What Is Saving Your Life Right Now?

18 Jun. 2013

Transcript

What Is Saving Your Life Right Now?

Recently I’ve been cataloguing my life through the lines of a poem by James Wright, and it says: “Suddenly, I realized that if I would step out of my body, I would break into blossom.” And I know that today, in preparation for this time together, this is exactly how I feel. It’s one of those moments where you’re eternally happy and grateful and you can feel little shimmers of holiness.

To be standing here is an honor, and it will be added to those sacred moments. My husband and I stood here, in front of this building, last Saturday night. We’d just been through the temple and were just scooting through the temple grounds, and read this sign that said it was completed in 1880. And I just stood there—we come here every week, and I think being here and speaking has weighed a little heavily on me, because of the sacred moments that have taken place in this building. It reminded me of this beautiful quote by John Ruskin that says, “Wherefore, when we build let us think that we build forever. Let it not be for present delight, nor for present use alone; let it be such work as our descendants will thank us for, and let us think as we lay stone on stone that a time will come when those stones will be held sacred, because our hands have touched them; and men [and women] will say, as they look upon the labour and wrought substances of them: ‘See, this our fathers [and mothers] did for us.” (The Seven Lamps of Architecture, John Ruskin, 1849)

I am particularly honored to have pieces of my family here today, especially my three girls. They right now have been some of my dearest traveling companions. [One daughter] was on campus with us a few weeks ago, my 10-year-old, and she wrote me a note that said, “Can we never leave? This is so much fun!” She visited with colleagues and she visited with students, and as we were leaving, she turned to me and she said, “You know, you’re kind of lucky.”

I said, “You think? Nice people, huh.”

And she said, “No. You get to come to a place where you can feel the Spirit.” It was really tender that my 10-year-old daughter picked up on that, and that night in family prayer she kind of strung these words together in the prayer: “Please know how grateful we are that Mom can go to a place where she can feel the Spirit. She makes the world spin. So does Dad. He makes the world spin, too.”

As a mother, there are many days and moments when I feel like my world is spinning out of control, but it is a delight to be here on campus with you and to also be in the midst of these three daughters’ hearts. I do hope that during this time we have together here today that you will feel the Spirit, that your mind will be elevated and enlightened, and your hope will be elevated in yourself but also in the world around you.

Let me take you back to the headlines of 2005 in Ethiopia, where a 12-year-old girl was taken by seven men who wanted to force her to marry one of them. The girl was missing for a week, and she was found being guarded by three lions. They thought it was some sort of miracle, because normally these lions with the big black manes—they normally attack people. And if these lions had not come to her rescue, then it would have been much worse if the men had returned until she accepted the marriage. These lions offered this 12-year-old girl protection and safety as they stood guard, and then, once the authorities found her, the headlines read, “The lions just left her like a gift and went back into the forest.” (http://www.nbcnews.com/id/8305836/#.UoPMTXCsjTo.)

Protection and safety—I’d like to share with you some principles that I hope will cause you to ponder about the truths that are offering you protection right now. Like the counsel in Doctrine and Covenants 80 states, my declarations come from things I have heard, things I believe, and things I know to be true based on my earthly experiences and from lessons I have learned from heaven, and also from my observances of other people. (See verse 4)

A wise old priest invited an Episcopal priest who was also a professor of spirituality at Columbia University to speak in his church in Alabama. She said, “What do you want me to speak on?”

“Come tell us what is saving your life right now.”

All she had to do was figure out what her life depended on. All she had to do was find some way to talk about the sense of protection that was saving her, and then help her listeners to figure out those same things for themselves. Today I would like to answer and also ask the question, “What is saving your life right now?”

In 2 Timothy, we have what would appear to be the final—some of the most final, precious and powerful words of Paul. At the time he was probably a prisoner in Rome, ready to be offered, as he said. He wrote Timothy and reminded Timothy of the blessings of his youth and the protection of having a sound mind. In [2 Timothy] 1:7 it reads, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

How would you define a sound mind? What would that feel like to you? Interesting, the word sound means “without harm or injury, in safety or security.” I loved Josh’s prayer when he said, “Please help us to be safe today.” Sound thinking, help, or soundness, sound judgment, it comes from the root sous which means safe, “to save, to deliver, to protect, to heal, to do well and be whole.”

In the words of Elder Marvin J. Ashton, he said, “When I think of a sound mind, it means to me using our ability to think, to plan, to work, and to chart our course as we sail through the seas of life.” (“Yellow Ribbons and Charted Courses,” Ensign, July 1981, http://www.lds.org/new-era/1981/07/young-women-fireside-1981/yellow-ribbons-and-charted-courses?lang=eng&query=Charted.)

Part of obtaining a sound mind is educating it. All right, here’s this story. My quest for a sound mind begins every Tuesday afternoon under the hot summer sun, where I would take my red wagon up that steep tangled hill to the Bookmobile. The library was downtown and this was just easy. Not as easy as Google, but easy. So this was my database and this was my Google, and I’m not that much older than you, for the record.

I’d step up into this makeshift library where instead of rows, there were shelves of books. And I’d load my arms to max capacity, jump down out of that bus wagon, put the books back in my wagon, sit down in the front, get the handle ready, and I’d coast down that steep tangled hill back to my home, where those books offered me protection for a week. And then I’d start the ritual again.

What is saving my life right now? Being a true student of life. Seek an education that will protect you and teach you about yourself, about your gifts and your strengths and your weaknesses. And seek an education that will enlarge your capacity, so that you can carry all that is going to be required of you ahead.

Recently, in the circles of higher education, there’s a lot of chatter and discussion about the college’s return on investment. We talk about you when you’re asleep. The Chronicle of Higher Education asks the question: “What is college for?”

I thought about that, and then I read a few answers:

 The chancellor and vice president of the University of Illinois, Phyllis Wise, states: “We must prepare our students with the tools and skills necessary for gainful employment.”

Carolyn A. Martin, president of Amherst College, said, “College is for learning how to think clearly, how to write beautifully, and how to put quantitative skills in the work of discovery.” I love this part. She says, “It’s about the gains we make, and the losses that come with them.”

The president of Dillard University Walter Kimbrough states, “Colleges are places where students learn and grow through intellectual collisions”—don’t you love that word?—“in and out of class, with professors and staff  and peers.”

I thought about that, and I thought about my own answer to the question, “What is college for?” My answer might go something like this: A college education should offer protection and inspire growth. Its main purpose is to enlighten minds, elevate hope, and ennoble souls,” which are words from the LDS Business College Mission Statement. Like those three lions that offered that 12-year-old girl protection, these three E’s will offer you protection for life, not just for a two-year degree. And perhaps you won’t be able to articulate this to future employers, but I guarantee that if you let these E’s soak into you and become a part of who you are, they’ll see it in your eyes. They’ll feel it in your heart. It is going to be the foundation of an incredible future—but not just in the workplace. In your homes as you build families, in your communities as you serve on boards and serve in PTA, and also in the Church, where you are probably going to work the very, very hardest to build the Lord’s kingdom.

It never stops. In my office, I have a quote embroidered by the hands of a dear friend that reads: “That which truly educates us heals us.” And I know—I know that some of you have had some weeks where education has inflicted pain on you, and discouragement. And we don’t set out to do that. We want it to be healing. We want it to be balm. We want you to heal and grow, and I believe—I tell students this all the time—in the very moments where you feel like you can’t take any more, you can’t handle any more, you’re at max capacity—that’s the moment, that’s the moment that the Lord is stretching your capacity so that five years, ten years down the road when you’re a bishop or a mother or a wife or a father, you’ll have that capacity built within you and you’ll know what to do.

But the classrooms—the classrooms here at the College, I believe, are some of the last best places to live deliberately, to find out who you are and what you’re made of.

We have these really cool bowls is what I call them, that you might find threaded throughout your college education here at the College—six C’s. They’re all C’s and you should see them on your syllabi, and if not, knock on my office and we’ll talk. Confirm, collaborate, communicate, construct new knowledge, comprehend, critically think, and cultivate a strong work ethic.

Even though—here’s the secret—even though they’re for you, I use these every day in my life here at the College. Even more so, in the deepest and dearest work that I do in my home, with my daughters—talk about critical thinking skills. Right there. I do more research and more thinking and more problem solving with the Lord as I guide these three lovely girls, hopefully to the end and back to heaven. This is on steroids critical thinking. You thought math was hard. Wait. This is exciting.

This is one of the sweetest places—the drafting off of my husband’s back wheel in a marriage. Those of you who are cyclists, you know that a draft saves, and a draft offers protection from the wind that is just too fierce to take. That’s what his priesthood does for me. Talk about collaboration, communication, working together, and confirming a testimony of Jesus Christ. Sixty miles that day, behind that guy’s wheel.

Then two weeks later, in the intricate balances of my friendships with these women that I ride with, this is 100 miles—this close to a woman’s back wheel for 100 miles, six hours. Constant communication, constant critical thinking, constant collaboration and communication. Some are easier to follow. Some are easier to draft off of, working as a team. And I use these skills, and I’m here doing it, learning at the College and helping you to learn them when you’re really teaching me. And I use these out where it really, really matters.

This is sweet, as I shoulder up with some of the most righteous women every week to guide a stake full of some 100 Young Women and remind them of their sacred identity. This is, right now, where my most intense collaboration, communication, constructing new knowledge is at the forefront as we’re trying to plan Young Women’s Roughout Camp.

So, they’re not just from the classroom. Here’s the exciting part. You can go home tonight and you can read 1 Nephi 5-7 and you can watch a family in action, have some front row seats to a family who communicates, collaborates—we know that was not easy for Sariah to go into that wilderness. But watch—those of you who are husbands out there—watch how Lehi communicates with her. Then once he gets the plates, watch how he constructs new knowledge, and then watch the persuasion, the communication that Nephi uses on his brothers, with the word, “How.” You see the word “how,” repeated several times—it’s really, really sweet.

Wouldn’t it be great when we return to heaven, to have the Lord say to us, “You did it. You’ve learned how to work hard. You’ve stayed true and faithful to your covenants.” And I heard the most beautiful thing recently at a funeral of a dear friend of my father’s, who said, “You learned all that you were supposed to learn.”

President Eyring was once—I just heard this in my stake conference—he was approached by a young man who was preparing to serve a mission, and he said, “President Eyring, what can I do to prepare?”

He said, “Work so hard that your ears hurt.” So work hard in your classes, and let your education save you. Résumé yourself, but make sure you are preparing a résumé for heaven. Colleges set out to have retention rates, really good retention rates, which means we want to keep you, we want to hold you, we want you to return to us. President Richards—who, by the way, if you ever wondered if anyone is praying or loving you, he is doing that every day—once taught me that our retention rates are more important than other colleges, because we want good heavenly retention rates. We want you to return to heaven, and we want to do everything we can to build your education so that it saves you someday.

There’s a sweet story that happened in a lit class last semester. Students came prepared, having read a short story by Anton Chekhov, a Russian writer in 1886. It sounds exciting, doesn’t it? And guiding this discussion was a very bright-minded and bright-hearted young man. He prepared, he studied, he researched, and then he came to make a connection between charity and Chekhov, the author.

He said, “What does charity mean to you?” to the students, and the answers started flying. Some wonderful ones came to the surface as students were critically thinking, asking questions with curious minds. And then, something stuck, when a student said, “Charity is large-heartedness.”

And this bright student took this, in companionship with the Spirit, and he ran hard with it. And he taught those students that day. Little did he know that he elevated hope in another student who finally decided that his heart was large enough to return to the mission field, because he was prepared—because both of them were prepared to be taught in a Spirit-centered classroom. Hope was elevated. And if you want to know what that short story was about, you know what to do. Come take Lit. It will change your life.

At the very last of this class, on the last day as we were reflecting about the power, and what we had learned, a student commented: “I’ve changed. I’ve changed my choices and my ways. I’ve changed pieces of who I am and pieces of my identity because of this class and its students—the students who have taught me more about who I am.”

Recommit yourself every week to ask heaven, “What did you teach me this week? What did I learn this week? What can I take forward with me so that I can get better next week?” Ask that question every week, and then it won’t feel like a treadmill that you’re racing to get off.

Which brings me to the next principle, or answer to the question, “What is saving my life right now?” A desire to be spiritually educated, so that I can continue to shape my sacred identity. Rather than treating your secular education as something different than your spiritual education, you want to work to integrate them, to bring them together. Let them feast off of each other.

If you return to 2 Timothy, this time in chapter 3, verses 14 and 15, Paul reminds Timothy—hey, remember? This is the sacred grammar of your youth. This is what you were raised on. And it worked in your youth, but now you’ve got to continue. He says, “But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned.” That word continue has a pressing forward notion. So Timothy had learned the Bible from the inside out. It became a part of him. It became his lens to the world. He knew who he was, he knew where he was going, and he knew what God expected of him. And this language became a reward of the habits of his heart, became ingrained in his heart. And he carried it with him through one of the most difficult times of Biblical crisis that there was. This is what helped him.

You know that part in Hebrews where it talks about the covenant, and I the Lord will put “the covenant” on their hearts? [See] Hebrews 8:10, if you forgot that one. Go home and read that right before you go to bed tonight. Words from Primary songs, words from hymns, words from baptismal covenants, your patriarchal blessings, words from the scriptures, and words from temple covenants. When they are etched upon your hearts they will shield and protect you.

On several occasions, I have needed protection. While traveling through the Grand Tetons, in the heart of Avalanche Canyon, in the Red Rock in central and southern Utah, and while biking on the high mesas in Moab. This is a familiar site to my eyes, in fact I just saw one on the trail this morning when we were trying to decide which way to come down. It’s called a cairn. It’s a marker of safety. When the road splits and you’re not quite sure where to go, the trail—these three man-made stones, piled high, say “this is the way. Safety is this way. Keep coming.”

Cairns are pretty metaphorical for me, because they have saved my life. In the last three years, I have had three cairns—three cairns of spirituality that have saved my life: being a student of the sacrament, being a student of the Atonement, and being a student of the temple. When I felt lost and numb and a little overwhelmed, or I wasn’t quite sure what I was supposed to be doing, the more I took this language and made it a part of me—and I’m still making it a part of me—the more protection I’m offered. I’m learning to be a lifelong student spiritually.

When I was in Galilee on a study abroad, Truman and Ann Madsen once said, “Study Isaiah 53 every time you partake of the sacrament.” Write that down. Write that down if you don’t already do that. That’s a new way to look at the sacrament. I did it all through my college years when I got home. I did it when I was young and married. And then came these three daughters, and it was all I could do—one always liked to keep the sacrament cup, and one slurped really loud, and the last one, she wanted to take the sacrament when she was ready.

So I gave up Isaiah for quite some time, and then one day I blinked and my girls were still. They were growing in the gospel, and I realized it was time to get back on board. So I started reading Isaiah and I realized those words had never really left me. They were part of me. And the Lord said, “Leslie, pay attention. Try to dig a little deeper. I’m right here and you’re not digging deep enough.” And it was in a fast and testimony meeting up at Primary Children’s Hospital. And I want to read you just a snippet of my journal. The first woman stood up and explained how she buried her husband and her daughter the day before. Their son, who was just across the room from my daughter’s room, was hanging on every day. Her loved ones were in a tragic head-on collision. She bore testimony of the healing powers of the sacrament and bore witness that Jesus Christ lives.

Another woman stood, her daughter had cancer and her world was unraveling. And she too bore testimony of the healing balm that she felt in that 30 minutes of the sacrament. And then Elder M. Russell Ballard came up out of the audience. He was visiting a great-grandchild, and he too bore testimony of the healing powers. And all the heaviness that that room had to hold, we were all healed and comforted through the Spirit and through the renewing of our covenants.

I walked the hospital halls that day and kept thinking about the word renew. We hear it often, we throw it out, grateful that we can renew our covenants. And I wonder, what does that word renew mean to me? And then I started studying. Hang on, because these are good words.

Renew has some really, really cool meanings. It means to “make new, like new, replenish, restore, recover, to begin again, to come back to, to go over again, to provide a fresh supply, to re-establish a relationship with, and to reawaken, to change form by growing.” Renew.

So every week, instead of studying Isaiah, I studied what the word renew means to me, and how it’s making sense of my weeks here on earth. I love the words of the poet Elouise Bell who says:

How pallid the bread when pale the memory.

Yet sweet is the nourishment when we his Spirit summon

By rich remembering.

     “This Do in Remembrance of Me,” Ensign, April 1980, 9)

So when you sit down on the sacrament bench, on the benches to partake, and you’re travel-torn, and you’re worn down from school, think about the word renew. Think about the safety.

The temple. If you’re waiting to take out your endowments, there is still great learning to be had at the temple. My two teenage daughters occasionally have been waking up on Tuesday mornings—these are busy chicks. They swim for four hours; one of them has a social life that doesn’t stop; they play soccer, they play piano. And I warned one of them, Kylie, “It’s going to hit you about Spanish, 1:00 o’clock, so hang in there.”

She came home, and I said, “Well, how did you do? Did you fall asleep?”

She said, “Mom, I had the best day, because I carried the words with me all day long, to every class.”

What a tender thing to have this 12-, 13-year-old girl understanding how words, spiritual words, can save and offer protection.

Vaughn J. Featherstone states, “I promise you that all who faithfully attend [the temple] will be blessed beyond measure. Your families will draw close to the Lord, and unseen angels will watch over your loved ones.”

Now for the last “what is saving my life.” At a sacrament meeting about a year ago, a spitfire sister missionary from Sweden—and we sat right where you are—she said, “You should be having an experience with the Atonement every day.” That was a hard one. I started, started kneeling down every night, going through my mistakes, going through everything I could have done better. Then I started to dig in deeper, and my dig started with this book, The Infinite Atonement by Tad Callister. And if you don’t have it, you’re not going to go back to campus. You’re going to go to Deseret Book and you’re going to get this. And you’re going to take it morsel by morsel. Just a little paragraph. It might sit by your bed at night, because the paragraphs have got to stick.

Let me give you one paragraph to whet your appetite. “The powers of the Atonement do not lie dormant until one sins and then… spring forth to satisfy the needs of the repentant person. Rather, like the forces of gravity, they are everywhere present, exerting their unseen but powerful influence.” (Deseret Book, (2000), p. 211)

So much more. “Can it not only correct”—on page 222, write that page number down, this is my favorite one—“Can it not only correct but also endow, add to, and enlarge our capacity for godhood?” So when you’re feeling like you don’t quite match up, and you’re lost and you feel inadequate, or you’re just overwhelmed, you can start to use the Atonement to help build that capacity, begin those conversations with heaven tonight. Begin those conversations tonight.

[I have a] confession to make. I requested the opening song, “Press Forward, Saints,” because that “Alleluiah” just—it rustles in me like a band of angels. I love that song, because it is about pressing, not being complacent. I love the words,

Press on, enduring in the ways of Christ.

His love proclaim thru days of mortal strife.

Thus saith our God: “Ye have eternal life!”

              (Hymns of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (1985), 81)

The knowledge that eternal life awaits me, that’s what’s saving my life right now. What do I want you to do when you leave here today? Claim your education. Take full advantage of the Spirit-centered classrooms here on campus. Renew your sacramental covenants more valiantly each week. Get to the temple more regularly. Grab a friend, go by yourself, call a family member. Be ready to learn. Have an experience with the Atonement every day, as per the sister from Sweden, and share what is saving your life right now with someone as you walk back to campus.

Now here’s what I really want you to do, in closing. I pray that each and every one of you will run and not be weary as you boldly, boldly find your place in this sacred history. You are more divine than you realize. Standing on the sidelines, watching your progress here at the College, makes me shout “Alleluiah!” for each one of you. Never lose sight of your spiritual identity as a son or daughter. With all of my heart, I know, I bear testimony, that we were in heaven with our Heavenly Father before we came here. I know this. I’ve felt it.

And lastly, my 25 words to the world, my message: Let the gospel protect you for life. Look to heaven and learn, grace upon grace, as the Master Teacher, Jesus Christ, continues to teach you. And I say these things humbly in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


Let Go and Trust the Lord

18 Jul. 2013

Transcript

Let Go and Trust the Lord

Thank you, choir, for that beautiful rendition of one of my favorites. Another favorite is the hymn that we sang at the beginning, and Adam, you touched on a subject that I was originally going to talk about today.  But given some of the things I’ve learned from students in my interpersonal communications class this semester and just listening to students in the hall, I was prompted by the Lord to go in a different direction. I am grateful for this opportunity, though a daunting one, to speak to you today and it is my humble prayer that the Spirit will prompt you to hear whatever you need to hear from this message.

A student of mine a few years ago offered a classic excuse as to why he was late turning in his literature paper. He said he decided he needed a general spiritual housecleaning and arranged to go hiking for the weekend, away from his wife, children, and material possessions. He had fasted the night before and during the day while hiking felt at one with his Father in Heaven—so much so that he didn’t even register the time. Finally, realizing that the time was late and that his wife would be waiting, he started quickly for home. As he neared a narrow part of the trail, which was sheer cliff on both sides, a gust of wind suddenly arose and swept him over the edge.

Instinctively, he reached out to grab for support and caught hold of a root of a tree. He called for 15 minutes for help and realized that no one was around to help him. So finally he called on the Lord to get him out of his predicament. He hung there for five minutes or so and then he heard a voice say, “I heard your prayers. Do you know who this is?”

“Yes, I believe it is you, Lord,” he replied.

“Do you believe I could create a wind that would lift you back on the trail?”

“Yes, Lord.”

“Do you trust me?”

“Yes. Yes, I trust you . . . but please hurry. I can’t hang on any longer.”

“If you trust me, then let go!”

There was a long . . . silence. Then the fellow said, “Can anyone else hear me?”

Although clearly apocryphal, the statement, “If you trust me, then let go,” is provocative. It suggests two questions: First, do we really trust the Lord? And second, what is it that we need to let go of? What does the root of the tree represent to us?

Let’s take a moment to explore these questions in terms of some examples. As it says in Proverbs 3:5, are you willing to “trust the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding”?

One of the best examples from the Scriptures can be seen in the life of Abraham. We’re familiar with the story. After waiting a century, the Lord blessed Abraham and Sarah with a precious son. But one day after Isaac had grown to be a lad, Abraham received a gut-wrenching revelation to offer Isaac as a sacrifice. Although there is no recorded conversation between Abraham and the Lord, we can only imagine that Abraham would have been feeling bewildered and heartbroken and may even have been reasoning: “Why would the Lord give me this commandment? It is against the Lord’s previous commandments and the teachings of all the patriarchs, including me. And if Isaac is sacrificed, how will God fulfill His promise that in Isaac my seed shall be called?” (Genesis 21:12)

But the heavens were silent. With the trust and obedience of a little child in his Heavenly Father, Abraham arose early in the morning and took Isaac to Mount Moriah. It wasn’t until Abraham lifted the knife to plunge it into Isaac that an angel stayed his hand and the Lord spoke.

We, like Abraham, must learn the principle of trusting the Lord and letting go. For Abraham, it was obeying without question and being willing to let go of his precious child. I believe many of us have a level of trust but are frustrated in meeting those Abrahamic challenges in our lives.

These challenges, of course, are never at a convenient time, and in fact, often seem to come all at once.  As Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve once said: “Though God always meters out life’s challenges so that they don’t exceed our ability to cope, there may be times and seasons, mightn’t there, when, from our standpoint we feel we are encountering a fire-hydrant’s torrent of tribulation?” (Neal A. Maxwell, We Talk of Christ, We Rejoice in Christ, Deseret Book, 1984, 70)

Six years after my husband and I were married we experienced a three-year period of what we felt was a fire-hydrant’s torrent of tribulation. Our home was burglarized—ironically, the week we had attended the temple and determined we would begin our food storage plan.  My mother, who was my mentor, role model, and confidante while I was growing up, died. The Emigration Canyon fire threatened to wipe out the home David and I had carefully built together and wipe out everyone else’s home. I had another miscarriage and was told my biological time clock had run out. And David’s business partners were not fulfilling their responsibilities.

After months of prayer and fasting and scripture study, and still receiving no answers from the Lord, we had reached our lowest point. We began thinking and feeling we were failures when a very dear friend in the Canyon visited us . . . Ed Brown—no relation. He brought with him a giant piece of a Sequoia tree. As we talked, Ed asked us, “Where do you think the strength is in the tree?”

We responded, as most do, “Well, it’s in the heart.”

But, he replied: “It is actually at the edge, barely underneath the bark. It is right here and now. It is fragile and not thick, but that’s the part that brings strength to the whole tree.” See where the rings on that picture are wider apart? Those are the years of abundance when there was lots of sun and water. See where the rings are closer together? Those are the trials, or the lean years, when the sun and water were scarce.

The giant Sequoia tree has roots just below the surface of the earth. They grow only in groves with their roots intertwined. When strong winds blow, they hold each other up—they pull together.

Then Ed asked the ultimate question: “If your soul, like a tree, had rings to measure the years of greatest personal growth, where would those growth rings or lean years be?” Clearly, we were in the lean years.

How would you respond to that question? Some of you may only have to think of this year, or maybe this semester. Others of you may be thinking of past years. How did you, or how are you getting through these challenges? Certainly seeking out the Lord by fasting and praying would be at the top of the list. Would pondering the Scriptures and your patriarchal blessing be part of that list? And as we posed with the story at the beginning: are you trusting completely the Lord? Are you letting go of something that is preventing you from becoming what the Lord knows you can become?

Elder Maxwell taught that learning to let go is “built right into the structure of life. It includes the stern and demanding isometrics of being pitted against our old selves the sternest competition we shall ever know, and we must come off conqueror.  In that stern competition, what we are in the process of becoming is assaulted and attacked by that which we are. We are to pull free, and cast off that which is not good.” (Neal A. Maxwell, “If Thou Endure It Well,” BYU Fireside, Dec. 4, 1984)

Moses is an example of experiencing this process. You remember that after killing one of the Egyptians who was whipping an Israelite slave, Moses left the comforts of the palace in Egypt where he had been raised and he fled into the wilderness to live with his people. He was minding his own business having settled into being a humble shepherd in Midian.  The Bible says that Moses was “content.” (See Exodus 2:21)

And then Moses experiences the Lord speaking to him from a burning bush. The Lord tells Moses that He plans to come down and deliver His people from their afflictions at the hands of the Egyptians. Moses must have been overjoyed with this news . . . until the Lord said, “I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt.” (Exodus 3:10)

With the scriptures that follow, we can be pretty sure that Moses suddenly changed from being overjoyed to being afraid. His negative thinking may have gone something like this: “Yes, but I’m not a person of any consequence in Egypt anymore.” “Yes, but I will be killed the moment they identify me.”

Here is how Moses actually recorded his conversation with the Lord, from Exodus 3: “Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (verse 11)

Now, the Lord immediately reassures Moses: “Certainly I will be with thee.” (verse 12)

And Moses responds: “But… they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice.” (Exodus 4:1)

So what does the Lord do? He performs several miracles with Moses’ staff and Moses’ hand. These miracles are meant to reassure Moses, and then the Lord authorizes him to perform the same miracles to the Israelites so they will know he has come to them with the power of God.

Now, you’d think Moses would have been convinced and hastened off toward Egypt with great confidence and enthusiasm. Instead, Moses offers up to the Lord a few more important negative thoughts he has had: “I am not eloquent…but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.” (Exodus 4:10)

From the Scriptures, we know that Moses had to first trust the Lord, and then to let go of his comfort zone and his negative thinking.  Now, did this happen all at once? No . . . But by doing what the Lord commanded him to do, the way was opened up for Moses to accomplish it.  And as a result, Moses reached his potential of becoming a great prophet and leader of the Israelites during 40 challenging years while leading the children of Israel out of Egypt and through the wilderness until they reached the borders of the Promised Land.

Clearly, the task of letting go of one’s old self is not easy. It is a lifelong process. Already, some of you may be thinking, “Well, yes, but that was Moses, an important person to the Lord.” And what voice is talking to you now? Not that of the Savior, but of Satan. Each one of you is important in the eyes of the Lord. He will help each one of you if you just trust in Him and let go of those parts of your old self that are holding you back from discovering your gifts and becoming all that the Lord wants you to be.

For those who engage in this process, there is a consistent pattern of action. It’s the pattern you are using in your classes right now. It’s the Lord’s pattern of learning—prepare, teach one another, ponder, and prove.

First, prepare. Pray and fast so you can get your hearts and heads, your feelings and thoughts aligned. Second, teach one another. Reach out and listen with the Spirit to someone in your support system as the Lord directs. It may be a family member, a spouse, a friend, an instructor who the Lord knows has insights from their own experiences that they can share. Third, ponder. Study and listen to the words of the Lord. Let Him speak to you from the Scriptures and from your patriarchal blessing. Fourth, prove. Trust the Lord and let go of whatever is impeding your progress.

With the permission of one of our students, I’d like to share with you her experience as she described it to me. “Looking back 16 years ago, I remember driving around Salt Lake City with a six-month-old baby in the car after signing divorce papers. I was sobbing aloud while silently asking the Lord how I would care for my three young children with no education. The Lord’s answer was clear, that if I would serve Him and keep His commandments, He would always take care of me. And He did. Through miracles and blessings, I was able to raise my children with jobs that allowed me to stay home.”

As her children grew older, she was able to find work outside the home, and every day went to work happy—that’s what we’re told we should do, right? Be cheerful, even amidst our trials. But after many lean years of struggling from one low-paying job to another, and always being passed over for better employment because she did not have an education, once again her pain spilled over in tears. She said the more she fasted and prayed about going to school, the more confused she felt. Has that ever happened to you? It has to me. She did not have enough money to go to school, and she kept rehearsing something negative she had heard many years earlier. Three different professionals in the education system told her she was too stupid to learn math. The third time, she closed her books and walked out of the university feeling totally demoralized and vowing to never return.

Every message and event in our lives, whether negative or positive, that we see and hear, triggers a picture like a camera, which in turn triggers an emotion of how we feel about ourselves. And those pictures get catalogued in our minds. And as we know, those pictures are there, no matter how far back. It’s the way we choose to interpret those messages and events that becomes our self-image.

As Joyce Meyer has said in her book The Battlefield of the Mind, “Satan takes our circumstances – no matter what they are – and uses them to build strongholds in our lives.” (Joyce Meyer, The Battlefield of the Mind, Time Warner Book Group, 2005, 24) When it appears that we are trying to break free from such strongholds, he bombards us with fears and doubts. When we have moments that remind us of some perceived inadequacy or some weakness, we must guard against the habit of rehearsing negative thoughts. They are a powerful tool of the adversary. He wants to make us miserable like he is. He wants to prevent us from seeing our self-worth and fulfilling our potential.

To continue the story of this student, she was studying and pondering the Scriptures one day when she came to 2 Nephi 4:33-35: “O Lord, wilt thou encircle me around in the robe of thy righteousness! O Lord, wilt thou make a way for mine escape before mine enemies! Wilt thou make my path straight before me! Wilt thou not place a stumbling block in my way—but that thou wouldst clear my way before me, and hedge not up my way, but the ways of mine enemy.

“O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arms of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh….

Yea, I know that God will give liberally to him that asketh. Yea, my God will give me, if I ask not amiss; therefore I will lift up my voice unto thee; yea, I will cry unto thee.”

She had read those words before. This time as she pondered and listened to the Lord, those words took on a new meaning given her current circumstances. “Enemies” and the “arms of flesh” she likened to those who had said hurtful things to her, especially the three teachers. She realized she was hanging onto the equivalent of an internal enemy by rehearsing the words “stupid,” and that she was staying in her current rut because it was comfortable, and after all, it would pay the bills. “Stumbling block” she likened to the fear of education. “Clear my way before me” and “if I ask Him”—she had much experience in many other areas of her life of trusting the Lord, and she had faith He would help her now even though she didn’t have money to go to school. But she was still afraid.

That weekend she asked her oldest son, a returned missionary, if he would fast and pray with her, and that night she cried unto the Lord and pleaded with Him about what she was feeling and that she didn’t even know what to think anymore. “Go back to school” was the answer. The answer confirmed what she had heard the Savior saying through those scriptures.  And right on schedule, Satan’s voice began bombarding her: “Yes, but I don’t have any money,” “Yes, but that isn’t one of my choices because I’m stupid.”

The next morning as she and her son broke their fast, he suggested that she attend the LDS Business College with him. He then said, “Mother, it’s time to let go, to take the leap of faith and trust the Lord.” And so, trusting and letting go of her fear of education, Sherrie Cope walked into the College. The first person she met was a woman who had been widowed at a young age. She had raised her baby daughter, returned to school, graduated, and now was the director of enrollment management. Now was that by chance? No. God doesn’t work by chance; He works by miracles.

Sherrie learned about the Single Parent Scholarship, applied and received one. While deciding on a program of study, her eyes focused on entrepreneurship, and she suddenly remembered she said, “a part of my patriarchal blessing that indicated that I would have experiences that would change my life. I understood that this program was something that would change my life and change my financial situation. I remember being scared.  But that first day in class I saw the love the instructor had for his students and knew I was going to be okay. And I believed in the Learning Pattern.”

Sherrie was quiet and pensive in class, which caught the attention of the instructor. “After learning of her plight, the instructor promised that, together, she would succeed. There would be no failing on his watch.” By diligently using the learning pattern in her studies, she passed the class with an A-. One success has led to another. She has learned that she can learn. She has developed new skills and a newfound confidence. And she has fulfilled a long-held dream, to produce and market the family pancake recipe, a project begun by her grandfather. Her pancakes have gained quick fame.  And most of all, Sherrie, who had practiced the principle of trusting the Lord through many lean years, learned to apply the principle of letting go—in this case, of those negative thoughts about herself and education.

As the author Vash Young expressed it: “There is no finer sensation in life than that which comes with victory over one’s self. It feels good to go fronting into a hard wind, winning against its power; but it feels a thousand times better to go forward to a goal of inward achievement, brushing aside all your old internal enemies, your “Yes, Buts, as you advance.”

Letting go might mean to stop being angry over the death of a loved one. Letting go might mean to stop trying to be in the middle, arranging all the outcomes. Letting go might mean to stop blaming others.

As Elder Neal A. Maxwell said: “Of course our genes, circumstances, and environments matter very much, and they shape us significantly. Yet there remains an inner zone in which we are sovereign, unless we abdicate. In this zone lies the essence of our individuality and our personal accountability.” (Neal A. Maxwell, “According to the Desire of [Our] Hearts,” Proceedings of General Conference, Nov. 1996, 21) https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1996/10/according-to-the-desire-of-our-hearts?lang=eng) Thus, it is not only our personal privilege, but also our personal responsibility to act, to trust the Lord, and let go.

That was true with me. My father died when I was 2 years old. My other siblings were 11, 12, and 17. My mother, who was 45 at the time, renewed her dual teaching certificate and returned to the classroom to support us. Her motto? “Be prepared; you never know what you may have to deal with in your life.” The message was clear. I focused on getting my education. My plan was simple—complete my bachelor’s degree, teach high school, get married, and have children, just like my mother and my older sister.

But when I did my student teaching, I discovered that teaching high school was not for me. And to make matters worse, there was no husband anywhere on the horizon. My David had not come along yet. Where did I go wrong with my plan? My plan. I searched my patriarchal blessing and the Scriptures. President Monson has said of a patriarchal blessing: “The same Lord who provided a Liahona for Lehi provides for you and for me today a rare and valuable gift to give direction to our lives.” (Thomas S. Monson, “Preparation Precedes Performance,” Ensign, Sept. 1993, 71)

As I reviewed my patriarchal blessing, I noticed the words “trust” and “peace.” I wrote each word on a separate 5” X 8” card and filled the cards with scriptures on each word—two cards front and back for “trust” and one front and back for “peace.” Let me share just one of the scriptures that resonated with me. In Alma 38:5 we read, “And now, my son Shiblon” [I heard the words, “And now, my daughter Carolyn”] “I would that ye should remember, that as much as ye shall put your trust in God even so much ye shall be delivered out of your trials, and your troubles, and your afflictions.”

According to Webster’s Dictionary, “to trust is to be confident in God’s character and declarations with an unreserved surrender of our will to his guidance.” (Noah Webster, American Dictionary of the English Language, 1828)  I believe many of us find it easy to trust in God’s character and declarations.  But we find it much more difficult to do so with an unreserved surrender of our will and our plan for His will and His plan for us.

My mother, sensing my frustration, encouraged me to talk to my professors. One of them said, “Well, Carolyn, I thought you were going on for your doctorate degree so that you could teach at the college level.” The thought had never entered my mind. After all, I really just wanted to get married and have children. No sooner had I begun to ponder that option when, right on schedule, the negative thoughts kicked in: “Yes, but how could I afford more school?” and “Yes, but am I that smart?”

We are here to overcome our self-imposed limitations. The greatest revelation we can have is when we realize we are not limited. We have greater powers and possibilities than we think. We have the help of God.

I fervently prayed to the Lord for guidance and was prompted to apply for a graduate fellowship. I can still remember that day in April when I was awarded that fellowship, and while walking from one end of the campus to the other, I felt that peaceful confirmation that this was the Lord’s plan for me, and He would help me. It was difficult to say “Thy will be done” and set aside what I thought was a very good plan in favor of the Lord’s plan. Now was everything smooth sailing after that? No. After completing the challenging coursework, I had to spend several days taking a myriad of written exams and an oral exam.  The pressure was incredible because I was the first female student, and a Mormon, that had been awarded that fellowship in the English department at the University of Utah.

My committee chairman gave me my first essay question and a Blue Book. For some of us, that dates us, right? A book of  lined paper with a blue cover. He put me in one of the faculty offices at the end of a hallway of Orson Spencer Hall. The noise was incredible—telephones ringing, people talking, a baby crying—and after 10 minutes I rushed to his office and exclaimed, “I can’t think with all that noise!” He quickly found another room and I completed the exam.

Driving home it dawned on me that I had been studying in total quiet in the library and at home. I fervently prayed to the Lord to know how to create that environment. The instruction came: Stop and pick up earplugs. Two days later, I returned to the campus at night, as my chairman suggested, to take the second exam. He found a room—more like a closet—with a small table and a few chairs. He handed me the Blue Book, and said he would return after teaching his class. I closed the door, sat down with my back to it, put in my earplugs, and began writing nonstop in quiet as the ideas flowed. It was amazing. The only thing that would have made it better is if I’d had a computer. But they hadn’t been invented yet.

Well, I was busy writing away and all of a sudden I felt a hand on my shoulder. I jumped up and turned around, totally startled, and pulled out my earplugs. Years later he told me I was the only graduate student he knew who had used earplugs for the written exam. Then, the night before my oral exam, I confided in my mother that I was very frightened, because there were five of them but only one of me—sort of like in the Roman Coliseum with lions five and Christians one—and they knew so much more than I did. She reminded me the Lord was on my side. As we knelt by my bedside, she offered a powerful prayer, drawing on the power of my father’s priesthood.

The next morning, I stood before the committee, who started asking their barrage of questions. I was extremely nervous, but as I was answering the second question and looking at my audience of five professors, I suddenly realized I’d seen this picture before, right down to what each one was wearing and where each one was sitting. A quiet peace filled my soul, reassuring me I would pass, and just like the Lord has said in Doctrine and Covenants 6:23, “Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater witness can you have than from God?”

I had learned to let go of listening to Satan’s voice of fear and doubt, to listen to the Savior’s voice of faith and hope—to humbly surrender my will and trust Him completely. I’ve been given many opportunities since then to demonstrate to the Lord that I am getting better at acting on these two principles. Does it get easier? No. However, our capacity to deal with our challenges in life is greater through consistent practice using the Scriptures, your patriarchal blessing, and the Learning Pattern.

Well, my mother had assured me:  “If you are prepared, the Lord will open up a place for you where He needs you the most.”  Little did I know where He needed me. He led me to LDS Business College where He planted me and I thrived with challenging assignments, choice colleagues, and wonderful students. And as President Richards said, this has been my passion. It is you students who inspired this talk today. I can only hope that whatever it was you needed to hear that the voice of the Lord has spoken to you. And when you reach one or more of those lean years and you find yourself rehearsing those negative thoughts which create those emotions of confusion, fear and doubt, please remember God has given you the agency to act. Use the Lord’s lifelong pattern of learning. Study and ponder the Scriptures and your patriarchal blessing. Listen to the Lord’s voice of faith and hope concerning you. Trust the Lord completely and let go. Be willing to sacrifice at any moment what you are—your old self—so He can help you accomplish what He wants you to do and become what He wants you to become, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

 

 


7 Keys to Happiness

18 Jul. 2013

Transcript

7 Keys to Happiness

What makes me happy is.....

  1. Having my wife by my side.
  2. Having my son come and hang out with his old man today.
  3. Having another son on a mission.
  4. Chocolate makes me happy.

Some might consider happiness as relaxing and not feeling the stress of having to reach certain milestones in life.... it might look like this:

 

Others might consider that happiness is being able to do what we want, when we want ....

I envision it looking something like this:

 

Happiness can affect our lives in many different ways.

For example, being unhappy could cause problems for us. I had a boss whose personal philosophy in dealing with unhappy people looked a lot like this:

Regardless of how we define it, the desire to be happy is a fundamental part of being human.

Father Lehi taught his son Jacob:

Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy. (2 Nephi 2:25)

Abraham talked about happiness:

And, finding there was greater happiness and peace and rest for me, I sought for the blessings of the fathers, and the right whereunto I should be ordained to administer the same... (Abraham 1:2)

NOTE: Abraham “sought” for this happiness. It wasn’t just provided.

Even the founding fathers of this great nation listed the Pursuit of Happiness as a fundamental right from God:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Don’t confuse Happiness with Pleasure. The poet Robert Burns (1759–96) wrote an excellent definition of pleasure in these lines:

“But pleasures are like poppies spread:
You seize the flow’r, its bloom is shed;
Or like the snow falls in the river,
A moment white—then melts for ever;
Or like the borealis race,
That flit ere you can point their place;
Or like the rainbow’s lovely form
Evanishing amid the storm.”

So, it is important to understand what real happiness is.... not the counterfeit.

How do we navigate this life? Follow the rules that govern the universe.

“There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.” D&C 130:20-21

George Rogers, in his edited compilation of Benjamin Franklin’s “The Art of Virtue” wrote the following:

The one unifying thread through all human endeavor is the quest for happiness. To be happy is, perhaps, the only common objective shared by all people in all ages. Every other human aspiration may be explained in context of its perceived value in contributing to this universal goal. For all its importance, however, few people seem to realize there are laws that govern happiness as surely as there are laws that govern the forces of nature. The better a person understands the laws of happiness, the greater his chances are of doing those things that will bring him happiness.

My 7 rules for finding true happiness:

1. Discover who you are

a. “Discover” is an active verb, not a passive verb.

b. Ugly duckling - Hans Christian Anderson (1844)

And so they made themselves comfortable; but the poor duckling, who had crept out of his shell last of all, and looked so ugly, was bitten and pushed and made fun of, not only by the ducks, but by all the poultry.

“He is too big,” they all said, and the turkey cock, who had been born into the world with spurs, and fancied himself really an emperor, puffed himself out like a vessel in full sail, and flew at the duckling, and became quite red in the head with passion, so that the poor little thing did not know where to go, and was quite miserable because he was so ugly and laughed at by the whole farmyard. So it went on from day to day till it got worse and worse. The poor duckling was driven about by every one; even his brothers and sisters were unkind to him, and would say, “Ah, you ugly creature, I wish the cat would get you,” and his mother said she wished he had never been born. The ducks pecked him, the chickens beat him, and the girl who fed the poultry kicked him with her feet. So at last he ran away, frightening the little birds in the hedge as he flew over the palings.

..............

(He hid for a year, then the following spring he saw some swans swimming in a nearby lake...)

“I will fly to those royal birds,” he exclaimed, “and they will kill me, because I am so ugly, and dare to approach them; but it does not matter: better to be killed by them than pecked by the ducks, beaten by the hens, pushed about by the maiden who feeds the poultry, or starved with hunger in the winter.”

Then he flew to the water, and swam towards the beautiful swans. The moment they espied the stranger, they rushed to meet him with outstretched wings.

“Kill me,” said the poor bird; and he bent his head down to the surface of the water, and awaited death. But what did he see in the clear stream below? His own image; no longer a dark, gray bird, ugly and disagreeable to look at, but a graceful and beautiful swan. To be born in a duck’s nest, in a farmyard, is of no consequence to a bird, if it is hatched from a swan’s egg. He now felt glad at having suffered sorrow and trouble, because it enabled him to enjoy so much better all the pleasure and happiness around him; for the great swans swam round the new-comer, and stroked his neck with their beaks, as a welcome. Into the garden presently came some little children, and threw bread and cake into the water.

“See,” cried the youngest, “there is a new one;” and the rest were delighted, and ran to their father and mother, dancing and clapping their hands, and shouting joyously, “There is another swan come; a new one has arrived.”

Then they threw more bread and cake into the water, and said, “The new one is the most beautiful of all; he is so young and pretty.” And the old swans bowed their heads before him. Then he felt quite ashamed, and hid his head under his wing; for he did not know what to do, he was so happy, and yet not at all proud. He had been persecuted and despised for his ugliness, and now he heard them say he was the most beautiful of all the birds. Even the elder-tree bent down its bows into the water before him, and the sun shone warm and bright. Then he rustled his feathers, curved his slender neck, and cried joyfully, from the depths of his heart, “I never dreamed of such happiness as this, while I was an ugly duckling.”

How do you see yourself?

○ Do you view yourself through the filter of self-doubt?

○ Do you accept the lie that you are unworthy of greatness?

○ Or that you are incapable of success?

Stop it! Stop it right now! Each one of you is a swan!

You may not look like those around you, you may not feel accepted by those around you.....

Remember you’re the swan. Let them be the ducklings.

c. Moses discovered his true relationship with God, God spoke to him:

And I have a work for thee, Moses, my son; and thou art in the similitude of mine Only Begotten; and mine Only Begotten is and shall be the Savior, for he is full of grace and truth; but there is no God beside me, and all things are present with me, for I know them all.

And now, behold, this one thing I show unto thee, Moses, my son, for thou art in the world, and now I show it unto thee.

And it came to pass that Moses looked, and beheld the world upon which he was created; and Moses beheld the world and the ends thereof, and all the children of men which are, and which were created; of the same he greatly marveled and wondered.

And the presence of God withdrew from Moses, that his glory was not upon Moses; and Moses was left unto himself. And as he was left unto himself, he fell unto the earth.

And it came to pass that it was for the space of many hours before Moses did again receive his natural strength like unto man; and he said unto himself: Now, for this cause I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed. Moses 1:6-10

Moses was raised as a Prince, yet he discovered that God was so much more powerful than any King, also that mortality is not the culmination of our existence, immortality is. If our view of our overall existence begins and ends with mortality, then we do not yet understand that “man is nothing, which thing (we) never had supposed.”

You know you are the son or daughter of God.... The son or daughter of God.

○ Ponder that for a moment.

○ You are not just a person living pointlessly on this planet.

○ You have the potential to spread your wings and fly as high as the next Swan.

○ Don’t ever let Satan’s influence convince you that you are not worthy enough, or good enough. It’s a lie!

2. Tap into your spiritual self

d. Example of horse blinders.... Keep the attention of the horse focused. They only see what is right in front of them. They don't see the whole picture.

i. We are not mortal beings trying to become spiritual. We are actually spiritual beings going through a mortal experience.

e. How do we tap into our spiritual self?

f. Elijah teaches us what it is like to communicate with the Spirit...

And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake:

And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. I Kings 19:11-12

g. Ponder - How can we get in touch with our Spiritual self?

i. Turn off the electronics

ii. Drive without the radio

iii. Come here to Temple Square

iv. Find your temple

1. My personal “temple” was on the side of the mountain overlooking

the city.

3. Think beyond your current situation

h. Story of David and Goliath

And David said to Saul, Let no man’s heart fail because of him; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine.

And Saul said to David, Thou art not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him: for thou art but a youth, and he a man of war from his youth.

And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father’s sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock: And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him.

Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God. David said moreover, The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine. And Saul said unto David, Go, and the Lord be with thee.

i. Don’t limit yourself

i. Just because you’ve always done something a certain way doesn’t mean it has to be done this way.

j. Think beyond your past

i. It doesn’t matter if your parents were divorced.

ii. It doesn’t matter if you were orphaned as a child.

iii. It doesn’t matter if you’ve failed before.

iv. It doesn’t matter if you have no money.

v.It doesn’t matter if you’ve never accomplished anything substantial before

vi. Do NOT let your past limit you!

k. Another example is Jonathan Livingston Seagull (Richard Bach)

i. He wanted to see what he could do, he wanted to fly higher, dive faster, and do it without killing himself, but he kept failing... and finally after a particularly nasty crash he pondered:

“As he sank low in the water, a strange hollow voice sounded within him. There’s no way around it. I am a seagull. I am limited by my nature. If I were meant to learn so much about flying, I’d have charts for brains. If I were meant to fly at speed, I’d have a falcon’s short wings, and live on mice instead of fish. My father was right. I must forget this foolishness. I must fly home to the Flock and be content as I am, as a poor limited seagull.”

But as he slowly flew home and pondered some more (see how he’s using the learning model here?)

And then he realized..... “It’s dark! The hollow voice cracked in alarm. Seagulls never fly in the dark! If you were meant to fly in the dark, you’d have the eyes of an owl! You’d have charts for brains! You’d have a falcon’s short wings!

And there in the night, a hundred feet in the air, Jonathan Livingston Seagull blinked. His pain, and his (negative resignations) vanished.

Short wings! A Falcon’s short wings!

That’s the answer! What a fool I’ve been! All I need is a tiny little wing, all I need is to fold most of my wings and fly on just the tips alone! Short wings!

He climbed two thousand feet above the black sea, and without a moment for thought of failure and death, he brought his forewings tightly into his body, left only the narrow swept daggers of his wingtips extended into the wind, and fell into a vertical dive.

The wind was a monster roar at his head. Seventy miles per hour, then ninety, then a hundred and twenty and faster still. The wing-strain now at a hundred and forty miles per hour wasn’t nearly as hard as it had been before at seventy, and with the faintest twist of his wingtips he eased out of the dive and shot above the waves, a gray cannonball under the moon. He closed his eyes to slits against the wind and rejoiced.”

4. Define your priorities

l. Clayton Christensen’s example of his classmates from Harvard.

i. Reunions every 5 years

ii. Among his classmates were executives at renowned consulting and finance firms like McKinsey & Co. and Goldman Sachs; others were on their way to top spots in Fortune 500 companies

“Despite such professional accomplishments, however, many of them were clearly unhappy...My classmates were not only some of the brightest people I’ve known, but some of the most decent people, too. At graduation they had plans and visions for what they would accomplish, not just in their careers, but in their personal lives as well. Yet something had gone wrong for some of them along the way: their personal relationships had begun to deteriorate, even as their professional prospects blossomed.“

At the time, I assumed it was a blip; a kind of midlife crisis. But at our twenty-five and thirty-year reunions the problems were worse. One of our classmates -- Jeffrey Skilling -- had landed in jail for his role in the Enron scandal....

Personal dissatisfaction, family failures, professional struggles, even criminal behavior -- these problems weren’t limited to my classmates at Harvard Business School. I saw the same thing happen to my classmates in the years after we completed our studies as Rhodes Scholars at Oxford University. One played a prominent role in a major insider trading scandal. Another ended up in jail because of a sexual relationship with a teenager who had worked on his political campaign. (He was married with three children at the time.) One who I thought was destined for greatness in his professional and family spheres had struggled in both, including more than one divorce. I know for sure that none of these people graduated with a deliberate strategy to get divorced or lose touch with their children, much less to end up in jail. Yet, this is the exact strategy that too many ended up implementing.

“How will you measure your life?” Clayton Christensen

m. What are your priorities?

i. Making lots of money?

ii. Job title?

iii. Church title?

iv. Being a good husband or wife?

v.Being a good father or mother?

vi. Being right in every argument?

vii. Getting a college degree?

n. Christ taught:

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matt 6:33

5. Serve those around you

o. Love is a verb

i. Story of Grandpa taking care of Grandma.

p. We love whom we serve - Good Samaritan - “Go and do thou likewise”

“And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?

He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou?

And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.

And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.

But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?

*************

Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?

And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise. Luke 10:25 - 37

q. Story at BYU. Struggling during a semester and so I volunteered at a special ed school in the evenings.

6. Bend your knees

r. Pray often

s. Receive not because you ask not

t. Joseph Smith did not receive any heavenly visitations until after he asked. The entire restoration was triggered because of answers to prayers.

u. 2 Nephi 32:4

“Wherefore, now after I have spoken these words, if ye cannot understand them it will be because ye ask not, neither do ye knock; wherefore, ye are not brought into the light, but must perish in the dark.”

v. Doctrine and Covenants 29:33

“Speaking unto you that you may naturally understand; but unto myself my works have no end, neither beginning; but it is given unto you that ye may understand, because ye have asked it of me and are agreed.

w. D&C 38:30

“I tell you these things because of your prayers;”

x. 1 John 3:22

“And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.”

7. Take responsibility for your choices

y. The essence of this life is Agency. God wants us to create our own happiness because we make our own choices.

z. Personal responsibility - We choose our destiny.

aa. Perhaps it’s appropriate to quote the very wise and very honorable professor and world-renowned historian, Indiana Jones:

i. The scene in the cave when Indiana Jones meets the one remaining knight who is protecting the Holy Grail.

ii. The Nazi rushes to find the grail and drinks from the wrong one... the results are not pleasant.

iii. The knight quietly observes: “He chose poorly.”

bb. Father Lehi taught:

And now, my sons, I speak unto you these things for your profit and learning; for there is a God, and he hath created all things, both the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are, both things to act and things to be acted upon.

And to bring about his eternal purposes in the end of man, after he had created our first parents, and the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and in fine, all things which are created, it must needs be that there was an opposition; even the forbidden fruit in opposition to the tree of life; the one being sweet and the other bitter. Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other. 2 Nephi 2:11-12

cc. Are you being acted upon? Are you letting your life just kind of take you where it takes you?

dd. When Adam and Eve were being obedient they enjoyed the presence of God and lived peaceful lives, but once they had sinned, their actions and thought-processes seemed to change. Now they’re starting to sound like us:

i. When the Lord asked Adam, whether he’d eaten of the fruit, his response was to blame Eve.

And the man said: The woman thou gavest me, and commandest that she should remain with me, she gave me of the fruit of the tree and I did eat. Moses 4:18

ii. Of course, Eve was no better:

And I, the Lord God, said unto the woman: What is this thing which thou hast done? And the woman said: The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat. Moses 4:19

ee. Sin changes us....

“Something about sin changes us, kind of like bodily addictions do. We view the world differently after we sin than before. Like Adam, we become more concerned with ourselves and with how we look, and we somehow lose sight of the Lord and our need for him. We begin to see the world in ways that excuse our indiscretions. And then, like a kind of addiction, I suppose, we find it easier to continue in sinful paths. In fact, after Adam and Eve’s transgression, Satan was able to get them to do something that never would have entered their minds before --- to hide from the Lord.”

The PeaceGiver - James Ferrell

ff. The Lord has made it very clear that your own personal happiness is totally within your control.

gg. Alma’s own son, Corianton, was making some poor choices

“Do not suppose, because it has been spoken concerning restoration, that ye shall be restored from sin to happiness. Behold, I say unto you, wickedness never was happiness.” Alma 41:10

hh. In Tolstoy’s book War and Peace, the Russian writer opined

“that man is created for happiness, that happiness is within him, in the satisfaction of simple human needs, and that all unhappiness arises not from privation but from superfluity” (translated by Louise and Aylmer Maude [1942], 1176).

su·per·flu·i·ty = “unnecessary things”

So often we find ourselves striving for the “unnecessary thing.” We are not content with what we have and think that happiness comes from having more or acquiring more or being more. We look for happiness but go in the wrong direction to find it.

ii. King Mosiah preached a powerful sermon on happiness. The way in which we live our life does matter:

“And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it.”Mosiah 2:41

So there you have it..... Brother DeGraw’s 7 Keys to Happiness

  1. Discover who you are
  2. Tap into your spiritual self
  3. Think beyond your current situation
  4. Define your priorities
  5. Serve those around you
  6. Bend your knees
  7. Take responsibility for your choices

In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen


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