Fall 2010

Start This Semester Strong

14 Sep. 2010


Start This Semester Strong


Craig read that just the way I wrote it for him. Not really. You do look good. You look very good. I appreciate that music. There’s something about music. I think Father in Heaven really likes music, because it has the power to elicit the Spirit, and to invite it in very special ways. And I appreciated Claudia’s sensitivity to that hymn, “I Feel My Savior’s Love.” Couldn’t you tell, the way that she played it, that it came from her heart? It made me think carefully about you, and the love that the Savior has for you because you are here. And if you don’t feel anything today, or don’t remember anything today, I pray with all sincerity that you will feel your Savior’s love.

In those books that we’ve given to you for this year, you could write down a couple of things that people say that will be kind of important. Let me tell you a little trick that I use. I use bullets, squares and little “I”s in a circle. The squares are little tasks that I need to do, because I heard something today that’s triggered a thought that prompts me to take an action. The little dots are because somebody said something that I thought, “That’s worth remembering.” But it’s the little “I” inside the circle that makes the difference for me, because the “I” stands for “an impression.” And in these devotionals, brothers and sisters, you will be taught by the Spirit if you are willing to change and have ears to hear. So I commend to you to do a couple of things: 1) write down impressions; 2) I invite you to turn off your cell phones. You are entitled to 50 minutes of just you—no Mom texting, no friend texting. Afterward, you’re more than welcome to go out on Facebook and say what a wonderful institution this is and that you were at a wonderful devotional and give your favorite quote from it or something, your favorite bullet. But for right now, unplug so that you may not be distracted from the Spirit in your life. Give yourself that blessing. Open yourself to that opportunity for the Holy Ghost to speak in ways that are tailored for you.

So we’ll just give you a second. We know that lots of you will turn off your phones and they’ll make little weird noises, and those chimes that we know, we’ll hum along with you. But just turn them off.

Eric, I appreciated your prayer. Eric prayed for a miracle. I hope we get one, right here, right now. But I hope, brothers and sisters, that you know that you are the miracle, because you are who you are, you have the faith to do what Father in Heaven has asked you to do, in a world that says you are nuts for doing it. You are the miracle. Joseph said that you are a peculiar people. You are. You are weird. And your friends not of this faith will tell you that you are weird. They will say to you, “What has the way you dress and the length of your hair have anything to do with education?” And you can just smile, and tell them who you are and what you’re trying to become. And in that moment of so telling, whether it’s verbally or whether it’s just in your heart, you will come to know in greater ways than you have ever known the Savior’s love for you—in the sweetness, just as Claudia played it.

Satan would have you believe you are no miracle. He tried it with Moses—you know those scriptures well. After Moses had that great vision and saw the Lord, and the Lord called him the son of God—three times, I believe, in the book of Moses. And then you know what happened. Satan showed up. And how did Satan refer to Moses? He called him a son of man. Brothers and sisters, you are not children of mere men. You are the spirit children of a loving Father in Heaven who has sent you here. And because He loves you, He has sent the rest of us to help you become whatever Heaven has planned for you in this season of your life. Our job is to help you find it. Your job is to have the faith to seize the day, to grasp the brass ring and become what Father wants you to become, so that you may—as section 88 of the Doctrine and Covenants says, verse 80—that you may be prepared for the mission for which He has called you.

There is no mistake that you have been held back for eons of time in order to come now. You are, in fact, part—part—of the noble and great ones who were seen by the prophets. The book of Revelation tells us that you fought on the side of the Savior against the forces of the adversary, and you fought with your testimony of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. You knew it then, and part of your season of being here with us is to come to know again what you already knew, and when those morsels of truth show up, it will be familiar to you. It will have a familiar spirit, and your heart will say, along with your mind, “Yes, these are true principles. This is the way I will choose to act, because I know who I am and I know whose I am. And I know that what I am holding out for is not some piece of celestial pie.” What you are holding out for is the whole doggone bakery, and I promise you that it is yours if you live for that blessing.

Now, I’ll change subjects and I’ll quit sniffing. I just get emotional when I talk to you, because I love you. How many of you in this room have been a bishop? Raise your hands. You know this, don’t you? You just love people who you have some stewardship over. I don’t even know you who are brand new. I don’t have to. I love you, because Father has planted that in my heart for you. That’s what brings me—and I’ll bet every other faculty member, and every other member of the administration or staff—to work here every day. Believe me, it’s not for the money. Okay.

In junior high school and in high school I was involved in some sports. You can guess by my size, I was not on the basketball team. Nor did I play football after my sophomore year. It became very obvious that my mother did not raise a fool. At my size, playing anything other than sophomore football would be a really bad mistake. So I got involved in soccer. Back then, it was a non-contact sport. I also used to race, and I used to swim. And I learned some things about that. Whether it was running long distances to build up our stamina or swimming tedious laps to get in shape and to perfect our strokes, we learned about a good start and how important it was. And we learned that the shorter the race, or the shorter the swim, the more important the start was. In fact, I remember on cold mornings outside, sitting around the pool shivering, the coach would have us close our eyes and try to clear our minds—which was hard, given the cold and given my lack of ballast. He would say, “Close your eyes and just visualize a great start.” He would hold up the starter’s gun, and with our eyes closed, he would pull the trigger. In that moment, we were supposed to visualize in our mind that burst of energy that got us out of the starting blocks if we were running a 440 race, or off the blocks and into the pool. And we visualized how to do a perfect start. I was not a stamina guy—I could run 440 and die. I could swim 200 meters freestyle, and then you would pull me from the pool. So for me, the start was really important.

Now, let me suggest something here about this institution. This College is like a good 440 race, or a good 200 meters. It’s just long enough that you need stamina, but in two years, it’s short enough that you need a really good start. So today I want to share some ideas around the principles of having a really good start at LDS Business College—things like showing up on time, dressed in the uniform of the day, ready to go. So I hope that you will find something in what I say today that is important.

One thing about all analogies—they break down. So let me make a comment. The only race you’re involved in here is a race against yourself. You don’t have to beat anybody else; you just need to turn in the best time you’ve ever had. That’s all Father wants. We all come here with different skills and different attributes, different capabilities. All Father wants is your best time—your personal best. And if we do that, as Eric prayed, there will be miracles in your life. I promise you that. Your education is important to your Father in Heaven. That’s why He’s willing to pay out of the tithing of the Church more than 50 percent of the cost of your being here. So I hope you recognize that—that somewhere in Ghana or Mexico or Peru there is a widow without an education, who may live in a room with a dirt floor, who with her widow’s mite has paid for more than half of your education here. So brothers and sisters, please. You need a good start and you need stamina. It’s a good race. Father wants you to run it.

If you haven’t noticed by now, you will. We have three phrases that we use around here a lot. They came from a moment in a chapel in Malad, Idaho. It was a moment. And how many years ago was it, Craig, that we went to Malad, Idaho, and these three phrases came to us? Ten years ago? No, I’ve only been here eight. You see, it feels like ten. There are times, brothers and sisters, you make us feel like it’s been ten years here. Maybe it’s six or seven, though. We are still trying to discover what these three phrases mean. That’s a wonderful thing about revelation from your Father in Heaven. He will tell you what you need to know now. How many of you have had a patriarchal blessing? How many think you fully understand your patriarchal blessing? No, you don’t. I’ll save you from raising your hands. You don’t! Why? Because Father in Heaven will give you revelation based on what you need now. And I will promise you that, as you experience life faithfully, the power of your patriarchal blessing will unravel in front of you. You will come to know what Father in Heaven wants you to know.

I’ll tell you a quick story. I’ve had that in my life. I had my patriarchal blessing at 16. It told me I was going to go on a mission. I did. It told me I was going to marry a wonderful woman. I did. It told me I would have great children. We’re working on it. We’re not having children anymore, but the greatness thereof, of those children. And then, one day, I got a call unexpectedly from a stake president—one of those calls that say, “I’d like to meet you tomorrow morning. Bring your wife.” Well, I knew she was ready for a call from the stake, so we went to meet with the stake president, and he said to my dear bride, “Julie, I’d like to interview your husband for a moment alone.”

I knew it wasn’t going to be for my wife. And he called me to be the bishop. And then I wept. They brought my wife in, and she did one of those moments, if you’ve ever seen that movie “A Really Good Man,” she said, “Him? Him? Really?” And then we walked out of that meeting. It was a tender moment. We held hands walking down the sidewalk, got in my car, wept some more. We went home, we prayed. We wept some more. She looked at me. She really wept. And then I went and opened my patriarchal blessing. And you know what? My patriarchal blessing has everything to do with being the bishop. But Father in Heaven was not going to tell that to a 16-year-old, because He knew me and He loved me. And He knew that if I got that insight from my patriarchal blessing at 16, I would spend the rest of my life until 50-whatever it was when I got called, sitting on the back row looking at the bishop, saying in my prideful little heart, “Well, when I’m the bishop I think I’ll do it a little differently.”

So just as your patriarchal blessing will be a continuing source of revelation for you, these three phrases are a continuing source of discovery for us. And here they are—it’s in our mission statement: The mission of this institution is to enlighten minds, to elevate hope, and to ennoble souls. So for the rest of the time here today, short—I feel like Thomas Jefferson; if I had more time I’d write shorter talks. He said, “If I had more time, I’d write shorter letters.” But let me share a couple of things with you about those three phrases, about enlightening minds. The thing I want to share with you is your ability to hear and respond, if you would please, to the voice of the Spirit. There are in your life many competing voices. You need to learn how to sift them, to know which ones speak truth, which ones speak error, which ones are for your good, and which ones are there to deceive you.

I’ve invited President Faust here to give you his thoughts on this very same subject.

[Tape of President James E. Faust appears on video screen.]

“How are you going to select the voices you will listen to? You will not be able to travel through life on borrowed light. The voice you must learn to heed is the voice of the Spirit. The Spirit’s voice is ever-present, but it is calm.

“The adversary tries to smother this voice with a multitude of loud, persistent, persuasive, appealing voices:

  • Murmuring voices that conjure up perceived injustices.
  • Whining voices that abhor challenge and work.
  • Seductive voices offering sensual enticements.
  • Flattering voices that puff us up with pride.
  • Commercial voices that tempt us to ‘spend money for that which is of no worth, [and our] labor for that which cannot satisfy’ (2 Nephi 9:51).

“In your generation, you will be barraged by a multitude of voices telling you how to live, how to gratify your passions, how to have it all. There will be all sorts of software, satellite receivers and communication networks that will suffocate you with information. You will be bombarded with evil and wickedness like no other generation. As I contemplate this prospect, I am reminded of T.S. Eliot’s words: ‘Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?’(“Choruses from ‘The Rock,’” The Complete Poems and Plays (1930), 96)

“I have suggested a simple solution for selecting the channel which you will attune yourselves to: listen to and follow the voice of the Spirit. This is an ancient solution, even eternal, and may not be popular in a society that is always looking for something new. This solution requires patience in a world that demands instant gratification. This solution is quiet, peaceful and subtle. This solution requires you to walk by faith in a world governed by sight.

“Learn to ponder the things of the Spirit, and respond to its promptings. Filter out the static generated by Satan. As you become attuned to the Spirit, ‘thine ears shall hear the word behind thee saying, This is the way. Walk ye in it’ (Isaiah 30:21). Hearkening to the voice of the living God will give you ‘peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come’ (D&C 59: 23). These are the greatest of all the gifts of God” (President James E. Faust video, “Voice of the Spirit,” 30 Aug 2010, lds.org: [similar text found in “Voice of the Spirit,” First Presidency Message, Liahona, June 2006]).

Brothers and sisters, an enlightened mind has learned how to counsel with the Lord. Now let me give you a little clue I heard from Elder Bednar a couple of weeks ago. He came to our ward to speak to a small group of ward members on the topic of the temple. He said an interesting thing about going to the temple that has changed the way I’m going to go. You see, I’ve always thought that I go to the temple to find an answer to a question that I’ve got. How many have been there, done that? You go to the temple to find an answer to a question that you’ve got? He made this suggestion. He said, “Go to the temple and search for the right question.” Then he went on to convey this thought—that the answers come later, through the scriptures and personal prayer, and through experience. I am coming to know, brothers and sisters, that that is true. Without finding the right question, the answers can become quite irrelevant. Does that make sense to you? Yes.

We know in the scriptures that that’s the way they work, if we’re prepared to listen and we’re prepared to change. I heard an apostle say that unless you are willing to change, the Holy Ghost will not speak to you. Now, that’s a staggering statement. Unless you are willing to change, the Holy Ghost will not speak to you. It didn’t make sense to me until I went into the book of Jacob and I went into the book of Jarom, and I read about stiff-necked people who had hard hearts, who would not listen to the prophets (See, for example, Jarom 1:3). A hard heart and a stiff neck is evidence of unwillingness to change, and hence the Holy Ghost does not speak. I’ll leave that for you to ponder.

Elder Christopherson said the scriptures are revelation, and they will bring added revelation. You know that. You should write down 2 Nephi 32:3-5. In verse 3, it’s very clear. It says the scriptures will tell you what to do. In verse 5, it says that the Holy Ghost will show you what to do. What a wonderful combination. To you youth of Zion, who have the Gift of the Holy Ghost, to be able to read the scriptures and know what to do because they will tell you, and then have the Holy Ghost apply it, show you in your life what to do. My goodness—that’s part of a great start.

Now, you’ve got a conference coming up, and you know you have a couple of ways of doing conference. One, you can do it in your jammies, or one you can dress like you’re going to the Conference Center. I think that helps to demonstrate to the Spirit that you’re ready to be taught. You can do it lying down on the couch, drifting in and out, or you can do it sitting up in a chair, with this new little black notebook in your hand—remembering about squares to tell you you need to do something, dots remembering something that somebody said, but it’s those little “I”s inside of a circle that will mean the most to you.

The next part of our three phrases—let me jump to our third one next—ennobling souls. You don’t know everything, brothers and sisters, about the doctrine, about the ordinances. But you know enough. And you know enough to be obedient, to put yourselves in a position to gain further light and knowledge. Listen to Elder Andersen:

“Our spiritual journey is the process of a lifetime. We do not know everything in the beginning or even along the way. We first build a foundation of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We treasure the principles and ordinances of repentance, baptism, and receiving the Holy Ghost. We include a continuing commitment to prayer, a willingness to be obedient, and an ongoing witness of the Book of Mormon.

“We then remain steady and patient as we progress through mortality. At times, the Lord’s answer will be, ‘You don’t know everything, but you know enough—enough to keep the commandments and to do what is right.’

“Challenges, difficulties, questions, doubts—these are part of our mortality. But we are not alone. We have enormous reservoirs or light and truth available to us. Our questions and doubts are resolved or become less concerning to us. Our faith becomes simple and pure. We come to know what we already knew. You don’t know everything, but you know enough.

“Jesus said, ‘Except ye become as little children, ye shall not enter the kingdom of heaven. Jesus is the Christ. He is resurrected. He is our Savior and Redeemer. Through the Prophet Joseph Smith, His priesthood was restored on the earth. You don’t know everything, but you know enough. I so testify, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen” (Elder Neil L. Andersen, Video: “You Know Enough,” lds.org [text found in “You Know Enough, Liahona, Nov. 2008, 13-14]).

Brothers and sisters, let me give you a little warning about obedience, and it plagues you and it plagues me. It plagues especially those of us who are second, third, or fourth or fifth or sixth generation Mormons. I’m just going to give it to you in a little phrase. When we give more reverence to our culture than we do to our covenants, our casualness will bring unintended consequences. You see, for most of you, Satan knows he cannot confront you with the big sins. He will get you, just as he said in the book of Nephi, with his “flaxen cord” (2 Nephi 26:22) He will desensitize you. He will make lots of black and white seem gray. Part of a great start, part of having an ennobled soul is to learn to obey the simple things—including the dress and grooming standards of this college. I ask you, if you don’t have a testimony of it, to accept in on faith. It will make a difference. I don’t have time, but if I did, I would read you President Kimball and I would read you President Bednar, when he was president of BYU-Idaho, about the Honor Code.

I will speak plainly so as not to be misunderstood but also not to disrupt the Spirit that I hope is here. President Bednar says, for those who, in your heart, feel like willfully rebelling against the Honor Code, he said, you should go somewhere else to school. He said you will not be happy here. And he said, “You have no claim on the resources of the Church.” Okay, I’ll get off that now, but I hope you feel the importance of it and will accept it on faith and receive the miracle in your life from living it.

All right, now we need to end, but let me say this—the last piece. Hope is elevated, brothers and sisters, in your life, by being here, by striving to do the best that you can, and by seizing every day the best you can. There will be days you wake up and you don’t want to seize the day. There will be days when it is “Hakuna Matata,” right? I accept that. And so, have one of those days, carefully, and then repent. Then repent, and just strive to be a little bit better. I know that some of you come here with great hopes about the future because you know what it is. I know that some of you arrived in Salt Lake City with the last nickel in your pocket. I know that some of you have come here in great faith without support of parents. But I promise you, you may have hope in good things to come.

Now I’d like to have you listen to that same theme from Elder Holland, and then we’ll close with a testimony.

“Every one of us has times when we need to know that things will get better. My declaration is that that is precisely what the gospel of Jesus Christ offers us, especially in times of need. Thirty years ago last month, a little family set out to cross the United States, every earthly possession they owned packed into the smallest trailer available, no money, an old car. They drove exactly 34 miles down the highway, at which point their beleaguered car erupted. The young father surveyed the steam, matched it with his own, then left his trusting wife and two innocent children—the youngest just three months old—to wait in the car, while he walked the three miles or so to the southern Utah metropolis of Kannarraville, population then, I suppose, 65. Some water was secured at the edge of town, and a very kind citizen offered to drive back to the stranded family.

“The car was attended to, and slowly—very slowly—driven back to St. George for inspection. After more than two hours of checking and re-checking, no immediate problem could be detected, so once again, the journey was begun.

“In exactly the same amount of elapsed time, at exactly the same location on that highway, with exactly the same pyrotechnics from under that hood, the car exploded again. Now feeling more foolish than angry, the chagrined young father once more left his trusting loved ones and started the long walk for help once again. This time, the man providing the water said, ‘Either you or that fellow who looks just like you ought to get a new radiator for that car.’

“He didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry at the plight of this young family. ‘How far have you come?’ he said.

“’Thirty-four miles,’ I answered.

“’How much farther do you have to go?’

“’Twenty-six hundred miles,’ I said.

“’Well, you might make that trip, and your wife and those two little kiddies might make that trip, but none of you are going to make that trip in that car.’ He proved to be prophetic on all counts. Just two weeks ago, I drove by that exact spot. For just an instant, I thought perhaps I saw, on that side road, an old car, with a devoted young wife and two little children. Just ahead of them, I imagined I saw a young fellow walking toward Kannarraville, the weight of a young father’s fear evident on his face. In that imaginary instant, I couldn’t help calling out to him, ‘Don’t you quit! You keep walking. You keep trying. There is help and happiness ahead. Some blessings come soon, some come late. Some don’t come until heaven. But for those who embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ, they come. It will be all right in the end. Trust God, and believe in good things to come.’” (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, video, “Good Things to Come,” 15 June 2010, lds.org)

Now, brothers and sisters, you are in a protected environment here, a temple of learning, a building dedicated by our Father in Heaven through His prophet. And so, there is hope in your season here. No matter what your past has been, no matter what your circumstances may be, there is hope. So do not take counsel from your fears. Be of good courage. Have faith. Start this semester strong. The Lord will be with you.

I know that He lives. I know that Jesus is the Christ. I know that in sacred ways, He leads this institution. And I invite you to have faith in the hope and promises associated with that reality, that He leads this institution, because it is part of the kingdom of God. He wants to be active in your life in this season, more than He has ever been. I invite you to let Him in. Feel of His sweet love. Know the peace that comes from your striving to be diligent.

I pray the Lord’s choicest blessings to be upon you this semester. I pray that he will magnify your efforts. I pray that He will keep you safe as you exercise good judgment outside of these walls, and I do so in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


Make the Right Choice Every Time

21 Sep. 2010


Make the Right Choice Every Time

It’s nice to be with you today. I wish we could just talk about the things that matter most to you, and the things that have been on my mind since I received this request to speak. It was actually more than a request for me; it was actually an assignment from the First Presidency, who assigned me as part of my work, part of my stewardship, part of my ministry—to spend these brief minutes with you here today. So I look forward to that. I think if I had my choice, I would just have a question and answer session, and I’d just let you ask anything you wanted, and I’d see if I could come up with a good answer.
But something has been on my mind the last couple of weeks that I might share with you, so I think I’d better stick with what’s been on my mind. If there ends up being a few minutes at the end, maybe we could still pose a question or two.
I was thinking as I sat here that I entered the work force about 35 years ago—seriously entered the work force. Before that I had a stint—I’d been drafted into the U.S. military. This was during the Vietnam War, so I had some time doing that, but I kind of really emerged into the work force, as you hope to do one day, 35 years ago. And I’ve spent most of those 35 years engaged in the business world, when I haven’t been doing church work. And I think I have a sense of some of the things that are out there for you—things that you’ll see and experience, and some things that I guess I would warn you about, to be careful with, and some things I would encourage you forward because of the opportunities that you will yet face. But I think my experience, both in the Church and in the business world, have caused me to be thinking about a particular topic, and that is the topic of choosing.
As I think back over a career of 35 years, I have made a lot of choices. As a matter of fact, I found myself facing choices every day—multiple choices every day. And I know you like multiple choices when it comes to tests, but the kinds of multiple choices you’ll get when you leave this environment and are in the work force and you begin to cultivate life as a family and as a worker and as a citizen, you’ll be amazed at how many choices you will face. And as I thought of you and of the choices you will yet make in your life, I thought how wonderful it would be if you always knew how to make the right choice. That would be a remarkable thing. And, as it turns out, you can. You may or may not have had a lot of practice with that so far in your life. The fact is, you can—you can make the right choice every time. It’s hard. It takes work, but you can do it. So I thought I’d talk a little bit today about how you do that.
I notice you have these books. And I’ll make a deal with you on the books, where you are taking notes. Here’s a thought. I wouldn’t say this into the future, for others who would speak to you, but here’s my invitation to you, and it ties into what I think I want to say. Instead of writing down everything you hear, which is what you do when you’re in class, I invite you to write down the things you hear that are not said. And there’s a pretty good chance that if you will listen and hear, if I can teach by the Spirit for these 30 minutes and you can listen by the Spirit, there’s a pretty good chance that you will hear something that maybe I don’t say but that the voice of God will say to you. And if that happens, if you hear something that seems to be for you, particularly if it’s something that you should do, I encourage you to write that down. And that would be the most helpful thing, perhaps, of all the things that come out of our time together today.
President Marion G. Romney, when Tammy and I were younger, we heard President Marion G. Romney say a couple of things that have changed our lives. We were very young when President Romney was a member of the First Presidency and made a promise to the Latter-day Saints that if they would be more generous with their fast offerings, much more generous, that the Lord would bless the Saints with financial blessings (See, for example, “The Blessings of the Fast,” Ensign, July 1982 First Presidency Message). And early on in our marriage, Sister Snow and I listened to that and decided that would be a good thing to do. We made a decision together to do that, and we did that, and have done that over the years. And I can tell you that it has made a profound difference in how we have been able to support our family.
The second thing is the thing I really want to talk about, that I remember hearing a long time ago from President Romney. He said that if we would always listen to the Spirit, we would never need to make a mistake (From President Romney’s talk: “Through studying the scriptures, we should know what the Lord has revealed through his prophets concerning the plan of salvation. From regular night and morning prayer and honest compliance with gospel teachings, we should enjoy the peace and spirit of the gospel. By earnestly and specifically seeking it, we should, by the power of the Holy Ghost, obtain and retain a testimony of its divine truth. We should be so converted and dedicated to it that our total lives are influenced thereby. The right and wrong of our decisions and actions should be consistently determined by its light. If they were, we would make no mistakes in our judgments and actions on the vexing questions and problems of our day.” Ensign, March 1983). And that is pretty profound, because around us—in your life, if you look back on your life as I look back on my life, I have made a lot of mistakes. I’ve made mistakes before I ever got into the work force, but I’ve made a lot of mistakes once I got into the work force. I associated occasionally with the wrong people. I got myself into partnerships with the wrong partners. I got myself into business transactions that at some point I wish I would not have, either because it went badly, or because I wasn’t sure at some point that it was entirely in the light and that it was honorable. And so I found myself having to retrench and regroup and turn back and turn around. And all of it is normal, but it’s all testament to the fact that, as we interact with the world—and we all interact with the world every day, in every way—there’s a tendency to make mistakes. There’s a tendency to simply make the wrong choice, as it turns out.
And so I just wanted to talk really briefly about how do you live and act and do so that the choices you make are always the best choices? And that’s pretty profound. If I were on the lecture tour, I could sell out auditoriums with that kind of a promise. If I could give a guarantee, if I could help you, teach you how you would never need to make a mistake, I could pack them in. But the fact is that you really can. So we’ll just talk about it briefly today.
Sunday, I was sitting in church, listening to a speaker and it happened to be a returning mission president and his wife, who had just returned from Samara, Russia—President and Sister Bennett. Some of you may have been in that mission. And Sister Bennett said something very profound, and it was one of the things I wrote down. I found out that Tammy wrote it down too. She came up after. She said, “Did you hear what she said?  She just gave your talk on Tuesday.”
I said, “I did hear it. I wrote it down.” This is what she said, a quote from Sister Bennett: “Every day we make choices that either turn our hearts toward the Savior, or turn our hearts away from Him.” And therein lies a great key on how to make choices that are always, always, always right.
Let me quote you from a scripture that describes the beginning—the real beginning. This is in the third chapter of Abraham, and this is a story. It is a story that is true, and it involved us. “And God saw these souls”—this is in the preexistence. This is what Abraham was seeing. He saw this assemblage; he saw these people in the preexistence. “And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits … And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell.” (Abraham 3:23-24)
And this is the why. That’s the what; this is the why: “And we will prove them now herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them. “And they who keep this estate shall have glory added upon their heads forever and ever.” (verses 25-26)
That is a good description that helps us understand that you were born into this life without any direct personal knowledge of your surrounding mortal universe, meaning that you don’t know directly, personally, about how all of this was framed, because you don’t remember. You don’t remember your premortal actions and you don’t remember your relationship with God. You don’t remember the eternal consequences of choices that you would have when you come here. It’s all by design.
Through the gift and the privilege of agency, you now have the ability and privilege to choose and to act for yourselves. And so, quite naturally, you come to believe that you have the power to do whatever you want. So, throughout your life, your choices end up revealing your true nature, and you will become what your choices reveal you to be. That’s how agency works. That’s what life is for. That’s why you can’t remember. It’s to take things out of drive and put it in neutral and give you a chance to be you. And so in this life, you are you. And because you don’t feel pressed by the moral universe around you through this remembrance, you really do believe you can act.
Most people believe they can act without consequences, because they don’t know of the consequences. So, throughout your life, you will find that your choices will reveal you. They will reveal the real you. They will reveal your nature. And indeed, they will determine what you will become, because the object of this life is to change our natures.
In Mosiah, the third chapter, King Benjamin says that the natural man—the person who just comes here, and here we are—he even describes us as an enemy to God, and he always will be, until he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit and puts off the natural man, and becomes a Latter-day Saint, if you will. (See Mosiah 3:19) And so choosing is becoming. Whatever you choose is what you will become. And it’s in the day-to-day. It’s in the choices you make in the morning, and in the midday, and in the evening.
It’s in the choices you make—it’s all the choices. It’s the choices you make about where you will go to school, or what friends you associate with, or whether you will marry or who you will marry, or will you get into pornography. That’s why addictions are so devastating, because addictions put forces onto us that shape our choices, and we lose some of the control we have to become. And those addictions, if they are negative—and most addictions are negative—they end up being destructive because they end up shaping our choices, and we become something other than what we would have become had we not faced those addictions. That’s one of the reasons pornography is so terrible, is because it holds us captive and shapes our choices, even though somewhere within us there is a cry and a call to do something else. That’s true for drugs, alcohol, illegal drugs—all kinds of addictions.
In the preexistence, Satan just wanted to do one thing with his plan, and that was to eliminate choices. He knew that by doing that one thing—by eliminating choices, by shaping them so that the choices would be made based on his definition—or by eliminating choices, he knew he could control the outcome. Just like you can control the outcome, by determining your choices.
The hymn we sang at the beginning, “Choose the Right,” may sound pretty simple, but that’s really it. It’s Darth Vader. It’s the Dark Force. It’s Obi Wan. You’re either a Jedi Knight or you’re Darth Vader. It’s these choices. You can start out in one place and you can go to the dark side, through your choices. It’s great visual drama, but it plays out every day. You know people you went to high school with, you went to school with, that through a series of choices just veer off, and they become someone different. Or, you see people who are out here and start making good choices, and they get right in line and things work. Life changes. They change.
So what do you choose? How do you learn to choose so that you never make a mistake? I think it’s this. And I don’t know—different things work for different people, but this is what works for me. So I’ll share with you what works for me. I was reading a while back in the Pearl of Great Price. I was reading in the book of Moses. If you really want to read something interesting, read the seventh chapter of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price. Whoa. Deep, interesting, insightful.
Anyway, I read a couple of verses that just set my head spinning, and I got it. It was one of those things where stars all lined up and I heard a voice, and I thought, “Oh, my gosh, where has that scripture been all of my life?” So let me tell you what it says. Let me set it up first. This is the story of Enoch. He is talking to the Lord. The Lord, in this case, would be Jesus Christ. And they’re having a conversation—Enoch is having a conversation with the Lord, and as the Lord describes His work, what He has done, and shows Enoch all the people of the world, the Lord begins to weep. He begins to cry. And Enoch is stunned. He cannot imagine that God could weep.
And so he says, “How is it that thou canst weep?” I’m stunned, to paraphrase. I can’t even imagine why you would weep. How can God weep? And the Lord says, in answer to this question—how can you weep, as you see your children?  This is in the 32nd verse, the 33rd verse of the seventh chapter of Moses: “The Lord said unto Enoch: Behold these thy brethren.” Remember, He had just showed him all of the people of the world. “Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands, and I gave unto them their knowledge, in the day that I created them; and in the garden of Eden, gave I unto man his agency; “And unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another, and they should choose me, their Father.”
As I read that, it seemed that the whole plan of salvation was found in those two verses. The whole scope of human history, the whole reason for this earth,, the whole motive of—I thought of all the times I have been to Sunday School class, and Primary, and Mutual, and all the things that I had studied and read, and it just seemed like it could fill a building, and yet here it was, all boiled down to a few simple things. God saying, “All of the people of the world are my children. I created them. And in the day I created them, I gave them knowledge. And in the Garden of Eden through their parents, Adam and Eve, I gave them agency.” So here you have people who have knowledge and they have agency. And agency is the power to act. “And I told them all, there are just two things you need to do on earth. Just two, no matter how complicated it looks, no matter how much is going on, no matter where you live, no matter where you’re born, no matter what religion you are. No matter what else is happening, there are only two things you have to do. Love one another, and choose Me.” That’s it. You can make it more complicated than that, but I think He was saying to Enoch, “That’s all we did. That’s all there is. Just love one another as I love all of you. And choose me.”
I have learned that the only way to become like the Savior is to consistently choose Him. The Bible Dictionary gives some insight into that, too. It talks about prayer, for example, in the Bible Dictionary, and says, “Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other.” (pages 752-753) We pray, we serve, we work, we act—whatever we do, we do so that we figure out what His will is and then we line up with that. We choose Him. When we pray, we don’t try to change His mind. That’s not choosing Him; that’s choosing us. “I know what I want. I know what I need. I know what would be best. Heavenly Father, help me have this. Now.” That’s not what prayer is. Prayer is figuring out what He wants, and when, and bringing our will into correspondence with His. We don’t ask Him to move into our territory; we move into His territory. That’s one of the ways we choose Him.
I’ve had some experiences over my life that have taught me that lesson. I know you have experiences over your life that, if you think back, will also teach you that lesson. How will you choose Him? Well, the Savior himself gives us a pretty good explanation of how that works. He says, in John: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” That’s profound. My sheep—those who choose Me—hear my voice. And I know them, and they follow me. So a good question for today is, have you heard His voice? What does it sound like? That’s how you choose the right thing. That’s how you never make a mistake, is you learn what His voice sounds like, and you learn to listen for His voice.
The second thing I heard Sunday was Sister Snow telling me what she had heard from one of the Primary children who was getting ready to do the Primary program, this coming Sunday. Let’s see if I can remember what it was she said, what this child said. I don’t remember. Come tell me the words; I won’t get it right. I’ll paraphrase, because this is what this little girl said she learned in Primary. “Because of God’s promises after you are baptized, the Holy Ghost is always with you, unless you send Him away.” That’s a paraphrased quote. “Because of God’s promises after you are baptized, the Holy Ghost is always with you, unless you send Him away.”
How do you always make the right choice? You never send Him away. You see, success in this life has to be engineered so that it can be done by an eight-year-old. The gospel plan wasn’t engineered for college graduates; it was engineered for eight-year-olds. If you are eight years old, you can do what you need to do to successfully accomplish what you need to accomplish in this life. You can choose, you can make the right choice, always. An eight-year-old can do it. And this little child, who is in my wife’s Primary class, got it. “Because of God’s promise, now that I am baptized, the Holy Ghost will always be with me,” she says, “unless I send Him away.”
So don’t send Him away. When you go to church Sunday, listen to what the priest says at the sacrament table. He says, “O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify [these emblems] to the souls of all who partake of [them]” (D&C 20:76).  And then he starts reciting things on behalf of the congregation and on behalf of God, in effect. And he says, these people who are going to take upon them, who are going to renew their covenants of baptism, they’re all—all—willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and keep His commandments, which He has given them, so that—and here comes the promise from God—that they may always—always, that’s the operative word—always have His spirit to be with them.
So you always have His spirit to be with you. Have you heard His voice? What does it sound like? If you have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, as Alma says, can you do so now? Can you hear it today? Will you hear it tomorrow? Will how you live your life, will the choices that you make, allow you to hear His voice tomorrow? Did you hear it yesterday? Will you hear it today? If you can’t, you’re going to make mistakes. If you can, there is no need to ever make a mistake. It doesn’t mean you’re perfect; it means you won’t make a mistake. It means you will always choose right. You can’t make yourself perfect, even if you choose right all the time. It’s not possible, because you’ve already sinned. You’ve already come into the world. But you can live without mistakes, if you are willing to choose Him and hear His voice and come to understand what He says, and then do it and choose it.
What are you going to do if you don’t choose the right? What if you make a bad choice? Oh, there’s a provision for that too. It’s the “R” word. It’s my favorite word. I love the “R” word. I’ve used it to death. I’ve almost used it up. I hang on it; I rely on it. It’s the only thing that keeps me moving, is the “R” word—repentance. So what do you do if you make a bad choice? It’s easy. You just do what any eight-year-old does. You repent. And there you have it.
I need to close. When was the last time you repented? If it was more than 24 hours ago, maybe you don’t get it. How can you go through life—I don’t know how you do it—can you go through life without repenting? I cannot go a day without needing to repent, and make a better choice than the last choice I’ve made on something. I invite you to do that. Don’t think of repentance as something ugly. If I could give just one talk in general conference, it would probably be on repentance, and how good it is. It’s the ultimate feel-good. It’s just the best!
Repentance is the best! Don’t ever be afraid of that. It’s the only way to choose Him, when you didn’t choose Him. Here’s my promise to you. As you choose Him, I promise you that our Father in Heaven will give you His power. He says in the Doctrine and Covenants that He will give you everything He has. That’s the best job placement program to be offered by any college in the world—is to have a promise that God will give you everything He has. The ultimate heir. It’s actually easier to do that than to—it’s easier to inherit things than to work for them, did you know that? So the best inheritance you can get is to inherit everything God has. That would be good! And then you still have to work, because then what you’d end up doing is His work. That’s how it works.
I invite you to choose Him. Decide right now that you will choose Him. You will choose Him every day in every way. Remember that probably the most important choice you can make in this life is whether or not to connect, reconnect, or stay connected with the Holy Ghost. That’s probably the biggest choice there is ever, ever, ever in your whole life. Are you going to connect? That’s what happens when you are baptized by fire. Or stay connected? That’s what you’re supposed to be doing now. Or if you’ve made poor choices, then reconnect. So either connect, stay connected, or reconnect with the Holy Ghost. It’s the most important thing you can do to never make a mistake; to always make the right choice.
In the end, I’ve learned if you don’t choose Him, it really won’t matter what else you have chosen. And I promise you that Jesus is the Christ. This is His gospel. He is in charge. He loves us. He loves you. He has marked the path. He has shown the way. He’s offered His Spirit to be with us always. I promise you that as you choose Him, you will never need to make a mistake, and He will give you His power. And you will, through His matchless grace, become like Him. I pray for that in your behalf, and mine as well, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Support the Constitution Through Good Citizenship

28 Sep. 2010


Support the Constitution Through Good Citizenship

I am genuinely thrilled to be here today, honestly—mostly because my five-year-old came down with a vicious case of stomach flu last night, and I’m not home cleaning it up. So, a tender mercy, I guess. I have been asked to speak today on the Constitution. Until about ten minutes ago, I was pretty convinced that when President Richards asked me to speak, he was thinking of someone else. But that introduction was actually me, so that was strangely comforting.
The Constitution is a document that has a great place in my heart, and I feel very strongly about it. So it’s actually a topic that I have no problem here talking to you about.
I would like to start today by telling you a story. I received a letter a few weeks ago from a friend of mine who is currently living in Spain, where her husband is presiding over the Spain Malaga Mission. In this letter, she told me the story of a man she met there in Spain. Many years ago when he became eligible for mission service, he wanted to go on a mission but was financially unable to do so. He was from a very small town, and the members in his branch in that small town somehow managed to scrape together enough money for him to serve a mission. While he was on his mission he became very ill, and it was necessary for him to come to Salt Lake to have surgery. That surgery and the subsequent recuperation took about a month, and after that he was able to go back and fill the remainder of his mission. As his time in the field came to a close, he met with his mission president and requested humbly that he be allowed to serve an additional month. When his mission president asked him why, he said, “There are many people who sacrificed so that I could serve the Lord for 24 months, and I’ve only served 23. So I owe them another month.” I should tell you the end of the story—he was able to stay another month.
I think that the story is a really good example of someone who understood that none of us exist in a vacuum—that everything we have, everything we are, everything we hope to become comes at a price. And quite often, we are not the ones who pay that price.
As you sit here, I’d like you to consider the blessings that you have today, and ask yourself who paid the price for those blessings, and what do you think you owe them? I think that the answers to these questions are very personal, and that would be different for every one of us. They’re also applicable in a pretty broad way in our lives.
But today, I’d like to turn our attention to the good fortune we possess as residents of the United States of America, and to the brave souls who sacrificed that we might enjoy the blessing of our inspired form of government. This month we celebrate the signing of the Constitution of the United States of America. On September 17, 1787, the Constitutional Convention came to a close in the assembly room of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. On that day, 39 men signed a document that would dramatically alter the course of history. The United States had long since declared her independence from Britain and had claimed that independence through victory in the Revolutionary War. The fledgling United States had been governed by the Articles of Confederation, but it had become clear that those Articles did not support a viable form of government. So the purpose of the Convention was to amend those Articles.
As they came to the Convention, it became clear to the men there that they would need to abolish those Articles entirely, and come up with a new form of government and a new written constitution. Fifty-five men were at the Convention in Philadelphia that long, hot summer. They came from all walks of life. Thirty-four were lawyers; eight had signed the Declaration of Independence, and almost half were Revolutionary War veterans. They were farmers, educators, ministers, physicians, financiers, and merchants. They were away from their homes and their families; they left their businesses and lands in care of others so they could attend to the important business of government.
The youngest signer was Jonathan Dayton, at age 26, and the oldest—Benjamin Franklin, at age 81. Because of his poor health, Benjamin Franklin needed help to sign the Constitution. An eyewitness account says that when he did so, tears streamed down his face. The Constitution represented a lifetime of study, sacrifice and experience, and four long months of arguments, threats, walk-outs, debates, and compromises. The result was nothing short of miraculous.
Our Constitution—and I say “ours” because if you are here today, it’s yours as well—was a document that changed the world. It contains many principles that will stand through the ages.  J. Reuben Clark often spoke of what he called the “three great fundamentals” of the Constitution:  First, the separation of powers into three independent branches of government in a federal system; second, the essential freedoms of speech, press, and religion that are embodied in the Bill of Rights; and third, the equality of all men before the law. Underlying all of these fundamentals is also the critical concept of popular sovereignty, or the notion that the people are the source of government power. This idea was a bold departure from conventional wisdom at the time the Constitution was drafted. The idea that our rights are not handed down to us by a monarch but rather that we hold an inherent right to govern ourselves, and by popular election we agree to invest this right in representatives for a specified period of time, was a risky move by this government and one that our Founding Fathers could only hope would be carefully and prayerfully guided by adherence to the Constitution they had labored to create.
At 4,400 words, it is the oldest and shortest written constitution of any major government. It also set a clear standard for others. Since 1787, every nation in the world except for six has adopted a written constitution, and every single one of them is based on the United States Constitution. So this Constitution doesn’t belong to the American people alone, but to all of us, and God intends for all of us to benefit from it.
As Latter-day Saints, we believe that the Constitution was brought about by God to ensure a nation where liberty could abound, and the Restoration of our gospel could flourish. Joseph Smith said, “The Constitution of the United States is a glorious standard; it is founded in the wisdom of God. It is a heavenly banner.” (B.H. Roberts, ed., History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1912, 3:304)
In a revelation to Joseph Smith, the Savior himself declared, “I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up to this very purpose.” (D&C 101:80) Indeed, God’s hand in the drafting of the Constitution was acknowledged by the signers themselves. And in the most difficult moments of the struggle to create a new government, they turned to Him for help.
Five weeks into the Convention, when they had reached a hopeless deadlock and the entire effort seemed to be in jeopardy, Benjamin Franklin stood and gave a speech to the Convention, asking them to seek God’s intervention. He pleaded: “I have lived… a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proof I see of this truth—that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?” (Benjamin Franklin’s Request for Prayers at the Constitutional Convention, July 28, 1787)
In the hour of crisis, this prominent Founding Father recognized the need for God’s guidance, and the Founders pledged themselves to do whatever was necessary to ensure the success of America. Now, more than 200 years later, will you and I be prepared to do the same?
In the hour of crisis, this prominent Founder recognized the need for God’s guidance. He and his colleagues pledged themselves . . .  
The Founding Fathers of our nation were sorely tested by oppression, by war, and by the insurmountable task of setting up a new government. Today the test is ours. Although there are millions of people who believe in and defend our inspired Constitution, and who steadfastly uphold and practice the enduring moral code upon which this nation was founded, we have others—and many of them are in positions of responsibility and power—who reject the values espoused by our Founding Fathers and urge us to do the same. This time, it is our turn to sacrifice. We must stand for what we believe in order to secure it for future generations.
Doctrine and Covenants 101:77 gives a clear mandate that the United States Constitution should be “maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh, according to just and holy principles.”
I’d like to talk a little bit today about what we could do to fulfill that scripture and to maintain the Constitution. I’d like to suggest three ways to be what President Ezra Taft Benson called “wise stewards of the gift entrusted to us.”
The first way is to be virtuous and moral. The Founding Fathers knew this country needed not only a wise form of government, but also a virtuous people to uphold it. John Adams, who became the second president of the United States, famously said: “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our Constitution was made for a religious and moral people …  It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.” (Letter of Oct. 11, 1798)
You and I cannot assume that simply because our Constitution was inspired by God, its doctrines will remain intact without any active participation on our part. We cannot expect God to sustain us if we, as a nation, lose sight of Him. The counsel given by King Benjamin to his son Mosiah on the eve of Mosiah’s becoming king still rings true. King Benjamin said: “If this highly favored people of the Lord should fall into transgression, and become a wicked and an adulterous people … the Lord will deliver them up, that thereby they become weak like unto their brethren; and he will no more preserve them by his matchless and marvelous power, as he has hitherto preserved our fathers.” (Mosiah 1:13)
We must remain vigilant, then, in order to earn the Lord’s protection. There is much to be cautious of. We live in a society of situational ethics and eroding self-discipline. If our choices, at home, at work, at school, in our community—are not consistent with our values, then we have failed to follow the mandate of our Constitution and the teachings of our Savior. In my profession, I’m reminded daily that even people who consider themselves to be law-abiding citizens expect the law to be the moral compass of society.
President James E. Faust, in speaking to a group of lawyers, cautioned: “There is a great risk in justifying what we do individually and professionally on the basis of what is ‘legal’ rather than what is ‘right.’ In so doing, we put our very souls at risk. The philosophy that what is legal is also right will rob us of what is highest and best in our nature. What conduct is actually legal is, in most instances, way below the standards of a civilized society and light years below the teachings of Christ. If you accept what is legal as your standard of personal or professional conduct, you will deny yourselves of that which is truly noble and your personal dignity and worth.” (Notes, D. Todd Christopherson, “Moral Discipline,” October 2009 General Conference, lds.org, from “Be Healers,” Clark Memorandum, spring 2003, 3)
I’m sure this sounds strange coming from a lawyer, but looking to the law is not typically the answer. Our inspired Constitution is intentionally and purposefully concise. It lays a basic framework for government but leaves most of the details to the people. Why did they do this? Because the founders of the Constitution, guided by our Heavenly Father, expected generations to come to govern themselves wisely and with restraint. In the end, as Elder Christopherson recently reminded us, “it is only an internal moral compass in each individual that can effectively deal with the root causes as well as the symptoms of societal decay.  Societies will struggle in vain to establish the common good until sin is denounced as sin and moral discipline takes its place in the pantheon of civic virtues.” (“Moral Discipline,” Oct. 2009)
We in this room have been blessed with the gospel of Jesus Christ, to lead us and direct our lives. But we know that to whom “much is given much is required.” (D&C 82:3) And this places a sobering responsibility on every one of us. We cannot hide in the shadows of uncertainty simply because our moral standards are looked upon as old-fashioned or unpopular. To do so would not only denigrate the sacrifices made on our behalf, but is also dangerous and destructive, for it comes at a steep personal cost. Our country needs more people who have the courage to step forward and speak up.
An article in the Wall Street Journal noted: “Sin isn’t something that many people, including most churches, have spent much time talking or worrying about … But we will say this for sin: it at least offered a frame of reference for personal behavior. When the frame was dismantled, guilt wasn’t the only thing that fell away; we also lost the guidewire of personal responsibility …
“The United States has a drug problem and a high-school sex problem and a welfare problem and an AIDS problem and a rape problem. None of this will go away until more people in positions of responsibility are willing to come forward and explain, in frankly moral terms, that some of the things that people do nowadays are wrong.” (Notes, D. Todd Christopherson, “Moral Discipline,” October 2009 General Conference, lds.org, from “The Joy of What?” Wall Street Journal, Dec. 12, 1991, A14)
I figure if the Wall Street Journal can say that, then so can we. If we let fear keep us from standing as a witness for what is virtuous and moral, we risk losing the rights our Founding Fathers thought to secure. More than 30 years ago, President Ezra Taft Benson warned: “Too many Americans have lost sight of the truth that God is the source of our freedom—the Lawgiver—and that personal righteousness is the most important essential to preserving our freedom.” He went on to plead, “I say with all of the energy of my soul that unless we as citizens of this nation forsake our sins, political and otherwise, and return to the great fundamental principles of Christianity and of constitutional government, we will lose our political liberties, our free institutions, and will stand in jeopardy before God.” (“A Witness and a Warning,” Ensign, November 1979)
The second suggestion I’d like to give you is to serve your community. Throughout the history of the United States, Americans have valued an ethic of service. In 1831, French author and aristocrat Alexis de Tocqueville visited America and was enthralled by the spirit of volunteerism here. He observed, “I have seen Americans make great and real sacrifices to the public welfare; and I have noticed a hundred instances in which they hardly ever failed to lend faithful support one to another. This spirit of volunteerism is an essential tenant of a functioning democracy.”
I teach American government here at LDS Business College, and we have a service learning component. A lot of you are smiling about that. Each semester, students are asked to do ten hours of service in the community, and report on that service to me and to the class. As part of that reporting process, I ask them to answer the question, “What did your service have to do with this class?” This is often a hard question for students to answer. Many struggle at first to find a correlation between service and government. Some—you know who you are—even tend to see the service hours as a burden or just one more silly requirement to keep you busy. Happily, by the time the students have finished the service requirements, most students have learned the valuable lesson in the service component. As one student recently said, “The service learning is the most important part of this class. What is government, if not a way to serve people? And how do we learn about it, if not to serve, ourselves?”
I loved that statement, because it was right on. Serving others not only makes you feel good, it’s a valuable learning tool. AS you labor in your community, you’ll be more attuned to the needs of those around you. You’ll be able to see more clearly, solutions to community issues. You’ll understand what to do to make your community better and stronger, and you won’t be tempted to waste your time on frivolous endeavors. You’ll learn to love those you serve, and that alone will qualify you for leadership. You will become an asset to your community, and an instrument in the Lord’s hands in blessing the lives of His children.
Voluntary community participation has always been a critical aspect of American society. Volunteers helped shape this nation and continue to contribute to its prosperity. The more citizens involve themselves as volunteers, the closer they come to realizing the ideals of democracy—which is freedom, self-determination, equal opportunity, and social mobility. It’s critical to note, however, that to truly serve the notion of democracy, community service must be voluntary. When it is forced, it has a negative impact on the individual responsibility upon which our form of government is based. As we allow ourselves to become dependent on government for that which we should have the right and the privilege to earn for ourselves, we undermine incentives for moral conduct, and we surrender to the government the rights which the Founding Fathers so adamantly defined as inalienably ours.
In the LDS Church, community service is a way of life. We serve in our wards, in our stakes, we serve missions, and we help each other—from our neighbors down the street to our neighbors across the globe. For more than seven decades, the LDS Church has been running its own welfare system without any federal assistance. In fact, the system is entirely supported by volunteers, private donations, and money collected from Church businesses. The aid given by the Church is staggering. The Church website reports that from 1985 to 2009, the Church has shipped 61,892 tons of food and 139,998 tons of other supplies to more than 150 countries.
In 2009, the Church provided assistance in response to a tsunami in Samoa, typhoons in the Philippines, the Pedong Indonesia earthquake, the conflict in Pakistan, and 98 other disasters. We take seriously Christ’s admonition to show our love for Him by serving others, and if our form of government is to survive and prosper, we must continue to do so.
The final suggestion I’d like to give to you is to be informed and active in civic affairs. The form of government set up by the Constitution is not a passive one, and it will not survive if we as citizens are not willing to participate in its administration. I was really glad to see that you are able to get a copy of the Constitution today, but if you can’t, it’s all over the place. Look it up and read it. It’s a document that you should know.
Thomas Edison once noted: “The strength of the Constitution lies in the will of the people to defend it.” Our Constitution gives “we the people” the right to participate fully in the political process. I have to say that by definition this right also includes the right not to participate, but I sincerely hope that is not the path that any one of you will choose to take. Inaction is a form of action. Refusing to take sides is, in fact, taking sides.
Albert Camus profoundly wrote: “By your actions or your silence, you, too, enter the fray.” (Quoted in “Personal Morality,” Elder David B. Haight, Ensign, Nov. 1984)  It’s your right, and, I would submit, your responsibility, to be involved.
In order to become a wise and responsible citizen, you must be informed. There are opportunities to do this all around you. Read! Find out about the issues and the candidates for office. Who represents you? Are they doing a good job? Are they adequately speaking for you and your values? How have they voted lately? In this age of information, there is no excuse for not being informed. The truth is out there, but it’s up to each one of you to find it.
Once you find out the facts, you need to do something with what you know. President Kimball taught this principle when he talked about changing the words to the Primary song, “I Am a Child of God.” Originally written “Teach me all that I must know…” President Kimball asked that the words be changed to “Teach me all that I must do, to live with Him someday.” To know isn’t enough, President Kimball explained. “The devils know and tremble; the devils know everything. We have to do something.” (Abbey Olsen, “Beloved Song Turns 50,” News of the Church, Ensign, Feb. 2007. Originally in “New Verse Is Written for Popular Song,” Church News, Apr. 1, 1978, 16)
Coincidentally, this call to action is a great chance for all of you to implement the LDS Business College Learning Model outside of school. You can prepare by doing some research, finding out what’s going on around you. You can teach one another through discussions and sharing of information. And you can ponder and prove by voting, attending meetings, and participating in the political process.
As Latter-day Saints, we’re strongly encouraged to take seriously our civic duty. In Doctrine and Covenants 134, we are reminded that “governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man; and that he holds men accountable for their acts in relation to them.” (verse 1)  We are consistently reminded by our Church leaders to make civic participation a priority. The level of your participation will fluctuate. There will be times in your life when you are able to do more, and times when your other responsibilities will dictate that you need to do less. Some of you will undoubtedly embark on full-time public service at some time in your lives. Others of you will simply make a goal to become informed, participate in dialogues, and vote regularly.
The important thing is to never let yourself lapse into apathy. Our Constitution and its survival depends upon your participation. So regardless of what you can do, remember the words of Joseph F. Smith: “A good Latter-day Saint is a good citizen in every way. I desire to say to the young men [and women] of our community: be exemplary Latter-day Saints, and let nothing deter you from aspiring to the greatest positions which our nation has to offer. Having secured your place, let your virtue, your integrity, your honesty, your ability, your religious teachings, implanted in your hearts at the knees of your devoted …mothers, ‘so shine before men that they will see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.’ (Matthew 5:16)” (“Being Loyal Citizens,” Teaching of Presidents of the Church, Joseph F. Smith, 122)
We have been told that the day will come when the Constitution will be on the brink of ruin, and that we will be responsible to step forward and save it from destruction. John Taylor said, “When the people shall have torn to shreds the Constitution of the United States the Elders of Israel will be found holding it up to the nations of the earth, and proclaiming liberty and equal rights to all men, and extending the hand of fellowship to the oppressed of all nations.” (Journal of Discourses, 21:8)
That day is here. It’s not in the future anymore. I believe, though, that we will be able to save our form of government. If we remain virtuous and moral, if we serve freely in our community, and if we are informed and active in civil affairs, we will stand ready, like the founders of our Constitution, to do whatever is necessary to preserve our great nation.
I’d like to close with the words of Patrick Henry, who was one of our Founding Fathers. In his last will and testament, after listing his meager earthly possessions, he wrote: “This is all the inheritance I can give my dear family. The religion of Christ can give them one which will make them rich indeed.” (will dated Nov. 20, 1798, at leader.com/orgs/cdf/onug/henry.html)
As we commemorate the signing of the Constitution, may we all remember the heritage that has made us rich as a country and as members of the Church. And it’s my prayer that we will act responsibly to honor those who made it possible. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Righteous Actions Turn Faith into Knowledge

05 Oct. 2010


Righteous Actions Turn Faith into Knowledge

When I was a freshman in college, just last week, I’d never been away from home. I was not sure I could do it. I was just out of glasses and braces, the oldest of five girls, no brothers. Boys were sort of a mystery. I was not confident with them. And I had a horrible case of acne, which was the bane of my existence at the time. But I was very happy to be at a Church college, and I desired to become more. That’s why I came there. I wanted to have a stronger testimony. I was looking forward to the religion classes. I knew they’d be a little different from my high school seminary class, where I reluctantly admit that if I’d been in that class today, I’d probably have been texting my neighbor. We just sat on the back row and talked and laughed, and tried to pay attention some of the time.
And I also, when I came to that Church college, wanted to be straight with the Lord. I went to the bishop. I was nervous. There weren’t terrible things in my background, not terrible mistakes, but I wanted to feel completely clean. I just want to tell you that bishop was warm and helpful and encouraging, and I can remember going back to my dorm room and kneeling down by my bed and feeling the lightness of His forgiveness, and the warmth of that.
At this Church college was also the first time where I felt without any question in my mind, that I felt the Spirit directing me, when I was teaching a lesson about visiting teaching. I remember writing on the board and thinking, “Boy, this is good! Where did that come from?” Not from me.
It has been a few years since then, and today, if I could share anything with you from my experience from then until now, it would be this: When your faith is strong enough to stand steady with Christ, you will have the strength to handle anything that life asks of you.
Let me explain what I mean, and forewarn you, also, because I’d like your help in a couple of places today. I’d like you to think with me, and maybe toss out an answer or two to a question. There is an image from the life of Christ that helps me understand what this kind of faith in Him feels like. You’ve seen one version or another of Christ calming the sea. What do you see in this? I hope it’s close enough that you can. As you can see, the boat is tipped, the disciples are clinging to the ropes, and the storm-tossed sea is all around them. Christ is calm, confident—not proud. So where is the safest place on this boat? How do you stand by Him? With Him? Anchoring yourself to Him no matter how harsh the storm?
So how do you get anchored securely, so that no storm can pull you away from His presence? And what kind of effects will this kind of anchoring have on your life, right now and in the future? Now, this kind of unrockable faith can be developed, and it’s faith in who He is and how He loves us.
Could I share examples and a story or two about developing faith that I wish I had known when I was in the spot where you are today. The first principle is: Faith in Him becomes knowledge when we act on that faith. We must take steps into the unknown. Those are the steps of faith.
Just a couple of really quick examples:
We talked with a returning mission president from Australia. He’d had a German missionary in his mission whose name was Fabian. We happen to know Fabian and his family, and as the president was taking him to the plane at the end of his mission, Fabian said, after the president asked him what he had learned: “You come on your mission. You know nothing. Then you study, and you pray, and you work very hard. You spend a lot of money, yours and your parents. Then when you know everything, they send you home.”
So he knows there is knowledge there. For him, it’s no longer faith. Is this the end of the road for this returning missionary? I don’t think so, because he will be taking more steps of faith into the unknown.
One more example: Before we were married, not very long, Bruce and I fasted and prayed about how soon to have children, if the Lord would bless us with them. We had more school ahead; financially, it just didn’t look possible. But the answer was, start your family now. Bruce worked, I worked part time, we had a little help from our parents, a little scholarship, but still it didn’t work on paper. But somehow, somehow, it did work. We had our oldest son and stayed in school. What if we had decided to wait? Once in a while, in the tough days when he was growing up, I wondered just a little bit about that decision. But then, we had knowledge that we could keep the commandment to multiply and replenish, and stay in school. Then we could take another surer step, in stronger faith than before.
Another principle: Prayer and the Spirit are inseparably linked to faith. So two suggestions: Pray specifically. When this same mission president told us what he had learned on his mission, when we asked, he said, “I learned about the micro, not the macro.” He said, “I learned that when you pray for an individual, you get answers.” And he said, “For example, Sister Johnson had been in the mission for almost a year, and she told me that she didn’t have a testimony of Joseph Smith.”
“How can I help her,” he said in his prayer, “to help her to know for herself that Joseph Smith did indeed see God in that grove of trees that spring day in 1820?” And he said, “I got the answer about how to help her.”
Make sure that the scriptures are part of your prayers. They will help you pray specifically. How do you do that? I think you know. The scriptures will help you answer your prayers. Prayer is the call for the Spirit’s help. Let me just share a little part of a letter in which a former student and friend describes how prayer helped her to know that God loves her, and anchored her to Him through faith and the Spirit when she prayed specifically.
She was having trouble believing that God would answer her prayers, and after struggling with this, she decided that she would start what she called a prayer journal. And then she described that her first prayer was one of desperation at work—she’s a chemist in a lab. She was having problems getting two instruments talking to each other. She said, “I was extremely frustrated, and I just sat down and thought, ‘A little help here.’” But she said immediately a thought came, she tried it, she had never considered it, and it worked. Then she went on to say what she had learned from keeping this prayer journal. And one thing was that she had not recognized some of the answers she had gotten before as actually coming from the Spirit. And the other thing she learned is what President Monson was talking about just this past Sunday, that when she increased her gratitude, then the help from the Lord increased.
Listen to what else she learned: “I now understand a little bit better how the Spirit communicates with me personally. When I receive an answer to a prayer or feel the influence of the Spirit, my emotions rapidly turn from ones of frustration, turmoil, helplessness, to ones of clarity. The decrease in these negative emotions has naturally led me to be a happier, more hopeful and positive person.” Her experiences and her knowledge, now, has led her to be able to ask and to move again with more faith, without knowledge.
Another principle: Self-discipline matters. It boils down to doing the things you know to do, and avoiding those things you know not to do, those that lead you away from the Spirit’s influence. Let me share with you a short list from a Young Single Adult bishop, who was sharing with his ward those things that can make it hard for you to make a good decision—difficult for the Spirit to guide you. The summary had been an acronym: BLAST+H. If any one of these elements, or a combination of them, is out of whack, then life will be harder for you than it needs to be. Your faith will be dampened. So what does BLAST stand for? What are the things that, if they’re going on in your life, might make it harder?
B is for bored. Mainly if you’re aware of these things and you feel them, at work or in any situation, whether it’s in a car late at night, whether it’s not wanting to do your homework—whatever.
A is for angry, possibly apathetic.
S is for stressed. Some of us are always going to feel that, right?
T is for tired. Who is not tired?
H is for hungry. Does anyone else identify with me on that one?
Now, there is an antidote to every one of these elements. Get a plan for when these things might show up uninvited in your life. Be sure to include enough sleep, good nutrition—this is your mother talking—regular exercise, and learning how to manage your time. It makes sense, doesn’t it?  Common sense—sleep, eat well, exercise, manage your time. If you want to have faith to stand with Christ, prepare yourself to go to the temple. I know many of you brethren who are here are returned missionaries, so you have temple recommends. The temple is where heaven and earth meet. If you go there and cling to what you are given there, heaven will make a temple out of you.
In the words of Paul, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God?” (1 Corinthians 3:16) And the paraphrase from Truman Madsen and the Doctrine and Covenants, section 84: If you have faith, and are patient, the Lord will unfold the deepest mysteries of godliness, which are only in the house of the Lord and in those ordinances.
So what does this well-anchored faith look like? Let me tell you two stories. They’re both about Elizabeths—two different Elizabeths who were called at different times, close to the same time, to the Muddy Mission, about 90 miles southwest of St. George, the toughest mission of any of the western settlements built during that time, according to one historian.
Elder Holland related this story a few weeks ago in our regional conference in Utah Valley. The story he told was of 15-year-old, gritty, spunky, and morally courageous Elizabeth Claridge McCune. She lived in Nephi at the time—this would be 1867, ’68, something like that. It was comfortable enough that when Brother Brigham and Brother Wells came for a conference there were bands, flowers strewn on the roads, and Elizabeth and her friends were dressed in white—what does that say about how subtle the settlement was?—and sitting on the front row. Brother Brigham gives a sermon, and toward the end of the sermon, he reads the names of those men he is calling on a mission to the muddy with their families. Elizabeth hears her father’s name read and bursts into tears. She sobs. Not so much that she doesn’t know about going, but she knows what she’s going to lose.
Her friend’s father’s name is also read, but she doesn’t cry—she doesn’t even seem to be much affected. She asks Elizabeth, “Why are you so sad? It’s okay,” she said, “I know my father won’t go.”
But Elizabeth said, “I know my father will go. Nothing will prevent him. If he didn’t go, he wouldn’t be my father.”
So let me ask you: what do you think is the difference between the two girls’ fathers? Elizabeth’s friend’s family did come across the plains. They answered the call to go from Salt Lake to Nephi, so they had sacrificed. But why do you think he wouldn’t go again? Is there one or two of you who would venture a possibility—because we’re kind of guessing, but why do you think he wouldn’t go?
Okay, there’s one thought. Maybe he thought he’d already done enough. “Why should I go again?” Other possibilities? Okay, “Give somebody else a chance for that growth out there on the Muddy.” Lack of faith? What do you mean by that? Okay, he says when you have faith, you do. It’s doing work, like Joseph Smith said. Thank you for that.
Maybe he was a little too comfortable. Maybe his comfort by that time was more important to him than his covenants to answer the call.
Let’s go on with the second story, another Elizabeth. This is Elizabeth and her husband William Wood. They were also called to the Muddy in 1867. William gave up a thriving butcher shop in Salt Lake City; they sold their very nice home, and they went south. Conditions there were so demanding that the colonists were living in severe poverty. In fact, so severe that one descendant put it: “Those people were so poor that they couldn’t even pay attention.”
After five years of difficult, faithful effort, William’s family lost everything when the mission failed in 1872 and they were called back to Salt Lake. They returned penniless and exhausted to where they had begun, again living in a dugout with a dirt floor and a sod roof. One day, they stood in front of this house that they had sold to go on their mission. William turned to Elizabeth and said, “Well, Mother, would you like to have your house back?”
Elizabeth thought for just a second, and then she said, “I would rather live in a dugout and have my mission fulfilled, than live in that fine house with my mission unfulfilled.” Why do you think she would feel that way? Any thoughts? Why would she feel that way after five years of backbreaking labor? “I would rather live in a dugout and have my mission fulfilled, than live in that house and not have my mission fulfilled.”
Okay, she had faith in Christ. And what does that result in? What happened to her during those five years? Thank you. She could see the big picture, so she had faith in what that might mean to her. What happened to her faith in those five years? Her faith became knowledge. She knew something she didn’t know before. She had changed. She was a different person from the person who left on that mission five years before—better, deeper. Any other thoughts?
Okay, if you “lose yourself for my sake,” then you will find what you are looking for. She found something better than she would have had had she lived in that fine house for those five years. Thank you for those thoughts. One more quickly. Ether 12:4—faith gives hope. And we’re talking about anchors today, so thank you for that, that fits right into what we’re talking about.
She did learn an important secret, as one sister from Sweden that we got to know put it: If your faith is based on trust in the Lord, not on blessings—if your faith is based on trust, not on blessings—you can withstand, even grow, through any trial. That’s sort of a restatement of what we might call a main idea for today. So if we compare the first Elizabeth to the second, the first Elizabeth had faith. She would go with her father; but the second Elizabeth had faith and experience, so we have seen the difference between the two. It’s just earlier and later; we trust that the first Elizabeth had the grit and the stamina and the spunk to live through that experience and grow from it. The second Elizabeth, the Elizabeth who would stand with Christ in the boat with her husband, with life’s storms tossing the boat around and drenching them with sea water—but they are standing in the safe, growing place in the boat with Him. To weather the storms of life, we need this kind of faith.
And I think we’re getting stronger challenges. Don’t you feel that way? I think the Lord is trying to purify His people, so we’re getting a compressed curriculum. In one way or another—I would know that about each of you—in one way or another, you are having a challenge or a difficulty that you will grow through, with faith in Him, and be better at the end of it. If we stand steady with Him, He will take us where our Father in Heaven wants us to go. And the closer—for me this is part of the key—the closer we stand to Him and with Him in every way, the more we become like Him.
Let me show you something of what standing with Him looks like. This is a picture of shining drops in a sometimes dark sea. It’s part of the ecstasy that President Kimball talks about being possible for a married husband and wife. Can you see the picture okay? What do you see in that picture?
Oh, she picked out the hands first. I like that. Who is “they”? You can see his ring, so you know they are married. You see the baby. What about that baby? That baby is happy. The baby is waving. The baby is secure. You know that the relationship between the mother and dad is secure, that it’s happy. Can you see in her profile how much she is smiling and how glad she is to be talking with her husband? The mother, can you see how her arm is wrapped around that baby—how protected and secure that baby is, until that baby is ready to get down off her lap and run somewhere else? Can you see the light in their faces?
I just have to add one little thing here. What if you took the husband out of the picture? Could it still be happy? I think it could. What if you took the baby out of the picture? Could it still be happy? I think it could. So this is our ideal, but sometimes we live in our life, not in the ideal. This is what we all hope for, at some time, either in our lives or as was promised this last conference weekend—if not now, then later. No promise will be broken nor denied.
But let me give this picture perhaps a caption. The extent to which we come closer to Him is the extent to which we can come closer to each other. Can you see how that would be possible? The extent to which we come closer to Him, in that boat with life’s storms around us, is the extent to which we can come closer to each other. Closer to Him, unified, one in heart, one in mind, one with the Spirit—then we can come closer to each other. Does that make sense? The extent to which we come closer to Him is the extent to which we can come closer to one another.
Our Father in Heaven wants us to be this kind of happy, this kind of secure. He wants us to be prepared to feel that together in our families, at whatever point that comes in our lives. So let me ask you this: How is preparing for temple marriage and raising children like preparing to settle the Muddy? Do some of you have some ideas or thoughts about that?
You’re going to be very poor. You know that you may not have a lot of earthly goods while you do that, but how important is that? We do have to have enough food on the table. We have to have a roof over our heads. But we have sufficient. Okay, so we might be poor. What else? How is preparing for temple marriage and raising children like preparing to settle the Muddy?
Okay, you don’t know what’s coming. You have to take some steps in faith. And that’s what we learned when we decided when we should try to have our first child, that you have to take steps when you don’t know what’s going to happen.
You may have to leave the comfort of your parents’ home, and that means going out into the lone and dreary world. That means coming to LDS Business College so that one of the things you do with your self-discipline is that you learn to have a career or a way to earn your living should you need to. If you knew that there are many women in the Church who not only support themselves, because there are 35-40 percent of women who are single in the Church at any given time, from 18-80. So a third of the women in the Church are single. They are going to need to learn to work, they are going to have to have a career, something that will support them, and many of them support other members of their families.
You put your earthly treasures somewhere else. You prepare so that you have enough. But then your true treasures are ones that we might call the heavenly treasures, and the temple treasures, if you want to put it that way.
Sometimes we have disasters. Oh, a good friend who is burying a son who committed suicide. Sometimes we have to be there, but he’s saying that the parents, through this horrible experience, experienced more faith, more visitations, more understanding, and the Spirit to be with them. Sometimes, he said, you just have to be there. Thank you. Sometimes we have disasters in our lives.
Other ideas about how preparing for temple marriage and raising children is like preparing to settle the Muddy. Okay, she said you might go into things for the wrong reasons. Okay, if you went on the Muddy, you might not learn those things that Elizabeth did, but if you go to the Muddy for the right reasons, and you’re preparing for your marriage and family for the right reasons, then you have those blessings.
Okay, let me summarize that. She said you can go into either situation, whether you’re going to the Muddy, or whether you’re preparing for marriage, giving your all—your whole heart. Did you have more than that? Okay, we may feel inadequate, she says, whether we are going to the Muddy or whether we are getting ready for marriage. But Christ’s Atonement will make up the difference.
You wouldn’t go into either of those situations unless you could go with someone who you trusted. Now, if you are alone, then who do you go with? Then you go with Him, because you know that He would never forsake you. You would always have somebody that you could stand by. You’re helping Him do His work.
One more. Okay, she says even though things may not add up financially or in other ways, you can still be really happy preparing for marriage or going to the Muddy. Now, it may be that some will not marry, but does that mean you can never be happy? No. When you are standing with Him in the boat, being one with Him, the joy is in that. And we will go where He is trying to help us to go, with Him. That’s one of my great desires—to be with Him, to go no more out, to be with my family, with Him, for as long as time and no time lasts.
Let me in conclusion tell you one thing I learned when I was willing—we weren’t asked to go to the Muddy—but when we were called, our first assignment was to go to Sydney, Australia. And President Hinckley looked across the table and he said, “How does that strike you, Sister Hafen?”
I said, “President, that really strikes me.” And what I was thinking is what I was going to be leaving. I was going to be leaving our children, our growing little flock of grandchildren, where we lived, where I loved to ride my bike, my students where I was teaching. But what I came to find out, when we went to that wonderful place, and during the four years that we were there, was that Christ changed for me. He became real.
He was no longer one of those really wonderful pictures on the wall in our churches. He was for real, a living, breathing personage, and I could feel his personality—that He loved, that He laughed, that He would give anything for me. He would give anything for you. And that’s what I would like to witness today. He has given His life for you on earth, but He continues to give His life for you, every day of your lives, because He wants you to come back to His Father, having been with Him enough that you have enough faith that you can be like Him, and know Him as He is. I bear witness to that in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

A Divine Ring

12 Oct. 2010


A Divine Ring

            Almost half a century ago I taught a Sunday School class of teenagers in Southern California.  There were about fifty in the class, including a young man who naturally surpassed most of the others in athleticism and leadership attributes.  Upon graduation from high school he attended a very liberal university in the West and disassociated himself from the Church.  In his view he had grown beyond the simple truths of the Restoration.
            The summer following his freshman year he returned to his home.  As a courtesy to his parents he accompanied them to our worship services.  One Sunday we sat next to each other in a Sunday School meeting.  A boy was at the pulpit bearing his testimony of Joseph Smith.  My friend whispered to me: “How could a boy possibly know whether Joseph was a prophet?”  I invited my friend to my home to answer that question, and a dozen others.
            When he arrived, there was a large bundle of books under his arm, signaling that this conversation was destined to be a very long one, unless it was a very short one.  I said, “Before you begin with your long series of queries and doubts, may I ask just one question?  “Who wrote the Book of Mormon?”
            His face paled.  “Why do you have to ask that question?” he inquired.  “For almost all the other questions I have fashioned an answer which does not require embracing the faith.  But I read the book; I felt something; I cannot bring myself to say the book is not true.”
            “Then you have already answered most of the rest of your questions,” I said.  “If the book is true, Joseph was a prophet—not a sometimes prophet—not a Sunday prophet—but the great prophet of the Restoration, and from that knowledge consequences flow.”  He left my home discouraged and with his books unopened.  He could not deny what he had felt while reading the Book of Mormon.
            The Savior said to the people of the American continent:  “I will try the faith of my people.”[1]  The faith of every one of us, even the very elect, must be tested.  The test will be real because it will seldom be the type of test we anticipated.  If you lose your childlike faith, you will someday lament in the words of King Saul: “I have played the fool, and have erred exceedingly.”[2]
            Before you came to this earth you may have prayed a thousand times ten thousand times that during the course of your earthly journey you would find the truth—or that it would find you—and that you would thereafter remain as true to that testimony as the needle is to the pole.  Every night and morning of your life you ought to plead with the Lord that you never lose your faith, virtue or testimony; for the possession of these in the next world will mean more to you than you can possibly imagine.
            Mortality is just a dot on the spectrum of eternity, but it is a very important dot because it is the probationary or testing period.  It is a closed-book test in that you cannot recall how important it was to you in a pre-mortal estate that covenants are kept.  Worlds without end you will live with the consequences of having kept or lost your faith here.
            If you want to sustain your faith and virtue, immerse yourself in the Book of Mormon.  It is impregnable, and its penetrating, soaring spirit will fill your soul with light, joy and testimony.  There may be storms in life, but they will harmlessly roll beneath the hull of the ship if you are faithful in your Book of Mormon reading.  This I promise you.
            I recently completed one of my many, many immersions in the book.  I was not in a hurry.  With pen in hand I made over six hundred notes, some as preludes to spiritual journeys.  Dozens of times my soul was stirred and I wrote to myself:  “Joseph could never have written this,” or “This is magnificent; only a true prophet could have penned these words,” or “This could never have come from a deceitful man,” or “This verse is proof enough that Joseph was a prophet.”  Hundreds of times, sometimes with tears in my eyes, I looked up from the page and thanked the Lord for the stirring witness of that book.
            In your early readings of the Book of Mormon you may, at first, be drawn to the faith-promoting stories. As your testimony matures you will, in even larger proportion, be drawn to the compelling doctrine and, most of all, to the spirit the book breathes.
            Almost a century ago one of the very literate members of the Council of the Twelve was Elder Orson F. Whitney.  A leader of another faith took to task one of our volumes of scripture.  Elder Whitney responded:  “We know Shakespeare’s writings by the very sound of them—they have the Shakespearean ring, and thereby literary experts can tell the difference between his writings and all others.  We recognized Milton’s poetry by the Miltonic ring; the poetry of Byron or Tennyson and the Byronic or Tennysonian ring.  Then, if God speaks, why should it not have a Godlike ring, something that no man can counterfeit, nor any but a spiritual expert fully discern or appreciate?”
            “That’s the way to answer me,” was the reply.  “I am one with you in the belief that the highest evidence of the truth and authenticity of any work is the spirit it breathes and the wisdom it inculcates.”[3]
            A few years ago a friend of the Church approached one of our well-known leaders.  The friend said:  “At their further request I have prayed about it, following the counsel of Moroni found in its last chapter.  But nothing happened.”  The Church leader thoughtfully inquired:  “Well, is the book true?”  “Of course the book is true,” the friend answered, “but nothing happened.”  The Church leader smiled.  “God revealed to you the truthfulness of the book while you were reading it.  He does not now need to send an angel to confirm what He has already made known.”
            God could produce the gold plates, but their physical presence would not be a more compelling or sustaining witness of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon than the spirit that emanates from the book.
            Most of us acquire our testimonies of the Book of Mormon while immersed in the pages of the book itself.  Dozens of time, as we turn a page, we find ourselves saying, “That must be from God.”  Nothing could be more persuasive and sustaining than that.  The testimony process during reading is peaceful and sweet, such as no man or evil influence could ever counterfeit.  If you cannot feel the spirit of this book while reading it, then God is hammering on cold iron.  The influence of the Holy Ghost is most often felt while something else, of spiritual dimension, is happening—such as attending a worship service, participating in a baptism, serving in the temple, praying or reading God’s word.
            A season ago a man came to one of the General Authorities and said, “I am just not religious.”  The Church leader answered, “How could you ever hope to be religious? You don’t go to Church, you don’t read the scriptures, and you don’t pray to God.  What right do you have to be religious?”
            The Church leader then spoke of a toy clown he had seen at Christmas time.  The figure had a lead weight in the crown of its head, which could always be depended upon to return the clown to an upside-down position.
            The Church leader observed that we do the same thing. We weight our interests, in part by what we read, and then we respond accordingly. His friend could quote the batting averages of many major league ballplayers, but he could not quote a single verse of the word of the Lord.[4]
            We are not so different.  If we could observe the reading material you keep next to your bed we would know a great deal about you.  If you were placed on a desert island for an extended period and could only take a handful of books, would you choose the opinions of men over the word of God?  The Prophet Joseph reminds us that “Spring water tasted best right from the foundation.”[5]  The glorious truths of the gospel are most compelling when the Book of Mormon pours pure spirituality into our souls.
            In 1975 Sister Callister and I attended a Mission Presidents’ Seminar in Chicago.  The presiding General Authority asked the wife of each mission president to say something unusual or different about her husband that we would not otherwise have known.  One of the other wives said her husband is the only man she knows who reads the Book of Mormon once every five weeks.  When he was asked to respond, he acknowledged this was true, confirming he had read the book thus far twenty-two times while presiding over his mission.  I watched him through the balance of the seminar.  Spirituality emanated from every pore.  He had weighted the head of the clown with spiritual things by reading the Book of Mormon in the earliest hours of every morning, and he responded accordingly.  When a man has spent a lifetime studying the word of God, no one has to tell us.  We know it every time he opens his mouth.
            C.S. Lewis said:  “The sure mark of an unliterary man is that he considers ‘I’ve read it already’ to be a conclusive argument against reading a work. …  Those who read great works, on the other hand, will read the same work ten, twenty, or thirty times during the course of their life.”[6]  Positive evidence of a spiritual infant is that he considers one reading of the Book of Mormon to suffice.  We ought to read the book at least once per year for the rest of our lives.  President Henry B. Eyring reminds us that “if we become casual in our study of the scriptures, we will become casual in our prayers.  We may not cease to pray, but our prayers will become more repetitive, more memorized, lacking real intent.”[7] 
            In 2005, at the urging of President Hinckley, there was a wonderful surge in Book of Mormon reading.  This must be very pleasing to the Lord.  How we read the book, however, may be as important as the fact that we read it at all.  The following suggestions may enrich your reading experience:
1.     Don’t Hurry the Journey.  Robert Frost observed that there ought to be class in slow reading.[8]  The ultimate test is what we learn, feel and resolve with each reading, not how quickly we have read or how many times we have perused the book’s pages. Just as we cannot assimilate a great work of art in seconds, or appreciate all a great museum can offer in an hour or two, our reading emphasis must be on digestion, not speed.  The Lord is not impressed with how many times you read the book.  He is very concerned with the spiritual success of your reading journey.  The book of Mormon is not meant to be briefly tasted, then swallowed in a passing gulp.  It is to be savored.  We are meant to feel great stirrings within.  Like Nephi, our spirits are to be carried away to high places, followed by the spontaneous “Wilt Thou make me that I may shake at the appearance of sin?”[9]  As we read with our eyes, we write on the tablets of our hearts, and from this will come quiet and lasting resolves.
2.     Read Out-Loud.  Perhaps this is how the scriptures were meant to be read, especially the direct words of the Savior and the prophets.  Awareness is heightened when we both see with our eyes and hear with our ears.  Paul taught the saints in Rome that “faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God.”[10] In a very literal sense we can hear the word of the Lord as we read select portions aloud.
Years ago when I served as a bishop I received a telephone call one Saturday evening from a distraught sister in our ward.  There had been tension and angry words in her family through the day.  On the eve of the Sabbath she sought counsel that would bring her peace.   I suggested she take a warm shower, read aloud 3 Nephi 17, pray and retire.  The next morning she acknowledged it was a healing tonic.
      You would have the same experience if you read aloud the theophany of Enos—or Nephi’s powerful exhortation to his brethren in 1 Nephi 17 in which his frame was so full of the Spirit of God that he had no strength—or Lehi’s, the trembling parent’s eloquent plea in 2 Nephi 1 for his sons to “arise from the dust and be men”[11]—or countless other examples that tug at the heartstrings of those who live the things of godliness.  Indeed, if you want to have a spiritual Pentecost, read aloud all of the Book of Mormon blessings of fathers to sons, or sermons by fathers to their children.
3.     Read with a Pencil.  Reading the book of Mormon once with a pencil, making notes of your impressions, may be of greater worth than reading it several times without.  Writing oft eliminates the fuzziness of our thinking.
When I became a General Authority one of the members of the Twelve said to me: “In the next few months you will receive many impressions from the Lord, on the condition you write them down.  If you stop recording the experiences, God will stop sending them.”
As we write, both words and thoughts become less ambiguous.  This is the observation of C.S. Lewis:  “I sometimes think that writing is like driving sheep down a road.  If there is any gate open to the left or the right the readers will most certainly go into it.”[12]
There once lived a man who was rejected from school at age seven.  The teacher said:  “He simply doesn’t want to learn.”  His mother taught him to read and write.  He wore cracked, scuffed shoes, ink-stained clothes and a tattered hat.  In the cold winter he refused to buy an overcoat.  Instead, he bought scientific books and experimental apparatus.  He also had the habit of carrying with him everywhere he went a pocket notebook into which he scribbled his drawings, notes and impressions.  His name was Thomas Alva Edison, and it is said that in his lifetime he filled 2,500 notebooks.  He seemed to thing better with a pencil.[13]
4.     Read at the Right Time, and With the Right Posture.  There are few things of real worth that ought to be left until the very close of the day.  The 30th Psalm, verse 5 tells us that “joy cometh in the morning.”  Inspiration does also.  As you study your scriptures, note the number of significant things that happened to Joseph, or to Christ, Himself, in the morning.  It is the time of day when our minds and spirits have been refreshed, and the veil is thin.  The Lord commands in D&C 88:124 “arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated.”  This is the time to receive the revelations of the Lord.  Twenty minutes of uninterrupted gospel study in the morning may be worth twice that time at the close of the day.
5.     Pause to Pray Before You Read.  Ask the Lord to help you find what He would have you know and feel.  You are not likely to find anything if you are not looking for something.  The Book of Mormon is our greatest prayer-text.  It has our most powerful sermons on the Atonement.  Its teachings on faith are sublime and unsurpassed.  It is our greatest treatise on the blessings and destiny of Israel.  At every reading look for one or more of these messages and you will find hidden treasures.
In Southern Russia there is a large city named Volgograd.  In earlier years it was called Stalingrad.  One of the decisive and extended battles of the Second World War was fought there.  About 800,000 Germans died, together with 1,200,000 Russians.  The city was destroyed.  Even today there is a lingering memory and animosity on the part of older Russians toward the German nation.
            One of our Area Seventies in Eastern Europe was Elder Manfred Schuetze, a German.  He speaks Russian fluently.  He was once assigned to preside over a district conference in Volgograd.  He accepted with some trepidation, knowing the reservoir of hatred some Russians harbored toward Germans.  He began the first meeting of the district conference with these words:  “My dear Russian brothers and sisters: The Germans are back.  I am one of them.  This time I have brought new weapons.”  He held up the Book of Mormon.  They loved him.  At a later date he gave some of them their patriarchal blessings in their native tongue.  The spirit of the Book of Mormon can penetrate every barrier as it touches men’s hearts.
            When I was a student in law school I acquired a friend with whom I studied the law.  He was a devout member of another Christian faith.  Sometimes we spoke of politics, sports or religion, but generally our conversations were centered in the law cases we were required to review.  One day I sat opposite him in the law library, quietly reading.  He closed his book, looked, up, and said:  “I can’t stand it any longer.  How could anyone trained in the reasoning process of the law like you ever believe a story as incredible as the story of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon?”
            I closed my book.  “Is the Bible true?” I inquired.  “Of course,” he said.  “How do you know it is true?” I asked.  “The Bible is true because it is the Bible,” he answered.  “Everyone knows it is true.”  I could see from the pained expression on his face that he was not altogether satisfied with the depth of that reasoning.
            “Imagine,” I said, “That I have just come from a distant, non-Christian land, and now in my early twenties for the first time learned of the Bible.  I read in this Bible of a six-day creation.  I read that the sun stood still. I read that a sea was parted.  I read of a virgin birth.  I read of men raised form the dead.  I read of the most extraordinary miracles.  Could you imagine my saying to you, ‘How could anyone trained in the reasoning process of the law like you ever believe a story as incredible as the story of the Holy Bible?’” (repeating to him the same words with which he had indicted my faith in the Book of Mormon).
            My friend blushed.  He continued:  “I suppose that if you never heard of the Bible until two decades after your birth it might be a little more difficult to accept.”
            “Would it be important for me to know if the Bible contains the Word of God?”  I inquired.  “Of course,” he said.  “But how could I know?”  My friend thoughtfully answered: “You would have to read the book with an open mind, asking God in prayer whether the book is true.”  I loved his answer, and returned to him the same prescription, to be applied to reading the Book of Mormon, with the assurance he would as easily have believed in the Book of Mormon as the Bible if he had only learned of it in the same hour.
            When parents and teachers read to me as a young boy the stories of the Bible, I often wished I had lived in the meridian of time and had been there.  I would like to have been a Bethlehem shepherd to observe the great star in heaven.  I would like to have seen the infant Deliverer who cried.  I would like to have heard the very voice of the Master, for “never man spake like this man.”[14]
            In similar thought and urging I often wished I could have lived in Book of Mormon times.  I would like to have seen and felt the love of the first Nephi who “watered his pillow by night”[15] because of his affection for the people.  I would like to have known his reverie after he had been carried away upon exceedingly high mountains “upon the wings of [God’s] spirit”[16] and his eyes “beheld great things, yea, even too great for man.”[17]  I may have trembled to hear his eloquent plea: “Awake, my soul! No longer droop in sin.  Rejoice, O my heart, and give place no more for the enemy of my soul.”[18]
            I would like to have felt the faith and power of Abinadi’s testimony as he told King Noah his life should be “valued even as a garment in a hot furnace,”[19] and “Touch me not, for God shall smite you.”[20]
            I would like to have seen Lehi’s vision of the tree of life.
            I would like to have known the brothers Nephi and Lehi, for whom the veil ceased to exist, for they had “many revelations daily.”[21]
            I would like to have been part of the multitude who saw with their eyes and felt with their hands the wounds of the resurrected Savior and heard the voice bearing record that He was “the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and [had] been slain for the sins of the world.”[22]
            I would like to have seen noble, righteous Nephi bow “himself before the Lord and kiss his feet.”[23]
            I would like to have heard the Savior’s prayer, too sacred to be recorded.
            And such is only the beginning of the times while reading the book that thought has taken flight, and I have wished to be an eye and ear witness.
            The more often I read, the greater the realization of this dream.  Nephi, Lehi, Alma, Helaman, Moroni and other shooting stars of righteousness, whose names and lives are so richly interwoven into the pages of the Book of Mormon, are no longer characters of the distant past.  To return to their writings is to return to the house of my friends.
            In these great times of refreshing and restoration the Lord has promised to yet bring forth other wonderful scriptures, in which will be revealed all things from the beginning until the end of time.  There will be the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon, the brass plates, the records of Zenos and Zenoch, the panoramic writings of Enoch, the testaments of Joseph and Abraham, the complete record of John the Revelator, Adam’s Book of Remembrance, and many more sacred texts.  But these writings will not come forth until God has tried the faith of His people, to see if they will read and live by the abundant scriptures we already have.  Not two-thirds, but all of the gold plates, are sealed to those who will not read.  When we read and believe these things, then shall the greater things be made manifest.
            For many years I practiced law in Southern California.  About twenty-five years ago one of my clients died.  He was a wealthy physician.  He had never been married; he had never been a parent; he had never concerned himself with religious things.  His life was devoted to the acquisition of treasures from his travels throughout the world.
            These worldly acquisitions were openly displayed in his two expensive homes.  They included a magnificent library, some of the volumes being leather-bound.
            Everything was sold, in part to pay the large federal estate tax.  The executrix of the estate then came to my office and said: “I have just walked through the decedent’s home for the last time.  Nothing remains—not even his vast library.  We were able to sell everything, except one book.  Years ago someone gave him a book entitled the Book of Mormon.  We were not able to sell it; we could not give it away.”  Such splendid and proper irony here! The only thing the doctor owned of any worth, the copy of the Book of Mormon, was the only thing that could not be sold.
            The storms of life will surely come, for God will turn neither to the right nor to the left as to the prophecies of the latter-days.  Some, unhappily, will become causal and lukewarm, and they may lose their testimonies.  They will forget how many times their pre-earthly prayers pled with the Lord that this would never happen.  When they return to the presence of the Father they will seek the shadows and hide their faces in shame that they did not fulfill their missions on this earth.  If you wish it to be otherwise, nourish a lifelong love affair with the Book of Mormon.  It is the one book with comes to us with the personal testimony of the Almighty, for He said “As your Lord and your God liveth it is true.”[24]
            I add my personal witness to that of Divinity.  I have not only read the book dozens of times; I have felt the book dozens of times and the spirit it breathes.  I testify of this book. And my witness is true. 
            In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

[1] 3 Nephi 26:11
[2] 1 Samuel 26:21
[3] Whitney, Through Memory’s Halls, 271-272
[4] Sterling W. Sill, November 9. 1965, BYU Speeches of the Year, 1965, 9
[5] The Words of Joseph Smith, 122
[6] C.S. Lewis, The Quotable Lewis, 79
[7] Elder Henry B. Eyring, October 2001 Conference Report
[8] Susan Easton Black, Expressions of Faith: Testimonies of Latter-day Saint Scholars, 169
[9] 2 Nephi 4:31
[10] Romans 10:17
[11] 2 Nephi 1:21
[12] C.S. Lewis, The Quotable Lewis, 624
[13] Wendell J. Ashton, Ensign, October 1960
[14] John 7:46
[15] 2 Nephi 33:3
[16] 2 Nephi 4:25
[17] 2 Nephi 4:25
[18] 2 Nephi 4:28
[19] Mosiah 12:3
[20] Mosiah 13:3
[21] Helaman 11:23
[22] 3 Nephi 11:14
[23] 3 Nephi 11:19
[24] D&C 17:6

Cast Thy Bread upon the Waters

19 Oct. 2010


Cast Thy Bread upon the Waters

Money; it’s an interesting thing.  What would you do if you had a lot of money?  What would you buy if you had, say, a million dollars?  Even when I was young—before credit cards and before online buying and before ATM machines—people would fantasize about what they would do if they won a $1 million.  We still do that.  TV game shows are built around that theme.
You know that money is basically an efficient system of barter with standardized values.  We could barter with gold or silver bars or with bushels of grain, but it’s hard to fit gold bars in your wallet or a bushel of wheat in your purse, so we came up with a lightweight and easier exchange method.
Of course, money is only paper.  It has no more intrinsic value than does the sheet of paper on which you take notes, yet because society puts value on it, we develop all kinds of emotions around it.
For example, what emotions and feelings come to mind when I hold up this handful of U.S. bills?  These are $1 bills.  What emotions are you feeling?  How about if I threw them on the floor? [Tosses bills to the floor.]
What do you think and/or feel when I hold up this handful of $5 bills?  What if I threw them on the floor?  I can tell you what my wife would say if I threw them on the floor, so I won’t.    
I received special permission from a bank not too far from here, to bring a bag with a large amount of money in it, much more than I’ve just held up.  What if I were to give it to you?  [Holds up large bag.] Who would want it?  What would you do with it?  By the way, there is money in the bag, but it’s shredded bills from the Federal Reserve Bank.
Isn’t it interesting the emotions money creates.  Are you surprised by what you feel?  The cashier’s office tells me they’ve seen a number of students with strong emotions about money especially around the tuition deadline.  My dad used to remind me that money, in and of itself is nothing.  It simply represents the power to do something.  It was what you did with your money that shaped you.
You know there is nothing evil about money, just as there is nothing good.  It’s an inanimate object, without feelings or emotions.  It’s lifeless. That’s why money is not the root of all evil, but rather, as Paul told Timothy, “the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”[1]
I have a friend who I’ve known for a long time.  He earned his first million in his mid 20s.  Over the next decade, he expanded his original earnings and became very wealthy.  Sister Nelson and I visited him and his wife and their small child one evening, and he showed us around his large home, complete with a three-car garage filled with expensive vehicles and a boat.  We were impressed that someone his age had so much.  My wife and I were young married students at the time, and our circumstances were more along the macaroni-and-cheese level. 
As we left his house that evening, my friend said an interesting thing.  Money was nice, he said.  He didn’t worry about how to pay the bills and he could pretty much buy whatever he wanted.  But he recognized that money didn’t make him happy.  In fact, in his case, it contributed to great unhappiness.  In time, money became the goal for my friend.  He eventually divorced his wife, lost his children, cut himself off from the Church, and in the process “pierced (himself) through with many sorrows.”[2]
Yet, I also know many wealthy people who are active in the Church and who have strong families and who are not controlled by their wealth.  Most that I know are ordinary folks who quietly do great amounts of good.
And to be sure, it’s not just the rich who fall prey to this sin of loving money.  My father-in-law wisely notes that often it’s the poor who develop unhealthy, covetous attitudes. 
In ancient Israel, the people struggled with a tendency toward idolatry.  They worshipped figures of wood and stone and gem-bedecked statues of gold and silver.  The Lord through Isaiah pointed out that those idols did not have power to save us.  They could not even move themselves from one place to the next.[3]
Money may be the idol of our day.  Too many individuals, governments, and organizations look to it as the solution to all their problems.  “If I just had a million dollars,” they say, “then all would be well.”  But money has the same limitations as did the idols of old.  It cannot speak or hear or feel emotions or move itself.  If fact, the only way it can get from place to place is if we carry it or wire it or mail it with a postage stamp.  Contrast that with what the Lord says about His divine ability to deliver us:  “Hearken unto me, O house of Jacob, and all the remnant of the house of Israel, which are borne by me from the belly, which are carried from the womb: and even to your old age, I am He … even to (your gray) hairs will I carry you:  I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you.”[4]
Let me restate a point clearly here, so there is no misunderstanding:  There is no sin in being rich.  In fact, a major premise of why you’re at the College is so that you can increase your wealth.  Your instructors are giving you skills that they hope will result in more money for you and your family.  So go make money; make lots of it if you can.  Just don’t let the love of money overcome you. 
And just as there is no sin in being rich, there also is no virtue in being poor.  I know that sometimes things happen beyond our control to make us poor, but do not excuse yourself from having enough money through some incorrect belief that money is bad.  You should provide for yourselves, learn to wisely manage your funds, exercise caution and prudence and increase your talents.  And you young men have a divine mandate to provide for your families, a mandate that comes with the heavenly gifts needed to make that happen.
So how do we work our way through this?  How do we have money while developing and maintaining the proper attitude toward it? 
One answer, at least in part, comes from the Lord when He said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy might, mind, and strength; and in the name of Jesus Christ thou shalt serve him.”[5]
The word “might” in this scripture implies power or ability to do something constructive.[6]  One form of “might” consists of our financial ability, or our monetary power to build. 
We can love the Lord with our might as we hold nothing back—even our finances.  And when we love Him, we are willing to keep His commandments.[7] 
A lawyer once tempted Christ by asking Him what was the greatest commandment.  The Savior gave an answer that applies to our discussion today.  Jesus said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like unto it, thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”[8]
You already know one way to love the Lord with your financial might—you learned it in the Primary of your spiritual development, and that is tithing.  President Gordon B. Hinckley has quoted a poem: “What is tithing? I will tell you every time. Ten cents from a dollar, and a penny from a dime.”[9]  “One of the blessings of membership in The Church is the privilege of paying tithing. This privilege is a double blessing. By paying tithing, (we) show our gratitude to God for (our) blessings and (we show our) resolve to trust in the Lord rather than in material things.  (Paying tithing) also helps further the work of the Lord in the earth. … ”
Through the prophet Malachi, the Lord declared:
“’Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.’[10]
You know that “tithing funds are used for the Lord's purposes—to build and maintain temples and meetinghouses, to sustain missionary work, to educate Church members, and to carry on the work of the Lord throughout the world.”[11]
These College facilities, the lights, the heating, the upkeep, the people who work here, are paid for primarily by tithing dollars from members of the Church. 
We pay tithing because we love the Lord and we want to serve Him with all our might.  We pay tithing that the work of the Lord might be accelerated, that members around the world might have the blessings of the gospel.  We pay tithing because it can keep us from letting our money become a modern-day idol.
We also want to keep the second great commandment, to love our neighbors as ourselves.  The Church has provided a way for us to use our finances to love our fellow man through the payment of fast offerings.  President Spencer W. Kimball said: “Sometimes we have been a bit penurious [unwilling to share] and figured that we had for breakfast one egg and that cost so many cents and then we give that to the Lord.”  President Kimball said “that when we are affluent, as many of us are, that we ought to be very, very generous … and give, instead of the amount we saved by our two meals of fasting, perhaps much, much more—ten times more where we are in a position to do it.”[12]
My wife and I were still in school when we heard President Kimball say this and we made a commitment that we would continually increase our fast offerings through the years until we were paying ten times or more than we were then paying.
But there are other ways to give beyond fast offerings—other ways to help. 
A number of years ago an alumnus of the College came to speak in a devotional like this.  He was, and still is, a very wealthy man.  In his remarks, he outlined the secret to financial success.  If you want to be wealthy, he said, be willing to give your money away.  I think he could sense that his audience may have agreed with him in principle, but it was not something they were willing to do right now.  I watched as the students frowned.  You could see them mentally discounting what he was telling them.  It reminds me of a story President Richards once shared. 
Two farmers who were good neighbors were talking and the one said to the other: “If you had a million dollars, you’d share it with me, wouldn’t you?” 
“Of course,” said the second farmer.
“If you had two brand new tractors, you’d surely give one to me,” said the first farmer.
“Certainly,” said the second farmer.
The first farmer asked again:  “And if you had two horses, I know you would give me one, wouldn’t you?”
“No,” said the second farmer.
The first farmer was puzzled and asked, “Why would you share with me a million dollars and give me one of your new tractors but not share with me a horse?”
“Because,” said the second farmer, “I have two horses.”
Just as the second farmer was reluctant, there was reluctance in our students that day when our guest speaker told them to learn to give away their money.  Our speaker encouraged the students to find a cause that helps people and then make regular, monthly contributions.  It didn’t have to be much, he said, but the exercise of giving would help them gain a proper perspective of money and would show the Lord He could trust them with wealth, that it wouldn’t canker their soul.  That was good advice then, and it’s good advice now.
I know a couple who were like you, poor students.  He worked and attended college and she stayed home and took care of their new baby.  He had a net income of $300 a month, which was just enough for them to get by.  However, when the husband brought home money from his job, there was only $250.  The wife asked the husband where the other $50 went, and all he would say was that it was going for a good cause.  She trusted him, so she was content.
A year-and-a-half later they were in a fast and testimony meeting when a sister in the ward shared her testimony.  She said that she was a single mom and that it had been very difficult for her financially.  She said that for the last 18 months someone in the ward had given the bishop $50 a month for her.  She didn’t know who it was but spoke of heartfelt gratitude, and as she spoke, the wife knew where the missing $50 had gone.  Those good people used their money to help others, even when they had relatively little.  You might be interested to know, they now are one of the wealthiest couples in Utah.  And they continue to be one of the most philanthropic.  You would recognize their names if I said it.
Joseph Smith said, “A man filled with the love of God, is not content with blessing his family alone but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race.”[13]
Most of you will spend four to five semesters with us.  During that time we will teach you how to make money.  We have classes designed to help you manage your money so that it is a servant to you and not the other way around.  All this instruction is necessary and good, but you also need lessons in learning how to give your money away. 
A national expert on human needs echoes the comments of many when he teaches that true fulfillment comes as we learn to contribute beyond ourselves.  “The secret to living,” he said, “is giving.”[14]
It is for that reason that we have a fund-raising campaign every year aimed at helping students to Choose to Give.  The money raised goes for good causes and blesses students with needs, but the real benefit comes in our hearts as we learn to give.
Last year, one of the classes here opted to see how much they could raise as a class to help a student in need.  The instructor told the class that there were people on campus who were quietly hurting, for whom a donation would make a difference in their lives.  The class became quite motivated and everyone contributed.  At the end of their mini campaign, the instructor gave the substantial amount of money raised to a young married couple in their class. 
This couple had been on their way back to the College after a semester break.  Somewhere in the middle of Nebraska their car died and was beyond their financial ability to repair.  In reality, the car wasn’t worth repairing. The husband’s brother, who was also headed to Utah and was a day behind them, picked them up and brought them the rest of the way here, but since he did not have room in his car for many of their possessions, they left most of their belongings behind.  They grabbed their journals, their scriptures, their backpacks and tied two suitcases to the top of the car. 
When they got to Utah they moved into their unfurnished apartment and slept on the hardwood floors.  They bought a pan to cook on and tried to get by, knowing that things would get better.  They made a little money, but most of it went for living expenses.  They had very little extra.  On Sundays, the husband borrowed his brother’s suit so he would have something to wear to Church.  The two keep their plight very private.  They trusted that the Lord would help them.  They decided to be really positive about the whole experience.
When the class fund-raising project came up, this young couple talked among themselves and decided they should participate.  They felt sorry for people who were suffering.  They could forego a needed purchase and donate $90. 
In class, when the money was all gathered, the instructor put the envelope containing the funds in front of the couple.  The wife started to cry.  She said, “We were in shock because we didn’t expect it.  It was really a humbling experience because we didn’t want to ask for help.”
The husband said, “My first thought was, ‘What?  I’m not in need.  I get by just fine.’  (But) as I thought about it, I realized we hadn’t been grocery shopping in a long time.”  He added, “It’s difficult to express your gratitude in a situation like this.  You really want to tell everybody thank you, but somehow you feel that’s not enough.  Whenever anybody does a service like that, it’s comparable to Christ.  Christ paid for your sins, and you’re never going to be able to pay Him back no matter what you do.”[15]
The couple felt grateful and blessed, and the students in the class had a profound sense of joy at helping others.  And by helping this couple, the students had grown to love them.
We are trying to build Zion here, and in Zion there is no poor.[16] The opposite of Zion is a society where people do not look out for their fellowman, where there is violence and incivility.  Ezekiel said of that society:  “Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.”[17]
Isaiah taught that we should “deal (our) bread to the hungry, and … bring the poor that are cast out to (our) house, when (we) see the naked, (we should) cover him.”  If we do so, Isaiah gives this great promise:  “Thy light (shall) break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy rearward.  Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am.”[18]
Great promises.
The New Testament story of the rich young man is applicable here:  “And when (Jesus) was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?
“And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good?  There is none good but one, that is, God.  Thou knowest the commandments. Do not commit adultery. Do not kill. Do not steal. Do not bear false witness. Defraud not.  Honour thy father and mother.
“And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth.
“Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him”—and here comes a refining commandment—“One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.
“And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.
“And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, how … hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!”[19]
The problem with this young man was not that he was rich, but rather that he was not willing to let go of his money.  He had such a tight hold on his wallet that it had taken hold of him.   Because he would not let go, he gave up much more important things, things that he himself held dear.
Suze Orman in her book “The 9 Steps to Financial Freedom” wrote:  “Regardless of how much money you have, it is the natural tendency of the mind to think:  I can’t give money this month, I don’t even have enough to pay the bills.  Or:  There are so many things that I need, I lack, I want.
“This is exactly the moment to give, to give an amount that is meaningful but realistic. … You must open your hand … think of how much you do have, think of others with far less, and give thanks with your gift. … When you feel free to give from what you have … you are truly free.”[20]
Elder Neal A. Maxwell said:  “As we really begin to keep the first commandment—loving God with ‘all thy heart, with all thy might, mind and strength’—giving time, talent, and treasure is then accompanied by fully giving of ourselves. 
“Sometimes, our holding back occurs because we lack faith or we are too entangled with the cares of the world.  Other times, there is in us an understandable tremulousness which slows our yielding, because we sense what further yielding might bring.
Elder Maxwell continued:  “Yet we need to break free of our old selves—the provincial, constraining, and complaining selves—and become susceptible to the shaping of the Lord.  But the old self goes neither gladly nor quickly.  Even so, the subjection to God is really emancipation.”[21] 
But in this effort, be careful not to give away your money just so you can get more.  That would be doing the right thing for the wrong reason.  That kind of activity lacks “real intent”[22] and does not produce the intended effect.
President Marion G. Romney once told of giving money for the building fund.  He did it because his bishop had asked for it, but he said he gave it grudgingly because he felt the bishop had asked for an unrealistically high amount.  Shortly after he had fulfilled his commitment to the bishop, he read this scripture in the Book of Mormon:  “For behold, if a man being evil giveth a gift, he doeth it grudgingly; wherefore it is counted unto him the same as if he had retained the gift; wherefore he is counted evil before God.”[23]
President Romney said he realized he had given the gift with the wrong attitude, so he repaid his commitment—the entire amount—but this time with a willing heart.
President Romney said:  “Of the Nephites who survived the cataclysm which accompanied the crucifixion of Jesus, the record says, ‘And it came to pass … the people were all converted unto the Lord … and there were no contentions and disputations among them, and every man did deal justly one with another.
“ ‘And they had all things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift. … And surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God.’[24]
“Why were these people so happy? Because they were free of the shackles of selfishness and had learned what the Lord knows—that ultimate joy comes only through service.”[25]
Let me give you another example:
When Heather and I were first married, we lived in Montana for a summer and I worked for a homebuilder, Brother Olsen.  We built homes across the state and one night were returning from a distant town.  As we drove that night in his truck, Brother Olsen told me a story. 
He said that when he and his wife where just starting out, they had very little money.  He was just beginning his construction company and was in severe financial stress. 
At the time, Brother Olsen was less active in the Church, attending only occasionally.  Once when he went to Church, the speaker in Sacrament Meeting spoke on tithing.  The man speaking promised those attending that if they paid their tithing they would be out of debt in three months.  A bold promise.
Brother Olsen had significant business-related debt at the time; in fact he was close to bankruptcy, so he said to himself.  “I’ll try the test.  I’ll pay my tithing for three months, and if I’m out of debt at the end of that time, I’ll know tithing is a true principle.”
Well, he paid his tithing for three months and guess what happened at the end of that time?  Brother Olsen said that he was in the worse debt he had ever been in his entire life.  He decided that the law of tithing must not be true, so he stopped paying.
It was nearly a year later, he said, when he was building another house.  He had managed to keep his company afloat but was still badly in debt.  He said he was on the roof, nailing down the plywood sheeting when, with his hammer raised, a thought hit him with a force almost as strong as lightning:  It came to him that he had made a conditional promise—that he would pay his tithing if.  He at that moment realized that the Lord required him to pay his tithing no matter what.
He said, “I was already on my knees, so I promised the Lord that from that day on I would pay my tithing no matter what.”   He was true to that commitment, and three months later, Brother Olsen was out of debt.
We pay our tithing, our fast offerings, and look to help those around us in need not because we want to get rich, but because we love the Lord more than anything and because we cannot stand the thought that others may be suffering while we have the ability to help.
Now, I know many of you and I know your good hearts.  Some of you are figuring out right now how you can give more, and that is good, but don’t be unwise.  You may be tempted to give more than you should, to put yourself in jeopardy out of a desire to help. 
King Mosiah teaches us that we must be wise and do things in order.  It’s not required that we do more than we can or that we run faster than we have strength.[26]   I’ve seen well-meaning students create problems for themselves by being unwise.  Paul said, “I mean not that other men should be eased and you be burdened.”[27]  Do something, be diligent so that you might win the prize[28] but do not do more than you can.  The amount is not as important as developing the attitude and desire.
My wife and I bear witness of the blessings that comes from loving the Lord with all of our might and using that same standard in thinking of our fellowman alike as to ourselves.  We have cast our bread upon the waters and after many days we have found it.[29] And when it returns, it is sweet and joyful to the soul.
President Henry B. Eyring once told a group of the College’s faculty and staff that he had to hurry home after Fast and Testimony Meeting so that his wife would not give away her inheritance to the deacons who came to their home collecting fast offerings.  I’m similarly blessed with a wife who encourages me to open my hand and to think of others. 
In A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, the ghost of Jacob Marley gives Ebenezer Scrooge good advice, advice that is particularly applicable at a business college.
You remember the scene where Marley comes to warn Scrooge of what waits in the next life if Scrooge fails to help others because of a miserly heart.
Marley says, “ ‘Not to know that no space of regret can make amends for one life's opportunity misused!  Yet such was I!  Oh, such was I!’
“’But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,” faltered Scrooge. …
“Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again.  “Mankind was my business.  The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business.  The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!’ ”[30]
There are so many people in need.  We may not be able to do much individually, but if we all do something, we might relieve some of the suffering in the world. 
Let us be more like the Master who “deliver(s) the poor from him that is too strong … yea, the poor and the needy from him that spoileth him.”[31]
As you come into this new time of your life, I urge you to seriously consider how you might use your income to further the work of the Lord and to love your fellowman.   As you do so, you will find joy, you will feel love and you will be an instrument to do much good.
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


[1]1 Tim 6:10
[2] ibid
[3] See Isa 46:1-2
[4] Isa 46:3
[5] D&C 59:5
[6] Elder Delbert L. Stapley, “To Love God,” Conference Report, October 1968, 26-31
[7] John 14:15
[8] Matt 22:36-40
[9] President Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Sacred Law of Tithing,” Ensign, Dec. 1989, 5
[10] Malachi 3:10
[11] “Tithing,” Website of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, October 2010
[12] President Spencer W. Kimball, Conference Report, Apr. 1974, 184.
[13] History of the Church 4:227
[14] Tony Robbins, “Why We Do What We Do,” Ted.com, October 2010
[15] Private interview conducted November 23, 2009, in possession of D. Louise Brown
[16] Moses 7:18
[17] Ezekiel 16:37
[18] Isaiah 58:7-9
[19] Mark 10:17-25
[20] Suze Orman, “The 9 Steps of Financial Freedom,” 314-315
[21] Elder Neal A. Maxwell, “Willing to Submit,” Ensign, May 1985, 70
[22] Moroni 10:4
[23] Moroni 7:8
[24] 4 Ne 1: 2, 3, 16
[25] President Marion G. Romeny, Conference Report, October 1981, Welfare Session
[26] Mosiah 4:27
[27] 2 Cor 8:13
[28] Mosiah 4:27
[29] Ecc 11:1
[30] “A Christmas Carol,” Charles Dickens
[31] Psalms 35:10


Who Can Receive Inspiration from the Spirit? You Can

26 Oct. 2010


Who Can Receive Inspiration from the Spirit?  You Can

Thank you. I want to use the time as effectively and efficiently as we can today, but I want to take just a minute and get to know you today if we can, so if you’ll humor me and just respond to this and stand up to tell me who you are for a minute.
How many of you grew up primarily outside of the United States? Would you stand up? Thank you very much. How many of you in the United States but outside of Utah? Wow. All right, thank you. How many of you grew up in Utah but not in Salt Lake? All right. So everyone can play along. Who grew up in Salt Lake City? Still quite a few of you. Thank you. That’s interesting to know. I know that the primary source of your education is in your classes and in your assignments and things, but I really think that an educated person takes advantage of this kind of diversity and has the ability to listen and learn from each other. It really is the mark of an educated person to be a good listener and to learn from other people’s perspectives and backgrounds. I don’t know of a place where you can do that better than right here. It’s a wonderful opportunity that I hope you are taking advantage of.
How many of you are returned missionaries? Would you stand up? Wow, that’s wonderful. Congratulations. How many of you will have a mission call within the next year? Way to go. That’s great to see. Thank you. What else do I want to know—how many of you are married? Okay, I’m assuming the adults in the room, the teachers, are not playing along, but that’s okay. How many are engaged? All right. How many of you are hoping to be in the next couple of—oh, you don’t need to answer that. That would have been really bad if you had stood up and looked at someone and asked her to stand up, but we’ll do that another time. Maybe you even hoped to come and meet someone today, but we won’t do that to you today either.
I really appreciate you holding up your—I guess those are some sort of journals, learning journals?  How many of you brought your scriptures? Can I just see how much we want to read from them and learn from them? Okay. Maybe we’ll refer to them and quote a few verses but not have you open them up as much. In fact, this is so out of place, but I just thought of an experience. I just this summer had a similar experience in Boston where I spoke to institute students in the Boston area. It was a similar site—maybe three or four hundred students who go to Boston College and Harvard and the other universities in the Boston area, and got to speak to them. Their fireside was on a Sunday evening, and we had a little more time. We got to speak for about an hour and half. I was just thinking about your journals and this experience, and then I asked how many were engaged. So let me just share this with you, even though it has nothing to do with anything else I am talking about.
I used to never tell this story. I need 15 minutes to explain this story, but I’m not going to take the time today—my wife and I actually originally met in the MTC. I know, you can make fun of me later. I was her MTC teacher, and she was a missionary there, and it was all appropriate. We never wrote, we never said anything, except I said to my sister once, “I met somebody that I just think maybe”—I mean, she was just so impressive to me—“that I think maybe I might have even met my wife.”
My sister said, “Really! Where?”
And I said, “She’s in the MTC.”
And my sister said, “Never talk to me again.” So I thought maybe I’d better not tell anybody else that then, and anyway I just kind of forgot about it. And then a little miracle happened where we actually re-met after our missions because of actually a miracle that happened that we re-met. And because we knew each other it was easy to start talking, and we ended up being married. But I used to never tell that story to people, because they would misunderstand that.
I had the opportunity a few years ago, just before being asked to be the administrator of Seminaries and Institutes where I had an interview, a group interview, where the executive committee of the Board of Education had me come in and, for about an hour, ask me a number of questions. So if you can picture this, there was a round table in the room, and four members of the Quorum of the Twelve were there, and a member of the presidency of the Seventy, and Sister Dalton and Sister Beck, and they were asking me questions. And I was, like you would be probably, pretty intimidated and not even sure why I was there. They didn’t even tell me, they just said, “Come talk to us.” Well, actually, they told me, but it was a little bit different than what it ended up being. Anyway, at the end, just as this little interview experience was ending, Elder Russell M. Nelson said, “By the way, how did you meet your wife?”
That was the last question I wanted to be asked in this group, because without the ability to explain that it was all okay—I didn’t want to just say, “Yeah, I was her MTC teacher.” So thinking quickly, I said, “We met in Provo.”
And he said, “Oh, were you BYU students?”
I said, “I was at the time.”
And he said, “What was your wife doing?”
And I said, “Elder Nelson, I’m trying really hard not to tell you that I was her MTC teacher.”
And he said, “That’s okay. All’s fair when it comes to finding a wife.”
So, in this experience in Boston I spoke for over an hour and a half, and for some reason told this story there, too, and I said I never tell that story and here I’ve told it twice in the last few months. But when the meeting was over I sat down, and on the stand was their Institute Council president—a young man who is a student there at Harvard and he was sitting there next to me and we were just talking about the talk and some things he had heard. And I said, “I’m really curious to see what you thought I was intending, the core of the message, and what did you hear.” And we were talking, and I asked him about his notes, and anyway he had a little notebook just like yours and he said, “Yeah, I did take some notes today.”
I said, “I’d be curious. What notes did you take today from all of that?” An hour and a half of speaking, he opened up his notebook and all it said was, “All’s fair when it comes to finding a wife.” That was the only note he had taken the whole day. So if you get nothing else out of this today . . . I don’t know what that means.
I have something more important to share with you, I think. I wanted to start—now that we’re well into it, I wanted to start. We had an interesting experience happen to us this last year that taught me something that I think is really significant for you to understand or to think about. We did a survey with our seminary students—thousands of seminary students, mostly in Utah but in other places—and we did a little test to see if they understood the basic doctrines of the gospel. And then we did a survey with that test. We did a survey to ask them their own level of belief of those doctrines and how they felt, whether they felt they were applying those doctrines and principles and whether they can explain them to someone else.
Now, if you were to be tested on your understanding, belief, application and ability to explain principles of the gospel, which one do you think you would score highest on? Let’s see if you’re like our seminary students. Okay, not on which principle, but on which one—on your ability to understand it, to believe it, to apply it, or to explain it. Believe it? That’s actually consistent, and you might all be different, but our seminary students scored themselves higher on belief even than their understanding. Because they might say, yes, I believe that there is a prophet on the earth, but then miss questions on what the role of a prophet is. And they also said they scored higher on belief than on application. For example, a lot of them said they believe in prayer—more than said “I am praying every day.”
One of the things that came out of that survey that was most interesting to me was those questions about belief. We had twenty different doctrines. And they were to grade themselves in the survey on a scale from one to five how strongly they believed that principle or doctrine, five being “strongly believe,” four being “believe,” all the way down to “I’m not sure if I believe that’s true.” And the questions were very straightforward, like, “I believe the gospel has been restored,” “Jesus Christ resurrected from the dead,” “The prophet receives revelation for the world.” Just statements of doctrine or of principle and whether or not they believed it.
And our seminary students, it was interesting—they responded very positively about their beliefs of those doctrines. In fact, it was 97 or something, high 90 percent on each of those basic doctrines that they said they believed or strongly believed those were true, except for one. One of them, the question was worded, “I can receive inspiration from the Holy Ghost.” And that was about 54 percent. But did you notice the difference in the question? The other one was, “I believe the prophet receives inspiration,” “I believe that Jesus suffered for our sins” or that He resurrected, “I believe.” This one was “I believe I can receive inspiration from the Holy Ghost.”
Now, I never majored in statistical analysis, but that seemed pretty obvious to me to say, wait, that question’s different. Is the response different because of the way you asked the question? Why don’t you go back and change the question to “The Holy Ghost inspires people,” “The Holy Ghost reveals truth,” or something like that. They sent the survey out again, and what do you think happened? Ninety-seven percent of the seminary students said, “Yep, I believe the Holy Ghost inspires people.”
Why do you think—and this isn’t really conducive to getting a lot of comments. I wish we had microphones so we could talk more—but if you want to respond I’m happy to listen and maybe for the cameras in other rooms, repeat your comments. But why do you think there’s a difference, a high percentage of students who say I believe the Holy Ghost fulfills his role, and a much lower percent believe that they personally can be inspired by the Holy Ghost.
[A student comments.]
To repeat your comment, they believe it happens but probably for other people. They’re not so sure that they have the ability to access that blessing. Do you think that’s true? Is that normal? Go ahead, please.
[A student comments.]
Okay, so this good sister said maybe they have felt it, they just haven’t recognized it. And I think that’s probably true. I think that’s a really good comment.
[A student comments.]
Okay, that’s a good comment. They simply don’t recognize it, or they don’t get the answer when they’re asking, so they don’t feel like they have that ability to do it. Thank you. One more comment.
[A student comments.]
That’s interesting. For those of you who couldn’t hear this comment, he said they believe these other principles of the gospel, which they have received testimonies of from the Holy Ghost, and so they’ve had those experiences, and yet they don’t recognize that that’s where that testimony came from. That’s an interesting comment.
Now, I want you to get away from the principle of the Holy Ghost for just a minute, and ask you if that’s true of other gospel doctrines and principles. Can you think of other principles of the gospel that you believe in but that sometimes—even though you may have faith in that principle or that idea, you lack hope that you personally can be blessed by that principle of the gospel?
For example, have you ever been sick and not asked for a blessing? I completely believe in priesthood power to heal people. I have seen it happen; I know the priesthood is real and that miracles happen in healing people. I am sure that it is true. And yet, sometimes I get sick and don’t ask for a blessing. Why not? I might be the only person in the room, but sometimes I think, “Well, I don’t deserve to be better. I’m supposed to be sick, because I…” or whatever funny thing you think. Right? Heavenly Father wants me to be sick, I don’t deserve His help, I’m not worthy of it, maybe I’m supposed to learn something, or I don’t want to bother somebody or for whatever reason—even though I have faith in the principle of the priesthood, sometimes I lack the hope that I can receive the blessings that I need to get better.
Can you think of other examples, other principles, where we believe in the principle but we maybe lack the hope for ourselves? If you were to ask seminary and institute students, I bet even people in this room, “Do you believe that Jesus suffered for our sins?”  the vast majority will say yes. And if you ask, “Do you believe that you can be made clean, that you can be forgiven of your sins,” the number starts to drop a little bit. Now, I don’t want you to answer this out loud, but think about why that is, that we would believe in what Jesus performed as the Atonement, and lack the hope that we can be forgiven of our sins, and what the disconnect between those are.
Maybe just a couple of other examples.
[A student comments.]
Sometimes we have trials and we start to question why is this happening to me? When it’s somebody else’s trials you can see it, the big picture, and step back and know that Heavenly Father is helping them and teaching them. That’s an interesting one.
[A student mentions tithing.]
Tithing? Meaning that you believe in tithing, but when it comes down to actually making that sacrifice, sometimes our faith is tested.
[A student mentions marriage.]
Marriage?  Is that true? I think it is. Actually, Sister Beck spoke to us—all of our seminary and institute teachers about a year and a half ago now. She told us, just in defense so that no one blames you for that comment, they can talk to Sister Beck about this. I thought this was a very insightful comment that you’ve made and that she made. She said that as she goes around the world, she meets with Relief Society sisters. And one of the groups that she meets with every time is young single Relief Society sisters, like young women in this room, right? And she’ll get little focus groups together and just ask them questions and try to understand their circumstance and how Relief Society can bless them. And one of the things she always asks is, to these young single Relief Society sisters, “Are you attending institute? Tell me about institute, or what is your experience? Why do you go to institute?” And they start a conversation about what they are preparing for in their lives and what they want out of life. And she said it’s apparent to her, and it’s young men as well as young women, that there are less and less young people, even in the Church, that believe they can have an eternal marriage.
Now, if you ask them, “Do you believe that the sealing power is available in temples?” they will say yes. But to ask you, and groups like you, “Do you believe you can have an eternal family, that you are the parent of, the spouse in,” there are less and less young people who believe that, maybe because of marriages they’ve seen, maybe because the confidence in themselves is lacking to be that partner, maybe in finding that person, or the ability in that person to be worthy of celestial marriage. That’s a reality that a lot of you are dealing with.
[Student says, “I think all of it comes down to a belief in yourself.”]
      So even though we believe in Jesus, and we believe in the principles of the gospel, what we lack is belief in ourselves or faith in ourselves to access those blessings. Now, with that in mind, I think we would agree on that concept, unfortunately, on some level. But of all the things I could say to you today that I most want to say, is to bear my testimony to you that the gospel has been restored to the earth in these days to bless the people in this room.
I want you to think about the examples you just gave. Last year, when I started thinking about this thought, I studied the Doctrine and Covenants looking for this idea, and I came across this phrase, looking through the Doctrine and Covenants, that you’ll see often. It is “the kingdom is yours.” (See, for example, D&C 35:27) It says it a number of times in the Doctrine and Covenants, and most of the times when it uses that phrase, “the kingdom is yours,” it’s referring to the blessings of the Restoration, like the blessing of the gifts of the Spirit, or of the temples, or of the Atonement, or on and on. The blessings of the restored gospel—and  it refers to as the Lord is speaking—the kingdom, and the blessings of the kingdom in the gospel, are yours, and it’s not, in most cases, referring to the president of the Church. It’s not referring to Joseph Smith; it’s referring to very average, ordinary members of the Church, when the Lord says, “I have blessed the earth with all of these things, with the gifts of the Spirit, with temples, with the Atonement, with the priesthood—with all of these blessings of the restored gospel. The kingdom of God is on earth, and it is yours—speaking to those of us who are very average members of the Church.
Heavenly Father didn’t give the world these blessings just for a select few people. He restored them to the earth because He loves the people sitting in this room. I even think it’s interesting, in the very first section of the Doctrine and Covenants when the Lord talks about the reason for the Restoration and calling a prophet, He uses the language, “that every man might” (verse 20).  And then He starts to list the blessings of the Restoration that every single one of us can have access to.
Now, let’s talk about a couple of these specifically. If you have your scriptures, would you still turn here with me? If you don’t, we’ll just read a couple of verses. Would you turn to Moses chapter 4? Let me maybe, with the time we have, start with the most important one. And if this is all we get through, that’s fine, because here’s what I would like most of all to bear testimony of today. In Moses chapter 4, for those of you who don’t have scriptures, you can just follow along. This will be easy, I think. It starts this part of the story in verse 12, when Eve transgressed. Remember this whole experience? And she partook of the fruit and gave it to Adam. Even if you don’t have your scriptures open to verse 13, what’s the very first thing Adam and Eve do after they realize that they have transgressed? They make fig leaves to cover up their nakedness. By the way, who told them that they were naked? You want to think about an interesting role of Satan, look in Revelation chapter 12, verse 10, where it talks about the voice out of heaven crying salvation, and the power and authority of Christ to save God’s children, and then it uses a phrase that’s very interesting. It refers to Satan as the accuser before God night and day, saying just the opposite.
In the premortal existence, it seems that Satan spent his time talking to Heavenly Father, accusing us of all of our weaknesses and shortcomings, and telling Him that we would never be able to make it, that we would not love Him enough, not have enough faith, that we would sin, that we would falter, and night and day before the throne of God, Satan stood there accusing us, while Jesus was crying out salvation and power and authority and exaltation. When you hear the voice of the accuser, when you think you’re worthless and not good enough and can’t make it and that in this sense you’ve transgressed against God, it’s Satan.
Now there’s a good amount of guilt when we make mistakes so that we’ll want to repent and turn back to God. I’m not talking about that. But the kind that causes us to be discouraged and feel despair and want to give up and not have hope and deny the power of the Atonement—that is the voice of the accuser, night and day in our ears.
Now, with that in mind, they try to get some fig leaves and cover themselves up, and how well is that going to work? Not very well, right? What is the next thing that they try? Even if you don’t have your scriptures, you know this. Verse 14, they heard the voice of the Lord God as they were walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife went to hide themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden. And I don’t want to be light-minded about this, but just think about how funny that is. Here’s Adam and Eve, they’ve just transgressed, and they hear the voice of Heavenly Father calling out to them, and what do they do? They go and hide where? Behind a tree. So here’s Heavenly Father, wherever He lives on His throne next to Kolob, and He makes His way through His literally countless-to-us creations, and He can make His way all the way to this galaxy, this little speck of a solar system in all that He has created, and find this little planet and find His way to the Garden of Eden and say, “Adam.”
And Adam does what? He says, “Oh, no. Here’s Heavenly Father,” and jumps behind a tree. How’s that going to work? Do you think Heavenly Father said, “Huh. He’s not here. I guess I’ll come back later”? But what’s His question? “Where art thou?” In some of the versions it says, “Where art thou,” and in this one it says “Where goest thou?” But it’s not like “where did he go,” like he hid behind a tree and fooled him, right? It’s not “where art thou?” it’s “now that you’ve transgressed”—what’s the question? “Where are you going to go? Are you going to go and hide, make a fig leaf and try to cover yourself and jump behind a tree, or are you going to come and receive the help that you need?”  Now you think about this. We can laugh at Adam and Eve, but we all do it. Right? When do you least feel like praying? When do you least feel like studying the scriptures or going to your religion class or even to Church? When you least feel like it is when you’ve just made a mistake and you may not consciously say this, but what are you trying to do? We’re trying to hide, and the world has created some really good fig leaves. Some of them are very expensive. We buy things, we go on vacations, we fill ourselves with busy-ness, rather than having a quiet moment when we need to reconcile ourselves with God. And those fig leaves will never cover us. In fact, Isaiah said if we don’t repent we will want mountains to cover us rather than standing before God, having not repented.
Remember Alma the Younger? When he realized his standing before God, he said he wanted to become extinct, banished both soul and body, rather than standing in the presence of God. (Alma 36:15) Can you imagine wanting to be erased, nonexistent, rather than standing before God in your sins? Do you remember just a few verses later, after he prays and calls upon God for mercy and remembers the Atonement and feels the power of forgiveness, do you remember his greatest desire? He said he thought he saw God on his throne with His angels and his soul did long to be there (verse 22).  The difference between not having repented and of repenting is the desire of the individual to have a spiritual experience and to be in the presence of God. But before we repent, we don’t want Heavenly Father to notice us.
I actually had a young lady tell me once, “I’m not going to Mutual tonight.” I asked her why and she said, “Because we’re going to the temple.”
I said, “That’s okay. We’re not going to do baptisms for the dead. I know you’re working on some things. I know you’re trying to repent. But we’re just walking around Temple Square. Why don’t you come with us?”
And she said, “I can’t. The temple will probably fall on me.”
The temple is not going to fall on you. And then she actually said it this way—we don’t usually use these words, but it’s really what we’re doing. She said, “I don’t want God to notice me. Not yet.” So what is she doing? She’s hiding behind a tree until she could fix some things before she presents herself to Him. But what does Heavenly Father say to Adam? “Are you going to go and hide and cover yourself with things that will never work, will never cover you, or will you come to Me and get help?”
But just like all of the examples we use, we talk ourselves out of getting the help that’s available. We say things like, “But I knew better. I knew I was making the mistake in the moment I was making it. Heavenly Father can’t forgive me. I knew better before I did this. It’s not like I went ‘Oops, I didn’t understand, so I can now turn and repent.’ ” We talk ourselves out of believing that the Atonement was performed for us.
I bear testimony with all of my heart that Jesus Christ performed the Atonement because He loves the people sitting in this room. The Atonement was performed for you, and if you were the only person who ever sinned, it would have happened. And if you don’t believe that, you pray and ask Heavenly Father if that’s not true—that He loves you enough individually to send His Son to suffer for your sins and mistakes. I really believe that’s true.
In fact, if you go on in these verses—and I know a lot of you don’t have your scriptures, but I just want to show you really quickly, I think this is such an interesting idea. If you look over in verse 24 it says, still in Moses 4, “Thorns also, and thistles shall it bring forth to thee, and thou shalt eat the herb of the field.”
Everything I know I learned from students. I had a 15-year-old sophomore girl in my class one day teaching seminary. We were teaching the Old Testament and talking about how all things in the scriptures point us to Christ, and I asked my students, as they read the scriptures that year, to constantly ask themselves, “What does that teach me about Jesus?”
She came the next morning to seminary before school started, and said, “I was reading the scriptures like you asked us to, and I have a question. In verse 24, who was speaking?”
I said, “Well, that’s Jehovah, so Jesus.”
She said, like only a 15-year-old girl would say, “Did He know what he was talking about?”
I said, “Well, the fact that it’s Jehovah—I’m going to say yes to that one. I think He probably did. What do you mean?”
She said, “You asked us to think what that teaches us about Jesus, and I thought, ‘Thorns. How does that point me to Jesus? The crown of thorns that Jesus would wear.’” And then she said this, and I thought it was so profound: She said, “Did Jesus realize that He would literally wear the consequences of the Fall?” And then she said something like, “Oh, that’s silly. Never mind. I’m leaving.”
And I said, “Wait, wait,” as I’m trying to write down. “That’s really a beautiful thought. Thank you.”
She said, “Oh. Well, can I share something else with you?”
I said, “Absolutely.”
She said, “Look at verse 27: ‘Unto Adam, and also unto his wife, did I, the Lord God, make coats of skins, and clothe them.’”
Now you know the word Atonement is an English word that was created to teach an idea that’s a beautiful idea—at-one-ment—that when we reconcile ourselves with God we become one with Him again after we repent. But originally the word in the scripture, in Hebrew, was kaphar, or like Yom Kippur, the day of Atonement. And it literally means “to cover.”
What was Heavenly Father asking Adam? “You’ve transgressed, you’ve realized your nakedness before God, you’re ashamed, and so you have a choice. You can run and hide behind a tree, which will never work, and fill your life with busy-ness and whatever else and ignore this and hope it goes away, or you can come to Me and let the Lamb of God, My Son, cover you with His Atonement.”
Again, I bear testimony that the Atonement was made available because our Father in Heaven loves the people in this room and wants to forgive you. If there is anything I know about the character of Heavenly Father—and His characteristics and attributes are beyond my comprehension—but I know that our Father in Heaven has a loving and forgiving disposition. He wants us to come and be covered by the Atonement of His Son. And it was performed for the people in this room.
Now, you think about the other blessings of the gospel. I want to also bear testimony that they are also here for us, for you. Those of you who are worried about forming a celestial marriage, Heavenly Father can help you. He wants to help you and will help you do that. It’s not a question of having enough money or education, it’s a question of faith. Having a priesthood blessing is a question of faith. Paying tithing is a question of faith. All of the examples that we used, faith in the Lord and His ability to help us, and I bear testimony that His desire is to help us.
Now, because we have just a couple of minutes, let me share with you another quick story in the last three or four minutes, if I can. I was thinking of this this morning, and how much Heavenly Father wants to speak to us and help us. I really believe that He wants to help us and bless us and change us, and one of the ways He does that is through the Holy Ghost. President Eyring has said that when you feel the Holy Ghost, you can know with assurance that the Atonement is working in your life. This idea of recognizing the blessings and gifts of the Spirit, the inspirational promptings of the Spirit, is critical to our accessing the Atonement.
I just wanted to share with you this one little story, because I think sometimes we forget what a wonderful thing it is to try to live in tune with the Holy Ghost. When my wife and I were first married, we had a wonderful experience that really set our life on a course that’s blessed us. We had only been married about a week when we were invited by my parents to come and go tour Temple Square. And I know you’ve all been on Temple Square, so I thought to tell you this story this morning. As I walked into Temple Square, there was a man sitting. If you go on Temple Square, this north side of Temple Square with the North Visitor’s Center right there, and right in the middle, with the temple on this side and the Visitor’s Center on this side, there’s kind of a raised garden. There was a man sitting there who looked very out of place, but my parents and a few of my brothers and sisters and Christy, my wife, and I walked past, and I saw him. To just describe him a bit and give you a picture, he had shaved his head, but he had a long beard here, and he had a torn, greasy Harley Davidson shirt with chains all over, and Levi’s with these big, black boots. And all of that’s great, but he just looked different than all the missionaries running around, for example. He just looked out of place. And I saw him there and thought, “You know, I ought to go talk to him.” And I talked myself out of it, like we too often do, and I thought I’ve heard too many talks at EFYs and things, and I’m just imagining that, and I just kept walking. And every time I passed him, I thought, “You should go talk to him.” And after passing him three or four times—we were ready to leave—he was still sitting on the same place he had been for over two, maybe three hours. We were leaving Temple Square, getting into my parents’ van when the feeling came again, “Go talk to him.”
So I said, “I’ll be right back.” I didn’t even tell Kristi what we were doing. I just said, “I’ll be right back. Just a minute. I forgot something.” I went back in. He was still sitting there. I still remember walking up to him, thinking, “What am I going to say?” So I stuck my hand out and said, “Hi, I’m Chad.” And he stood up and said, “I’m Dennis.”
I said, “What are you doing here today?”
He said, “You really want to know?”
I said, “Yeah. Why are you here?”
He said, “Well, a couple of weeks ago, I was sitting in a park in Florida. I was part of a motorcycle gang. I don’t really have a home; I just go around with my friends.” And basically what he described was going around causing trouble. He said, “We were eating in a park when two young men in white shirts and ties walked up and said, ‘Can we teach you about Jesus?’” And he said, “I thought that was pretty funny, so I got all my friends together from all over the park and said, ‘Come here. These guys want to teach about Jesus.’”
These were brave young missionaries. So they taught them the first discussion, and when they were done they said, “Would anybody like to know more?” and everybody laughed and walked off except for Dennis, who walked up to them and said, “Actually, I would like to learn more, but I don’t know how. I’m going to get on my bike and leave here in a minute. So thanks, but I guess this is the last time I will see you.”
And one of these two young men, who won’t know this probably until the next life, the blessing that happened because of this, pulled out a Joseph Smith pamphlet and said, “Well, maybe here’s something you could read as you ride around, that you’ll enjoy.”
He gave him the Joseph Smith pamphlet and Dennis left. He rode to the next town. That night he opened it up and read the Joseph Smith story, and was absolutely convinced that he wanted to know more. And on the back flap of the Joseph Smith pamphlet was printed the address of Temple Square. He sold his motorcycle, bought a Greyhound bus ticket, and came to Temple Square, got off the bus, walked to Temple Square and sat down and waited for someone to talk to him. You know all the missionaries running around over there—that tells you a little about what Dennis looked like, to sit there for three hours and nobody talked to him—waiting to know what to do next. So we got him the missionaries, and they started on some things, and the last thing I did really quickly was just to hand him my phone number and say, “Dennis, if you need anything, call me.”
About two weeks later, I got a phone call about 9:30 at night. It was Dennis, and he said, “I have no place to go. I tried to go live with my brother in San Francisco. That didn’t work. I’ve come back. I’m standing in downtown Salt Lake City, and I’ve got no place to go. Can I come live with you?” We’ve been married all of three weeks and I’m supposed to protect my little wife, and here’s Dennis, who by the way is about 6-foot-6 and very large, and I told you about him, and I said, “You know, I don’t know. Just a minute,” I said, “I’ll call you right back.”
I ran over to our bishop’s, who lived right behind me, and said, “What should I do?”
He said, “What does the Spirit tell you?”
And I said, “I think I’ve got to go get him.”
He said, “Okay, go get him.”
So I went back and got on the phone, and Dennis was at a pay phone—you know this has been fifteen or so years ago, back in the day when people actually used pay phones—and I got him on the pay phone and said, “Okay, Dennis, I’m coming to get you.”
He said, “Okay, I’m downtown. I’m on State Street, and by the way, there are some scary-looking people down here. Could you hurry?”
Anyway, I’m out of time, but we got to have Dennis come and stay with us, and find a place, and work through the missionary discussions with him, and watch him get baptized and change his life. The blessing that that was for our family, to start our family out with that experience. It has blessed us ever since.
What I want to tell you is that Heavenly Father wants to speak with you. He is speaking to you through the Holy Ghost every day, and most times when He does, He is inviting you to bless one of His children. There are people in this room that can use your love and support and help, and the Spirit can help you to do that. And when you respond to the Holy Ghost, you’ll bless yourself as much as anyone.
The blessings, the gifts of the Spirit, the blessings of the priesthood, of temples, and especially of the Atonement, are on the earth today. They have been restored through a prophet, because Heavenly Father loves you and wants to be a part of your life and wants to bless you. I bear testimony that that is true, that you’re individually known and loved by Heavenly Father. I know that is true. I know He wants to bless you, and I bear that testimony in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Cherish the Constitution, Obey the Law—and Vote

02 Nov. 2010


Cherish the Constitution, Obey the Law—and Vote

Thank you for inviting me to be here today, and to speak to you for a few moments. You notice I have an “I Voted” tag on there, do you see that? I hope everybody in this room who is eligible, by the time the bell tolls at 8:00, that you have voted. It’s extremely important in America. This is a huge day. An election day is more important to me than Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas combined; it’s an important day. And you’ve got to take advantage of it. If you don’t, I’m really disappointed in you.
I sat on the National Republican Campaign Committee for eight years. We did polls all over America, and in the age group of 18-25, five to seven percent voted. Boy, did you give up an awful lot in that group. Who voted the most? Who would you guess? The grey hairs—us old folks. 65, 70, 80 percent of those folks voted, because I guess they could see the importance of it at that particular time in their lives.
Let’s talk back a little bit in history and go back to George Washington. Don’t let this bore you, because this is important. I can’t believe what this fellow did with this army. He was kind of a surveyor; he wasn’t a general. He had the Constitutional Congress, which wasn’t giving him any money to speak of, he had a ragtag army. And they crossed the Delaware. Do you realize that almost a third of them didn’t have shoes and boots? Most of them hadn’t had anything to eat for four days. Have you ever fasted that long? Try it sometime; it’s very, very difficult. And what do you do? There’s snow up to their knees, below zero weather. What would you do? Well, they wrapped their feet, which were bleeding, in burlap sacks, and they fought this thing. Why? Why did they do it? So you could vote today. Really. That’s why they did it.
As you look at this today, you are passing up a great opportunity for people like that group and groups that came time after time. You’ve heard of President Wilson, haven’t you? He was president of the United States during the First World War. He didn’t know what to do. He didn’t want to get into this war. He didn’t want to go over there. Cohen wrote that great song, “Over There.” Remember that? “And the Yanks are coming . . . “And America got energized and went into that war, and they fought it with trench warfare. That was a trench fight. And they won, and they came back. Why did he do it? So you could vote today. None of you were alive then. I wasn’t either.
Anyway, carrying that on, what about FDR? Franklin Delano Roosevelt. How many of you in here were alive on December 7, 1941, other than me? Not too many. Well, let me tell you this. I was just a little boy, but I remember my dad, who was in the First World War flying Jennies—a funny little airplane. As a pilot myself, I always wanted to fly one. I don’t know how they ever got them off the ground. And I remember we were listening to the radio, and they were talking about the Japanese bombing Pearl Harbor, and Dad said, “We’re going to be at war.” That was a long, hard-fought war, a tough war. Really a tough war. We call that “The Greatest Generation.” Why did they do it? So you could vote today.
You know those words—they are worth repeating; they came from a man that I respect very much. His name is Ronald W. Reagan. He said that all of these things were done so that you could have the privilege to vote, so that you could have the privilege to have an education, so that you could do all these things—have a family, buy a car, progress in your life, go on missions, all of those things. This whole Church only exists because of the United States government. You may not believe that, but Joseph Smith believed it. And he believed it so much he ran for president of the United States, on a very interesting platform. A lot of it has been adopted to this day. You read the Doctrine and Covenants, and even in 2 Nephi, where you read about that this is going to come forth. And the only way that it could make it was that it would be a nation of freedom, and a nation where really the people protect their ability to do these things.
Thomas Paine said we live in perilous times. You can’t listen to a speaker today anywhere, and they say, “Oh, we live in perilous times.” I’m just mentioning to you, oh, we’ve lived in perilous times in every generation. They come all along, one perilous time after another. And it’s individuals who do these things. The first time I got into politics was in the Farmington City Council, because I wanted to fix the water system. I didn’t care about parties. I had a cause I wanted to do. I still remember a fellow by the name of Newell Hess, probably in his 70s or 80s; I was in my 20s. He didn’t come one night, and all of a sudden the mayor said, “Well, his son Jay was shot down over Vietnam in an F5. They don’t know if he’s alive or dead.” So we all were praying that Jay would get through this all right. In two years, his captors in Hanoi only let him write 27 words. This is what he wrote: “These things are important—missions, scouting, genealogy, take pictures, press on. Love, Dad.”
What would you write? They knew he was alive, and eventually he was there and now he’s home and he’s a great friend of mine, great young man—well, maybe he’s not too young anymore. But boy, did he give a lot.
I have another friend by the name of Sam Johnson. Do any of you know Sam? He’s from Texas, he’s a congressman. He served in Vietnam. He was a captive in Hanoi for 6½ years, and they beat his hands so bad—he said they put it down on a rock like that and they beat it with a hammer. You shake hands with Sam; his hand is emaciated. But Sam was tough. Boy, he’s tough. And Sam had a sign, and he put it up in his prison cell. It said: “Freedom has a taste to it for those who fought and nearly died, that the protected will never understand.” Sam is a great member of Congress right now, a fine gentleman from Texas. Why did he do it? He did it so you can vote. He did it so you could have some freedom, so this very important day—I’m proud to see people wearing that sign on them that says, “I Voted.” Anybody else got one on today? Way to go—two out of what, three or four hundred? We’re not doing too red hot. Oh, wait a minute—three, four—congratulations. Love you for that. That’s great that you have done things like that.
My father always used to say, “Learn to achieve, not to envy.” We politicians have a little saying that came from Plato that says, “Those of us who are smart enough to never run for political office are destined to be governed by those dumb enough to do it.” Being one of those dumb enough to do it, but there has to be those who will do it. Today and about, there’s a lot of people; they’re not dumb, they’re very bright, and they’re working hard. Probably they made a slip of the tongue somewhere; everybody does during a campaign—having run 19 times, I can tell you that’s easy to do. Don’t hold that against them, but kind of look into their soul a little bit and see if they will put principle above politics. That’s the important thing that you’ve got to take in mind.
There was one man who went to Washington and he came back after talking to members of Congress, both the House and the Senate, and the president of the United States, and he said this, “There’s but little solidity and honorable deportment among those who are sent here to represent the people; but a great deal of pomposity and show…. [And] such an itching disposition… to make a display of their witticism, that it seems to us rather a display of folly and show, more than substance and gravity, such as becomes a great nation like ours.” (History of the Church, Vol. 2, Chapter 19, p. 397, 399) Who said that? Come on, there’s somebody in this room who knows who said that.
Let me give you a little clue. He went to the president of the United States, who said, “Your cause is just, but I can do nothing for you.” ( p. 402) Joseph Smith. That was his reaction, he was so frustrated with them. And yet, no one believed more in the Constitution. I’ve taken the time to study what every prophet of the Lord in this last dispensation has said, from the time of Joseph Smith to Thomas Monson, about the importance of this vehicle we ride called the United States of America, and this Constitution, which is so important to us. Every one of them, without exception, have talked in detail—I remember sitting at the feet of David O. McKay, and listening to him talk about the importance of the Constitution. I remember as a stake president sitting in a meeting when Spencer W. Kimball was in the stake center talking to all of the stake presidents in Davis County, and talking about how important it was that we take a very active part in what we do in politics.
Abraham Lincoln had a word that he used in his life; it’s called “serendipity.” You know the definition of the term “serendipity”? Serendipity basically means that I will prepare myself, and when the time comes, I will be ready for that opportunity. Winston Churchill said, “What good is it if you don’t prepare yourself and the time comes and you’re not ready to accept it?”
We used to have a man in Congress who would stand up and say, “What God does in His big world, we should learn to do in our small world.” Let me talk about our small world. Have you ever known that person who was the star athlete, he was everything—the valedictorian, he was a 4.0 student, he did everything right, he went to college, went on a mission, he was assistant to the president, he came back, graduated number one in some professional school, married the prettiest girl in town, got on his white horse and rode out to the West? Do you believe that nonsense? Okay, that’s one percent. What happens to the other 99 percent of us? Most of us aren’t that. I’m the president of the Losers Club—the Deseret News called me a loser twice. Of course, I don’t have much respect for the media. I won’t go into that. I apologize, President. But I could spend a long time talking about it.
Also, I was chairman of the Ethics Committee, so I could tell you story after story of how the media just ruined a good person’s reputation, predicated on rumor—only rumor. Time after time we saw that happen. I was so disappointed.
Anyway, most of us weren’t in that category. Most of us struggled along. Can I make a confession to you? I was a lousy student when I first went to the University of Utah. I couldn’t care less about it. I graduated from East High and then I went to the U, and it bored me out of my mind. My dad had a permit to shoot ducks out at the North Point Duck Club, and every afternoon I went out and shot ducks and loved it. I think my average was probably a 1.4, or something like that. And then I went into the Navy. Boy, did I have a rude awakening. In the Navy I learned you had to study, and I learned to study. They sent me to a couple of schools. I was up to be an officer; I was up to be a Navy pilot when the war ended. I’ve never been as mad at anybody as I was at Eisenhower, who ended that war, because I used to dream about flying an F-9 against those MiG-15s. Boy, that was a dream to me that I felt so strong about, that I would be doing that.
As I got older I realized what a stupid dream it was, because in effect, the guy in the MiG-15 wants to kill me, and I’m supposed to kill him, which isn’t such a big deal. Anyway, when I got out of the Navy, I went back up there and there was a doctor who was a counselor, and he got me in there and said, “Well, you’re nothing but a loser.” He said, “Why should we let you back in the University of Utah? The taxpayers are paying for you, and you’re just a bad student. You’re not a good person; you won’t get out, and I think we ought to throw you out and not let you get in.”
I was a little more determined in those days, and I argued with him. I said, “Look, I did very well in the Navy. I got great grades; I was top of my class in a couple of things. I was up to be an officer.” I went on and on.
He said, “Okay, we’ll give you one quarter, and boy, if you don’t do well, we’re throwing you out.”
Well, I did well. I remember I had to get a 4.0 average my senior year just to get out of school, but anyway, I got through that. I thought of that time when I became Speaker of the House. I was chairman of the Executive Appropriations Committee; that means after they go through all of the budget that that rotten guy can cut you anywhere he wants to—if he didn’t like you, you, and you, or your schools, he can knock the money right out. And David Pierpont Gardiner was the president of the University of Utah. And David Pierpont Gardiner was up there on his knees asking me for things, because this is the University of Utah. No disrespect, but your father and I have had this discussion many times.
Anyway, I told him at the time, “There’s a certain counselor up on your staff; bring him down. I want him to grovel in front of me.” No, we didn’t do that. That’s a terrible way even to think. I wanted to say to that doctor, and I won’t give you his name, “Hey, I’m now the chief. Even if I’m president of the Losers Club, I’m still the head guy up here. I’m the most powerful legislator in Utah, and I will do what I want to do. I’m going to take half your money away from you.” Now, I didn’t do that—“and give it to Snow College.”
In effect, I did take some money away from them and give it to Snow, because my mother was secretary of the graduating class of 1917 at Snow, and they needed a boiler. They were freezing to death down there. So we took that money and gave it to them.
Another friend of mine, a great friend who is also a member of the Losers Club, is an attorney here in town. He had a certain professor up there, you’d all know his name, who said, “You’ll never get into law school. You haven’t got what it takes. You’ll never make it. You’ll have a menial job all of your life.”
But no, he had the determination. He said, “No, I won’t. I’m going to be a lawyer.” They all laughed him to scorn. He graduated from law school, and three times he has been the Lawyer of the Year in Utah. Three times he has been the Graduate of the Year from the university law class, because he didn’t buy into that. Those of us in the Losers Club can handle things like that. You’ve got to get to the point that you realize you can rise above all that.
Does anybody know who Kieth Merrill is? His dad was my first counselor, and Kieth graduated from the BYU in motion pictures. When he got out, his professor said, “What are you going to do, Kieth?”
He said, “I want to go to Hollywood and make pictures.”
“You can’t do that. There’s no way on earth you can do that. You don’t do that.”
He said, “Yeah, I’m going to.” He took some of his friends, they got in an old beat-up Chev station wagon, they went to Hollywood and starved to death for a while. Finally he got a job doing something for Kaiser Steel, did a documentary. Then he said, “I want to do a documentary on rodeos.” He called it “The Great American Cowboy.” And eventually, you know what he did? He won the Oscar, and as he walked up to get it, the person that was presenting it was Raquel Welch, and they’re a kissing bunch down there, as you know, and he thought in his heart of hearts, “Should I kiss her? And if I do, how do I explain it to my Sunday School class?” And he said, “If I don’t, how do I explain it to my elders quorum?”
Do you want to know? Did he or did he not—I was commencement speaker at a thing at Utah State not long ago, and afterward—I told that story, and afterward, “Did he kiss her or didn’t he kiss her?” Well, he kissed her. Anyway, he’s a normal red-blooded American.
Another thing in the Losers Club you’ve got to look at. How many of you know who Cal Ripken was? Oh, we’ve got some sport, some baseball fans in here. He was a shortstop, and without missing a beat he did 2,632 consecutive games, and when they gave him this award, he had the longest standing ovation in baseball history. People applauded. And what did he do? He just showed up. He just came. He was dependable. He got there.
I’ve hired a lot of people. When I left Congress, I was chairman of two big committees, I was doing things on the Intelligence Committee, and I had more people than I guess I should have—81 people working for me. But I hired them on this: were you dependable? I just knew they knew what was going on, but are you dependable? Will you come? He just showed up. That’s what you’ve got to do in life, too. You just show up, either in work, in church. One of the questions on a temple recommend is “Do you attend your meetings?” You just come, you learn something. And he’s a great example of that.
Also, I think this optimistic spirit that you ought to have. You know, I look at . . . Winston Churchill has always been a great hero of mine. He would probably be a tough guy to know. He was very crusty, and would cut you down a lot, but what a great person. In the dark days of 1940 and ’41, what did he do? He really buoyed up the English people. They were getting bombed and the city was in ruins, and he kept saying, “These are our best years. These are the years we will prove ourselves.” The Brits always say, “Keep a stiff upper lip,” and because of his determination and his leadership, they did it.
Sometimes we use songs, like I mentioned George Cohen and “Over There.” During the Second World War, what was the big song? Does anybody remember that? That’s another thing, you people in the music business, boy those will do a lot for us. What was the big song? Jerome Kern was asked by the president of the United States to write a song to energize the American people. He said, “I’ve written one, Mr. President, but it embarrasses me.” But he said, okay, I’ll put it out. And a lady by the name of Kate Smith—boy, I’m dating anybody in this room who remembers this—but Kate Smith sang this song, and it was “God Bless America.” Remember that one? A lot of people…it was so popular that I was speaking at a high school in Virginia one time, and I asked what the national anthem was, and they said, “God Bless America,” which really amazed me, that it got to that particular poem.
Now, what are the keys to happiness? You know, man is that he might have joy. What are the keys? Ronald Reagan said it was three things: something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.  Think about that. I think those things are so important. As chairman of the Ethics Committee, I was asked once by a group of people from other nations who also had their ethics people there, “Mr. Chairman, what are the three things that will get you in trouble in Congress?”
Number one—love of the flesh. Number two—love of money. Number three—love of power. Which one of those do you think is most devastating to a member of Congress? Love of power always came in number one. It would give you tears in your eyes to think of some of your brethren and other people—I had to work with eleven people who went to jail, and some of it was because they couldn’t get money, but most of it was because they were doing things that were totally unethical to move up the line. Go back to the idea of don’t let politics ever get above principle, or you find yourself in big trouble.
Let me just say one thing that I think is very important. In here, and in a religious setting, you know the Lord said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” You hear ad nauseum, every time you go to church and general conference and on and on, keep the commandments of God. Do all these things that are right. Keep the commandments, and then if you don’t, here’s the way to get out, and how you go through repentance and the Atonement of Christ, and all that type of thing. And that is important. Let me take the other side. Let’s go to the secular side of this thing.
Obey the law. Are there some laws you don’t like? Of course there are. I’m living proof you can change the laws, change the ordinances. I’ve changed state laws. I’ve changed federal laws, because they weren’t good laws. But while they’re there, what do you do? “We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates.” (Article of Faith 12) Kings, presidents, rulers and magistrates—that covers about every nation. “In obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.” The rule of law is what keeps this nation going. We are a nation of laws. You’ve got to obey the laws. Can you pick and choose what laws you want to obey and what you don’t want to obey? Say, “Oh, I like this one, I don’t like the other one”? Some do. Many of those people find themselves in terrible trouble for doing that.
Some of the major laws: Do you believe in paying your taxes? I had people all the time when I was a member of Congress say, “There is nothing in the Constitution says that I have to pay my taxes.” Well, they didn’t read the Constitution very well, because you do have to pay your taxes. Do you like the way it is? I don’t, but I have sure worked hard to change it. I hope we can change the tax laws around to make them fairer, more honest, so people can’t get around it.
What about the little laws? How many of you believe that it’s important to obey the law? How many of you speed? Ha, we’ve got some honest folks here today, don’t we? Even that can be extremely, extremely serious. I was driving through Utah County the other day, in a big construction zone down there, and it said “55 miles an hour.” I was at 55, and I thought I’d be rear-ended every minute. Cars were just zooming around me going down the street. All of them were probably good members of the Church. How come we can say that one’s not important? All right, if you don’t like it, change it. I changed that law at one time. It used to be 55 miles an hour, and me and a fellow named Dick Durbin—you know him, he’s now in the Senate, and a fellow from Oklahoma—we changed it, and it was 55 in restricted areas and 65 in the other areas. And then in the Senate in ’94, Republicans took over and we gave it to the states. Now outside of Fillmore and those areas, you can drive 80 miles an hour. If you’ve got a real muscle car, go out and get on Larry Miller’s thing and roar around there a little bit, but don’t do it other places.
I used to have to adjudicate really bad problems for big insurance companies—fatalities, a lot of very terrible lawsuits. So if you feel anytime you’ve got to run a red light, think about it. You run through that red light and you kill somebody, you’re going to find yourself in two very miserable situations. One is called criminal law; one is called civil law. And it’s not going to be easy. It’s going to be a very difficult situation for you. I think if anybody should obey the law, we should: “We believe….in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law” of the land.
I’ve got six minutes before President Richards pulls me off the stand. I’m going to just tell a little story, and you can go to sleep for this one. It will bore you out of your mind, but I’m going to tell you anyway. When I was a young boy in junior high, I read a book called “Chanco, a U.S. Army Homing Pigeon.” (by Helen Orr Watson, 1938) I was fascinated by it. It was about this pigeon that did tremendous things during the First World War. It would fly across the Channel and take messages in. It was just an awesome thing, like the bird could think like a human being. Anyway, I went to my folks one night, and I lived up by the University of Utah, and had four older sisters. And I told them about Chanco. Their eyes glassed over, of course. Then later on, I went to my folks and said, “What are the chances of me having some homing pigeons?”
“No way. We don’t want those stinking things around here.”
Well, little boys are very persistent. Finally my dad said, “Look. You go out behind the garage, you clean up that mess back there, and build a coop back there, and if you have some—you can only have two—and we don’t ever hear them or smell them or know they’re there, you can have two.”
I immediately found a book on how to have a pigeon coop. I studied that book. I scrounged up the lumber. I built this coop, and I finally got it done. Then I went down to Bailey’s Feed and Seed in Salt Lake that used to be there, and I got this kind of diet they had. I had to read this whole book on the diet you feed them—certain kinds of green pea, and corn, and red wheat. I got that, and then finally I was ready for the big day and I got on my bicycle and I rode all the way out—in those days, there was nothing out there, out to Spring Run on 13th East, because I knew there was a professional man out there that had the greatest homing pigeons in the west. I went to this big house, and there were his coops out back, and I geared up—I had my speech all ready. I knocked on the door, and this huge guy—he must have been six foot eight—and I can’t remember his name now, but I called him by name and said, “My name is Jimmy Hansen, and I read this book, “Chanco, a U.S. Army Homing Pigeon.”
He said, “Wasn’t that a great book? I bet you want to see my birds, don’t you?”
I said, “Yes, sir, I do.”
He said, “First I want to show you my trophy room.” I went in there and he had all these trophies. He said, “What we do is we send them down on the railroad, and the first place they go is Spanish Fork. They let them out at the station; they give us a message of when they let them out, and the first bird through is the winner.” Then they went on to Cedar City, St. George, then Las Vegas, then Barstow, California.”
These were beautiful birds. He let a few of them out, and they circled around and he whistled and they came back to the trap. I was enthralled with the idea. He said, “I know you want some, don’t you?”
I said, “Yes, sir, I surely do.”
“They’re very expensive. They’re five dollars each.”
Five dollars each in those days was a lot of money. I said, “Will you save me two?”
He said, “I’ve got an older two that would make great birds for you, and they’ll have some real good young ones.” So I went home, I went up to the University of Utah after the ball games, and I picked up all of the bottles. We used to get two cents for the little ones, and five cents for the big ones. I used to mow lawns. I was tending kids—I was getting five cents an hour for that. And finally I had enough money and I got on my bicycle and peddled out there, and he wrenched the thing on the handlebars and said, “When you get home, let the hen out and after about three months, every time you feed her, whistle. When she gets out, she may make two circles and come straight out here.”
Sure enough, she did, and I went out and got her, and I let the male out, and he did the same thing. I knew every rut in the road between my house, all the way out there and back. Finally they stayed. They had two young, and amazingly enough, that first time I set them out there, they won. I had a little bird called Crow, and in the interim period I got more birds and I built a bigger coop. My parents were proud of me; even my sisters took their boyfriends out to show them these birds.
I had this little bird called Crow, and I sent her to St. George. I told all my friends, I said, “Crow is just going to wipe everybody out.” She was built like an F-16. She’ll go—she was there, and she never showed up. I don’t know what happened to her. Well, I do. About six weeks later, we were playing football out in the road, and this bedraggled bunch of feathers came walking up the road. And it was Crow. Wow, if the bird could speak, wouldn’t you like to know what had happened to her? Maybe she was shot. She had a broken wing. A hawk could have got her; she could have hit a wire. She must have walked home, or she jumped on a pickup truck or something. I don’t know how she got home, but she made it home.
I came home one day when I was in high school, and I was doing very well in the pigeon business. I came home and every bird was gone. Somebody had broken down the door and stolen every bird in there. It got in all the papers; the police came up. I was devastated. That summer I went up to work in Idaho at a relative’s farm. I came home in the fall and I noticed kind of a funny look on my dad’s face and my brother-in-law’s.  So I went out back. I went out back, and where the pigeon coop had been had all been taken out, and there was a whole row of hutches. And in those hutches were ugly animals with big long ears hopping around, and there was also a little thing of ceramic for their pellets, a little water, and something. About 20 white rabbits in those pens.
They said, “Well, what do you think?”
I said, “Well, thank you, I guess.” It was interesting. Boy, do they stink, did you know that? And are they stupid. They’re so dumb they eat their hutches. They just ate their hutches, and the place smelled out there. I remember looking out the back window once and the neighbor’s dog was chasing one of them around. I was rooting for the dog.
Okay, in a short time—I don’t know where they went. In a short time they were all gone. All there was was a dilapidated mess out there. I like to tell that story at Eagle Courts. And I ask, “What’s the difference between the pigeons and the rabbits?” Think about it. I wrapped myself in the pronoun “I” when I told you about the pigeons. I did it. I built the coop. I knew about them. I knew everything—I knew every feather in their wing, if one of them was gone. I knew everything about them. I lived, breathed—I kept genealogy on them. I kept everything on them. I knew everything about them. I did it.
Now, what did I do for the rabbits? Nothing. See the difference? That’s your life, that we’re talking about. That’s this country. You do it. You vote today! You did it. You say, “Well, my little vote doesn’t mean anything.” You don’t understand how this system works. If everybody did that, no one would get elected. I can tell you—I can count ten times where it came down to three votes, in big elections.
Anyway, that’s the difference. You do it. I’m counting on you. What was it that Winston Churchill said the last time he spoke to Parliament? He walked in, with a cane, and in his British accent he just said these words. You’ve heard them many times. “Never give up. Never, never give up.”
Thank you for allowing me to be with you. I say this in Jesus’ name, amen.

Pornography a Plague—in the World and in the Church

16 Nov. 2010


Pornography a Plague—in the World and in the Church

It just dawned on me, the last devotional I spoke to was at BYU-Hawaii, so if you’ll forgive me, aloha! [Students answer “aloha”] Not bad; not impressive but not bad. Brothers and sisters, aloha! [Response] Much better. Thank you. I noticed the clock is over there on the left, and I stand between you and lunch, so I’m going to put this right here. [Places wristwatch on the stand.] You’ve probably heard the old story about the Mormon boy and the Catholic boy who decided they’d go to each other’s church just to see what it was like. The first Sunday the Mormon boy went with his Catholic friend to Mass and watched them make the sign of the cross. He said, “Please explain to me what that means,” so the Catholic boy explained what that means.
The next Sunday they went to a Mormon sacrament meeting, and the speaker got up and took off his watch and put it on the stand, and the Catholic boy said, “What does that mean?”
He said, “It doesn’t mean a thing.”
You see, I used to be a professor. You push a button; I go for 50 minutes. It’s not that hard. But we will finish before noon, so we don’t get in the way of lunch.
Could I just find out, how many of you are returned missionaries? Fantastic. How many of you served in the Hawaii Honolulu Mission? Oh, I’m so sorry for the rest of you who had to put your hands down. Sister Decker, wonderful to have you here. We’re going to talk about some things today that will allow you to qualify when you are senior missionaries to be called to Hawaii. No, no, we love every missionary; we love every mission.
Can I just say, for me personally, what a treat it is for me to be here. I would not be here or anywhere, were it not for the LDS Business College. My grandparents met here. My grandfather was the principal, and met a member of the faculty—I guess this doesn’t happen anymore—and they were married in 1909. My mother graduated in 1933, and that’s her graduation certificate. [Certificate appears on screen.] She went on to become a legal secretary, worked for a law firm in Salt Lake City, and that’s where she met my father. So without the LDS Business College, I don’t know where I would be, but I would not be here. So it goes very deep with me. What a privilege it is to be here, and what a privilege it is to be with you in this very special place.
If you’ll forgive me, I can’t get the mission president out of me. We’re going to have a little zone conference for a minute. I want to talk to you about how to listen to my talk. And we’re going to talk about the 43rd section of the Doctrine and Covenants, where it says in part—and I love the fact that you can take notes of devotionals, I think that’s absolutely terrific—you can see 43:8,9, and 16. “When ye are assembled together ye shall instruct and edify each other … and [become] sanctified by that which ye have received, and ye shall bind yourselves to act in all holiness before me…And ye are to be taught from on high.”
There is a remarkable promise in that scripture. If you will listen to the Spirit, it almost doesn’t matter what I say. This can be an important and wonderful and critical meeting for you, if you open yourselves up to the Spirit so that you can be taught by the Spirit from on high. But then the second part is equally important. Having been taught from on high, you must “bind yourselves to act.” That is, you must commit to do whatever it is the Spirit prompts you to do.
I’ll never forget, many, many years ago, as a young member of a stake presidency, I was invited out to general conference. It was the first time I had attended general conference in an official capacity, and so I sat there through all of those sessions and took very careful notes about what was said by each of the speakers. At the end of the conference, President Kimball got up and said a very interesting thing. He said, “This has been a wonderful conference. The brethren have been inspired, and I have a long list of things I must do as a result of this conference.” And the feeling swept over me that I had not attended that conference in the way I should have. I made a list of the things that were said; the prophet made a list of the things the Spirit told him he was to do. Do you see the difference? So I would invite you to listen to the promptings of the Spirit and make a list of those things the Spirit prompts you to do.
We’re going to talk about the plague. Last summer . . . can I just say this is not what I wanted to talk about? But I’ve had as clear an impression as I’ve ever had in my life that I should. Last summer, I had one of those impressions—this was early summer, and the thought came to me very forcefully that in our media companies—we have the Deseret News, KSL TV, KSL Radio, Deseret Book, Bonneville International, Deseret Digital Media—that we should investigate what happens to women who are married to men who are addicted to pornography. We ended up doing a series of stories in the paper and on television that were very powerful, as a result of the things we had found out. And we had prepared to run conference Sunday afternoon a documentary on this issue. It ran right after the final session of general conference.
I knew that documentary was coming, so you can imagine how interesting it was to me when I heard President Packer and Elder Cook make the following comments in general conference:
President Boyd K. Packer: “In our day  the dreadful influence of pornography is like unto a plague sweeping across the world, infecting one here and one there, relentlessly trying to invade every home, most  frequently through the husband and father. The effect of this plague can be, unfortunately often is, spiritually fatal. Lucifer seeks to disrupt ‘the great plan of redemption,’  ‘the great plan of happiness.’
“Pornography will always repel the Spirit of Christ and  will interrupt the communications between our Heavenly Father and His children  and disrupt the tender relationship between husband and wife.” (“Cleansing the Inner Vessel,” Ensign, Nov. 2010, 75)
Elder Quentin L. Cook: “An ever-present danger to the family is the onslaught of evil forces that seem to come from every direction. While our primary effort must be to seek light and truth, we would be wise to black out from our homes the lethal bombs that destroy spiritual development and growth. Pornography, in particular, is a weapon of mass moral destruction. Its impact is at the forefront in eroding moral values.” (“Let There Be Light!,” Ensign, Nov. 2010, 27-28)
When I heard these two members of the Quorum of the Twelve speak, even though I was working on an entirely different subject—I’ve collected over the years some really wonderful stories that young adults seem to really quite like, and when we have an occasion like this and I tell those stories, and they’re happy and excited and they go away feeling uplifted—and I had come to me as clear an impression as I’ve ever had that I was to put that aside and that I was to talk about this subject. When the president of the Quorum of the Twelve says “it is a plague,” that gets my attention. When a member of the Quorum of the Twelve says, “it is a weapon of mass moral destruction,” that gets my attention. Sadly, as we will find out, there are some in this room who need this warning and help. So having heard that, I followed the instruction of the 43rd section of the Doctrine and Covenants, and bound myself to act, to make this the subject of this devotional today.
If you will listen with your heart and your mind, the Spirit will whisper to you what you should do about this problem. Either you or somebody you know has this problem, and the Lord is counting on you to help stem the tide of this plague.
Now, as you think about what you might do, let me share with you some of the things we’ve learned from the research that we’ve done. The first is that most men—and I’m going to look you in the eye and watch you squirm a little bit, because you know it’s true for you too—were exposed to pornography when they were relatively young. You’re going to hear in a minute two men who are actually on this video, talking about their problem. One was exposed when he was six, the other when he was eleven. This is a problem that increasingly comes early and viciously. This means that most men bring the problem to their marriage.
First man: I was about six, and I remember very distinctly when I found it, I knew that it wasn’t right, but I looked at it. It was something that was so different than anything I’d ever experienced before.
Narrator: Pastor Anderson stumbled onto pornography at a relative’s house when he was nine. As he got older, looking at pornography with friends just seemed like part of growing up.
Pastor Anderson: It was almost like the seed had been planted, and in times when there was opportunity, when you just sort of had this free time, it was like, “Wow, there’s nobody around, and I can go do whatever I want.”
Because men bring the problem to the marriage, there is often the hope that marriage will solve the problem. It does not. If the problem is not solved before marriage, the risk is very high that it will ruin the marriage. I actually saw something similar to this with a very small number of our missionaries, who had been involved with pornography before they came. They could not get the images out of their heads; therefore, they could not have the Spirit, and it fundamentally ruined their missions. It’s critical to solve the problem before one is married.
Man: I really felt like marriage would satisfy all of my desire for sexual need or satisfaction, and so I went into it with a feeling that was going to be the case. And that was not the case.
The adversary will tell you that pornography is a victimless sin, and it turns out just the opposite is true. Pornography hurts you; pornography hurts those that you love. May I say particularly to the young men, you have no right to cause the heartache and the hurt that you will see in this next clip.
First woman: Almost immediately I felt like there was a disconnect in our relationship. And then I thought it was just that I had such huge romantic expectations that they could never be fulfilled.
Second woman: I couldn’t get out of bed; I was in serious depression. I felt like such a victim of this and my husband and life. To me as a woman it just made our whole relationship kind of like a lie.
Third woman: I cried bitter tears. I remember being on my face, just sobbing and sobbing, and thinking “something is really wrong here.”
You’ll notice in those videos that all of those women are attractive, and they all felt initially that their husband’s problem was their fault. It was not. It is not the woman’s fault. Satan will try to get young men to rationalize, as he does with all transgressions, and somehow say it’s okay, or somebody else is to blame. My dear young sisters, don’t let anyone rationalize his transgression by putting the blame on you. You don’t deserve to be treated that way.
We did find out that healing is possible. It is often difficult and challenging, but it does come.
Pastor Anderson: When I made the decision that I would come forward, I knew that I had made it in my heart because the feelings that I had in my heart changed. They changed from fear to hope, and they changed from the attitude of can’t do to can do, and that I must do.
Narrator: Pastor Anderson said the real healing and recovery did not come until he shared his story with qualified therapists, extended family, and eventually, his congregation.
Pastor Anderson: For the most part, people understood it. They said, “Hey, you’re not perfect, and we understand that. And we’re glad you’re getting help, and we’re glad you’re on the right track now.
Man: Magical things happen; we see miracles happen in people’s lives, but it’s important to know that the miracles don’t happen until after the hard work.
If your involvement with pornography is limited, prayer and priesthood leaders can most likely help you throw off the shackles. If your involvement with pornography is extensive, then often you will actually need professional help to overcome that enormous challenge. Let me read you an e-mail sent to one of our reporters after he read a story she had printed in the paper:
“I loved reading the recent series of articles about pornography. I am an LDS bishop who recently—eleven months ago—came clean about my own addiction of some 35 years. My first look was, of course, old-school porn, when I was about 11 years old. It was all I needed. I served a full-time mission, married in the temple, and did everything else I knew was right. These things were not enough. While prayer and a multitude of other spiritual fixes are all great and necessary, it wasn’t until I was honest with myself, my family, my priesthood leader and my Heavenly Father that I began to feel whole. I started attending the Church’s addiction recovery program, and went faithfully until just recently, when I felt comfortable enough to start tapering off. I have a married son who, when I discussed my addiction with him, indicated that he too had struggled. I believe that it isn’t a matter of if our young men will have struggles, but whenand how they will handle it.”
Why is pornography so dangerous? First, it is highly addictive. If you are even moderately vulnerable, limited exposure can lead you into a very deep hole. Once you’re addicted, you can never get enough, and you often turn to more deviant kinds of pornography as your addiction progresses. As your addiction increases, people often turn their backs on families and friends, even their careers. Let me again read you from one of our reporters:
“One woman called me and offered to be part of the series of stories. When she told me her name, I realized that I had just interviewed another couple with the same last name a few days earlier. During the interview, I confirmed what I had suspected: The men were brothers. Each had been referred to me by different therapists. Although I did not say anything to either family because I had promised confidentiality and wasn’t sure who they had shared their stories with, I have thought about these brothers often since. They both were exposed to pornography at a young age. They both married women from prominent Church families. They both served in high church callings—bishops, stake presidencies. They both went to prominent and successful counselors for help. One is doing well. His marriage and business are thriving. His church membership has been restored to him. Sadly, his brother has lost everything—his marriage, his job, the trust of his children. His wife is literally heartbroken. He is living in a trailer, and his wife thinks he still regularly hires prostitutes—a former priesthood leader having lost everything because of the power of this horrible addiction.
Because pornography is evil, you lose the guidance and comfort of the Spirit. You bring blackness into your life. The Lord brings light and hope. The adversary, through pornography, brings darkness and despair. Sadly, this is not a small problem. Nationally, 40 percent of U.S. households have indicated pornography affects their family. I have yet to talk to a priesthood leader who hasn’t told me that he believes the same thing is true in his ward or his stake.  This is a problem that is in the Church as well as outside of the Church. I talked to some who are responsible for student wards at BYU. They believe that in their ward, often with returned missionaries, often with those married in the temple, up to 50 percent of the young men suffer from this problem. This is why President Packer said it was a plague. This is why Elder Cook said it is a weapon of mass moral destruction.
The question is, what do you do? Going back to D&C 43, may I suggest that the first thing you should do is to bind yourself to act, and take the pledge. Now you say, what is the pledge? We will have for you, as you leave today, this card—so you don’t have to write all of these things down. Yes, I know that’s a relief. And we’re giving this to you because it not only has the pledge on it, but it has a place for you to sign if you’re willing to commit to these things. And let me read what they are:
“I commit that I will not be part of the pornography plague. I will do this by:
  • Educating myself on the harmful effects of pornography to self, spouse and future family,
  • Learning to recognize the red flags associated with pornography use, so I can enter into relationships that are pornography-free,
  • Engaging in an open and honest conversation about pornography with those I choose to seriously date,
  • Choosing to date only those who are willing to help and purge their lives of pornographic materials,
  • Seeking help from my ecclesiastical leaders if I am involved in pornography use;
  • Refraining from engagement or marriage until a pornography problem is resolved.
I recognize resolving the problem must be accompanied by a change in attitude and behavior, including seven to twelve months of sobriety. I recognize these choices will lead to healthier and happier relationships with my future family.”
And then there’s a place for you to sign it at the bottom. I am not your priesthood leader. I can’t tell you to do this. For everybody who serves as your priesthood leader, I think it would be wonderful if you took this into them and showed them that you have signed it, that you have committed to doing that.
Second, after the pledge—part of that pledge, as you can see, is to get information. You need to understand this problem. You need to get the information you need. One place to go is a website that we’ve established called outinthelight.com. You will see on that website the complete documentary that we’ve shown segments from here. We have webisodes where it talks about various things that you can do to help overcome the problem, and it links you to partners that we have that can help provide professional help if you need it, including of course, Church resources.
The next thing you can do is to bind yourself to ask probing questions before you marry. We have a granddaughter at BYU. I thought about her as I watched the documentary we put together, and I thought, “Oh my goodness, how can I help her make sure that she does not marry somebody who has this problem. I never want to make a video of her sobbing because her marriage was ruined by somebody who has this addiction.” And it occurred to us that, as awkward as that conversation is, if you don’t have the conversation, you don’t know. And therefore, you have to find a way to have this very awkward conversation.
On the back of the card that we’re going to give you is a list of those questions. And if you’ll look at those, they go from being somewhat general to being very specific. Now let me suggest how you—having interviewed young men and young women for decades now, let me tell you how you do it. You don’t do it from across the room; you don’t do it via text. You sit there and you look into their eyes. That’s the best part of it, I have to say, looking into their eyes. And then you ask these questions: “What do you think about pornography? When was the first time someone introduced you to pornography, and how did you feel?”
If they say, “I’ve never seen it,” they’re ready to be translated, or they’re a liar. You can’t go through life—those of you who have served missions in Europe, you can’t walk down the street in some of those cities without seeing it on the street. You can’t go into a supermarket in Hawaii without seeing it. It’s just all over.
“What do you think today? Do you have family and friends who struggle with this? Have you ever struggled with pornography? If so, what have you done to conquer it? Do you currently struggle with pornography? If so, are you seeking help? How many times in the last six months have you viewed a pornographic image? When was the last time you viewed a pornographic image?”
And as you ask those questions, no matter how much you care about them, no matter how much you love them, make sure you are open to the Spirit. The Spirit will tell you whether or not your friend is telling the truth. If he or she is telling the truth, that’s wonderful. If they are not, may I suggest—I’ll probably get released for suggesting this, but I’ll suggest it anyway—don’t marry them. A very interesting counselor once said, “Marriage is not compassionate service. That is, you don’t marry them to save them. Make them save themselves first, so that when you are married, you can trust them.”
If you have a problem, you might bind yourself to act by seeking help from your priesthood leader. He loves you. His purpose is not to punish you; his purpose is to help you. With his advice and counsel, you should make sure that you are listening to the Spirit so that you bind yourself to act and do what the Spirit directs you to do.
Before I give a talk to a group that I don’t know, I ask the Lord to help me see you as He sees you, to help me feel about you the way He feels about you. He loves you, and will do all He can to help you, if you will allow Him to do that.
In the last general conference, President Packer promised, “Paul promised that ‘God [would] not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will, with the temptation also make a way [for you] to escape, that you may be able to bear it.’ You can, if you will, break the habits and conquer [an] addiction and come away from that which is not worthy of any member of the Church.” (“Cleansing the Inner Vessel,” Ensign, Nov. 2010, 75-76)
He will give you the power to do it. I love this quote from Isaiah: “But they that wait upon the Lord”—that is, those who are obedient to the Lord—“shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings, as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)
Finally, in Moroni: “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; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure.” (Moroni 7:48)
This morning, I sought for one last confirmation that I should actually talk about this subject. It is not an easy subject to talk about. It is an awkward subject. It is not the kind of thing I like to talk with young men and young women about. And as I sought for that confirmation, I started to weep. And I could feel the love the Lord has for you, and His urgency about this matter. The adversary has only one desire, and that is to hurt you. The Lord has only one desire, and that is to give you hope and give you strength, that you can soar like eagles. I hope and pray you make the latter choice. You deserve it. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Go Forward with Confidence

23 Nov. 2010


Go Forward with Confidence

My young brothers and sisters, how fun to be with you this morning. I appreciate that very generous introduction by your president. I remember some years ago I was giving a talk in a professional setting in Salt Lake, and the same kind of generous introduction was given, and then I gave what I thought was a pretty good talk. At the end, a woman came up—kind of an elderly lady, and she looked up at me and she squinted her eyes and said, “You married Margaret Dyreng, didn’t you?”
I said yes, and she said, “Now I know who you are.” And the implication was that it didn’t matter what I had done or what I had said, but the fact that I had married Margaret was pretty important in her eyes. That gave me “street cred,” as you would say. And that’s been the greatest blessing of my life, to be a companion to Margaret. I hope that would happen to you—not to be companions to Margaret, but that you’ll find someone that’s wonderful.
How many of you are from outside the United States? Quite a few. That’s wonderful. I hope you’ll get really excited about this holiday that’s coming up the day after tomorrow, the Thanksgiving holiday. I know it’s been referenced. Your young woman who spoke talked about counting your blessings, which I certainly suggest that you do. In our family, we were always excited about Thanksgiving, because we would go “over the river and through the woods, to grandmother’s house.” Do you know that song? “Over the river and through the wood”—sing it with me—“to grandmother’s house we go. The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh through the white and drifted snow. Over the river and through the woods . . . ” Okay, you’re like me, you run out of words. But the “over the river and through the woods” part I always remember, because it was our tradition for many years to head to Idaho, and literally we would have to put the turkey and the trimmings and all the little kids on the snowmobiles and a big sleigh we pulled behind, and we would—we couldn’t drive to the cabin, we’d go over the river, and through the woods, and end up at grandmother’s house, where she would welcome us with open arms and bless our lives with her wisdom and her generosity and her expression of thanksgiving.
I hope that you will all be in some setting where you can be grateful in this holiday season, this Thanksgiving season, and I hope that you will truly count your blessings. I can’t imagine a more wonderful time of life. I look back on my experiences as a young person and as a college student. In fact, I wanted to say something about that—I can remember being where you are.
For how many of you is this the first time you’ve been at college, or the first time you’ve been away from home? I think that looks like more than half of you. I can remember my first semester as a freshman, and then first semester at another school after a mission—you could hear from that introduction that I did attend several different schools—then a first semester at a graduate business program, and finally a fourth first semester at the University of California at Berkeley. And all the first semesters were similar, but the beginning of the MBA program first semester was especially interesting. I was far away on the East Coast, as many of you are far away. I didn’t have any roommates that I knew; they were brand new to me. I was surrounded by people who were a lot smarter than I was. At least that was my perception. Does that sound familiar, being away from home, starting and feeling like everyone around you could be smarter than you were? And I don’t know what’s been happening to you, but I can remember that I came home from class every day for two months with a big headache. And part of it was getting used to a new subject matter, a new vocabulary. I had been a chemistry major, and I didn’t know anything about marketing or finance, or especially the weird and wacky world of accounting. I don’t know if that’s the way you react to accounting.
Another problem was the pedagogy. The case method was the way that we studied at Harvard Business School, and that was a new concept. So I had to prepare three cases every night, try to come up with an analysis of what the problem was and what the solutions might be, and it gave me that two-month-long headache. I felt like a student in a physics class.
Maybe you’ve heard the story of the student in the physics class, where the professor gave an exam and there was only one question on the exam. The one question was to explain how you could use a barometer to measure the height of a building. And most of the students explained that you would use a barometer and measure the barometric pressure at the bottom of the building and then again at the top of the building, and knowing how you convert inches of mercury in a barometer to atmospheric height, then you could measure the height of the building. And that would have been my answer. But one of the students answered that he would take the barometer to the top of the building, and, using a stopwatch, he would drop the barometer over the side and measure how long it took for the barometer to hit the ground, and knowing the speed of falling objects, he could measure the height of the building. Or, he said, if you didn’t like that approach, you could tie a string on the barometer and lower it over the top of the building until the barometer touches the ground, and then you can measure the length of the string. He said if those two approaches don’t suit you, then you could take the barometer and you could stand it up on a sunny day and you could measure the height of the barometer and measure the shadow that it cast, then you could pace off the shadow of the building and using the law of similar triangles, you could tell how high the building was. And he said if you don’t like any of those approaches, you can take the barometer and you can go to the janitor of the building, and you can say, “Mr. Janitor, if you’ll tell me how high this building is, I will give you this perfectly good barometer.”
So I was there at Harvard Business School in the case method, and I was asking myself how could I survive, when other students seem to have two or three ways to analyze a problem, and I was struggling to come up with one. And I realized that I had a confidence problem. Do you ever feel that you have a lack of confidence, or certainly less confidence than you would like, or you think that it would be well for you to have? Now, it turns out that I’d like to talk to you today about confidence. And I’d like to begin by pointing out that confidence is not just a micro-problem for individuals—but if you have been reading the newspapers, which I hope you have for the last few years, you realize that confidence has been a global, macro-problem. The news media have reported extensively on the declining economic activity experienced by most nations of the world. Explanations for the cause have centered on improper mortgage lending practices and the equally inappropriate derivative instruments that originated in the United States and ultimately affected the highly interconnected worldwide economy. As the specter of a global depression has loomed, the focus of discussion has shifted to the role that confidence plays in business affairs.
I was in a classroom this morning, I took a little tour of your facility—I wanted to see what a college looked like that went up instead of out. Ours at Dixie goes out; yours here goes up. We’re going to join you with some “up” buildings, because our footprint is getting smaller and smaller compared to the number of students. But I noticed you have an economics classroom, and many economics classes taught there. So you would know that, for financial markets to work, lenders must have confidence in borrowers—that they will be paid back; producers must have confidence that consumers will buy the goods that they borrow the money to produce. To make purchases, consumers must have confidence that their jobs and their incomes are secure. Without confidence, business activity decreases dramatically, and the result is widespread economic distress. As jobs are lost and income declines, the malaise spreads from business to families, and ultimately we are gripped in what the news media have appropriately described as a “crisis of confidence.”
Now, you can ask yourself, “What is this notion of confidence, and is there anything that can be done to restore it?” I’d like you to consider the definition of confidence that’s found in the Merriam-
Webster online dictionary: Confidence is defined as the “faith or belief that one will act in a right or proper way.” And thus, confidence is increased when we believe individuals and institutions are conducting business in a correct or proper manner. When individual’s or institutional conduct is questioned as to its propriety, confidence declines. And once confidence is shaken or lost, it can only be restored gradually. It requires that evidence be presented that behavior has changed, that correct principles are being followed, and that honesty and integrity are being practiced. And these evidences must accumulate over time. And so for confidence to return to our markets and our Main Streets, it’s crucial that there is a return to correct principles and practices, as well as individual behavior.
Smoke and mirrors and perception won’t do it. It has to be real, and it has to be widespread, and so individual responsibility, ethical standards, and personal integrity have to be taught and modeled in our homes and in our classrooms and in our boardrooms. And I understand and know that those kinds of principles are at the foundation of what you are being taught.
You also are being taught from the scriptures. Let me reference a situation about confidence—the notion that it can be gained by acting properly or lost by acting improperly is illustrated in two verses from the book of Jacob in the Book of Mormon. Jacob was speaking in the temple to his people after the death of Nephi. Nephi was his wonderful brother who had been their prophet and their leader. Jacob characterized his people as having grown “hard in their hearts, and [having begun to] indulge themselves somewhat in wicked practices.” (Jacob 1:15) And after bringing to the attention of the people in greater detail what he meant by hardened hearts and wicked practices, he observes in verses 34 and 35 of Jacob 2, “Now behold, my brethren, ye know that these commandments were given to our father, Lehi; wherefore, ye have known them before.” I’ll come back to that in a minute. “And ye have come under great condemnation; for ye have done these things which ye ought not to have done. Behold, ye have done greater iniquities than the Lamanites, our brethren”—and listen to this—“Ye have broken the hearts of your tender wives, and lost the confidence of your children, because of your bad examples before them.”
Jacob clearly understood that confidence is generated by proper conduct, whether it’s individual conduct or business conduct or government conduct. He pointed out that his brethren knew the commandments and had been taught right from wrong. Nevertheless, they were doing things that they ought not to have done. The result was that they lost the confidence of their children because of the bad examples they were setting.
In an environment of uncertainty, which we almost always operate in, whether it’s economic or moral, it’s critical that you have the anchor of correct principles to give you confidence. It’s difficult enough for you to navigate through the challenges of life as students and young adults, given all the new ideas and alternative behaviors that you may encounter. The journey is made even more difficult if you do not have confidence that there are time-tested correct principles that can safely be followed. We cannot have confidence in ourselves or in a course of action when we know that our conduct is improper. It just doesn’t work that way. And as previously noted, Jacob pointed out to his people that the commandments of which he spoke were “given to our father, Lehi; wherefore, ye have known them before.” In other words, you have been taught correct principles, and now if you don’t follow them, you really struggle with confidence.
When we have a foreknowledge of these principles, we are aware either consciously or subconsciously of discordance in our lives if we are not following them. And there is a feeling of angst or uneasiness that’s difficult to identify and equally difficult to lose.
Now, let me share with you some principles that you as students can use to generate confidence. These are directed specifically at you, for your age group and the situation, the setting in which you are.
        The principle of work; that’s the first one. I submit that as a student, you can’t feel confident unless you are hard at work studying for each class. Maybe you have joked with each other that you can’t let your studies interfere with your education. I used to say that often, and there’s definitely some truth to the notion that college is a place to learn both inside and outside the classroom. But I’d like to share with you a very practical recommendation that honors the correct principle of work, and also allows you to do the other learning that seems more fun than studying. It includes several steps.
·         Step number one:  Go to bed Friday night at a reasonable hour—now this is a very specific recipe for you—say, before midnight.
·         Step two: Get up at six o’clock on Saturday morning. Yes, eyes getting big here.
·         Step three is to study from six a.m. to 11 a.m. or even until noon.
Now, the positive outcomes of this approach are multiple. First, you are able to concentrate without being interrupted by sirens, because—why? Your friends and your roommates are all still asleep. And you’ll find that you’re studying will be extremely efficient. It turns out that you can learn twice as much in the morning hours as you can in the afternoon or late at night. And here’s the best part—you have all of the rest of Saturday to play, play, play all day. Twelve straight hours to date—important—hike, ski, play games, go to games, earn money, or do anything else you want to do, and all of the rest of those twelve house you have a happy heart. Why? Because your schoolwork is totally under control. You have done your work, and now you can go about the rest of your activities with confidence, and you can really enjoy yourself.
As part of this work principle, enjoy your Sabbath day. Go to church, fulfill your callings, go with some interesting person to a fireside (or even some uninteresting person that might someday become more interesting).
And then there is the last part.
·         The fourth step is to go to bed by 10 or 11 Sunday night, because the final thing you are going to do is get up at 5 or 6 Monday morning and study for another three hours before your first class.
Now, it’s Monday morning and you’re ready for school, and you’ve studied eight or 10 hours and you haven’t missed a single thing that was fun or important to do. And because you have honored the principle of work, organized yourself and worked at your studies, how are you going to feel? Confident. You’re going to feel confident.
Let me suggest a second principle for you. It just brings enormous confidence, and it’s the principle of integrity. For you, that means being true to the principles of personal conduct that you have been taught by your parents and priesthood and sister leaders. You know this. It turns out you can’t be “sort of” honest, or “sort of” alcohol- and drug-free, or “sort of” morally clean and expect to feel confident. You won’t feel that way. Now, I can’t imagine a time in your life before now or after now that will be any more important a period than this period is to take confidence from the integrity of your personal comportment. This is not the time when you want to feel lost and confused. You have important decisions to make, about your career, about who you will marry, how and where you will live, and what you will make of yourselves. And these decisions are best made from a position of confidence. You need to feel confident that you can approach your Heavenly Father and receive inspiration as you sort through the myriad choices that confront you. As you kneel to pray, as you ponder, as you analyze, as you consider—that sense of settledness, that sense of solid foundation, that sense of confidence that comes from the integrity of your behavior, the integrity of your keeping the principles that you know to be true—that feeling of confidence is so important at this time in your life—more than almost any other.
Confidence in your current adherence to correct principles will allow you to have faith in the future in general and in your future in specific. You must not allow yourself—you just must not allow yourself to make decisions from a position of fear or apprehension. Fear is the opposite of faith. President Hinckley was fond of reminding us of that throughout his life.
Fear was a primary tool of Satan in the premortal existence. For example, he argued, undoubtedly, that exercising agency on earth would be risky. He argued that we would make mistakes, and that consequently we would be punished by a just God, that the plan of redemption would not work, because Christ would be unwilling to leave His exalted station and be born in a stable and suffer excruciating pain for all our sins. He could not be counted on. Those were the arguments of Satan, and many succumbed to the picture of fear and dread painted by this adversary of ours.
You didn’t. You did not. You exercised faith. You believed in the principles of mercy, and vicarious sacrifice and atonement, and you had confidence in the plan and in the willingness and ability of the Son of God to become the Savior, and fill the most important role in the plan of redemption. And that knowledge that you chose correctly to get you here should give you confidence that you can do it again. You can make the correct choices in this important time in your life that will lead you where the Lord would want you to be, and where you would want to be. But you must have the integrity to adhere to correct principles, for you to have that confidence, and to have that sense that you can be on the right track.
I have a friend who is a professor at Harvard Business School. His name is Clayton Christensen. You might do well to write that name down. And at Harvard Business School, he has become an icon for integrity. The last day of each of his classes, he asks one question to each of his students: “How will you measure your life?” And they talk about it. And he asks them for just this one class session to focus on what they are doing in their lives, and not what’s happening in some business case. And he says, “Find answers to three questions: How can I be sure to be happy in my career? How can I be sure my relationships with spouse and family will be an enduring source of happiness?” And number three is “How can I stay out of jail?” That’s Harvard Business School.
The reason I reference Clayton Christensen is that I would hope that you would go Google him and look at his essay on “How Will You Measure Your Life?” That’s the title, and it’s on the internet—because he says in that something that I want you to write down. He says, “It’s easier to maintain your integrity 100 percent of the time than 98 percent of the time. It’s easier to adhere to correct principles 100 percent of the time than 98 percent of the time.”
Now, a third principle—and I believe that you have integrity. I believe that you are trying really hard, and that’s what is really special about this place. It’s a place where you can do that and not be ashamed that somehow it’s inappropriate for you to be good and to be right and to be true. But I want to talk to you about a third principle. Do you have the ability to focus? And I suggest to you that it will be increasingly difficult to feel confident unless you understand and exercise the principle of focus. Focus requires concentration. The scriptures speak of “keeping an eye single to” and that’s another way of describing this notion of focus.
We live in an era, and you live in an era of severe sensory overload. Every one of our senses is bombarded with massive amounts of input. In a given time period, we see a hundredfold more visual images than did our most recent ancestors. We are deluged with movies, television, laptop, video game, and cell-phone images. Our ears are assaulted with sounds from every conceivable electronic device. Does this describe your world? We taste and smell the cuisine from every corner of the world, and we can touch and feel a thousand textures and fabrics unknown to our progenitors.
Likewise, our spiritual senses are attacked with concepts, ideas, definitions, urges, lures, and feelings that challenge our equilibrium and our confidence. I think you are doing a remarkable job of surviving in this never-before experienced world of sensory overload. You may be surviving, but my question to you is, are you thriving? Thriving is different than surviving. Are you managing it, or is this sensory overload managing you? How much time are you spending on Facebook or some other similar social networking site? How many texts do you send and receive each day? How often do you put off important tasks to search the ‘Net or play video games? Do you have to be constantly hooked up to the ear buds in your IPod, as though you were on intravenous life support to get through your day? Inner-ear life support.
 All of these devices have some usefulness. But I worry for you, that without careful management, they will rob you of your ability to concentrate and focus your attention on the things that matter most. A great way for you to be mediocre is to constantly be “in the thick of thin things.” How many of you got up this morning and said, “Today is a great day to be mediocre. I am so excited. I will just spend this whole day being mediocre. I can hardly wait to get started.”
Is that what you said this morning? That’s what I fear will happen to you if you allow yourself to be distracted by this constant sensory overload. Mediocrity is what happens when you don’t focus, when you don’t concentrate. You just muddle right in to mediocrity. You have to really concentrate to master some subjects, like math and science. You have to work hard at learning how to write well and to think well. You can’t be outstanding if your attention is disrupted and your focus is always fuzzy. Focus leads to achievement. Focus builds confidence, and you won’t feel confident without focusing on achievement. So learn to focus. Put aside the distractions. Manage them; don’t let them manage you.
Now, I want to say one more thing, and it’s about social skills. I have come to be a big believer in your ability to cultivate social graces. I have seen it in so many young people as they interview for jobs, that they have been playing games and been on the internet, and been really good at all of that, but they’re not very good at social interaction. I’m reminded of the boy who was an assistant manager at a grocery store. The story is told about a little old lady that came into the grocery store and asked to buy a half a head of lettuce. And the boy said, “You know, we don’t sell half heads of lettuce.”
The lady said, “Well, go and ask your manager.” So he went into the back room to ask the manager, and the little lady had followed him. He didn’t realize that.
He said to the manager, “There’s this crazy old lady out there who would like to buy half a head of lettuce.” Then as he realized that the little lady had followed him there, he said, “And this lovely young lady would like to buy the other half of that head of lettuce.”
And the manager said, “You know, I notice that you have great social skills. You’re really good at interacting with people. I think we have an opening for a store manager in Minnesota.”
The boy said, “Minnesota? The only thing I know about Minnesota is that they have hockey teams and ugly women.”
The manager said, “Oh, yeah? Well, my wife is from Minnesota.”
The boy said, “Really? What team did she play for?”
Now, you need social skills, and you won’t develop them if you walk past each other texting and with your ear buds in and with everything else distracting you. You need to practice greeting people and smiling at them, and being gracious, and being interesting in your conversation. When I was a younger man, we lived in a ward in Provo. One of our friends was a man named Rolf, and Rolf had the most wonderful way of going about, entering into a room and shaking hands, being with people and enjoying their presence and their company, and he was such an example. He was almost as good as Margaret is at that. But I’ve lived with Margaret all the time, and sort of just taken that for granted. When I saw Rolf do this, I thought, that’s something that I’d like to be like. Well, it wasn’t more than just a few months later that I was appointed to be the president of Weber State University. And I got up the very first day, and I had a press conference, and I had to meet the faculty, and I had to meet the folks in the town, and all through the day, I kept saying to myself, “Be like Rolf. Be like Rolf, and shake hands and smile and be pleasant and be outgoing.” And you know, I did that every day for six months, I said, “Be like Rolf.” And one day I woke up and I went to work, and I didn’t say that any longer because what had happened? I was like Rolf, sort of. I don’t know that I ever got to be as good as he was, but I had acted as if, for a while, until I adopted that trait—those social skills that make it possible for you to interview well, to interact well, to make an impression on others. This is the time in your life when you need to develop those skills.
My dear young brothers and sisters, I’ve spoken to you today about confidence and about how it’s founded on a belief that one is acting in a right or proper way. And I’ve told you that adherence to certain correct principles is the key to confidence. And we’ve spoken about at least four of them: the principle of work—how important it is for you to work hard for you to be confident; the principle of integrity—to be true to the principles, that it’s easier for you to have integrity 100 percent of the time than 98 percent of the time; to learn how to focus, to put aside the distractions that are so common in your environment; and to develop social skills, those graces that will make it fun for people to be around you, fun and enjoyable.
Two final quick thoughts: first, did you know that confidence is attractive? And I suspect that is something that you worry about from time to time. Will someone go out with me if I ask them on a date? Will they find me attractive? Will someone ask me out? Am I attractive enough to be asked out? Not all of us can be tall, dark, and handsome like I am, and not all of us can have perfect shape and high cheekbones and lustrous Clairol hair, like most of you young ladies. But each one of you—each one of you—can have confidence. You can have that confidence that’s attractive, that comes from hard work that leads to achievement, that comes from the integrity that you have, and keeping the principles that you know to be true. The ability to focus your energy is attractive, and we’re naturally attracted to those who have good social skills, who are cheerful and genuine. And then we can look beyond the superficial and find the things that really matter, and find much to love about those people who have confidence and therefore are attractive.
Brothers and sisters, as Latter-day Saints, we have been taught many correct principles. I have focused on a few that I think are really important for you at your time and your station. Your actions, your adherence to these principles, can give you confidence, can give you the ability to go forward with a sure step, with a steady stride, and with a love of others that comes from confidence in yourself. I pray that you will experience the great blessing of confidence, and I do it in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.