Don’t try to compromise. Don’t try to push the envelope and get just as close as you can without violating it. Know that that Honor Code has been established for the Church Educational System by prophets, seers and revelators after much prayerful deliberation. This is the standard by which the Lord would have us measured as we attend these institutions of education. Think of this as encouragement to have lofty ideals, to live the kind of life that the Lord would have you live, and to enjoy a sense of comfort and confidence as you know His eyes are upon you. 

The Lord said: “And let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly.” You’ve heard that before, and what a beautiful and profound thought that is. Let virtue garnish your thoughts—not just your actions, but your thoughts—unceasingly.” Then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God” (D&C 121:45). Now, think of the Savior’s eyes being upon you, and think of virtue garnishing your thoughts as well as your deeds, unceasingly. What’s the blessing of that? You can sit here and say, “The Lord’s eyes are upon me, and my confidence waxes strong.” That is, I’m comfortable. I’m confident that everything is in order in my life. That’s what living lofty ideals will do for you. This is not with any sense of pride, but just simply that sense of comfort and assurance that you are living as the Lord would have you live.

Live the commandments—all of the commandments. Yes, those that relate to conduct, but also those that relate to worship, those that relate to sacrifice. Live the law of tithing. Let me share a personal experience with you about the law of tithing. I have very strong feelings about this sacred principle. The Lord has made very clear the promise that, as we live this sacred law, the windows of heaven will be opened to us and we’ll receive blessings, blessings that may even be beyond our capacity to receive.

As you know every full-time missionary and/or his family donate to the Church a specific and uniform amount of money every month of the missionary’s service. These donations come from the missionary’s own savings or from family and, in some cases, from assistance from ward members. These funds become part of the Missionary Support Fund which provides for the basic living expenses of missionaries throughout the world. Prior to the institution of that uniform monthly amount, each family would provide whatever funds were needed depending on the parts of the world where the missionaries served. Before the establishment of that Missionary Support Fund, we had a daughter who was serving in Norway. That was more than fifteen years ago. The monthly amount that was required in Norway was over seven hundred dollars a month. The Missionary Support Fund now is four hundred dollars a month. It was not easy for us to come up with seven hundred dollars every month. We had saved some for her younger brother who was to planning to serve a mission, but she surprised us with her desire and decision to serve. After she had been in Norway about a year, her brother received his call and was sent to Japan. The monthly amount there at that time was over eight hundred dollars. I had a pretty good job, was making reasonably good money, and we had saved. But we did not have enough money to meet the monthly requirement.

To make a very long story short, I will just tell you that during the first month that the two of their missions overlapped requiring more than fifteen hundred dollars each month, I unexpectedly received an invitation to conduct a performance evaluation of the president of the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. I went there, assuming that this was just a nice thing to do and I’d be happy to do it for them. I completed the evaluation, made the report to the Nevada State Board of Regents. As I was preparing to leave, they thanked me and handed me a check as a payment for my services. It was an amazing amount of money for doing what I thought just to be a favor for them. They then asked me to go to Reno and evaluate the president of the University of Nevada at Reno. That was followed by Clark County Community College and then Northern Nevada Community College. Interestingly enough, the payments offered in those opportunities, were exactly what we needed to keep those two missionaries in the field. When our daughter returned home, the invitations to evaluate college and university presidents ceased.

Do you think I have a testimony of the law of tithing? I believe it was a direct result of our having determined early that we would faithfully pay our tithes and offerings. President Hinckley has said that the law of tithing is not a matter of finance; it is a matter of faith. It’s not that the Church needs our tithing. It’s that you and I need to live that law to be partners with the Lord in building His kingdom. So I encourage you to always be faithful in living that law, no matter what the sacrifice may be. And the blessings will flow. Yes, they may be temporal blessings. They may be financial blessings, as they were in that specific incident I shared with you. But more importantly, living the law of tithing brings spiritual blessings.

The Lord’s eyes are upon each of you, and He expects you to have lofty ideals. This includes your own personal worthiness. Many of you have already been through the temple and will have temple recommends. Never let a time go that you do not have a current temple recommend, and most importantly, that you be fully worthy of it. You who have not yet been through the temple should live by that same standard of worthiness.

Several years ago, I was sitting in a meeting at my work. The secretary brought a note in to me which read, “Elder Bruce R. McConkie is on the phone.” Now, most of you are too young to have known Elder Bruce R. McConkie, but he was a very powerful member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, a very strong personality. With that note, of course, I left my meeting and took the telephone call. It was very interesting. Without any preliminary comment, he said, “Brother Kerr, this is Bruce R. McConkie.” He had my absolute attention. He then said, “Brother Kerr, do you have a current temple recommend.” I said, “Yes, sir.” Then his next question was, “Are you worthy of it?” What a relief it was to be able to say, “Yes, sir!” Then he asked, “What is your current calling in the Church?” I responded, “I have the best calling in the Church. I’m teaching the 16 and 17 year-olds in Sunday School. There was a long pause, and he said, “Yes, that probably is the best calling in the Church, but it’s over.” And then over the telephone, which is not the usual manner in which these things happen, he proceeded to call me to be a stake president. Well, the point of my recounting this for you is that you grasp the importance of his questions: “Do you have a current temple recommend?” And, “Are you worthy of it?” That is speaking to the principle of “lofty ideals.” If you don’t know what the requirements of a temple recommend are, go to your bishop and ask him to review those requirements for you. Do it knowing that the Lord’s eyes are upon you.

Now, finally, let’s talk about your needing to have a deep and abiding testimony of the gospel. The unique message of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is that the gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored to the earth in its fulness. God is again speaking to living prophets of God through the marvelous process of revelation. Joseph Smith, the prophet of the Restoration, is the one through whom God the Father and Jesus Christ brought about this great restoration and commenced the dispensation of the fulness of times. How blessed we are—don’t let that ever pass you by—how blessed we are to be members of the Church and to be partakers of this marvelous privilege of being a part of this great and eternal plan.

This is not just another church; this church is the gospel of Jesus Christ restored to the earth in its fulness. One piece of the deep and abiding testimony that all of us must have is a testimony of the Prophet Joseph and of his prophetic role in the restoration of the gospel. The second piece is the most important of all, and this is where I want to conclude: The Savior Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice. Come unto Him. His eyes are upon us. He is the Son of God. He is the Messiah. He is the Savior of the world. He is our advocate with the Father. His life and mission are unique. Nothing else compares in importance to this in all time. It is helpful at times to stop and think about His life and His mission. At times music can help us in that pondering, in that worship, in that reflection.
I’d like to invite my eternal companion—my sweetheart—to step to the piano and play a medley that will reflect on the life and mission of the Savior. See if you can identify the hymns, but more importantly identify the message behind those hymns as it relates to the life and mission of the Savior.

[Medley of hymns played by Sister Janeil Kerr]

Did you recognize the hymns? God Loved Us So He Sent His Son, I Stand All Amazed, He Is Risen, I Know that My Redeemer Lives, This Is the Christ, and then finally, I Wonder When He Comes Again, Will I Be Ready There. The Lord’s eyes are upon you. He has high expectations of you. Among those expectations are that you have lofty ideals and that you have deep and abiding testimonies of the gospel.

I leave with you my testimony, that this is the work of the Lord, that that which I said earlier is absolutely true regarding the Restoration. But most importantly I want to leave with you my witness of the divinity of the Savior, of the beauty and majesty of His mission, of the reality of His resurrection, and of the absolute certainty that He will come again. And I pray that each and every one of us—most especially, I pray that each and every one of you—will be ready then. And I leave this with you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.



Our Relationship and Responsibility to Government

19 Sep. 2007


Our Relationship and Responsibility to Government

I’m delighted to be here. I should tell you all that I was concerned that nobody would come. When I was a newly called stake president, I was asked to speak to the young single adults in our stake. It is my recollection that only three or four people showed up, and that included me and the people who organized the event. Had I known that there was going to be a choir bringing at least 40 or 50 of you, I would have slept much better last night. I would not have worried at all. Although had only three or four of you showed up, we would conduct this discussion in a small circle, and it would be a little bit more like a symposia than a lecture, which we’ll do our best to keep it from being that.

I am honored and humbled to be asked to speak to you. I am cognizant of the investment of time that each of you make in coming. And frankly, of the leap of faith that you’ve made by simply reading my name on a poster and coming, or perhaps for some of you, it’s an even greater leap of faith because you had no idea who was speaking. You just figured it was better than sitting alone on the quad someplace.

I appreciate the prayer that was offered, and it is my prayer and I hope yours, that your time investment will be well paid. Particularly I appreciate the line in the prayer that it is hoped, and we seek divine help that you may understand what I have to say. I equally hope that I will understand what I have to say. And if that happens, we will, all of us, will be in good shape.

I’m going to start by inviting some audience participation. This is school; that means you come to class. You thought you were going to just get away with sitting here and not being involved. Such is not the case. Who will stand and recite for us the Twelfth Article of Faith?

I will give you a hint—it begins, “We believe….” All right, we have a volunteer back here. Please.

“We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.” (Articles of Faith 1:12)
There is somebody who either graduated from Primary or is a Primary president. That is exactly correct.” We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.”

As was indicated in the beginning, this week is the week in which the Business College spends time considering the United States Constitution. September 17th of each year, or this past Monday, has been designated as Constitution Day in the United States. This year marks the 220th anniversary of the date upon which the proposed Constitution was signed by the delegates to the Constitutional Convention. And the proposed document was then submitted to the various state legislatures for approval.

Approximately nine months later, the ninth state approved it, and the Constitution became valid and binding. In February of 1789, or almost 15 or 16 months after the Constitution was signed, the first presidential election was held. And on April 6th of 1789, George Washington was sworn in as the first president for the United States. I want you to keep all of that in mind for just a minute as I tell you a story.

A few weeks ago, a member of my ward came to the bishop’s office to discuss a matter of great concern to her. She’s married to a man from Logan, Utah, but her home land is not the United States. She comes from a country which has a totalitarian form of government. For those of you who are not political science majors, a totalitarian form of government means that all of the power is centralized into a single person—a dictator, or perhaps a king—or into a small group of people, such as the Politburo, who used to govern the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, when it existed. Totalitarian governments have virtually total control over their inhabitants. This member of my ward expressed significant concerns for the physical safety of her parents, who reside in her home country. They are opposed to the government of that country. She was also very concerned that her membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints might in some way cause problems for her parents, even though they are not members of our Church.

So, against the backdrop of Constitution Day and the visit of this member of my ward, today I will speak to the topic of government, and our relationship, as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to governments.

I realize that some of you who attend here at the Business College are not residents of—well, you’re all residents, now—but you’re not citizens of the United States. While my examples today will be drawn from U.S. history, and we will make reference to the U.S. Constitution, I believe my message will have applicability regardless of your home country. I probably should say, therefore, because it will apply to everybody, we’ll have a test when we’re done. We’ll grade the test and decide whether or not you get credit for being in attendance today. However, my wife reminds me that I have to be nice, and so we won’t do a test.

We’ve recited and had quoted the Twelfth Article of Faith. It is significant to me that Joseph Smith wrote those words, “We believe in…obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law” three years after he spent the winter of 1838-1839 in two different jails, condemned to death. While in the second of those jails, interestingly enough named “Liberty Jail,” he wrote these words, taken from the 121st section of the Doctrine and Covenants:

“O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?
“How long shall thy hand be stayed, and thine eye, yea thy pure eye, behold from the eternal heavens the wrongs of thy people and of thy servants, and thine ear be penetrated with their cries?
“Yea, O Lord, how long shall they suffer these wrongs and unlawful oppressions, before thine heart shall be softened toward them, and thy bowels be moved with compassion toward them?
“O Lord God Almighty, maker of heaven, earth, and seas, and of all things that in them are, and who controllest and subjectest the devil, and the dark and benighted dominion of Sheol—stretch forth thy hand; let thine eye pierce; let thy pavilion be taken up; let thy hiding place no longer be covered; let thine ear be inclined, let thine heart be softened, and thy bowels moved with compassion toward us.
“Let thine anger be kindled against our enemies; and, in the fury of thine heart, with thy sword avenge us of our wrongs”
(vv. 1-5).

The wrongs and oppressions to which Joseph was referencing when he wrote these words included not only his own sufferings—for having been in prison in horrible conditions for months in the winter, in a cold, unheated, subterranean prison cell—they included mobbings, lootings, burning of the homes of the members of the Church, destruction of household goods, slaughter of livestock, even rape and assault. And then, the Saints literally were driven from their homes in the Missouri winter, that they might walk across hundreds of miles of prairie, seeking refuge in Illinois. These wrongs and oppressions were the result, at least in part, of the official acts of the government of the State of Missouri. And yet, three years later, Joseph wrote: “We believe in … obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.”

Surely you might ask, when Joseph wrote the 12th Articles of Faith, he did not mean we believe in sustaining the government that put him in Liberty Jail. Surely he could not have meant that we sustain a government such as the one feared by my ward member, which would imprison its citizens simply because they resisted or disagreed with the official opinion of the rulers.

“Yes,” I believe he would say, “We must.”

The Doctrine and Covenants speaks of the United States Constitution as “established [by God]…by the hands of wise men…raised up unto this very purpose” (D&C 101:80). J. Rueben Clark, formerly a counselor in the First Presidency of the Church, said: “The Constitution of the United States is a great and treasured part of my religion, and the revelations of the Lord and the words of our inspired leaders compel it to be so” (Stand Fast By Our Constitution, 1978, Deseret Book, p. 7).

Now it is, I think, significant that this does not mean, notwithstanding the Lord’s assertions and not withstanding the fact that the Constitution may well be the right form of government for the United States at this time, it does not mean that it is the only true government. In fact, the Book of Mormon’s King Mosiah told his people that if they could always have “just men to be your kings, who would establish the laws of God, and judge this people according to his commandments…then it would be expedient that ye should always have kings to rule over you” (Mosiah 29:13).

Those of you who are Book of Mormon scholars will recall that, because such could not be the case, Mosiah then suggested that they establish an elected and representative system of government among the Nephites. 

Well, what does this tell us, then, about government, about law and about the form of government? On August 17, 1835, before Joseph went to Liberty Jail, before the Articles of Faith were written, a general assembly of the fledgling new Church adopted a declaration of belief regarding governments and laws. The occasion of the assembly was to consider the proposed publication and contents of the first edition of the Book of Commandments—we know it today as the Doctrine and Covenants. This declaration of belief was adopted to be the concluding statement of the soon to be published volume. We know it today as section 134.

The preamble, or the introductory section, to 134 reads: “That our belief with regard to earthly governments and laws in general may not be misinterpreted nor misunderstood, we have thought proper to present at the close of this volume our opinion concerning the same.” This declaration has been reprinted over and over, with the approval of the leadership of the Church, and has been adopted as scripture. 

Let us consider what it has to say. The first sentence of Section 134 may be deemed to be the topic sentence for the entire section: “We believe that governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man; and that he holds men accountable for their acts in relation to them, both in making laws and administering them, for the good and safety of society.”

The key statement in that sentence is: “governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man.” That’s the whole reason that government exists. It is not for the benefit of the leader, or to amass wealth, or to gain or accumulate power. It is for the benefit of man.

The preamble to the United States Constitution captures the feelings of its authors regarding the benefits they thought would flow from the new government they were creating: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

The benefits sought by the framers of the Constitution were:

  • Justice
  • Domestic tranquility. (for those of you who don’t know, that means peace at home, domestic, meaning here at home.
  • Common defense
  • General welfare, and
  • The blessings of liberty.

Certainly these are appropriate reasons for people to band together and organize a government. Government ought to establish justice. It ought to insure that its citizens live in peace and tranquility. The blessings of liberty allow citizens, within the framework of domestic tranquility—getting along with each other—and general welfare, to live as they see fit.

Now, returning to the second sentence of 134. It builds upon the notion that governments were instituted for the benefit of mankind:
“We believe,” these early leaders in the Church wrote, “that no government can exist in peace, except such laws are framed and held inviolate as will secure to each individual the free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and the protection of life” (v. 2).

Herein, in this single sentence, are identified three objectives which a government must advance in order to exist in peace:

  • The free exercise of conscience
  • The right and control of property
  • The protection of life

Notice that first on this list of objectives is the preservation of the free exercise of conscience or preservation of the right to choose, or preservation of, as you might know it, free agency—or, as we will see elsewhere in the revelations, moral agency.

In a revelation received by Joseph Smith August 6, 1833, two years in advance of this section that we’ve just been looking at—so, two years before section 134 was written, the Lord gave Joseph Smith section 98 of the Doctrine and Covenants. In this, the Lord said:
“And now, verily I say unto you concerning the laws of the land, it is my will that my people should observe to do all things whatsoever I command them.
“And that law of the land which is constitutional, supporting that principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges, belongs to all mankind, and is justifiable before me.
“Therefore, I, the Lord, justify you, and your brethren of my church, in befriending that law which is the constitutional law of the land;
“And as pertaining to law of man, whatsoever is more or less than this, cometh of evil.
“I, the Lord…make you free, therefore ye are free indeed; and the law also maketh you free.
“Nevertheless, when the wicked rule the people mourn”
(vv. 4-9).

I believe that words mean things, especially when those words come from Heavenly Father. We ought to pay attention to them, and so, let us consider carefully the words of this revelation.

Let’s go back to the first verse. Notice how the Lord introduces the topic of what he’s going to talk about. Concerning the laws of the land, He is going to tell us—“I’m going to give you instruction concerning the laws of the land.” In the next phrase, He tells us, “It is my will that my people should observe to do all things whatsoever I command them.” 

Do you make that connection? A discussion of law must be built upon an understanding of God’s overriding desire. His desire is, in the language of the revelation, His “will” that His children observe to be obedient to his commandments. The very reason for the creation of the earth was to “prove [God’s children]… to see if they [would] do all things whatsoever the Lord their God” commanded them (Abraham 3:25).

Knowing that God’s will, namely that His children choose to be obedient to His commandments, means we possess a key to discern when the laws of man are acceptable to God: “And that law of the land which is constitutional, supporting that principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges, belongs to all mankind, and is justifiable before me” (D&C 98:5).

If you back that sentence up, take it apart a little bit, law is justifiable before God when it supports the “principle of freedom” that He has just elucidated in the prior sentence—the principle that “my people should observe to do all things whatsoever I command them.” Law which enables and facilitates people in choosing to keep the commandments is justifiable before God.

A few months after receiving this section, but again still before the declaration on belief was written by Joseph and the early leaders, Joseph inquired of the Lord how to respond to some of the early mobbings and loss of property and physical privations that the Saints were suffering in Missouri. He had not yet been to Liberty Jail, but still problems had arisen. And so he enquired of the Lord. He was told this:

“It is my will that they”—the Saints—“should continue to importune for redress, and redemption, by the hands of those who are placed as rulers and are in authority over you—
“According to the laws and constitution of the people, which I have suffered to be established, and should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh, according to just and holy principles;
“That every man may act in doctrine and principle….according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment”
(D&C 101:76-78).

God directed that the Saints follow established legal principles, identified here: “According to the laws and constitution of the people,” which He, God, had “suffered to be established…and maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh.”

Now, the question I pose then is, for what purpose, identified in this revelation, were the laws and constitution established and maintained? Why did they come? It was protection of what? And the key is in the next verse:

“That every man may act in doctrine and principle…according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment.” 

The whole reason for the existence of government, for the establishment of the U.S. Constitution, for the creation of any other government elsewhere in the world, is to create a place, a system, a society in which men and women may act in doctrine and principle according to agency.

Revelations tell us of the consequences which follow when this principle is violated: “As pertaining to the laws of man, whatsoever is more or less than this”—meaning any law of man which hinders or prohibits God’s children from exercising their agency, their moral agency and choosing to be obedient—“cometh of evil.”

I note, interestingly, that two weeks ago in this same venue, President Woodhouse introduced you to the LDS Business College Six Cultural Beliefs. One of those beliefs states: “Be Accountable—I take responsibility for my obligations as a student.” This cultural belief is a direct reflection of the principle which underlies God’s will concerning governments. As you adopt and implement this Cultural Belief, as well as the other five, you will be conforming your life to the very standard established by Heavenly Father—indeed, the very reason he would even create governments. We just want you to know that we pay attention to what happens here in the Trustees, and you do also. We probably ought to give you a test on the six Cultural Beliefs; it’s been two weeks since they were introduced.

Well, let’s return to section 134. I told you there wouldn’t be a test, and I can’t go back on that at all. Continuing the language of this declaration on beliefs:
“We believe that all men are bound to sustain and uphold the respective governments in which they reside, while protected in their inherent and inalienable rights by the laws of such governments; and that sedition and rebellion are unbecoming every citizen thus protected….and that all governments have a right to enact such laws as in their own judgments are best calculated to secure the public interest; at the same time, however, holding sacred the freedom of conscience.

“We believe that every man should be honored in his station, rulers and magistrates as such, being placed for the protection of the innocent and the punishment of the guilty; and that to the laws all men show respect and deference, as without them peace and harmony would be supplanted by anarchy and terror; human laws being instituted for the express purpose of regulating our interests as individuals and nations, between man and man; and divine laws given of heaven, prescribing rules on spiritual concerns, for faith and worship, both to be answered by man to his Maker.” (D&C 134:5-7, emphasis added)
We are, in the United States right now, in an election cycle. There is much press coverage of the campaign among those who would be the next president of the United States. Mayoral campaign elections are underway here in Salt Lake City. Elections may be occurring elsewhere in the world. The United States Congress is in session, and in January, the Utah State Legislature will again convene.

Some of you have the opportunity to participate in these elections. Each of us should be concerned with the actions of our government in the laws that are enacted. The principles we’ve extracted from the scriptures give some guidance in how we might respond to the political process, whatever may be our country of origin, or our home country. 

Candidates for public office may be judged on how their positions will advance fundamental principles of liberty, namely that the people have the right and obligation to exercise moral agency, that citizens should be secure in their property, and that life should be protected. Laws proposed by or enacted by governments should be subjected to this same test. Ask yourself these questions: Will the law inhibit my ability to exercise moral agency? Will the law enable me to be secure in my property? Does the law provide for or enhance the safety and security of me and my family, or protect our lives?

There are many well meaning people, including government officials, who want to enact laws to make sure that we do good things. But if the government controls and dictates my decisions, how can I exercise my agency? If my choices are mandated by others, how am I accountable before God for those choices? God’s plan is built on the foundation that I have the inalienable right and obligation to choose, even if I may make the wrong choice. Remember, Stan was condemned and cast out of heaven because he “sought to destroy the agency of man” (Moses 4:3).

Any government law or regulation which has the effect of forcing behavior by its people, even if that behavior might be desirable, is operating contrary to God’s express direction that His children are to act according to the moral agency which He has given them. Government ought not be a tool to compel people to be righteous.

At the other end of the spectrum are those who advocate that government has no right to make any laws regulating behavior, except for those laws which prohibit injury to others. Consequently, many legal prohibitions which for centuries have governed the behaviors of people are being challenged and removed. Under this argument, there should be no prohibition against pornography, adultery, same gender sexual relationships, abortion, harmful substances such as drugs, alcohol, etc. Proponents of these positions assert that because they have the right to choose, the government has no right to regulate so-called private behavior.

This argument, like the one made by those who would use government to compel righteousness, has the effect of destroying agency, not enhancing it.
In speaking to his son Corianton, Alma, the Book of Mormon prophet, said: “If there was no law given against sin men would not be afraid to sin.

“And if there was no law given, if men sinned what could justice do, or mercy either, for they would have no claim upon the creature?
“But there is a law given, and a punishment affixed, and a repentance granted; which repentance, mercy claimeth; otherwise, justice claimeth the creature and executeth the law, and the law inflicteth the punishment; if not so, the works of justice would be destroyed, and God would cease to be God”
(Alma 42:20-22).

Another Book of Mormon father explained the principle to his sons in similar fashion:

“And if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin. If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery. And if these things are not there is no God….
“And now, my sons…there is a God, and he hath created all things, both the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are, both things to act and things to be acted upon.
“And to bring about his eternal purposes in the end of man…it must needs be that there was an opposition; even the forbidden fruit in opposition to the tree of life….
“Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other”
(2 Nephi 2:13-16).

In order for you and I to be able to act for ourselves, meaning to exercise moral agency, there must be a law and a real opportunity to choose to obey that law or not to comply with it. The elimination of all rules, laws, or commandments prohibits such an opportunity, and therefore, destroys agency. The elimination of choice by eliminating prohibitions is as pernicious as the imposition of forced behavior. These two extremes are opposite sides of the same coin. Both courses have the result of destroying moral agency.

Both Lehi and Alma point out that the existence of law is necessary for God’s plan of mercy and redemption. Those laws may either be the laws of man or they may be the laws of God. Returning to the 134th section of the Doctrine and Covenants: “Human laws are instituted for the express purpose of regulating our interests as individuals and nations, between man and man; and divine laws given of heaven, prescribing rules on spiritual concerns, for faith and worship, both to be answered by man to his Maker” (v. 6).

Not surprisingly, God has resolved any conflict we might feel between the laws of man and the laws of God: “Let no man break the laws of the land, for he that keepeth the laws of God hath no need to break the laws of the land” (D&C 58:21).

Human laws regulate both our person-to-person interactions and teach us the principles and behaviors which society values. Consider, for example, the laws regarding the marital relationships. The fundamental foundation for the legal codes in this country, as well as many other countries, particularly those in the western world, is the Ten Commandments. Two of the commandments are appropriate for our discussion: “Honour thy father and thy mother…” and “Thou shalt not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:12, 14). For generations, ordered society has made the determination that stable families, consisting of father, mother and children, are the desirable and fundamental unit of society. Legal rewards and benefits have been developed to foster and strengthen families.

Relationships which undermined this basic unit of society were condemned by law. Significantly, the rewards and benefits which society has developed and has given the force of law are consistent with divinely inspired directives, particularly those embodied in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” issued by the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles. 

Society’s concerns about families and the development of children give legitimacy to the right of government to regulate and support certain behaviors which comprise the marital relationship. These laws govern our relationships as people. Such laws are not inconsistent with the notions of moral agency. Rather, these efforts strengthen agency by enticing people to do good. Similar discussion might be had for other areas of the law. I use this one only by example.

We began today by noting that Monday was Constitution Day. Let me conclude with a few words regarding the Constitution and governments in general. These words are from the Dedicatory Prayer from the Kirtland Temple:

“Have mercy, O Lord, upon all the nations of the earth; have mercy upon the rulers of our land; may those principles, which were so honorably and nobly defended, namely, the Constitution of our land, by our fathers, be established forever” (D&C 109:54).

May each of us strive to the best of our abilities to support and uphold those governments which defend the honorably and nobly established principle of agency, so that each of us may be accountable for our choices is my prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.



Ye Must Build a Firm Foundation

26 Sep. 2007


Ye Must Build a Firm Foundation

Brother Walker:
We’re really thrilled to be here with you today, brothers and sisters.  We have looked forward to this.  And most of what Marki has said is very accurate.  There are a couple of things that my wife would always like to add, and I would also.  And we might even chat about that for a moment today.  But we’re thrilled to be here.  We just left the temple—we’ve been there since 4:30 this morning, so if we look a little bleary-eyed, you’ll understand.  We also brought with us our granddaughter, Brinly Boyce, sitting here on the front row.  Raise your hand, Brin.  Get acquainted with her.  We’ve told her this is where she needs to be.  So you can maybe help convince her of that.
You know, today, as we look out at this group, we really look at you with great wonder.  You stand on the brink of life—a life full of opportunity, hard work, but much joy.  The world is truly your oyster, as the saying goes.  Without question, your lives are going to be filled with remarkable things, wondrous things in scientific developments, advancements, technologies, in marriage, in family, careers and church service.  I have to tell you, there’s hardly a week that goes by in my experience right now, that I don’t stand at the sacred altar of the temple and pronounce a marriage ceremony or sealing for a couple.  And as I pronounce those beautiful, eternal blessings, I almost always tell them, “I wish that I could promise you today that your life will be happy ever after, no problems, no challenges, no heartaches.  But I can’t.”  Because you know that’s what life is made of.  That’s how we develop, that’s how we are refined, is through those challenges.  But I can always promise them that if they will build a foundation, and build the foundation in their life, they will have happiness.  They will have the strength, they will have the ability to endure all trials that come in their way.
Now, I’d like to refer this to you by reading a scripture, and all of you are familiar with it.  You remember in the Book of Helaman, the 5th chapter and the 12th verse—very common, but it was the words of Helaman, taught to his son when he said, “And now my sons, remember, remember.”  Now, there’s only five places in the scriptures that it says, “Remember, remember.”  Why, do you suppose?  Pay attention.  Right?  “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”—now, you notice he doesn’t say if the devil shall send for his mighty winds, he says when—“[he] shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind…when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to…endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they can not fall.”
You, right now, are deciding on a daily basis what your foundation is.  You can’t escape it.  And the stronger your foundation is, the happier your life will be.  Now today, we’re going to share with you a bit of our own life story.  We’re going to get just a little bit personal.  And we hope that you will take from it the understanding that it is absolutely imperative to look at yourself and build your foundation now.  Because when the winds blow and the storms beat upon you, there will be no time to build a foundation.  And if it hasn’t been built properly and strong, it will be too late.
Sister Walker:
You know, I look at you today.  I look clear down here at you, and I just know you come from all kinds of homes, from all kinds of backgrounds, from all kinds of situations.  Some of them have been happy; some of them have been less than happy.  But whatever they are, they’re yours.  And regardless of those circumstances, you have the opportunity to build your life in the way you want, and prepare yourself for the future.
I think I was one of the really blessed individuals in that I grew up in a happy home.  Not a perfect home.  You know, we had the same little squabbles about doing our chores.  We hated taking out the garbage and weeding the garden and canning the peaches, and all the things that we were required to do.  But by and large, it was happy.  We had a mother and father who loved each other and loved the Lord and who loved us.  And I think those three elements made us feel very secure. 
When we were growing up, our father worked at the Church Office Building.  He was sort of the lackey.  You know, he dubbed himself “The Slave.”  He just did all the grunt work.  The Church Office Building was very small at that time, and few in numbers, and he would come home at night and tell us about the wonderful brethren that he worked with.  And he spoke in such reverence for these wonderful, kind men that we grew up thinking they lived in a different world.  We were the little farm kids out in East Millcreek, and they were the Brethren who did everything perfectly.  And I’ll have to tell you that never once, not even for a second, did it ever occur to us that someday he would grow up to be the president of the Church.  In fact, we would have laughed somebody right out of the field if they’d even made such a suggestion.
In fact, when he was called as a general authority, we didn’t hear as a family, until everyone else in the Church heard it.  We heard it across the pulpit in General Conference.  And we were so dumfounded we were certain they had made a big mistake.  When we got home that night, we were just sitting around the table and my sister said, “Well, Dad, all I can say is that I guess the Lord just has to work with what he’s got.”  And that was really the way we felt about it. 
I mean, here was this man who took the irrigation water at four o’clock on Monday mornings.  Surely “the Brethren” don’t do that.  And he was the man who would put on the nail apron at night and pound a few nails before he’d go off to his stake meetings.  He was just our dad, and he felt pretty common and ordinary to us.  But that, I think, that change came not only as a surprise, but as a testimony that the Lord does, in fact, work with what he’s got.  And you and I are what he’s got.  And he will work with us and school us and help us and teach us if we will do exactly what he did, which was just commit his life to the Lord, doing whatever he was asked to do in the best way he knew how to do it.
Brother Walker:
You know, I’d like to say that I had the same kind of experience, and I was born of goodly parents, but how differently.  When I was three days short of being one year old, my father died.  He was age 32 at the time, with four little children.   My mother never remarried.  She died several years ago at age 94, never having remarried, and I idolized her—all that she did to literally drag us up.  But you know, the effect of that in my life I will never forget.  Because when my dad died, and as soon as I got to really understand what had happened, I thought, “How could Heavenly Father love me, and take away my father?”  And I remember so many times sitting at home, and once a year when everyone goes to Fathers and Sons outings, I can remember sitting on my front porch and watching all my friends go with their dads and go on Fathers and Sons outings.  I never went and was never invited.  And I really developed some anger and a chip on my shoulder.  I just thought I was picked on.  I had regular pity parties, and really thought that the Lord really must not love me. 
I fortunately had a friend, an older man that lived in the ward, and I have to tell you, he was a colonel in the military.  He taught me to raise pigeons, and got me started in it.  I would be over at his pigeon coop many times during the year.  He would teach me about pigeons.  And one day, as we were standing there talking, he looked at me and he said, “Richard, I look at you and sometimes I’d just like to kick your rear end right up around your neck.”
I was stunned, and I said, “Why would you say that?”
And he said, “Because I’ve watched you, and you have a huge chip on your shoulder.  You think the Lord has done you in, and you have a resentment there that is going to limit your life, and what you can achieve.  You need to get it off; you need to find out that the Lord loves you, and that you have the potential to be whatever you put your mind to.  But you’ve got to get rid of that.”
I remember leaving that pigeon coop that day with tears streaming down my face, and I thought I’d been deserted by the only friend that I had outside of my family.  I went home and, of course, was alone.  Mom was working and the kids were at school.  I went downstairs, into my room, and I sat there and cried for about two hours, thinking how wrong he had been to me.  But the longer I stayed, the more I knew he was exactly right.  I did have…I knew that that was the case.  And I decided that day that I was going to get rid of it.  I can’t tell you it happened quickly, because it took some real time and some real effort.  But I got rid of it.
I can remember a great event in my life, just a few years later.  This dear mother of mine kept insisting to me that I go get a patriarchal blessing.  Now I hate to tell you what my view of patriarchal blessings was at the time.  I thought patriarchs were little old men who had reached the stage in life they had no other callings, and so they made them a patriarch.  And I thought they probably had two or three blessings memorized, and when you would walk in, they would just look at you, ask you a few questions, and then they’d give you blessing A or blessing B.
Well, to my shock, I agreed to go and I went in and sat down.  And everything was right.  He was a little old man I’d never seen before.  Everything was right.  But I didn’t know, and learned later, it was her [Sister Walker’s?] grandfather.  I sat down that day, and he, after asking me about two or three minutes’ worth of questions, laid his hands on my head and gave me a blessing that absolutely stunned me.  Because he told me things about myself that I knew no human being knew about me.  And I left his place, again, a stunned person, just thinking of the things he said to me. 
Now, I overlooked several things it said in there, because just a couple of years later came the time for me to have a visit with the bishop about serving a mission.  And I’d decided with my friend—we were both going into engineering at the university together—decided that was more important to get that.  Then it wasn’t “every worthy young man” to serve a mission, it was “if you can, that’s great.”  So we had decided that we weren’t going to go on a mission, and we would complete our college.  And I had the answer “No” ready for my bishop. I figured every way he’d approach me—how he’d say things, and how I could get him to know that it’s not right.  And he threw a curve at me.  Instead of asking me how I felt about it, he said, “Richard, your Heavenly Father wants you to serve a mission.  Will you?”
I said, “Yes!”  I walked out the door and thought, “What have I done?”  I went home and got out my patriarchal blessing.  And there, to my shock, it said, “You will serve a full-time mission for the Lord.  And he will fit and qualify you and prepare you if you’ll keep your life worthy and clean.”  I served that mission, and I can tell you, it changed my entire life.  My life will never be the same because of what I learned, and the testimony that I gained and the witness of the Spirit.  All I can tell you is that mission placed a huge foundation in my life.
Sister Walker:
Well, I can tell you, my adolescence was not that dramatic.  Thank goodness.  I had some basic goals when I was going through adolescence.  I wanted to grow up and go to college and marry a returned missionary and have children, raise a family and live happily ever after—which I was sure you would, if you were good, if you were just basically good. 
Brother Walker:
And you were good.
Sister Walker:
Well, I was trying to be good.  And so pretty much, that’s the way things happened in my life.  We were married, we had five children, I graduated from the university, and things were pretty happy.  And then, as has been mentioned, right soon after our number five child had been married and we were looking toward retirement and planning to serve a mission and do all these things that you do after you’re through earning a living, my husband got up one morning and got ready to go to work, and two hours later he was gone.  There was absolutely no…
Brother Walker:
Not just gone to work.
Sister Walker:
I don’t mean gone to work, I mean gone.  I remember coming home from the hospital that day and standing in my family room and just saying over and over, “I am a widow.”  I didn’t remember ever once, when I was making those life plans, saying, “And I hope someday I will be a widow.”  That never occurred to me.  I knew widows, but I wasn’t one.  And there were some really powerful things that happened in those hours and weeks and days that followed. 
For one thing, that is a moment in your life when it’s too late to prepare.  And you discover very quickly whether you’ve got that foundation in place.  I found that, when I went there, it was there.  I had this wonderful peace that the Lord loved me, that this was part of my plan, that He knew what was happening, and that there was still a lot for me to do.  I didn’t know what it would be.  In fact, I said to somebody one day, “I know I will have a third life.  I don’t know what it will be.  But I hope it’s not too hard.”
In fact, when they sang this song today, “Heavenly Father, are you really there?”  I used to sing that, every morning in the shower and then in the car.  I used to sing it over and over, “Heavenly Father, are you really there?  Do you hear and answer every child’s prayer?”  And every time, the Spirit confirmed to me that He was there, that He loved me and that there was a plan for me.
Brother Walker:
I had kind of a very similar experience.  Hopefully, you can see us coming together.  I had spent 35 years sitting on the stand as a bishop and as a stake president, and then three years as a mission president.  I came home in 2001 and thought we were finally at the time in our lives where I could be with the family, spend time with our grandchildren, do some traveling and so forth, and about a year and a half after we got home, my wife suddenly one day had a brain hemorrhage.  No warning whatsoever.  She had never hardly been sick a day in her life.  And a day and a half later, she was dead.
I can tell you I was devastated.  I got out my patriarchal blessing as soon as I could read, after everything was over with, and I asked myself, “Why?  Why is the Lord letting this happen to me?  Why is this happening?”  I thought I was trying to serve in every way that I could, and doing what I was supposed to do.  And all of a sudden, I read my patriarchal blessing and it had many things I had left to do in life.  And I said, “I can’t do them.  I can’t do them as a single man, and it’s for sure I’m not going to date or find another woman.”  I felt that would be violating my covenants.
Well, to make a long story short, my world just kind of crashed.  I spent a lot of nights walking the floor and searching.  At the next conference, one of my family members got me a ticket to General Conference.  I was sitting down front—in fact, I was sitting probably right close to you [Sister Walker], and you never noticed me.
Sister Walker:
Oh, you didn’t notice me.
Brother Walker:
No, I didn’t.  Anyway, as I sat there in the audience, I looked up and I saw Elder Richard Scott sitting on the stand.  I had known him before as a stake president, and had some dealings with him.  I knew he had lost his wife about seven years before, and I thought, “I need to go talk to him.”  Then I thought, “Who do I think I am, that I can go talk to one of the Twelve to comfort me?”  I said, “Get it out of your mind.  Forget it.  Get rid of it.”  But it wouldn’t go. It stayed and stayed, and so Monday morning I called Elder Scott’s office.  I told his secretary who I was and told her I would like to talk to him.
She laughed.  And I thought, “For rude.”  She said, “Just a minute.  Let me go talk to Elder Scott.”  So she did, and she came back on the phone and said, “If you’ll come in tomorrow at one o’clock, he’d love to meet with you.” 
So I did.  He was so loving and kind, and put his arms around me and embraced me.  He said, “Your problem is, you’re asking all the wrong questions now.” 
Sister Walker:
Tell them why he laughed.
Brother Walker: 
Well, he laughed.  He laughed because…well, in fact he said, “You probably want to know, first of all, why my secretary laughed yesterday when you called.”
I said, “I would.”  (I thought it was kind of rude.)
And he said, “Well, about ten minutes before you called her, I had gone out to her desk and told her to call you and make an appointment for you to come in.  I had seen you in conference the day before and had the prompting that we needed to talk.”  Then he said to me, “I know all of the questions that you’ve been asking.  ‘Why me?  Am I being punished?  Have I not served well?’  I asked them all myself.”  And he said, “The time’s over to ask those.  You’re not going to know the answers in this life.”  He said, “Go back home and get on your knees and pray for peace, and I promise you that when it comes, it will come in such a powerful way that you will have no questions.  You have much left to do in life, and you need to move forward.”
And I did.  It didn’t happen overnight, but when it came, I’ll tell you, I felt like I had been enveloped in the arms of the Savior.  I felt this wonderful, warm feeling that overwhelmed me.  I knew beyond question that, had I not had my foundation in place, that experience would have taken me down totally.  It would have destroyed me, because of the feelings I was thinking in my mind.  But when that peace came, I can tell you my testimony never wavered at that time, but it could have if I had stayed in the spot where I was.  And when I received that sweet witness of the Spirit, I knew I had to go forward.
Sister Walker:
And then came the really hard part.  Because, in the meantime, I got it figured out.  I was happy; I had adjusted to being alone.  It was kind of nice.  It was the first time in my life I’d ever had my own bedroom.  You know, I thought that was kind of a plus.  I could go to the grocery store and I could buy a can of sauerkraut and eat it all by myself if I wanted.  You know, there was some freedom that came with just being alone.  And I was adjusting.  I had great children and wonderful friends, and was doing interesting things, and I just thought I’d arrived.  I thought, “I can do this.  I can do this.  This must be what the Lord has in mind for me.”
And then his [President Walker’s] daughter approached me.  I remember when she sat in my family room and said to me, “Would you go out with my father?”  I remember distinctly thinking, “Don’t show it on your face.  Just smile and be lovely.”  And I did say to her, “You know, I’m really not interested.”  From my point of view it was like, “Please don’t complicate my life in this way.  I’m settled and I’m okay, and I’m not a desperate woman.”
But there was always in the back of my mind, through all of this time, this little nagging that said to me, “Don’t stand in the way of the Lord and His plan for you.”  And that just kept coming to me.  You know, I don’t want to do this.  I don’t want to go out with him.  I did do a big background check on him.  You know, I wasn’t going to waste an evening.  Of course, it was a free dinner, but… (Audience laughter).
I think the important thing that I learned through that was: Let the Lord work in your life.  And we put so many obstacles up—my own fear, my own reluctance to sort of step out of my comfort zone, my knowing what was best for me instead of letting the Lord do what was best for me.  And so, with that thought ever present in my mind, I am now here.  I just think, had I not listened to the Spirit, and allowed the Lord to work in my life, think what I would have missed.
I think through all of our dark days, I think the Lord was probably just smiling and saying, “Just hang in there, because I’ve got something really terrific in mind for you.”  I think He feels that way about you.  Just hang in there, because He’s got some terrific things in mind for you.  So just hang on, and build your foundation and stay faithful and be open to the Spirit.
Brother Walker:
Now, my comment about what you just said.  You think dating is hard for you sometimes.  Think about me, at my age.  Put yourself in my shoes.  I can tell you, it was terrible.  You know, after I finally decided I had to move forward, every one of my friends had the perfect wife for me.  They would call me, ask me to go out.  I’d go out on a date, and I’d come back and think, “No way.”  And, you know, they all thought they had the perfect wife.  And the reality is, not until my daughter came along did the perfect woman come along.  But you know, even Michelle, who is my daughter, when she called me to ask me to go out with Kathy, I had no idea who she was.  She told me her name was Kathy Barnes—this is my daughter telling me.  I said, “I hate blind dates, and you know it.  I’m tired of them.  I don’t want to go on one.”
And she said, “Oh, Dad.  Please, please.  Just one time.”  And she saw me, I guess, wavering, and she said, “I want you to know, I’ve even prayed about her, Dad.”
Well, if you knew Michelle, you’d know that’s the weak spot for her dad, and so I said, “All right.  I tell you what.  You call her; see if she’ll go out with me, and if she will, I’ll call her.” 
So she called me back, and said, “Yeah, Dad, she says to call her.”  She didn’t tell me what she’d really said.  So I called her and she finally agreed to go out on a date, on the condition that we could go somewhere where we wouldn’t be seen. (Audience laughter).
Sister Walker:
I had never seen him; I didn’t know what I was in for. (Audience laughter).
Brother Walker:
This is true.
Sister Walker:
I didn’t want to be totally humiliated. (Audience laughter).
Brother Walker:
Well, the worst part for me was, once we agreed to go out, I called Michelle and I said, “All right, Michelle, we are going on a date.”
And she said, “By the way, Dad, did I tell you that she’s President Hinckley’s daughter?”
And I said, “Oh, come on.  Are you serious?”  I think she knew that if she had told me that, I probably wouldn’t have called.  Nevertheless, the sweet thing about it is that when we got past the initial trauma of our struggling, we knew without question we would be married.  I can only tell you what a sweet thing this has been.  We never in our lives dreamed that we would be where we are today.  But we have had such confirmation of the fact that when we put our lives in the Lord’s hands, and we commit our lives to follow Him, to keep His commandments under all circumstances, that He will open doors, and He will lead the way for us to find happiness and peace in our lives.
Now I recently heard a young woman in the temple make this statement.  She said she was trying to do what the Lord wanted her to do, not just what she wanted to do.  Very significant.  I would suggest that to each of you here today.  As you know, we serve as the president and matron of the Salt Lake Temple.  It’s an overwhelming experience to be in that temple day after day.  But as you know, it takes more than just being a member of the Church to get into the temple.  It requires worthiness.  It requires keeping the commandments. 
I would suggest that you are making the choices every day of your lives that will decide whether you end up there, and whether you end up fulfilling the plan the Lord has for you.  But the significant thing is it’s not just the big things.  It’s not just tithing and Word of Wisdom and morality.  Those are important.  But it’s the little things you do, the little things that cause us course corrections—how we speak, the language we use, the text messaging we do, what we do on the computer when we’re alone by ourselves, the clothes you wear, how you speak to one another, the music you listen to, where you go for entertainment.  Every one of these things determines the pathway and determines the foundation that you will have.  I just plead with you, that you build that strong foundation now, so that when those tests come there will be no question where you go.
Sister Walker:
I think that one of our favorite assignments in the temple is to give instructions to those who are coming for the first time.  President Walker gives it to the men, and I give it to the women.  It’s just so fun to meet with these…most of them are young.  Some of them are coming later years in their lives, but most of them are young.  They’re prepared, they’re excited, they’re filled with the Spirit, and they’ve been looking forward to this day all their lives.  They come into the temple, sometimes a little nervous, sometimes a little anxious.  They don’t really know quite what to expect. The other day I gave instructions to a young woman.  When I walked in the room, I just said to her, “Well, how are you today?”
And she said, “Oh, I am so nervous.”
And I said, “Tell me why you’re nervous.”
She paused, and then she said, “Because think about it.  I am in Heavenly Father’s house.”  And the tears just began to flow down her cheeks.  She said, “I am a convert to the Church, and from the day I joined this church, I have lived for this moment.  Now I’m finally here, and I’m so overwhelmed I can hardly absorb it.”
I think of another young woman who was there to receive her endowment because she was going to be married.  She had no mother with her that day, but she had a soon-to-be mother-in-law who was from Peru.  She looked very sad to me, which was unusual because usually they look bright and excited.  I was so concerned about her that I asked one of the workers to have her come and see me before she left the temple that day. 
So at the end of the session they brought her in, and she was so nervous.  It was like she was going to the principal’s office.  But I just said to her, “Tell me about your mother.”
And she said, “Why do you ask?”
I said, “Well, she wasn’t with you today, and I just wondered.” 
And then she began to cry.  She said that she had joined the Church in Mexico, her entire family—her mother, father and three brothers.  She said one by one they’ve all made choices that have led them away from the temple.  “I came to BYU and met this young man from Peru.  Now we’ll be married on Friday, and I won’t have anybody here from my family.” 
And I said, “Why are you doing this?  Why aren’t you going home to Mexico and being married where you’ll have your family?”
And she said, “Because it is more important for me to receive the blessings of the Lord that I can only receive in His house.”  She made a very courageous and very difficult choice.  But without question, I know that the Lord will bless that young woman, and bless her family. 
She, like so many of you, is so strong and valiant in the gospel.  I look at you today, and you’re in school, you’re building a future, you’re preparing for whatever life brings to you.  But don’t ever neglect building that spiritual foundation, because that’s the foundation that will carry you when the storms rage and the winds blow, and things come into your life that you don’t anticipate, nor that you have no control over.  The Lord loves you and He has a plan for you.  I have no question in my mind.  All you have to do is keep His commandments and open your heart and let Him go to work. He will do magnificent things for you and with you.  May the Lord bless you, you wonderful, young, valiant members of the Church, that you will be strengthened and blessed as you make choices in your life, that your foundations will be sure and strong, and that you’ll feel the Lord’s love and care continually in your lives, I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Brother Walker:
I would just close and remind you, as we think about the temple and what it means in our lives—recently, just a couple of weeks ago, we had a young couple come to the temple.  One of the workers noted that they lingered well beyond the endowment session up in the celestial room of the temple.  With clasped hands, they held tightly to each other, and there were intermittent moments of tears and a look of longing for each other.  As they were leaving, a sister worker thanked them for coming and commented about the sweet love that she felt that existed between them.  The young man turned to her and said, “At eight o’clock in the morning on Monday, I’m being deployed to Iraq.  And we are here tonight to seek the Lord’s blessing and peace to carry us through this.” 
I testify to you that, in all of the places in the world that we can go, the temple is the only place on earth that you are guaranteed the Spirit of the Lord will always be there.  Our homes are wonderful.  Sometimes we let the world come in, in our apartments or our homes, and we affect the Spirit.  In the temple, the Spirit is always there. 
I pray with all my heart that, whoever you are, whatever your circumstances are, gain a temple recommend.  If you’re not at the age yet—and all of you are close, or there—get a limited use recommend, and come to the temple and feast upon the Spirit.  Let the Lord teach you.  I promise if you will do that, He will define in your heart and your mind the pathway to follow in your lives to find a fulness of life and return to His presence.
I bear you my solemn testimony I know beyond question that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, our Savior and Redeemer.  I testify to you that that beautiful temple to the east of us is the House of the Lord. I testify that He teaches in that temple even this day to those who come with hearts prepared to be taught of the Spirit.  I pray that it may be a blessing and a foundation and a sure anchor in each of your lives, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Becoming Scholar Disciples

03 Oct. 2007


Becoming Scholar Disciples

I am deeply grateful for the warmth of the welcome, President Woodhouse. I am grateful for your introduction, but most particularly for the gift of your friendship. As President Woodhouse and I both know, presidents are not always the most popular person on campus. A single story, my favorite, seems to capture this sentiment. A faculty member comes in to the president’s office with a parking ticket, puts the parking ticket on the desk in front of the president’s assistant and says, “I want the president to take care of this parking ticket.” He doesn’t even notice that the assistant has been crying. The assistant then says, “Well, the president died this morning. He had a heart attack.”
“Hmph,” he takes the ticket and walks off with it. Five minutes later, he’s back and puts the ticket down again. “Well, I’ve waited quite some time. To my knowledge the ticket has not been taken care of, so here it is. Have the president take care of it.”
The assistant says, “Well, I told you that the president passed away last night.”
“Hmph.” The ticket is gone.
But five minutes later, they’re back again. There’s the ticket. And at this point in time, the assistant—always ever so diplomatic—isn’t quite so diplomatic. She says, “I have told you once. I’ve told you twice. And I’m telling you a third and a final time.
The president died last night. He can’t take care of your ticket!”
The faculty member leaned back and said, “I just had to hear the good news one more time.” And so it is with college presidents.
On a more serious note, I want you to know that it is a joy to be with you, to have felt the spirit of the choir, to have been buoyed and strengthened by that wonderful invocation, and the introduction makes me feel very much at home. I am particularly grateful to be here at this very special time of the year, when we prepare for General Conference. I want you to know that I have long been impressed with the quality of educational opportunity that’s offered at the LDS Business College. If you take full advantage of this fine educational opportunity, you will be blessed spiritually, intellectually and temporally.
My remarks today will focus on how you can take greater advantage of your education in all its forms by being scholar disciples. Before turning directly to that topic, however, I want to share a little information about Southern Virginia University. We started in 1996 as a liberal arts college in the LDS tradition, with just 74 students. We have since then grown ten-fold. Over 95% of our students are LDS, coming from throughout the United States and many foreign nations.
We’ve been blessed to have a number of graduates of the LDS Business College attend SVU, and we have been very pleased with their preparation, spiritually and intellectually.
Like the LDS Business College, the only two-year college in the LDS context, Southern Virginia is a one-of-a-kind institution. We are an independent undergraduate college that focuses on letters, arts and sciences, and emphasizes LDS standards, with an Honor Code, firesides, weekly devotionals, and the largest daytime Institute east of the Rockies. Together with Princeton, the University of Chicago and 47 other fine universities and colleges, we were recently named by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute as one of the top 50 all-American colleges for students of faith. Our emphasis on student engagement in a small-class setting with extracurricular opportunities in athletics and the arts has also been recognized nationally. The National Survey of Student Engagement under the auspices of the University of Indiana School of Education found that we outperformed all other private and public universities with large LDS student enrollments in all five categories assessed: 1) Level of academic challenge, 2) Active and collaborative learning, 3) Student-faculty interaction, 4) Engaging educational experiences, and 5) Supportive campus environment. With small classes taught by highly-qualified faculty, it is not surprising that our freshmen are twice as likely to describe our faculty as “available and helpful” as freshmen at larger universities.
A whopping 89% of our seniors describe the quality of their relationship with faculty in the very highest terms, whereas fewer than half of the students at larger universities gave such a rating. Students at SVU are almost twice as likely to be highly engaged in extracurricular activities, when compared with students at larger universities.
Ninety-four percent of SVU seniors report that they engage in activities to enhance spirituality often or very often, which makes them four times as likely than students at colleges nationally to report that college life is helping them very much in their efforts to develop a personal code of values and ethics.
Students who stay at SVU receive their bachelor’s degree, on the average, in less than four years, while their counterparts at larger universities take five to six years, making SVU a great value. The NSSE, the student engagement statistics, confirm what I sensed the very first time I stepped on campus—SVU is a place where students, faculty and staff are engaged spiritually, intellectually, socially and physically. It is not surprising therefore that Richard L. Bushman, the Gubenor Morris Professor of History Emeritus at Columbia University and a distinguished Latter-day Saint historian, made the following observation during a recent visit to Southern Virginia: “When the history of education in the Church is written, I think that what is happening at this moment at Southern Virginia University will play a large part. And who knows where it will go from here.”
We have study abroad programs with discounted tuition at places like Oxford University, Rome, Greece and China. We will host our first program in Nauvoo thisMay. We offer these summer programs at a discount, which makes tuition competitive with state universities and BYU. This year, with 700 students, we will award approximately four million dollars in scholarships based on merit and need. We even have a special scholarship for returned missionaries. We do everything we can to make the quality education we provide at SVU affordable. We even help cover expenses related to visiting campus, because over half of the students who visit campus become enrolled at the University.
At Southern Virginia University, we are educating scholar-disciples, that they might become the next generation of leader-servants, following in the footsteps of the Master Servant, Jesus the Christ. While we embrace this significant mission, I think the same thing can be said in so many ways about the experience you are having at the LDS Business College. So few of our Father in Heaven’s children are blessed to enjoy the twin blessings of the fulness of the gospel and a quality education. You have been given much, and where much is given, much is required. I believe that it is expected that you will be leader-servants. If you are to fulfill that expectation, you must become scholardisciples now.
I know many of us are fearful of that word “scholar”. Some may even hold it in disdain, believing that it refers to the conceit of those who purport to be intellectuals.
The dictionary reveals that the meaning of scholar is certainly something within the reach of everyone present. It teaches that the root of scholar is scholaris, which is defined as “of a school.” You are all attending a wonderful college that is dedicated to learning.
Indeed this very mortal life, this world in which we live, is a grand school. I have come to understand more fully that a scholar is simply one who is teachable. We can occasionally be foolish and still be teachable. I learned that during the final semester of my senior year of high school. I was in civics class. I was somewhat bored, as was my friend Don Sada, who turned to me and said, “I’ve had enough. I am out of here. Are you with me, Rod?”
Not quite sure what I meant, I responded, “I’m with you, Don.” I was astonished to see him rise from his seat and jump out of the second-floor window during the middle of class. I had promised Don that I would follow him. We should not promise others we will follow them until we’re certain of where they’re going. I am sure all of my classmates and my teacher, Bob Campbell, were watching as I rose from my seat and jumped out of the window, catching my foot momentarily in the blinds. Freed from the blinds I tumbled to the ground beside Don. I then asked him, “Well, what do we do now?”
We discussed that very relevant question for a moment, and then decided to return to class. We were ready to face whatever justice the foolish act warranted. Returning to our desks, we were surprised when Mr. Campbell simply continued leading the discussion, clearly ignoring us. The class ended and we proceeded out of the classroom, confused. Our teacher slid quietly behind us and whispered so that only we could hear, “I’ve been teaching for 25 years and that’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen.”
I still remember the sting of those words. I had learned a great lesson, and came to respect, even love, my teacher very much. A decade later, I served as city attorney, learning anew from Mr. Campbell, our mayor. Two decades later I went to visit Mr. Campbell, my favorite high school teacher and friend, who was dying of cancer. It was my last visit with him. As he walked painfully to the door with me, he said, “Rod, you were the best student I ever had.” How grateful I was that he saw through my foolish moment and came to see me as a scholar—as one who was, in fact, teachable.
Professor Carol S. Dweck of Stanford University, one of the world’s foremost scholars in the field of developmental psychology, has studied the work of the brain in great detail. In her book, Mindset, she shares what she has learned. She concludes that there are two mindsets—the fixed mindset, and the growth, or teachable mindset. She discovered, based on a major study performed in her brain-wave laboratory at Columbia University, that “people with a fixed mindset were only interested if the feedback reflected on their ability.” She added that, “Only people with a growth mindset paid close attention to information that could stretch their knowledge. Only for them was learning a priority.” She then concluded, “People have to decide what kinds of relationships they want—ones that bolster their ego, or ones that challenge them to grow.” (Mindset: The New Psychology of Success) I have now lived long enough to know the truth of what Professor Dweck discovered in her lab. The teachable among us continue to grow by being willing to learn, even when it is difficult. They are scholars, ever learning.
Scholarship—being teachable—requires three commitments on our part: a desire to learn, willingness to work, and the faith necessary to apply what we learn that we might become the leader-servants we are required to be. B.H. Roberts, one of the great theologians of the Latter-day Saint tradition, did not learn to read until he was ten years old. When he was young, his foster mother was reading to him and fell asleep. Elder Roberts recounts, “I sat alone with the paper and my thoughts, marveling at the miracle that a paper could speak to one only if he had the power to read it. On this thought my mind dwelt, and after some time elapsed, I spoke out loud. ‘Will the time ever come when books and papers will speak to me? Will I ever read books?’ Then a peculiar silence, and the soul voice said, ‘Aye, and you will write them too.’” We can imagine what joy B.H. Roberts felt as he was blessed to learn to read. If we share his desire to learn, we as children of the living God can surely begin to feast upon what we are learning, and learning can become a joyful experience. But it is not enough to merely desire to be teachable. We must work at it.
Again, Elder Roberts put it well when he taught, “There is no progression fromease to ease.” I learned this lesson when I turned in my first paper in college. I was excited when I received it back. I just knew that I was about to receive my first “A”. I was shocked to find that my desired A was in fact a C-minus. That grade shook my confidence, and the comment that followed cut me to the very core. The professor had written, “You should have put in more of your own, or could you?” He was certainly not enamored of my critical thinking. I returned to my apartment and shared my sad experience with my roommates. They were sophomores, those paragons of the collegiate experience. With an air of diffidence that implied their lack of confidence in me, they said, “Well, he’s a tough professor. Just hope you can get a C in the class.” I responded that I would yet get an A from that professor. They laughed and walked away. I worked hard on my next paper, and I was thrilled to receive a B. I listened in class; I read each book with real desire to learn, then I prepared my final paper, toiling over it. Oh, how I treasured the A-minus I received on that last paper. The grade matters little today, but the lesson I learned—that scholarship requires hard work— is one that I have never forgotten. I switched my major to philosophy and began to take very challenging courses. I still remember the difficulty of my “Philosophy of Sartre” course. We were assigned his book, Being and Nothingness. It was incredibly rough going. In fact, in writing it, Sartre, with characteristic arrogance, is reputed to have said, “If readers are not willing to work hard, they don’t deserve my work.” I recently picked the book off my shelf and turned to the middle. I want to read to you the first two sentences that my eyes fell on. Sartre wrote: “The first solution is known by the name solipsism, yet if it is formulated in conformity with its denomination as the affirmation of my ontological solitude, it is purely a metaphysical hypothesis perfectly unjustified and gratuitous. For it amounts to saying that, outside of me, nothing exists, and so it goes beyond the limits of the field of my experience.” I do not share those sentences with you believing that they contain great wisdom.
They merely are part of Sartre’s effort to explain existence without God—Sartre’s existentialism. I share them because I am better for having read them, not because they are wise, but because in reading them I discovered that with effort I could understand even the most ponderous material. Today, I certainly prefer the words of scholars of faith like C.S. Lewis and the tender teachings of the gospel to the words of philosophers like Sartre.
Compare with me the words of C.S. Lewis to the words of Sartre. Lewis writes: “Imagine yourself a living house, and God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps you can understand what he is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof, and so on. You knew that those jobs needed doing, and so you’re not surprised. But presently, he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably, and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is he up to? The explanation is that he’s building quite a different house from the one you thought of— throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage, but he is building a palace.”
B.H. Roberts puts this principle at work a bit more succinctly: “The attainment of the condition of Christian righteousness,” he writes, “is a matter of character building under the favorable conditions provided by the gospel. And character building, eve nunder favorable conditions, is a matter of slow self-conquest.” The third attribute of teachableness, therefore, is faith. Our study, our writing, our work, indeed all we do needs to be imbued with faith. We must have desire to learn, we must work hard at it, and must crown this whole process with faith. Knowing we are children of God and that we are therefore, by our very nature, scholars. In the Lectures on Faith we learn that faith is a principle of power. We learn, as we receive by faith all temporal blessings that we do receive, so we in like manner receive by faith all spiritual blessings that we do receive. But faith is not a principle of action, but of power also in all intelligent beings whether in heaven or earth.
We also learn that if we take this principle or attribute of faith—for it is an attribute according to the Lectures on Faith—if we were to take it from Deity, He would cease to exist. Who cannot see that if God, who framed the worlds by faith, that it is by faith that He exercises power over earth, and that faith is the principle of power. And if a principle of power, it must also be in man as well as in Deity. As children of God, we can learn by faith. It is more than a power that is within us. It is an attribute that we may claim.
Hayes Larsen, a distinguished graduate of SVU who now teaches at the Naval Academy, relates how he felt the swellings of the Spirit as he first studied Plato. He witnessed in that moment that faith strengthens both our desire and our capacity to learn. If you want to learn math or any other subject that may be hard for you, and you are struggling or working at it, you can turn to your faith. You can pray and you will find that your desire and your earnest efforts will be augmented by the power of your faithfulness. You will have done your part. You will have worked at it. And you will know, as I know, that the Holy Ghost makes up the difference. Exercise faith as you desire to learn and work at it, and you will, in the words of C.S. Lewis, “Be humbled by the palace the Lord is building in your life, by the person you are blessed to become.”
I testify of the importance of being teachable, of being scholars. President Hinckley is wonderfully accomplished. He loves the letters, arts and sciences, and has found much joy in them as he has studied by faith over the course of his life. They are part of who he is.
I served a number of years ago as a stake mission president. As I sat in the Gospel Essentials class, I was struck by the apparent differences among all who were present in that class. There was a woman from India, a lawyer, a student, and others from various walks of life and cultural ethnic backgrounds. I wondered, “What do they all have in common?” Tutoring me in that very moment, the Spirit whispered in my mind, “They are all teachable.” My eyes were then turned by that same power to look upon President Hinckley’s picture on the wall, and the Spirit again whispered to me, “And he is the most teachable of all.”
Of course, in the annals of time, we know that truly the most teachable of all is the Savior, Jesus Christ. I marvel that after a marvelous recounting of Christ’s birth, Luke notes: “The child grew, and waxed [and became] strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him” (Luke 2:40). We know that he learned “line upon line” (See Isaiah 28:10).
Luke then chronicles the Savior’s experience in the temple as a boy of twelve, sitting in the midst of doctors, both hearing them and asking them questions (Luke 2:46).

The Joseph Smith Version adds that the teachers “were hearing him, and asking him questions.” This give and take, in a small class setting with teachers and students learning together, is one of the highest forms of education. When His mother found Him, after worrying greatly over his whereabouts, she inquired, “Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.”
Ever the scholar both learning and teaching, He responded in a loving and profound manner, saying, “How is it that ye have sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” (Luke 2:48-49) He knew, as we have come to know, that when we learn, we are about our Father in Heaven’s business. We must be ever learning, that the Father’s work of bringing to pass the immortality and eternal lives might be fulfilled (see Moses 1:39).
It is touching to me that in the Book of Mormon, we last encounter the Savior teaching among the people of this continent. Having learned all, He is the Master Teacher, and we are scholars in His school. We see how He learned and lived, and He beckons us to do likewise. May we desire with every fiber of our beings to learn, may we work hard to do our part in that great learning process, and may we have faith that through the Holy Ghost, our minds might be opened and our hearts touched, that we might be the scholars we are called to be.

As Elder Neal A. Maxwell put it, “To be a disciple-scholar in our time is a call to high adventure.” Let us turn therefore from scholarship to discipleship. A scholar who is not a disciple is like a ship without a rudder. True discipleship is the pure love of Christ. As Elder Dallin H. Oaks teaches, “The pure love of Christ, or charity, is a state of being and not a mere act. It defines who we are, if we are disciples.”
Clearly the Atonement was the defining moment in all history. We learn much of the Savior’s character, of who He is, through understanding the Atonement. In his wonderful book, Infinite Atonement, Tad R. Callister wisely observed, “The Atonement was both an exercise of power and an acquisition of power. One of the ironies of life is that we acquire love when we give it away. We increase in knowledge as we dispense what we learn.”

It is clear, therefore, the pure love of Christ, the essence of discipleship or who we are, like faith, is also a principle of power. My wife, Danielle, taught me so much about discipleship. I remember the first time I saw her; she had just graduated from BYU and was a waitress at a small, Mexican food restaurant. I saw the light of Christ in her countenance as I observed her kindness as she waited on tables. Alas, she was not my waitress. I remember wishing that she was LDS, and my heart beat faster as she approached our table and said hello. She then said, “Didn’t I see you in church on Sunday?” At this point, my heart was not only beating faster, it was soaring. And my mind was struggling to keep up as I tried to think of something clever to say to a girl I really wanted to impress.
I said what first came to mind: “Well, I don’t recall seeing you at church, and I make it a point to notice attractive young women.” I thought I was saying, “You’re really attractive. I don’t know how in the world I failed to notice you.” She believed I said, “If you were attractive, I would have noticed you.” I am deeply grateful to my wife for her goodness in forgiving me and for giving me another chance. There is a lesson in this for single young women present. No, wait, there’s one for them too, but first let me get the young men. There is one for you young men, first of all. Look. There’s hope for all of you. There’s also a lesson for all single young women present. Be a disciple. Be kind to even the most bumbling of all young men, because he may one day be your husband.
In a talk entitled, “King Benjamin’s Manual of Discipleship,” Elder Neal A.Maxwell reflected on King Benjamin’s great discourse and said, “Finally, as a leaderservant full of years and rich in experience, wise Benjamin urged the people to pace themselves in the arduous journey of discipleship.” If we are to become leader-servants like King Benjamin, we must pace ourselves in the arduous journey of discipleship. President James E. Faust taught, “The word for disciple and the word for discipline both come from the Latin root discipulos, which means ‘pupil.’ It emphasizes practice or exercise. Self discipline and self control are consistent and permanent characteristics of disciples.”

C.S. Lewis put it well when he said, “Little people like you and me, if our prayersare sometimes granted beyond all hope and probability, had better not draw hasty conclusions to our advantage. If we were stronger, we might be less tenderly entreated. If we were braver, we might be sent with far less help to defend more desperate posts in the great battle.”

Being a disciple is not easy; it is calisthenics for the soul, calling on the very best we have to offer. However, as President Faust reminds us, “Many think that the price of discipleship is too costly and too burdensome. For some it involves giving up too much. The cross is not as heavy as it appears to be. Through obedience, we acquire much greater strength to carry it.”

I will never forget the last time I was blessed to be with President Faust. I had the opportunity to tell him that of all sentences I have heard in General Conference, one that he uttered has had the greatest impact in my life. His words have shaped my life and learning. He taught that “The Atonement advances the mortal course of our learning by making it possible for our natures to become perfect.” This perfecting process that calls us to greatness as the children of God is arduous. Greatness never comes easily, in scholarship, athletics, arts or any area of our lives.

As a young man, Luciano Pavarotti toiled at menial labor and resisted the allure to spend his hard-earned dollars on momentary pleasures so that he could use them for voice lessons. His voice, which has blessed so many lives, was forged in the crucible of this sacrifice. We would all do well to follow, therefore, his example and the example of Dale Murphy’s family and put the following saying on our refrigerators: “We can do hard things.”

Disciples do hard things, knowing that their growth and capacity for service depend on such effort. To be disciples, we must follow the example of the Master Teacher, who took the great yoke of the Atonement upon Himself, and taught us in turn that we must take His yoke upon us and learn of Him. To do so, we must lay aside the natural man and woman in each of us.

Elder L. Tom Perry relates that “Mother was a great delegator. Each Saturday morning, as my brothers and sisters and I were growing up, we received housecleaning assignments from her. Her instructions to us had been learned from her mother. ‘Be certain that you clean thoroughly in the corners. If you’re going to miss anything, let it be in the center of the room.’ She knew very well that if we cleaned the corners, she would never have a problem with what was left in the center of the room. That which is visible would never be left unclean.” Elder Perry analogized this experience to the cleansing of our lives, the laying aside of the natural man.

My son likes to say that there are three parts to all of our lives: the public, the private, and the secret. At SVU, we begin each school year with “Rise Up for Honor,” a tradition in which we join together on the mountain behind our university as the sun rises and collectively stand and pledge our willingness to abide by the Honor Code. In his remarks at our “Rise Up for Honor” this year, our dean of students called on all present to make sure that we were not double-minded or double-tongued by ensuring that what we do and say in private comports with our public lives. I would add that what we secretly think or do when no one is looking must also be perfectly consistent with what we profess publicly if we are to be disciples. I challenge everyone present to look closely at the corners, the private and secret parts of our lives, and make a solemn determination today to clean them as disciples must. I submit that a disciple is one who seeks the power of the pure love of Christ at all times, in public, private and secret moments. If we are disciples and have the pure love of Christ with us at all times and places, our thoughts, words and deeds will bless our lives and the lives of all around us. We will be better students, better teachers, better friends, and happier for it. There are great, substantive and precious benefits or blessings that accompany such discipleship.

I love the words of Isaiah, who with a wisdom garnered from a life of study and experience, knew that man’s intellect was dim in comparison to the omniscience of the Lord our God, Isaiah concluded, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are [the Lord’s] ways higher than [our] ways, and [the Lord’s] thoughts than [our] thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9). But with the Holy Ghost guiding our efforts, our thoughts can become His thoughts over time. He can and will enlighten the minds of His disciples.

Driven with the will of a disciple, Elder James E. Talmage, a great scientist, sought to learn science that he might know how worlds are created. When we study science or math or English or art, or any subject for that matter, as a disciple we do so earnestly, knowing we want to be better, more Christlike. To all that earnestness, the Lord will add enlightenment, and opportunities will follow enlightenment. He will also open the minds and hearts of His disciples, that they might bless lives and might be tools in His great work.

How wise Paul was in teaching the Corinthians and us that “Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.” (1 Corinthians 8:1) The pure love of Christ helps our minds and heart become more teachable. It edifies. Highly educated but wicked men and women have dotted all of human history, and their knowledge was but a tool in the arsenal of evil. Disciples must harness that same knowledge to meet the measure of their creation, through acts of goodness and to be good men and women.

I can testify of this. When I was a young lawyer and bishop, one of my ward members came into my office. Her husband had taken her child and run off with another woman. His lifestyle was such that, if he kept the child, that child would have few opportunities to enjoy the true blessings of this life. The young woman was weeping.

She had no money, and she feared that all was lost. As I represented her, I cared deeply and was highly motivated to learn the applicable law and do all that I could to ensure that the child was returned to his mother’s arms. It took time and much effort, but I can attest to the fact that the Lord’s thoughts became my thoughts as the case unfolded. And I shed tears the day the child was returned to his mother. Had I better understood when I was in college that I was learning so that I might be serviceable in blessing lives later, in returning babes, if you will, to the arms of their mothers, I would have studied with more earnestness, with more prayerfulness, and with the discipline of a disciple, knowing that the gift of knowledge is one of the blessings a disciple may claim. Having the pure love of Christ and gift of discipleship, our capacity to learn is magnified by the powers of Him who knows all, and our opportunity for service is expanded.

In July of 1973, I was studying earnestly to learn whether the Book of Mormon is true. I wanted to know whether I should be baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I will forever remember the moment when I was reading verse 16 of Moroni, chapter 8. As I started that verse, I did not know. As I finished it, I knew that the Book of Mormon was true, that Joseph Smith is a prophet, the one called to usher in the dispensation of the fulness of all times. The words of that verse have been instructive throughout my lifetime, and I share them with you. The second sentence of that verse reads, “Behold, I speak with boldness, having authority from God; and I fear not what man can do; for perfect love casteth out all fear.”

Perfect love casteth out all fear. If there is anything that we know to be good, but we fear the challenge of doing it, that fear can be cast out by love. I am fearful of my own inadequacy each day as I walk toward my office to serve as president of SVU. The task is so much bigger than I am, but I know that the Lord loves the university, and that He loves me despite my faults, and I walk in the light of courage borne of the pure love of Christ.

I have learned to use that perfect love to cast out fear in all areas of my life, both spiritual and temporal. Even in such simple areas as a time when I used to play basketball. As a basketball player, I learned that if I was shooting a free throw that might win a game, I need not fear, if I simply let my mind and heart be filled with the pure love of Christ. Now, I might not make the free throw, but my nervousness would evaporate, and I could have peace, the pure love of Christ as a great, claming power and a marvelous capacity to focus our minds and hearts.

Let me conclude therefore, with three ways in which we can harness the power of the pure love of Christ in our lives. First, we must pray earnestly for such power. Second, we must come to always remember the Savior and His love for us and all His children. Finally, we must commit to pay the price of discipleship in our lives. In Moroni 7:47-48 we learn, “Charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him. “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ.”

It is only charity that never faileth. It imbues our thoughts and deeds with meaning. We must pray earnestly for it. I commend to you the practice of praying earnestly, even pleading, as we bend our knees for the first time each day, that we may have the pure love of Christ fill our hearts and minds. Such prayers, particularly when accompanied by visualizing our hearts and minds filling with such love, are exceedingly effective. Second, we must, as we covenant to do each time we take the sacrament, always remember Him. We must always seek to have the pure love of Christ with us. When a roommate says something unkind, we must respond with love. When we study, we should do so with earnestness and pure love. When we go to class, we should pray that such love will open our minds and hearts, and then participate in a manner that makes it possible. When others gossip, we must defend the defenseless, or walk away. When we see unkindness in our midst, we must step forward to address it, knowing that the pure love of Christ will show us the way. When we are subjected to the allure of the world’s temptations or buffeted by its trials as we surely will be, we must fill our hearts and minds with pure love, and those very thoughts and feelings will dismiss the temptations and make the trials bearable moments of learning. Imagine how transformative the pure love of Christ can be if we carry it with us at all times and in all places, and truly commit to be disciples.
Finally therefore, we must commit to be disciples as well as scholars, to harness the power of the pure love of Christ in all aspects in our lives. As I prepared this talk in my mind and heart, it became clear that the Lord wanted me to make such a commitment. I have made this very commitment many times before, but it should be renewed with added force each day. I made this commitment this morning, and I renew it at this moment: I commit, even covenant, to do better, to seek to harness that great power in my life. I urge you all to join in that commitment. If you do, I witness that your life will be one of joy.
I conclude with my testimony of Him whose mind and heart are full with pure love. His disciple above all else I want to be. I join in testifying of the heartening words of President J. Rueben Clark Jr., who testified of the power of such love to harmonize justice and mercy when he said, “I believe that in His justice and mercy, He will give us the maximum reward for our acts—give us all that He can give. And in the reverse, I believe that He will impose the minimum penalty which is possible for Him to impose.” I cannot remember when I first came to know that Jesus is the Christ. It is among my first memories, perhaps even one that simply came with me to this life. With time, my belief in Christ led me to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and I committed to being ever teachable and began in earnest the arduous but exhilarating journey of discipleship. I have rejoiced in moving from a mere belief in the Savior to adoration for the Savior, and ultimately to a fervent desire to emulate the Savior. I have been so imperfect, but His love has always buoyed me. His Atonement has both cleansed and taught me, and I testify again, as one who desires above all else to be His disciple, that He lives and loves us with a pure love that is all-powerful and merits our emulation, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen. 

A Lesson on Memory

24 Oct. 2007


A Lesson on Memory

Good afternoon to all of you. We’re so thankful to see you today. You’re a wonderful looking group, and we’ve heard some very flattering things about you as we’ve been walking around this building and getting acquainted with you, and acquainted with your campus.

I am grateful for the assignment that brings me here, and grateful for the privilege of becoming acquainted with you. I pray that the Spirit of the Lord will be with us and that the feelings and observations I express to you may be of benefit to you. I have earnestly sought the direction of the Lord with respect to these comments.

I’d like to congratulate you on enrolling here, and congratulate you on the foresight that you show in preparing yourself for the future that is out around the corner for you. You will always be grateful for all the education you can get. You will always be grateful for what you learn here. I hope to encourage you in that effort, but more than that, to encourage you with respect to other aspects of your life today. I will say by way of confession that I think sometimes the most pleasant thing that we could possibly do is to go back to college, to go back to school. It just sounds like delightful fun.

The November 2007 issue of the National Geographic magazine contains a fascinating article about memory. The article contrasts she lives of two unusual individuals whose names are never stated. One is referred to as AJ, and the other is called EP. They are both famous among scientists who study memory, but for diametrically different reasons. AJ remembers almost every day of her life from age nine to the present, and she remembers them perfectly. She remembers what happened on specific days 20 years ago, or 10 years ago. She can tell you what happened on a television show she watched many years ago. She says, “My memory flows like a movie—nonstop and uncontrollable.” She does not have the savant syndrome occasionally demonstrated by one with autism. She can’t memorize the phone book or long series of numbers; she just remembers her life perfectly, and she has since she was nine years old. We’ll return to AJ in a few minutes.

On the other hand, about 15 years ago as a result of an infection that destroyed part of his brain, EP lost his capacity to remember anything except for events that occurred at least 60 years ago. An 85-year-old man, he is happy, he’s friendly, he’s warm. But he has no memory whatsoever of anything that happened even a few minutes before. Every time you meet him, it’s the first time. After he finishes breakfast, cleans up, does the dishes and puts them away, he can’t remember if he’s had breakfast. He doesn’t know his neighbors. He can’t remember the headlines of the articles in the newspaper that he reads each morning. He reads the headlines, starts the article, and then re-reads the headline. He has no sense that there’s a gigantic hole in his memory. He is blissful but entirely unaware of anything except that which is happening right now before his eyes. And he has lingering memories of events that occurred six decades ago.

AJ and EP are unique. Because their conditions are so rare and so extraordinary, they have been studied constantly and carefully. There is much we can learn from thinking about them for a moment and analyzing their situations in comparison with our own.

You and I almost certainly have more normal memories. We likely cannot remember what we had for dinner on October 24, 2006, one year ago, or even one month ago, or even a week ago tonight. As time passes, our memory of common events, of the normal stuff of life, fades. We are not deluged with useless details about things that don’t matter much. Our memory of important events and people, like opening mission calls, marriages, family vacations, and so on, stays with us for years, but even these memories tend to fade quickly and with the passage of time we just remember images.

Still, we remember much more than does EP. We do know our neighbors, we don’t get lost if we leave our neighborhood to go to the store, we can read books and remember the plots and something about the characters and the stories. We remember breakfast conversations and can pick them up again at dinner. We know what year it is. We know who the president of the country is. EP doesn’t, and if he were told, he wouldn’t remember within a few moments.

I’d like to talk to you about memory. I’d like to talk to you about building memories. And I’d like to talk to you about the kinds of memories that matter most. In the eternal perspective, EP’s defective memory is just temporary. When he passes into the spirit world, his memory, to a great extent, will return. Eventually, all of his memory will be restored to him.

AJ’s memory is more consistent with what will be the condition of our memory, in the eternal world. We will remember everything. The scriptures teach us this as follows:

“O how great the plan of our God! For on the other hand, the paradise of God must deliver up the spirits of the righteous, and the grave deliver up the body of the righteous; and the spirit and the body is restored to itself again, and all men become incorruptible, and immortal, and they are living souls, having a perfect knowledge like unto us in the flesh, save it be that our knowledge shall be perfect.
“Wherefore, we shall have a perfect knowledge of all our guilt, and our uncleanness, and our nakedness; and the righteous shall have a perfect knowledge of their enjoyment, and their righteousness, being clothed with purity, yea, even with the robe of righteousness”
(2 Nephi 9:13 - 14).

Similarly, we read: “Prepare your souls for that glorious day when justice shall be administered unto the righteous, even the day of judgment, that ye may not shrink with awful fear; that ye may not remember your awful guilt in perfectness, and be constrained to exclaim: Holy, holy are thy judgments, O Lord God Almighty—but I know my guilt; I transgressed thy law, and my transgressions are mine; and the devil hath obtained me, that I am a prey to his awful misery” (2 Nephi 9:46).

At the time of his conversion, Alma remembered and reviewed all of his sins and saw himself as he really was. When he recounted that experience to his son Helaman, he made clear that the experience was anything but a happy one. He said:

“I was racked with eternal torment, for my soul was harrowed up to the greatest degree and racked with all my sins.
“Yea, I did remember all my sins and iniquities, for which I was tormented with the pains of hell; yea, I saw that I had rebelled against my God, and that I had not kept his holy commandments.
“Yea, and I had murdered many of his children, or rather led them away unto destruction; yea, and in fine so great had been my iniquities, that the very thought of coming into the presence of my God did rack my soul with inexpressible horror.
“Oh, thought I, that I could be banished and become extinct both soul and body, that I might not be brought to stand in the presence of my God, to be judged of my deeds.
“And now, for three days and for three nights was I racked, even with the pains of a damned soul.
“And it came to pass that . . . as I was… racked with torment, [and] . . . I was harrowed up by the memory of my many sins,”
(Alma 36:12 - 17)… and I won’t finish the story. You remember what happened then. That’s when he caught hold of the idea of the Savior.

We return now to AJ, the woman with the perfect memory. She makes an observation, or at least what is attributed to her in the National Geographic magazine article, that basically says that her perfect memory haunts her at times. This window into her world ought to give us pause, for it foreshadows the restoration of our own memories. She says, “I remember good, which is very comforting. But I also remember bad-and every bad choice. And I really don’t give myself a break. There are all these forks in the road, moments you have to make a choice, and then it’s ten years later, and I’m still beating myself up over them. I don’t forgive myself for a lot of things. Your memory is the way it is to protect you. I feel like it just hasn’t protected me” (November 2007, pg. 51). 

I had a stake conference assignment in Menan, Idaho, a week and a half ago. The Menan Stake is located about 15 miles west of Rexburg, Idaho. Menan is farming country—it’s flat and fertile. It’s fall there, just like it is here—the leaves are changing, it’s cool at night. I was raised in Los Angeles, and have almost no understanding of what people do on a farm. I don’t know how to raise hay or grain or potatoes. I was fascinated to note that everywhere the farmers were plowing their fields in anticipation of winter. They had large and very expensive farming equipment. The farming equipment was plowing the ground and preparing it or the winter ahead. You don’t plow fields so they will do well in winter. You plow fields so that they’ll do well in the spring and in the summer and in next year’s harvest. You mix in fertilizers and aerate the soil so that it will be fertile when the seeds are planted as the growing season begins. By going to work now, the farmers increase the harvest next fall.

President Hinckley spoke to a very similar point in General Conference in 1993, in the priesthood session. He reflected upon his youth, saying, “We had a large orchard, and the trees had to be pruned each spring. Father took us to pruning demonstrations put on by experts from the agriculture college. We learned a great truth—that you could pretty well determine the kind of fruit you would pick in September by the way you pruned in February. The idea was to space the branches so that the fruit would be exposed to sunlight and air. Further, we learned that new, young wood produces the best fruit. That has had many applications in life” (April Conference, 1993).

There is a lesson for us in what the farmers in Menan, Idaho are doing, and many others places across the earth, and in what the Hinckley family learned, or what they were taught by President Hinckley’s father many years ago. You are planting tomorrow’s memories today. You are pruning your lives and deciding where the growth will be, deciding how to get the maximum sunshine on the fruit you will carry into middle age, old age, and eternal life. Most of you are still young. You have the very large majority of your lives ahead of you. You are sowing today the harvest of future years. You are deciding today what your memories will be tomorrow and forever. This is the time to pay the price for a future that will be rich, rewarding, and happy.

We see the implications of this clearly with respect to agriculture. If you plant potatoes, you reap potatoes, not rutabagas. If you plant wheat, your crop will not be zucchini. If you cultivate peach trees, you don’t harvest pears. For some reason, however, it sometimes seems that we fail to see that the law of the harvest is as fundamentally true with respect to our conduct as it is with respect to agriculture. We determine our tomorrows today in very important ways.

We are surrounded by messages in today’s world that suggest that the law of the harvest was abrogated by some invisible and silent legislature, and that the things we do only make a difference in the here and now, they have no effect on our lives later, in the there and then. This message is the basis of much of popular entertainment and advertising today. The focus is on now; it’s on today. We can be happy if we will just do what we see being done in the advertisement or in the movie or on television. If we will just dress a certain way, or drink the right beverage, or drive the right car, or, more deviously, adopt moral standards based on immediate gratification. The message is every time, “What’s in it for me, now?” These messages appeal to us only if we insist on assuming a mental posture toward life that is reminiscent of EP’s view: we look at the world in a constant present tense sort of way, ignoring the implications for us in terms of what may be in store in the future. The Book of Mormon describes this approach to life with these words,

“Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die; and it shall be well with us.
“And there shall also be many which shall say: Eat, drink, and be merry; nevertheless, fear God—he will justify in committing a little sin; yea, lie a little, take … advantage of one because of his words, dig a pit for thy neighbor; there is no harm in this; and do all these things, for tomorrow we die; and if it so be that we are guilty, God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God”
(2 Nephi 28:7 - 8).

This view of life was exemplified in the words of Laman and Lemuel, who said, “…we have wandered in the wilderness for these many years; and our women have toiled, being big with child; and they have borne children in the wilderness and suffered all things, save it were death; and it would have been better that they had died before they came out of Jerusalem than to have suffered these afflictions.

“Behold, these many years we have suffered in the wilderness, which time we might have enjoyed our possessions and the land of our inheritance; yea, and we might have been happy” (1 Nephi 17:20 – 21).

Laman and Lemuel had a clear view of the sacrifice and the suffering, but no sense whatsoever of the eventual reward they were in line to receive—a promised land.

The error of this view is seen by the fruit it produces. Over the long haul, there is no satisfaction in that path, no refreshment for the soul, no eventual sense of well-being at our core. Their situation reminds us of the description given by Isaiah when he wrote, “It shall even be as when an hungry man dreameth, and, behold, he eateth; but he awaketh, and his soul is empty: or as when a thirsty man dreameth, and, behold, he drinketh; but he awaketh, and, behold, he is faint, and his soul hath appetite . . .” (Isaiah 29:8).

Paul explained the law of the harvest this way:

“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
 “For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
“And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not”
(Galatians 6:7-9).

Those who blunder on in committing sin or in “[wasting] the days of [their] probation” haven’t considered the message of the farmers in Menan or of the Hinckleys’ family fruit orchard in Salt Lake City.

Planting good works today in order to harvest tomorrow is an act of faith. We sacrifice time and exertion and treasure today in the belief that good things will follow later. Planting for the eventual harvest is the conscious decision to delay gratification, to invest, to give up something today, based on the expectation that by doing so we put ourselves in line for greater rewards later. Recognizing and then heeding the law of the harvest is a hallmark of maturity and wisdom. In a recent address, Elder Douglas L. Callister of the Seventy put the choice this way: “Because time has no end, we are very short-sighted if present decisions fail to contemplate eternal consequences. The desire to 'be happy now' must not disregard the significantly more important desire to be happy forever. This knowledge sometimes gives us strength to say ‘no’ when we need to say ‘no.’

“God's plan does not contemplate rewards or punishments, as much as it contemplates consequences. Truly, a man will reap as he has sown. The law of consequences suggests that often, when we make a correct decision, we pay our price first and reap the reward later. When we make an incorrect decision, we often reap our reward first, but pay our price later (Remarks, Evergreen Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah, September 22, 2007, Church News, September 29, 2007).

As I said earlier, you are sowing memories. You are sowing today, deciding today, the memories you will take with you from your college days. You’re deciding what memories you will take with you from your dating days. You’re deciding what memories you will take with you for the rest of your life and for eternity. You’re deciding who you will be tomorrow, for you will be the sum of today’s decisions—the sum of your experiences, the sum of your memories.

Some of the most important messages of gospel truths are found in our hymns. Hymns have message, they have rhyme and meter and tune and rhythm and so on—all of which combine to help us appreciate and remember the message. Consider this well-known hymn:

We are sowing, daily sowing
Countless seeds of good and ill,
Scattered on the level low-land,
Cast upon the windy hill;
Seeds that sink in rich, brown furrows,
Soft with heaven’s gracious rain;
Seeds that rest upon the surface
Of the dry, unyielding plain;

Seeds that fall amid the stillness
Of the lonely mountain glen;
Seeds cast out in crowded places,
Trodden under foot of men;
Seeds by idle hearts forgotten,
Flung at random on the air;
Seeds by faithful souls remembered,
Sown in tears and love and prayer;

Seeds that lie unchanged, unquickened,
Lifeless on the teeming mold;
Seeds that live and grow and flourish
When the sower’s hand is cold.
By a whisper sow we blessings;
By a breath we scatter strife.
In our words and thoughts and actions
Lie the seeds of death and life.

Thou who knowest all our weakness,
Leave us not to sow alone!
Bid thine angels guard the furrows
Where the precious grain is sown,
Till the fields are crowned with glory,
Filled with mellow, ripened ears,
Filled with fruit of life eternal
From the seed we sowed in tears.

“We Are Sowing,” Hymns, No. 216

We are thus protected, not just threatened, by the law of the harvest. We are blessed to the extent that we recognize that if we sow the right kinds of seeds today, we shall reap by and by. The most important seed you will ever sow, the most important seed you will ever nurture, will be the one that produces faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Alma expressed these feelings with these words:

“We will compare the word unto a seed….if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye …resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.
“…If ye will nourish the word, yea, nourish the tree as it beginneth to grow, by your faith with great diligence, and with patience, looking forward to the fruit thereof, it shall take root; and behold it shall be a tree springing up unto [eternal] life.
“And because of your diligence and your faith and your patience with the word in nourishing it, that it may take root in you, behold, by and by ye shall pluck the fruit thereof, which is most precious, which is sweet above all that is sweet, and which is white above all that is white… and pure above all that is pure; and ye shall feast upon this fruit even until ye are filled, that ye hunger not, neither shall ye thirst.
“Then, my brethren, ye shall reap the rewards of your faith, and your diligence, and patience, and long-suffering, waiting for the tree to bring forth fruit unto you”
(Alma 32:28, 41-43).

The Lord has revealed much about how to frame our lives and build on a foundation for happy memories. One of the most oft-quoted reminders about how to build is one we hear every single Sunday: “O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this bread to the souls of all those who partake of it, that they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son, and witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him and keep his commandments which he has given them; that they may always have his Spirit to be with them” (D&C 20:77).

In contrast, however, there is another scripture which must be of comfort for all of us. It’s this one: “Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more” (D&C 58:42).

Returning now to Alma, and the thought that came into his mind:

“My mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death.
“And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more.
“And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!
“Yea, I say unto you, my son, that there could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains. Yea, and again I say unto you, my son, that on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy”
(Alma 36:18 - 21).

Thus, we can understand the anxiety of Helaman when teaching his sons Lehi and Nephi. In four verses, Helaman used the word “remember” 13 times in four verses, including from those verses, these:

“O remember, remember, my sons, the words which king Benjamin spake unto his people; yea, remember that there is no other way nor means whereby man can be saved, only through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, who shall come; yea, remember that he cometh to redeem the world.
“And remember also the words which Amulek spake unto Zeezrom, in the city of Ammonihah; for he said unto him that the Lord surely should come to redeem his people, but that he should not come to redeem them in their sins, but to redeem them from their sins.
“And he hath power given unto him from the Father to redeem them from their sins because of repentance; therefore he hath sent… angels to declare the tidings of the conditions of repentance, which bringeth unto the power of the Redeemer, unto the salvation of their souls.
“And now, my sons, 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” (Helaman 5:9 - 12).

I pray that each of us, brothers and sisters, will consider the power of memories in our lives, and the eventual restoration of all our memories, and that we may wisely plant the kinds of memories today that will be delicious to us in the future. The secret to doing that is to remember the Savior, take upon us His name with full purpose of heart. By so doing, we ensure that our memories will be sweet and delicious forever. Where change is needed and memory needs to be cleansed through the power of the atonement of Jesus Christ, may we have the strength to seek that blessing humbly. May we be wise in all our choices, and recognize that the key to our eternal happiness, starting right now, is to pattern our lies after the Savior. Surely His path is the only way to lives of beauty and memories that will bless us across eternity. I pray that this understanding will sink into our hearts, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


How Long Halt Ye Between Two Opinions?

07 Nov. 2007


How Long Halt Ye Between Two Opinions?

Well, my young friends, it’s a pleasure to be with you today. My wife would normally accompany me on these types of occasions, but she got called into jury duty this morning, and she’s mad…not because she’s missing this, but she’s planning on leaving tomorrow with her three daughters to go to Chicago to see Wicked and a few other things, and if she’s in jury duty, I’m afraid some guys going to get a verdict he’s not going to be happy with. 

I’m just tickled to be here. It’s been a long time since I was a student at LDS Business College, but I will tell you that it was an important time for me. This institution provided a pivotal transition for me as I arrived home from my mission and tried to determine what it was I wanted to do with my life. And this institution has come a long way since I was a student at South Temple. I’m grateful that you have a benefactor like the LDS Church, who is willing to put the resources into this institution to really make it a world-class organization in the niche that it is competing in. I’m grateful for the administrators and the teachers in this organization. I would like to pay respects to one that is not here today, but when I was at this school, Dr. Carolyn Smith, who has since become Dr. Carolyn Brown, was an instructor of mine—and she did her best to try to teach me how to write and how to speak. And we’ll see if she accomplished any of those things by the time I’m done today.

I’m grateful to be with you.  The challenge I have laid out for myself today is to treat a suB.J.ect that I have had to deal with as a mission president, a bishop, a father, a husband, and a brother—and make it relevant for you.
The challenge is addressed in a question posed by Elijah. Confronting the people of Ahab, Elijah asked: “How long halt ye between two opinions?” (1 Kings 18:21). Who of us has not found ourselves halting between two opinions, or two opposing points of view? Do you find yourself, during this period of political debate prior to next year’s primaries, halting to consider multiple political platforms? Have you found yourself halting to evaluate your feelings about the conflict in Iraq, as that situation begs for some semblance of good news? Hardly a day goes by that I don’t have multiple options to evaluate as a CEO of a growing business establishment.

Halting while one evaluates the merits of two opinions isn’t a matter of much concern unless one of those opinions happens to be the Lord’s or one of His servants. Then the concern with “halting” is that our progress stops, and gives the adversary space with which to exercise his influence when we are highly vulnerable. The fact that we have halted would indicate that we are in doubt.  Satan loves nothing better than someone who is struggling with doubt.
So let’s examine the issues surrounding this challenge:

1) Our Father in Heaven understands that this halting and the subsequent evaluation of His opinion, which might be in conflict with the world’s point of view, would be an important part of our mortal experience.  After all, it was He who gave us both intellect and agency, the two characteristics necessary to evaluate conflicting points of view.
2) This particular period of your life that you have dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge gives you abundant opportunities to “halt between two opinions.”  However, you should understand that, even as you leave this academic institution and perhaps others in your future, the opportunity for halting and evaluating will always be present.
3) This is the time for you to examine your beliefs and opinions, but not throw them out.
4) As we examine our beliefs and opinions when challenged or invited to do so, it is important that we have a correct benchmark with which to compare the conflicting opinion.  The one benchmark that will always be correct and assist you in your evaluation is the mind and will of God, as revealed by the Holy Ghost, or those we sustain as prophets, seers, and revelators.
5) Learning how to understand and value spiritual benchmarks may be the most valuable skill or gift you will develop.  For example, we have been promised that the Lord will never allow the head of His Church to lead us astray (see D&C: Official Declaration 1). We have been promised that blessings always follow obedience (see D&C 130:21).  Gaining a knowledge and testimony of these and other spiritual benchmarks will be critical as you evaluate and weigh conflicting ideas and concepts.
6) The acquisition of spiritual knowledge, which leads to understanding the mind and will of God, does not follow the same process or pattern as the acquisition of secular knowledge. The prophet Jacob taught that man would not understand God’s way, save it should be revealed to him (see Jacob 4:8).
7) And finally, it is equally important to know that the Lord expects us to use our intellect in both the acquisition and the processing of spiritual knowledge or revelation. Instructing an early church leader, the Lord told Oliver Cowdery “that you must study it out in your [own] mind” (D&C 9:8) prior to asking for celestial confirmation.

So, when we find ourselves “halting between two opinions,” or dealing with conflicting points of view, and one of them represents God’s opinion or point of view, what do we do, recognizing that our intellect and agency are two of the greatest characteristics that our Father in Heaven has blessed us with?

Well, we can trust in our own intellect exclusively and hope that we make the right decision, or we can follow a process the Lord has outlined for his children to use when we find ourselves grinding to a “halt.” The Lord was kind enough to give us a “heads-up” in Proverbs, when He cautioned us to not lean unto our own understanding, but rather place our trust in Him (see Proverbs 3:5). He was specific in saying that we must trust Him with all of our heart, not a portion of it.  So trusting Him until we are uncomfortable and then backing away won’t work.

With these issues in mind, let’s examine the process the Lord has laid out for us when we find ourselves “halting.”

1) First, we need to understand that we seldom halt over easy things. It was the Children of Israel that asked the prophets to not prophecy right things, but rather “speak unto us smooth things” (Isaiah 30:10). Don’t find yourselves wishing that the Lord’s servants would only ask us to evaluate smooth things. There is nothing smooth or easy about understanding the issues surrounding abortion, same sex attraction or same gender marriage, the reason the priesthood was withheld from a race of people that were so capable and worthy for so long, what comprises a woman’s role in today’s society, or the distribution of prescription birth control medication and contraceptives in our secondary schools. Our challenge is to come to understand, appreciate, and ultimately sustain the Lord’s point of view without halting.
2) We must understand that we may not be able to comprehend celestial concepts with our intellect or telestial tools alone. The apostle Paul taught us that the things of God are foolishness unto man, unless they are spiritually discerned (see 1 Corinthians 2:11, 14). We must recognize that the Spirit has the ability to enlighten our minds. When Oliver Cowdery desired to translate the Gold Plates, he was turned down. One of the reasons the Lord gave him for his refusal was that Oliver had not spent the requisite amount of time contemplating the consequences of what he was asking for. Paraphrasing, the Lord told him, “You have not understood…you took no thought save it was to ask me…You must study it out in your [own] mind; then you must ask me if it be right” (D&C 9:7-8). I think with a little “study time,” Oliver would have come to the conclusion that multiple translators might have compromised the translation.  If he needed any evidence of this, he only need spend a few minutes in the Bible.
3) Just as an understanding of academic concepts requires academic preparation, understanding celestial concepts requires spiritual preparation. Ammon taught us that faith, repentance, good works, and prayer—all without ceasing—would qualify us to know the mysteries (or mind) of God (see Alma 26:21-22). Just wanting to know or understand is not enough. The Lord wants us to demonstrate that sincerity by the quality and quantity of our preparation. An example of this principle can be found in reviewing the process that the brother of Jared went through to get his barges illuminated before departing for the Promised Land. Briefly, after multiple attempts by the brother of Jared requesting that the Lord light their barges, the Lord tried to teach him the principle and the importance of preparing before making a request. He asked the brother of Jared, “What will ye that I should do that ye [might] have light in your [barges]?” After reviewing or outlining the limitations that confronted them, the Lord encouraged the brother of Jared to come up with his own solution and return for confirmation. While the Lord loves us, He is absolutely committed to our development and will not allow us to slide by with inadequate preparation (see Ether 2:16-25).
4) Spiritual preparation that produces understanding requires the application of faith and a willingness to submit to his will (see Alma 32 and Mosiah 3:19). You will not appreciate this part of the process until the principle you are trying to understand is causing significant concern for you or pain for someone that you care deeply about. Then you will begin to understand and perceive that only through the exercise of your faith and your willingness to submit can your Father in Heaven certify that your spiritual preparation is sufficient for understanding.
5) We must serve as a requirement to understand His point of view. King Benjamin taught us that we cannot know the master whom we have not served. Paraphrasing King Benjamin, I would add that we cannot know the will, the mind, the intent, the love, or the compassion of a man we have not served (see Mosiah 5:13). The Savior was very clear when he taught us that if we will do His will, we will know (see John 7:17). With the application of faith, as evidenced by our willingness to submit and serve, there is only one thing missing for understanding—the final step—that is.
6) What is your intent should the sought-after understanding come? When Moroni extended his much-repeated promise on how one might come to know the truth of the Book of Mormon, it was in part based on the intent of the one seeking the testimony (see Moroni 10:4). If your intent is honorable, if your intent is to act on the knowledge given to you in a way that honors your Father in Heaven, then you should expect the sought-after answer. If, however, your intent is self-interested and without commitment, then this process won’t work for you. This explains why everyone who tests the promise does not receive the witness. You see, intent goes to the nature and desire of our heart, where real understanding and commitment reside. Both King Benjamin and the prophet Abinadi taught us that it is the heart where understanding takes place (see Mosiah 2:9; 12:27).

Let me share with you a recent personal experience that illustrates the challenge of not halting when presented with what seemed to be an overwhelming conflict.

A little over four years ago, I was called to preside over the England London Mission.  The call came to me and Sister Banks, but also to our 13-year-old son, B.J., as well. While he was not set apart or given keys to preside, it was to be his experience as much as ours.

Surely the Lord was aware of B.J. when the call to preside over the England London Mission came. Specifically, He must have been aware of B.J. when the assignment to London was decided. After arriving in London and enrolling B.J. in school, it became clear that it would be very difficult for B.J. to succeed in his new academic environment. In addition to other significant and vexing challenges, there was a teacher who became aware of who B.J.’s dad was and who he represented. It didn’t take long for the focus on B.J.’s religion and its usual misrepresentations to start, and the feelings of isolation for a 13-year-old boy to begin.

While our living quarters were comfortable and located in a remarkable city full of history and culture, there was an absence of friends or associates B.J. might develop a friendship with. Loneliness was added to the emotion of isolation.

In short, we had all the circumstances for the perfect storm in terms of a lonely, isolate, desperate young man. He desperately wanted to be home with his sisters and friends. At the same time he wanted to be supportive of his dad. He couldn’t understand why, if the Lord loved him, He had sent us to a place that was big, seemingly inhospitable to Americans, to a school that presented significant challenges, and had him feeling very isolated and lonely—all of which were contributing to feelings of anxiety and depression that he had never experienced before.

I frankly didn’t have any easy or smooth answers for him. Assuring him of my love, I told him that he was more important than the missionaries I had been sent to serve, or the call I had received. If he felt he couldn’t go on then we would go home. His reply was that he didn’t want to be the reason that the missionaries would have to deal with a new president and the disruption that might cause. Neither did he want to be the reason I didn’t fulfill the calling that I had been entrusted with.

Clearly, this was a young man in trouble. His pain was spiritual, emotional, mental, as well as physical. I was beginning to understand why the Savior had to experience all that we would experience so He would know how to succor us in our time of need. However, it seemed that our collective petitions to Heaven were going unheeded.

Was it time to halt? Why would the Lord send my boy to a place that He knew would be so full of struggle? Why not send us to an emotionally safe place in America, where there would be friends and a familiar school system? Why didn’t he send us to a place where the sun would shine occasionally?

It was time for President Banks to examine the spiritual benchmarks that had served him so well for the previous 49 years. I knew that my Father in Heaven loved me, and He loved my son. I knew that obedience always brought promised blessings, including perspective and understanding. I also knew that we didn’t determine the methods of delivery or the timing of those blessings.

As I continued to submit my petitions heavenward in my son’s behalf, the Lord, with the assistance of a modern-day Apostle, taught me a powerful principle—that when we accept callings, as the one I was performing, everyone involved lays something on the altar—and my son was no exception. I hadn’t realized in accepting the call that part of the sacrifice would be in part some measure of the peace, happiness and well-being of my own son.

Now that I had reviewed and reconfirmed the benchmarks, I went to work on my own spiritual preparation so I might understand why this discomfort and pain was necessary. I began to submit more willingly, that I might understand and in fact change my nature and heart, knowing if my heart wasn’t right I would never be blessed with the understanding I would need to help my son.

I continued to serve with all my ability, knowing that serving was one of the requirements for understanding the will, the mind, the intent, and the love of God. Finally, I had to ask myself, “What is my intent? Is it to ease my pain? Is it to assist my son with his pain, or to ease the conflict I am experiencing, all without making any permanent change in my celestial perspective?”

Well, we made it through the three-year odyssey, learning as we went along. It was never easy, but there were moments of joy, periods of growth, and time of much reflection. However, the answer I was searching for—why London and all its challenges for my son—did not get answered until we returned home. The answer came about six months after our return. It came in a stake priesthood meeting at which B.J. and I had been asked to speak. As I sat and pondered our experience while my son spoke, the answer to my heartfelt prayer came. As I listened to his understanding and perspective of the gospel, I knew why we had been sent to London. That kind of understanding in a 16-year-old boy would not have come in a place that did not provide considerable challenge.
Had I halted, I—as well as the rest of my family—would have missed the most remarkable and influential experience of our lives.

My young friends, the Church that sponsors this institution is full of bright people who have spent a lifetime gathering knowledge and wisdom, only to forget to ask for understanding and therefore halting while they evaluate and ultimately find themselves in conflict with God or His servants (see Proverbs 4:7).
We can avoid halting and subsequently stopping our progress when confronted with opinions, principles and practices that cause us to feel conflicted with things we have been taught by the Lord’s servants, if we will learn to apply this process in our search for understanding. There is no reason to halt while we evaluate whatever conflict we are struggling with. Obedience always enlarges our understanding.

We can be confident in our ability to venture into any appropriate environment—be it academic, social, emotional or professional—and come out whole, if we remember to exercise our faith, petition the Lord in prayer, continue in good works, serve God, and make sure our intent is honest and genuine.
Peace and confidence will be the natural consequence of using the right process in the evaluation of conflicting opinions and working through our mortal struggles. When we have made the right choice, He has promised us that we will “feel…right” (D&C 9:8).

I want to leave you with my testimony that my life experience has taught me that if we will utilize this process, as long as it takes, that we will feel right—not only going through the challenge, but after the challenge has passed. I leave my witness with you that our Father in Heaven and His Son are aware of the very details of our lives, and if we will trust them, we will find ourselves making correct choices that will lead to opportunities we would never have had otherwise. I leave my testimony with you that the organization that sponsors this school, and that many of you belong to—The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—is the Kingdom of God on earth, and in that kingdom you will find everything that you need to return to your Father in Heaven. I leave my witness with you that Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer, and do so in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Do Right: Honoring Our Commitments

14 Nov. 2007


Do Right: Honoring Our Commitments

I appreciate the opportunity to be here today. It’s a little bit intimidating, however, and I pray for the Spirit to be with me as our opening prayer asked as well.
Just before beginning this semester, the College completed a process of defining our cultural beliefs. Those cultural beliefs were presented to the faculty and staff, and then some changes were made to them. Additional modifications were made to reflect the changes necessary to adapt them to students. Hopefully, all of you have had copies of those cultural beliefs, and if not, Troy has been handing them out today. So we hope you will take them.

The cultural beliefs are intended to act as a compass to help students, faculty and staff as we present and students absorb the educational experience here at LDS Business College.  I have chosen today to speak on the first of those student cultural beliefs. The first part of the belief, “Do Right,” suggests that in all we do we should make the right choices.

Brother Ben Banks, in the devotional last week, addressed this when he posed the question uttered by Elijah in 1 Kings 18:21: And Elijah came unto all the people and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” The implication here is that there was a right and a wrong choice.

How do we make right choices? In some cases it’s very easy. They are learned from parents, teachers, leaders, and peers, related to issues or dilemmas we face, and we form opinions of what is right. Or perhaps we can deduce from the circumstances a direction and make an educated guess. We may even ask a trusted friend to help us make the decision. It is the other issues that present the difficulty. What we need is a compass that points the way to find the right answer.

I would like to relate to you some experiences that I have had with compasses and their value that I have experienced. At about the age of 17, my employer offered the use of some horses to two of my friends and I so that we could go fishing in the mountains near Cokeville, Wyoming. My employer’s sheepherders provided the horses along with advice that if we got lost,  we should give the horses their head and let them take us back to where we were dropped off. We were told, “They can always find their way home. They have a built-in compass.”

The day we left from our trip to return, the morning sky was overcast so the sun was of no value to help us determine our direction. I had a compass and we used it instead of the sheepherder’s advice. We made it back to the road, but many miles from where we should have been and much later than the prearranged time. Unbeknownst to me at the time, the magnetic poles of the needle of the compass had become reversed, and the north end of the needle pointed south. From that experience I learned that a faulty compass is of little or no value.

A Global Positioning System or GPS as it is called, is a highly accurate technological device based on the reception of radio waves transmitted from satellites that orbit 12,600 miles above the earth. Using this technology, location, altitude and speed are available.  The accuracy at their highest setting is within eight to twelve inches. On a hike to Notch Lake last year in the Uinta Mountains with my eldest son and several of his sons, we took a small GPS receiver. Traveling to the lake, we followed a trail shown on the screen of the GPS. It is a winding trail skirting ponds and cliffs for about 3.6 miles. It is an easy hike on a well-marked trail. The GPS was not needed, but we thought it would be fun to test the technology. As we left the lake to travel back, since we could see a map on the GPS screen and the location of the lake where we camped, we decided to take the direct and shorter route and travel cross-country and not follow the trail. This time we found ponds, lakes, dense forest and cliffs in our way that made the trip very difficult and in some cases, treacherous. A GPS is a wonderful compass when applied correctly.

In September, my wife and another son and grandson took a train from Paris to Madrid to visit, among other sites, the Madrid Temple. Upon leaving the train station, we went by taxi to the temple. The driver didn’t know the way, but when we gave him the address, he input it into the GPS receiver mounted on his windshield. A map appeared on the screen and he followed the map, and a voice announced to him every turn that he should take along the way. We arrived at the temple with no difficulty.

An application of a sophisticated compass is of great value. But it is of little value as we traverse down the road of life. The point I make in relating these experiences is to illustrate that you need to be careful what you choose as your compass. Some are accurate when used wisely, and others made lead you astray or far from your intended goal.

Perhaps the best-known compass in church history is the Liahona spoken of by Nephi in 1 Nephi 16:10: “And it came to pass that as my father arose in the morning, and went forth to the tent door, to his great astonishment he beheld upon the ground a round ball of curious workmanship; and it was of fine brass. And within the ball were two spindles; and the one pointed the way whither we should go into the wilderness.”

Nephi then explains, in verses 28 and 29, how the ball worked:

“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld the pointers which were in the ball, that they did work according to the faith and diligence and heed which we did give unto them.“And there was also written upon them a new writing, which was plain to be read, which did give us understanding concerning the ways of the Lord; and it was written and changed from time to time, according to the faith and diligence which we gave unto it.”

Of the three compasses that I have mentioned, it is this last one that will be of most value to us as we consider the first cultural belief—“Do Right.” The principle that made the Liahona work is available to all of us, to act as a compass. But its use is conditional, just like the first two compass examples I mentioned. It will work if the principles that govern its use are followed exactly. We can draw on that compass according to the faith and diligence and heed which we give them. We also have writing which is plain to be read, as was that on the Liahona. The words of prophets both ancient and modern, the scriptures and the words of present-day prophets can be listened to during conferences and read reprinted in Church magazines and online at the Church website. And they exist to provide us direction. But we only benefit from them as we study, ponder and pray about their meaning for us.

As faculty, students and staff here at LDS Business College, we have all committed to follow a code of ethics known as the Honor Code, which also serves as a compass. The Honor Code is not to tell us everything we can or cannot do, but provides direction. Coupled with the guidance of the Holy Ghost, which right was given to us as we were confirmed members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or the Spirit of Christ for those who are not members, that is given to all men, it helps us lessen the time that we halt between two opinions.

Let me tell you of an experience I heard from the parents of a young student at BYU-Idaho. Not long after leaving for her first semester in Idaho, her parents living in Germany received a package containing articles of clothing she had taken with her to school, but with no explanation as to why they were being returned. Her mother, concerned that the clothing purchased with funds that could have been used for other needs was not going to be utilized, called her daughter for an explanation. Her answer was that she had decided that they did not meet the Honor Code, and said, “It was my decision to follow the Honor Code.” She made that decision even though it was not specifically spelled out in the code. What an example of commitment and doing what’s right.

Consider this scripture in Doctrine and Covenants 58:26-29, which we probably all should have memorized:

“For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore, he receiveth no reward.“Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;
“For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.
“But he that doeth not anything until he is commanded, and receiveth a commandment with doubtful heart, and keepeth it with slothfulness, the same is damned.”

This scripture explains exactly how the Honor Code is to be interpreted. In verse 28 of the previous scripture, it says, “And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.” The direction is not only that we should do right, but that we should do good. Last week, I witnessed a situation that demonstrated to me the power of doing good.

I was riding to work on TRAX, and the train car I was riding in had every seat filled. The door opened at a stop and several more people entered, looked for seats and, when they found none, found a spot to stand. A young man of Asian descent near the front very quietly stood up and offered his seat to a young lady. She thanked him and sat down. The young man found a place next to the window and continued to read his book, which I noticed was the Book of Mormon. Following his example, an older man then stood up and gave his seat to another lady. I was impressed that this young man had taken the initiative to do good, and someone else had followed his example. I continued to watch him until we both got off the train at the last stop. He walked behind the KSL building and I lost sight of him until we were both waiting for an elevator—here at LDS Business College. He was a great example of doing good, and I wished people could have known that he is a student here at LDS Business College.

We should all look for opportunities not only to do right, but to do good—not to be seen of others, but because it is the right thing to do. It is the noise of the world that tries to move us from our correct path that leads back to our Father in Heaven. The oft-stated admonition that we should be “in the world, but not of the world” provides us additional direction on how we should act.

Our membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints requires much of us. But as taught by the Prophet Joseph Smith, “a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation.”

When I was a young boy, every Tuesday night in Mutual, we would stand and recite the Mutual Theme. Some here will remember that theme; it is familiar to all of us. It comes from 1 Nephi 3:7: “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.”

Several other scriptures come to mind that admonish us to do right and do good, and the value that comes from doing so. In Joshua 24:15: “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; …but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” The second, Doctrine and Covenants 88:63: “Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you.”

The second part of the cultural belief is, “I honor my commitments.” As I have pondered that phrase, I have identified three types of commitments. The first are those that are made to our Father in Heaven. They consist of covenants and commandments that we live. Among them is baptism. Just take a moment and read—I’m sure that none of you remember this from the time that you were baptized, because it wasn’t spoken in words—but we read in Mosiah some of the commitments we made, or we make as we enter the waters of baptism. They’re found in Mosiah 18: 8-10.

“And it came to pass that he said unto them: Behold, here are the waters of Mormon  (for thus they were called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;
“Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life.”

We don’t remember those things because they weren’t said, but they are commitments that nevertheless we bear as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The second comes from the partaking of the sacrament—a renewal again of the baptismal covenant. Another is the Word of Wisdom. I dwell here for just a moment on the Word of Wisdom, but consider the benefits that might be of particular value to each one of us here as students, for we are all students. We commit to a certain lifestyle that requires that we avoid some things and embrace other things. It is the promise that comes from fulfilling that commitment that I would turn your attention to. It is found in Doctrine and Covenants 89:18-21, and to me, is the real value of the Word of Wisdom:

“And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones;
“And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;
“And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.
“And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them.”

What a wonderful benefit for keeping a commitment to our Father in Heaven. Are those all promises that we could benefit by? I think specifically as students here at LDS Business College, the one that says, “Shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures,” is of particular value to us. There are commitments that are made between you and someone else, and we call those contracts. They must be beneficial to both parties. I can hear the faculty of the business department teaching that particular principle. For example, loans—we pay interest in return for funds for things. Our employment—we receive pay in return for our labors. We expect an honest pay for honest labors. The Honor Code kind of falls into this category. We receive an education and a substantial tuition subsidy in return for obedience.

Then there are the commitments that we make to ourselves, which become our values and our beliefs. They develop character, which I have heard defined as what you would do if you knew you would not be found out. Think about that for a moment. What would you do if you knew you would not be found out? It helps us create integrity in our lives. Integrity means to do what you say you will do.

In our lives, there are many opportunities for us to make commitments in each of these three areas. To our Father in Heaven, when we promise we will do certain things if He will help us with other things. We need to learn to keep those kind of commitments. There are all kinds of covenants that we make with our Father in Heaven—those that we make with others as we agree to do things for other people in turn for things that they would do for us. Or perhaps things that we just offer to do, with no hope of anything in return.

And finally, and not more importantly but certainly as important, are those commitments that we make to ourselves. When we come here to school, we all come in with the idea—and I did as well—that I would do my very best; that I would achieve that 4.0 grade point average (which, by the way, I never did). There are all kinds of things that we do, that we commit to in our own hearts. In the fervor of the moment—perhaps during a sacrament meeting when we have been impressed by a particular talk, and we say, “You know, that’s what I’m going to do.” And then, as time wings on and our memories are dimmed by the time, we forget what we have committed to ourselves to do.

Of particular value is writing down those commitments that we can remember them and imbed them in our hearts, that we may in fact be a peculiar people, a people that keep their commitments.

Brothers and sisters, I know that the gospel is true, that our Father in Heaven wants us to keep our commitments. He provides many promises and blessings to us if we will. I know that we are led by prophets today, that our Father in Heaven would have us listen to those prophets and read their words and heed them, as He expected in times of old. And I leave this with you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.