Developing Civility

03 Jul. 2007

Transcript

Developing Civility

 

It’s my pleasure and honor to be here, in the presence of all of you, and to have been given the opportunity to come and share in the way that it’s taken me 38 years to figure out—in a way that will do what has been deemed impossible in some fields of education, and that is to permanently and forever eradicate the curve of forgetting from the minds of the students. I’ve got students in my classes that after five weeks forget they’re in class. I’ve had students at midterm come up to me and say, “I know I registered for the class; these are my notes, I wrote them myself, but I can’t remember any of it.” So I have worked my entire career to come up with ways to enable you to retain forever, simple ideas, simple doctrines that you can turn into principles. And the challenge that I was faced with on this assignment was the commitment that you’ve all made, and all those who work with you here, to develop civility. What an interesting challenge it is that what we’re going to do each day of our lives is something looked upon by someone else as having done the civil thing—to be a person who is in possession of civility—courteous, polite, appropriate behavior, and, dealing in social relationships, pleasant and polite.

There has been great effort made to help you and me learn to take that road. But if you look around, that is definitely not the road most of the world is taking. Every day it’s almost like we stand at the fork in the road, and one sign says “Civility”; the other sign says “Incivility.” And we have to make a choice as we stand at that fork in the road. 

What I heard on the radio, what I saw as I drove and changed lanes not quite to the satisfaction of the person behind me, was not civility. It met the criteria of being bold, brash, and disrespectful. The gesture was definitely inappropriate, rude and sassy. As I look at the choices that we must make, I am so grateful that we live in a day when there are voices calling to us so that we can make the right choice. I, like most of the world, stand in awe of the living example of civility we have in the living prophet, who represents every characteristic I could ever find defined about what it takes to be a person who is civil in all that he does. I was touched in his remarks in the last conference when he used that oft-quoted poem from Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken: “Two roads diverged in a…wood, and I…took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

Do you remember when he said that? Unfortunately, in the day and time that we live, the road of civility is the less-traveled by, if taken at all. I read Robert Frost’s poem again, and I’m going to take some liberties with what he has left for us, and see if you and I can use his great work and the teaching from the prophets, to help you and me come up with a formula that will help us make the right choice.

 

Two roads diverge in a yellow wood,

And sorry I cannot travel both

And so, this traveler, long I stand,

And look down one as far as I can

To where it bends in the undergrowth.

 

Then took the other just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim

Because it was grassy and wanted wear,

Though, as for that, the passing there

Had worn them really just about the same.

 

We really are standing at the fork of the road every day of our lives, and from the distance, the roads don’t look that much different. But you and I have to see it with eyes that the average person doesn’t use. We have been commanded to “Choose… this day whom [we] will serve.” (Joshua 24:15) We have been told that we are “free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for [ourselves] and not to be acted upon.” (2 Nephi 2:26)

In the words of the Savior Himself, He says, I’m watching you. “I know [your] works. [Some of you are] neither cold nor hot.: I would that thou wert cold or hot. 

“So…because [you are] lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.” (Revelations 3:15-16)

Now let me put that into what I hear him saying: “I see you standing at the fork in the road, and you don’t know whether to go to sign one or sign two. You’re trying to decide what you need to do. You know, because you’ve been taught that you cannot serve two masters. It’s one road or the other. For either you will hate one and love the other, or else you will hold to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God, or his appointed ambassador here upon the earth, and mammon.” (See Matthew 6:24) So what’s the problem?

Paul identified it as having too many voices to listen to. In 1 Corinthians, he says it so eloquently: “For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle? 

“So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air. 

“There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification.” (chapter 14, verses 8-10) 

There are so many voices! There’s the voice of God. We’ve learned that if we want to talk to God, we pray to Him. We’ve been taught by living apostles today that if we want God to talk to us, we open the scriptures. You want to hear the voice of God, then open the scriptures. 

There’s the voice of our living prophets. We receive every six months from living prophets the voices of administrators, gifted administrators and ministers in the kingdom of God on the earth. We all have been given the gift of the Holy Ghost, or the voice of the Spirit. 

But amidst all of these great, wonderful voices, there are some other voices, very loud. I call it the voice of the world that we hear through the media, we hear through music, through videos, iPods, the Internet. Sometimes those voices are so loud that we can’t hear the right voice.

“And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.” (John 10:4)

“What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.” (D&C 1:38)

And then we have, “And the whole world lieth in sin, and groaneth under darkness and under the bondage of sin. 

“And by this you [will] know [that] they are under the bondage of sin, because they come not unto me,

“For whoso cometh not unto me is under the bodage of sin.

“And whoso receiveth not my voice is not acquainted with my voice, and is not of me.” (D&C 84:49-52)

There’s the problem. Today, brothers and sisters, I want to give you another voice. It’s not the voice of an administrator. It’s not the voice of a minister. I would like to call this voice the voice of a minstrel. A minstrel, by definition, is a bard. I have been referred to as “the bard” at our campus. Now by definition, a bard played songs and told stories about other places or historical events in the Middle Ages. Initially, minstrels were simple servants at the court, and they entertained the lord and all the other important people. Though the minstrels created their own tales, often they would memorize and embellish the works of others.

For 38 years I’ve been involved in a line of teaching that uses the method of the minstrel. In the commercial world of advertising and marketing and sales, these people have discovered the great power that’s available through what is referred to as the “minstrel methods.” I am amazed at how powerful it is as I observe the behavior of the consuming public making choices to purchase products and services and ideas that they’d have never, ever dreamed of, until they heard the voice. 

The master advertisers understand that if you will 1) make it creative, and then 2) realize that everybody forgets so overwhelm them with repetition, you’ll overcome their curve of forgetting. They have proven that anything you’re exposed to a minimum of eighty repetitions will stay in your mind forever. Eighty repetitions is all that has to be done. Now, that will bore the tears out of you to think of listening to something eighty times, unless you take those repetitions, put them in a rhythmic pattern, then surround them in music that stirs up emotion, then create a little symbol so that exposure to the symbol recreates the emotion and all of the message, and then you leave with one hundred percent retention of the information.

Your mind and my mind are full of worthless pieces of information that have been placed there because of the methods of modern-day minstrels. Where did they come up with that strategy? Was it something that they created? If you look in depth into the scriptures, you’ll find they’re only using the very tools that the Lord tried to teach His leaders to use with their people so they would never forget.

Listen to the words of Paul in Ephesians 5:19-20: “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” Paul learned and taught that if you can get somebody to say it to themselves, not speaking to others, speaking to yourself—a commercial, a jingle, gets you in a mode where you start talking to yourself. You’re singing about it to yourself. You would never sing it out loud; you’d be embarrassed to be singing about dog food or toilet bowl cleanser or whatever it was that put that into your mind. “Speaking to yourself in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;

“Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

2 Kings 3:15: “But now bring me a minstrel. And it came to pass, when the minstrel played, that the hand of the Lord came upon him.” You know the account of the king, and they didn’t know what to do. So they called the prophet, and the prophet didn’t know what to do. So he called a minstrel, and after the minstrel played, “the hand of the Lord” was upon him. 

“Praise the Lord with harp; sing unto him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings. 

“Sing unto him a new song. Play skillfully, with a loud noise.” (Psalm 33:3-4)

 Well, I brought…it’s not a psaltery, and it’s not an instrument of ten strings. The one I have here only has six strings, but it can be used as a minstrel. Who else utilized this method to teach his people? The great prophet Moses. Facing one of the most difficult things he ever did, as he realized as they looked into the land of milk and honey, the land of promise that they had been walking for forty years to find, he began to fear what the people would do. He feared they would forget what they had seen, what they had heard, what they had felt.

In Deuteronomy 31, the Lord gives him some counsel. He says, “Now therefore write ye this song for you, and teach it to the children of Israel: put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the children of Israel.” (verse 19)

On down in verse 21, “And it [came] to pass, when many evils and troubles are befallen them, that this song shall testify against them as a witness; for it shall not be forgotten out of the mouths of their seed: for I know their imagination which they go about, even now, before I have brought them into the land which I sware.” 

Can you picture that—the Savior talking to Moses and saying, “The only safe way is you’re going to have to put your teachings into a song, and then put it in their mouths. And if it goes in there, it’ll go in their hearts.

Verse 22 says Moses caught the vision, because he says, “Moses therefore wrote this song the same day.” As soon as the Lord told him what to do, he sat down and wrote it and taught it to the children of Israel. Deuteronomy 32 is referred to as the song of Moses. 

In modern-day scripture we’re told that “my soul delights in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads.” (D&C 25:12)

For 38 years, I have employed the methods of the minstrel to teach everything from salesmanship techniques at Weber State University to gospel doctrine and courtship and marriage techniques at the Ogden LDS Institute. With your patience and cooperation today, in the style of a minstrel, I would ask you to allow me to teach you a lesson—a lesson that will come through a story of the Zode. 

Now why am I holding up a picture sign that says “ZODE” on it? Well, let me tell you what else we’ve learned. If I give you the word, you’re going to remember 10% of the words. Or I can take my words and put them into a story—“I’m going to give you the lesson of the Zode”—I wish I could take credit for it, but the credit goes to the author, Dr. Seuss. Now, Dr. Seuss was a gifted teacher. My very value system is hinged on some of his great lessons. “I meant what I said, and I said what I meant: An elephant’s faithful one hundred per cent.” (from Horton Hatches An Egg) If I tell you I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it, just like Horton did on the egg.

Or, “A person’s a person no matter how small.” (from Horton Hears a Who) Great values taught. If I can put them into a story, you’ll retain 40%. If with the story, I go to all the work to prepare a very expensive visual—it’s not a Power Point visual, this is a people point visual—people, I’m pointing. “ZODE.” With the use of a visual, your retention goes up to 60%. That has been proven scientifically. 

Now, if we can take and add to the story—most of what Dr. Seuss wrote was in rhyme form anyway, and produced a rhythmic pattern—if I can put it into rhythm, then here is what happens to your ability to remember it. It jumps up to 90%. And at the risk of insulting the true musicians in the audience, if you can add music to it—now true musicians would use music that would do as the performance did at the beginning of our session today. Put a lump in my throat, a tear in my eye. The advertising people discovered a long time ago, that’s one way to do it. There’s another way. You can make it so annoying, so aggravating that it almost nauseates—and if there is emotion connected to it, your ability to retain is now 100%, totally eradicating the curve of forgetting.

So, allow me now to grab my instrument of six strings and with its assistance, let me share with you, in minstrel form, the lesson of the Zode:

 

Each day we’re Making Choices

You stand at the fork in the road,

Hear the voices!

Make good Choices,

Learn the lesson of the ZODE!

 

Now go ahead and wipe the tear out of your eye if you want. That just choked you up, didn’t it? I got a little choked up.

 

Did I ever tell you about the young Zode,

Who came to two signs at the fork in the road?

One said, “To Place One” and the other “Place Two”

So the Zode had to make up his mind what to do.

Well, the Zode scratched his head and his chin and his pants,

And he said to himself, “I’ll be taking a chance,

If I go to Place One now that may be hot,

So how will I know if I’ll like it or not?”

 

(Chorus)

Each day we’re Making Choices

We stand at the fork in the road,

Hear the voices!

Make good Choices,

Learn the lesson of the ZODE!

 

On the other hand though, I’d be sort of a fool,

If I go to Place Two and find it too cool,

On the other hand though, If Place One is too high,

I might get a terrible earache and die.

On the other hand though, what might happen to me,

Which way should I go? Oh! Please help me see!

If Place Two is too low, just everyone knows,

A person could get a strange pain in his toe!

 

(Chorus)

Each day we’re Making Choices

You stand at the fork in the road,

Hear the voices!

Make good Choices,

Learn the lesson of the ZODE!

 

You see how it gets to you? It does just irreversible brain damage, see? When I sang that the first time, I know you thought, “There’s no way in the world I’d ever sing that stupid thing.” And yet, did you hear what was happening in here? It’s the power.

 

On the other hand though, on the other hand though,

On the other hand, other hand, other hand though!

For thirty-six hours and one half

The Zode made starts and stops in the path.

Don’t take a chance, you might not be right!

Then he got an idea that was wonderfully bright.

“Play Safe,” cried the Zode, “I’ll play safe, I’m no dunce!

I’ll simply start out for both places at once!”

 

(Chorus)

Each day we’re Making Choices

You stand at the fork in the road,

Hear the voices!

Make good Choices,

Learn the lesson of the ZODE!

 

He started and stopped, he stopped and he started,

He would not choose, all his courage departed!

And that’s how the Zode, who would not take a stance

Got no place at all with a split in his pants!

 

Old Dr. Seuss tried to show you and me,

What the real challenge of “Choices” can be!

If you don’t decide now, learn to take a stance,

You’ll get no place at all with a split in your pants!

 

(Chorus)

Each day we’re Making Choices

You stand at the fork in the road,

Hear the voices!

Make good Choices,

Learn the lesson of the ZODE!

 

Every time I do it, it just amazes me, what you can do to intelligent, bright human beings. See, the advertising people have been doing this to you and me for years. Only now you’ve got something recorded there that can make a difference. You see, if you don’t make the right choice to develop civility in your life—“that’s the choice that I’m going to make; that’s the Place One that I’m going to head down”—then you really have zero options. You really are at a dead end.

 

Z-Zero

O-Options;

D-Dead

E-End. 

 

You’re stuck in the middle of the road with a split in your pants. You can’t serve both; you’re either going to serve one or the other. 

If you hear the right voice and you make the right choice, then you zero in on options that affect decisions of eternal impact. I’ll do that again; that was too fast. 

 

Z-Zero in on

O-Options to make

D-Decisions that have

E-Eternal impact 

Oh, it grieves me to have to accept the reality that the road not taken today by so many in our land is the road to civility. I watched some of our well-known personalities on a news clip last night, screaming and yelling at each other. And I thought, “Each day we’re making choices; you stand at the fork in the road. What voice were you listening to, to respond that way or to act that way or to say those things?”

It’s a daily choice, and we face it all the time. I thought of it as we got out of the car in the parking dungeon downstairs. I had to make a choice. Which way do I go? And if I didn’t catch myself, I’d have tried to go both places at once. Well, we know what happens when you try to do both. Some of us have lived long enough in mortality that we know how painful the split in your pants is that comes from trying to serve both. You cannot serve God and mammon. 

The Savior, who we heard so eloquently represented, will never leave us alone. He doesn’t leave us alone. He’s there for us. His voice is crying to us to come unto Him, to come unto Him. It’s our choice. It is our choice.

Now, if you need evidence to prove that the minstrel method has in fact done its job, I can give that evidence with just a few chords:

 

Each day we’re Making Choices

You stand at the fork in the road,

Hear the voices!

Make good Choices,

Learn the lesson of the ZODE!

 

Well, thank you, Dr. Seuss. There was one other, a great teacher, who learned the power of stories, who we’re studying about. When the Savior knew that what He was to teach would have profound impact, He opted to stop the traditional mode of teaching and began to use stories—stories that had references everybody could understand, stories that had different levels of understanding, stories that have been a treasure now for thousands of years, stories that help us hear the right voices. Now, I would not put the lesson of the Zode in the category of the Savior’s parables. But I will offer it to you as those whose job it is to come unto Him and to follow Him and to listen for His voice. When you find yourselves facing that fork in the road: "Place One, Place Two. Place One, Place Two. What do I do?” Hear the voices. Hear His voice as He speaks to you. Hear the voice of His servants as they testify to us. Hear the voice of the Spirit as it speaks to you, and make the right choice.

I pray with all of my heart that you and the Zode will zero in on those decisions that you make every day that will have eternal impact in your life. That would be my prayer as I add my witness to the many that you’ve heard from here, and will hear in the next few weeks, that He is the Shepherd, He is calling to us, and we need to hear His voice. May we not be the ones that refuse to hear. May we not be the ones that will turn our ears from that voice. May we be the ones to take the road less traveled, the road not traveled, and commit ourselves to the developing of civility.

I would leave that with you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


Subscribe to Summer 2007