The Things of Worth
It's nice to be with all of you this morning and to be part of this devotional. I think some of the wonderful privileges we have are to speak to our institute, our university students and college students all over the state. I'm delighted and honored to be here with you. Sister Hales–it is hard for me to call her that–was one of our great sisters in the mission field. We loved her very much and appreciate her being with us.
There is a statement that oftentimes a man of many years may die with the heart of a boy. It's interesting that in my life every time I see a tree I think I'd like to climb that tree. I see creeks and streams and think I'd like to swim in those, or pristine lakes or mountains to climb, and I still have that in my heart to do. They'll make me emeritus in a little while and I'll be able to do some of those things I haven't been able to do. But I do want to share with you some thoughts this morning that might be of worth.
Henry Drummond said, "I lived for myself, I thought for myself, for myself and none beside–just as if Jesus have never lived, as if Jesus have never died." I think all that we do ought to be focused on Him and His life. We should live the principles that He taught and have the work ethic, the spirituality and all of the dimensions of life that came from Him.
President Joseph F. Smith said, "After we have done all we could do for the cause of truth, and withstood the evil that men have brought upon us, and we have been been overwhelmed by their wrongs, it is still our duty to stand. We cannot give up; we must not lie down. Great causes are not won in a single generation. To stand firm in the face of overwhelming opposition when you have done all you can, is the courage of faith. The courage of faith is the courage of progress. Men who possess that divine quality go on; they are not permitted to stand still if they would. They are not creatures of their own power and wisdom; they are instrumentalities of a higher law and a divine purpose" (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, p. 107-108). I think all of us are. We all qualify for that.
I want to share a verse here, and I think most of you will respond to it.
"At sweet 16 I first began to ask the good Lord for a man.
At 17 I recall I wanted someone strong and tall.
The Christmas I reached 18 I fancied someone blond and lean.
And then at 19 I was sure I'd fall for someone more mature.
At 20, I thought I'll find romance with someone with a mind.
I retrogressed at 21 and found college boys more fun.
My viewpoint changed at 22 when one man only was my cue.
He broke my heart at 23, so I begged for someone kind to me.
Then begged when I was 24 for anyone who wouldn't bore.
Now Lord that I am 25, just send me someone who's alive."
I heard about the young man who went out on his date, and she didn't want to go with him. Finally, after he was so persistent, she decided well, if I go on one date with him maybe he'll get off my back. But he had a great time and she had a miserable one. As they came in, he stood in the porch and he just cupped his hands like this. He said, "If you can tell me what's in here, I'll give you a wonderful good night kiss.
She said, "An elephant."
He said, "Close enough."
As I have thought about what your life is, I'd like to share some things that I think will be relevant. Enoch said he beheld the heavens weep. He prayed to God: "How is it that thou canst weep, seeing thou art holy, and from all eternity to all eternity? And were it possible [now think about this] that man could number the particles of the earth, yea, millions of earths like this it would not be a beginning to the number of thy creations; and thy curtains are stretched out still; and...thou art just, thou art merciful and kind forever....How is it that thou canst weep?" (Moses 7:24-31).
And then God let Enoch behold through his spiritual eyes the inhabitants of the earth and the righteousness and the wickedness and the misery. And then you remember the scripture that says that Enoch stretched forth his arms. I can see this mighty prophet with his arms outstretched. "His heart swelled wide as eternity, and his bowels yearned; and all eternity shook" (Moses 7:41).
Now I think we have to just understand a little bit about who this Jesus is when we talk about the things of worth this morning.
If you went out tonight, with a naked eye you could see 5,000 stars. With a pair of binoculars you could see 50,000. With a high-powered telescope you could see beyond our galaxy. If this chapel where the Milky Way galaxy, way out in the far distance–almost to the wall–you'll find just a little dot; and that would be this earth. You can look up at night and see the galaxy; we are part of the Milky Way galaxy. They say it's 600 billion miles across and has 400 to 600 billion stars in it. They have identified 21 additional galaxies besides this galaxy.
Over the years some amazing things have happened. But when you think a million seconds is 12 days, a billion seconds is 32 years, you would have to get a dollar a second for 32 years before you would be a billionaire. A trillion seconds is 32,000 years. We have the Hubble telescope that is circumnavigating the earth about 300 miles out there. The mirror is faced out, and the mirror is about eight and one-half feet in diameter. If you pointed–take your arm and point it to a grain of sand at the end of your finger–at the least populated part of the cosmos, there are layer upon layer of galaxies. They say there may be as many as hundreds of billions of galaxies.
"If you could hie to Kolob in the twinkling of an eye,
And then continue onward with that same speed to fly,
Do you think you could ever, through all eternity,
Find out the generation where Gods began to be?" (Hymns, 289)
Now, the Hubble telescope will probe 14 billion light years. Do you know how far that is? How fast does light travel–186 thousand miles a second, times 60 seconds, times 60 minutes, times 24 hours, times 365 in a year, times 14 billion. Do you know how far that is? I actually figured it out during a very dull meeting one day. It's 81 trillion million miles. We're here and we're going some place. Sometimes we think there won't be any space for us out there if we can become as God. But there's space–I want to promise you that my young friends.
Now, another dimension. A lot of you are involved in computers. Does anybody here know what a tera-flop is? It's a trillion calculations. A trillion calculations--imagine that. They have computers now that will do eight and ten tera-flops and in the wings those that will do one hundred tera-flops.
Do you think that the best computer and the smartest computer that we can invent is greater than God or his mind? Is there any wonder to you or have you ever wondered how He can answer your prayer when you have a specific, little problem that's only yours but it's a real serious problem to you? There are almost six billion people; and I don't understand everything, but I think I can understand how He can attend to my little problems–or sometimes they are pretty major problems at least to me–and understand how He does that. Now it's interesting with the computer that they can take all of Shakespeare's works, translate them into 200 languages and transmit them from New York to Omaha in less than one two-thousandth of a second.
We live in an interesting time. I was having lunch with Elder Russell M. Nelson. He is, as you know, a heart surgeon; and he said he's performed almost 7,000 open-heart surgeries. He wrote a chapter in a book that I had the privilege of writing a chapter in at the same time called "Turning Points." In that book they asked us to write a chapter of a turning point in our life. One of the turning points in his life was when he was in medical school. He said he found out that the heart actually pumps 2,000 gallons of blood every day. I just figured out this morning if you get 20 miles to the gallon, you can go 40,000 miles around the earth and about two-thirds of the way around the earth the second time if you're getting 20 miles to the gallon and it does that every single day for as long as you live. Those little valves in your heart, he says, open and close just little oftener than a second (maybe not quite a second depending what your heartbeat is). He said we have never invented a material that will open and fold a billion times in 34 years without eventually tearing or breaking on the creases, but yours don't.
Many talk about this little skin, the cloak that we have over our body. He said if you move a little of it, it will repair. But if you move a lot of it, two-thirds of it or so, you won't live. He said he found out that the miracle really is within you, and you've read that before in the scriptures. The miracle of God is within us–who we are and what we can do. The finger movements and eye movement and all that we have that makes up this body is a wonderful thing. Also, we generate enough energy to lift a 150-pound man the height of an Empire State Building.
Now where does all of this lead? We're here and we're going someplace. If there are hundreds of billions of galaxies out there (and there are), then what we do in this life is ever so important. All of you have kept your first estate, and we are in the process of our second estate. We need to keep our second estate.
David McDougal is the mission president now in Atlanta, and he said either when he was a boy or his father was a boy, they lived on the Great Lakes. I don't think anyone in this room except me would relate to this, but they used to go out in the Great Lakes and cut huge chunks of ice. Then they would have these pulled out of the lake by a team of horses, put them on sleds, take them to an ice house and then cover them over with sawdust. We did that out at Moon Lake outside of Duchesne when I was just a boy. I remember they would bring all this ice and put it in an ice house, and then they would stack sawdust and the ice would keep through July and even into early August–even during the heat of the weather. There was such an insulation factor in sawdust that it kept ice through most of the summer. Then they could make ice cream and other things they would want through the summer.
One time when they were bringing the ice out of the Great Lakes way back about the turn of the century, I think it was David McDougal's [father] who was helping them, and his gold watch heirloom that his father had given him fell out of his pocket into the sawdust. Everybody stopped and they started feeling through the sawdust to find this watch. They couldn't find it anywhere and finally gave up and just simply loaded all the rest of the ice. Young David McDougal's father sat down in the ice house after everyone else had left. When it was absolutely quiet–not a sound–he could hear tick, tick, tick, tick. He just followed the sound, went over and moved a little bit of sawdust and pulled his father's watch out. I've been around a little bit, and that is the way the Spirit works. You do need some quiet time when you really can listen.
We organize a lot of stakes. We do a lot of work in the kingdom, and we have to make decisions. When it comes time to make the decision–if you're really listening and if you're very quiet–it just almost sneaks up on you and you have the answer. We were reorganizing a stake not too far from here; it was the Emigration Stake. As we knelt down to pray just quietly, as we prayed the answer came. Although there were several different attitudes before we prayed who it should be, I had an impression exactly what the stake would be six years from now under different conditions and knew exactly who the Lord wanted. I think one of the things I would counsel in your business life–when you're out in the world–is still take time to listen. The Holy Ghost will not prompt you only in things that are religious or your family matters. It will prompt you out in the world; and it has me many, many times. It has been a great blessing to me, but you have to live worthy of it.
There is another principle that we sometimes forget. In a busy, urban society we don't have the chance to really learn how to work like we ought to learn how to work. President [Thomas S.] Monson had this little "w" formula for success. "Work will win when wishy washy wishing won't." I've quoted that to a few missionary conferences. The important thing is work is important; persistence is important. You have to put in. Somehow you have to balance all that out. There isn't a reward without the effort, and it does take a lot of time.
I think Sister Hales has heard me talk about this an awful lot in the mission field, but years ago I memorized this little verse. You'll love it. It says:
"Said the big white rooster, 'Gosh, all hemlock things are tough.
Seems that worms are getting scarcer and I cannot find enough.
What's become of all those fat ones is a mystery to me,
There were thousands through the rosey spell, now where can they be?'
"The little red hen who heard him never grumbled or complained.
She lived through lots of dry spells; she lived through floods of rain.
She found a new and undug spot; the earth was hard and firm.
The big white rooster jeered, 'New ground? That's no place for a worm.'
"The little red hen just spread her feet both fast and free.
She said, 'I must go to the worms; the worms won't come to me.'
The big white rooster spent his time and period by the ways
Where fat worms had passed in squads back in the rainy days.
"When nightfall found them separately he growled in accents rough,
'I'm hungry as a fowl can be; conditions sure are tough.'
He turned then to the little red hen and said, 'It's worse with you
For you're not only hungry but you must be tired too.
I rested while you looked for worms so I feel fairly pert.
But how are you without worms, too, and after all that work?'
"Little red hen hopped to her perch and dropped her eyes to sleep,
And murmured in a drowsy tone, 'Young man hear this and weep.
I'm full of worms and happy for I've dined both long and well.
The worms were there as always but I had to dig like [heck].'
"Oh here and there white roosters still are holding sales positions.
They cannot do much business now because of poor conditions.
As soon as things get right again they'll sell a hundred firms.
Meanwhile, the little red hens are out a gobbling up the worms."
Great deal of truth in that my young friends. Along with being confident and listening, I think you'll find that it is very essential for you to learn how to work and to work hard. There may be times when you work 18 hours a day. I just had one a couple or three days ago, and you have energy to do it if your spirit will give you the energy.
There's another part to what Elder Nelson said that I'd like to share with you because it fits in right here. I said to Elder Nelson, "How is it? I read an article where a little lady in her seventies picked up the back end of a car off of a baby that was being crushed to death. They estimated the weight to be nearly a thousand pounds. Then I heard about a black man down in the South that lifted a 1,500 pound truck off of a boy that was being crushed." I said, "Is adrenaline that strong?"
He said, "Elder Featherstone, you know it isn't."
And I said, "What is it?"
He said, "Adrenaline is powerful stuff." He said, "Vaughn, it is the spirit of that individual."
That little lady couldn't bear to see a baby being crushed and lifted that off. The spirit gave her strength so that her backbone wouldn't break and her legs wouldn't crumble with that tremendous weight. It was the spirit inside of that woman. We have different kind of spirits. Some of us have a spirit that we've trained to be lazy, and we have to learn to drive it and push it. Mentally, spiritually, physically demanding things will help you to tie into that.
Another point that I think is very critical is servant-leadership. If you want to get ahead, really, service is how you do it. Someone said, "Well you know, if you want to be a leader you can't be a servant because they just don't match." But the greatest leader in all history of mankind was first a servant. If you are first a servant and you want to serve people and you want to help people and lift them and do all you can for them, then you find later on in life that if you have a leadership position you can serve them better and you can serve them broader and more people and reach out far more. I think the servant-leader is servant first right down of the core of his soul (or her soul). Then as that comes along, then they become the servant-leader. The servant-leader is what really does make a difference.
Francois Rene de Châteaubriand said, "In the days of service all things are founded. In the days of special privilege they deteriorate. In the days of vanity they are destroyed."
That is true. In the days of service all things are founded. You'll find that in life. The company I went to work for said something about service. He said, "I'm going to pay you 50 percent of your wage for the service you render and 50 percent of your wage for the work you do." In other words, he estimated the service was equally as valuable as the physical work that we would actually perform.
Another great writer, John Ruskin, said, "I believe the test of a great man is humility. I do not mean by humility the doubt in one's own personal power; but really, truly great men have the curious feeling that greatness is not in them but through them. They see the divine in every other human soul and are foolishly, endlessly, incredibly merciful."
I think I qualify for part of that. I think I've been able to see the divine in every other human soul and see what they can accomplish and put aside their faults and trials. You know, charity is an interesting thing. Charity would demand in us that we have an attitude of absolute submissiveness to God, and to try to do underneath circumstance what He would do. So, when someone in your class gets a better grade or someone seems to have a better relationship with one of the instructors or professors, when they get a better job; if we understand charity, then we are so grateful for them, and we don't resent them getting up. In some of the countries I've served they have a crab mentality. I think all of you know what that is. You don't have to ever put a lid on a basketful of crabs because as soon as one tries to climb up, the others will pull it back in again. They kind of monitor, and that's the crab mentality. We shouldn't have that if we have true charity for our fellowmen as someone rises up.
I remember many years ago hearing about Kay Whitmore. He was the president and CEO of [Eastman] Kodak Company. I thought, I wonder if that's the same Kay Whitmore that I grew up with. I lived just a few blocks from him–wonderful kid. I knew he'd be an outstanding individual. Kind of quiet and shy and reserved, but he became the CEO of this great corporation. Sure enough, it was the same Kay Whitmore, and I met him as an adult. He's been a mission president now and stake president and regional representative, and I've had the chance to get to know him as an adult all these years later. He has just has the same ethic, the same integrity that he had when he was a boy–the same standards. I think that's important for us.
Then, would you maintain a sense of humor in your life? Humor is really important. You know if you only have that one blessing in your life–if you can laugh at life–you'll never go insane. If you can't ever laugh at anything any more, then I'd be a little concerned. You need to be able to laugh at life. Let me give you an example.
A judge was interviewing a woman for divorce and he said, "Why don't you tell me, what are the grounds for your divorce?"
She said, "Oh, we lived on about three and one-half acres, and we have a little home and a stream running through the property."
He said, "No, I mean what is the foundation of your marital problems?"
She said, "Concrete, brick, mortar–I don't know about those things."
"Well, how are your marital relations?"
"Well, his uncle and aunt live here, and my mother and father live here; but he gets along great."
"Well, is there a real grudge?"
"No. We've never owned a garage; we have a carport that takes care of our needs."
The judge was getting desperate and he said, "Is there any infidelity?"
She said, "Yes, there is. My son has a hi-fi set; my daughter has a hi-fi set."
Finally the judge says, "Well, does your husband beat you up?"
She says, "Yes he does. About three mornings a week he gets up earlier than I do."
The judge says, "Why do you want the divorce?"
She says, "Well, I don't want a divorce. I never wanted the divorce. My husband wants the divorce–he says he can't communicate with me."
You've got to be able to laugh at life, I think. I heard about this 66-year-old golfer that could drive the ball way down the fairway far beyond where he could see. His eyesight was failing and he was losing balls right in the middle of the fairway. So he went to the pro and he said, "You know, I lose balls right in the middle of the fairway and I don't want to do that. I want to be able to find them. Have you got any suggestions of what I can do?"
And without any hesitation the pro said, "Oh sure." He said, "We've got this 88-year-old golfer that hangs around here all the time. He can't play golf any more–he's all crippled up–but he loves the game. He has eyes like an eagle." He said, "Why don't you team up and go out on the course. You drive the ball; he'll spot it for you."
So they teamed up, they went out to that first hole, and the younger golfer teed the ball up and he drove way down the fairway far beyond where he could see. He said to the older golfer, "Did you see where that went?"
He said, "Yes."
He said, "Where did it go?"
He said, "I forgot."
Can I just say you're going to need a sense of humor in life?
I just want to say something about spirituality and purity, and they do tie together. You can't truly be spiritual if you're not pure. Years ago a great man, Roy Walker, who had written study courses for the Sunday School and for the priesthood of the Church was asked, Who of all the General Authorities impresses you the most? With only a slight hesitation (this is way back in the late 60's) he said, "They all are wonderful men, but I think Elder Boyd K. Packer impresses me the most because he has a purity of heart for one so young." Also he said, "He seems to have a special understanding of how the Lord wants things done."
I said to Elder [James E.] Faust just before he was called to the First Presidency–we were having lunch together–I said, "I believe Elder Packer is one of the greatest seers in our dispensation."
He said, "I think he is one of the greatest seers in any dispensation." He said, "I think Elder Packer can see around corners." I hadn't heard that description before. Spirituality is important and you maintain it by staying pure.
Do you remember this great verse? Walter Malone is in the Tennessee State Hall of Fame; and if this is all he ever did, he deserves to be there. He wrote a poem entitled "Opportunity," and I love it. When you memorize something it becomes part of you. I wanted to have this with me all of the time. I've used it dozens of times, but I think you'll be impressed with it. I want to have you think of your own personal lives and purity and then think of Walter Malone. Again, remember he entitled it "Opportunity".
"They do me wrong who say I come no more
When once I knock and fail to find you in;
For every day I stand outside your door,
And bid you wake, and rise to fight and win.
"Wail not for precious chances passed away,
Weep not for golden ages on the wane!
Each night I burn the records of the day—
At sunrise every soul is born again!
"Laugh like a boy at splendors that have sped.
To vanished joys be blind and deaf and dumb;
My judgements seal the dead past with its dead,
But never bind a moment yet to come.
"Though deep in mire, wring not your hands and weep;
I lend my arm to all who say "I Can!"
No shame-faced outcast ever sank so deep,
But yet might rise and be again a man.
"Dost thou behold thy lost youth all aghast?
Dost reel from righteous Retribution's blow?
Then turn from blotted archives of the past,
And find this future's pages white as snow.
"Art thou a mourner? Rouse thee from thy spell;
Art thou a sinner? Sins can be forgiven;
Each morning gives thee wings to flee from hell,
Each night a star to guide thy feet to heaven."
("Opportunity," from Opportunity and Other Poems by Walter Malone.)
If that's all Walter Malone ever did, I think he deserves to be in the celestial hall of fame. It's a great verse. There is a very simple way another puts that.
"Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king's horses and all the king's men
Couldn't put Humpty Dumpty together again."
But the King could, and the King can, and the King will. If you've done something terribly wrong or made a mistake, He can put you back together again. Tomorrow's pages are as white as snow–I think that's important if you're going to stay clean and sweet and pure.
I was down in California. They assigned me to home teach a woman. She had been baptized in the church, then active for about two years. Then her little daughter drowned in a swimming pool. She said, "How could God be so cruel as to do this to me, to our family–take our little child, our little girl?" She didn't understand, of course.
They said, "She won't have anything to do with the Church; maybe you can get in and talk to her. So, I got my younger companion and we went over. She did let us in and her husband was not home. I said, "Tell me what happened with your daughter." It was difficult for her to tell. She'd been on the phone and all of a sudden she noticed her little two- or three-year-old daughter was gone. She ran right out of the door and to the neighbor's pool and saw her baby laying in the bottom of the pool. She dove in, but she didn't know how to swim. She just leaped in, and she didn't know how to get to the bottom. She struggled and struggled to get down where the baby was, and she couldn't get there. A man on the street heard all the commotion, and he came running back and dove in. He pulled the woman over to the swimming pool bank. Then he went right down the bottom, picked up the baby and brought it up. With a lot of work the baby still didn't recover.
Question: How much do you think Sister Moffitt would have given for the simple skill of swimming? She'd have given her house; she'd have given all the income they had, everything in this life she'd have given. She would have given even her life. In fact, she was going to. She wasn't going to come up without the baby if this man hadn't come and rescued her.
There are skills you're going to find in life that are equally that important. I think that you'll find over the long haul that [they include] spirituality and staying close to the Lord, having a study program every day of the scriptures and faithfully being involved in prayer.
We had a serious problem with one of our children. Our daughter was expecting. They didn't tell any of the rest of the family, only her mother and I and her husband. The four of us knew. About four or five months before the baby was born, there were serious problems with the baby. We just prayed for the whole time that the baby would be born all right. We pled with God. One Sunday morning just a couple or three weeks ago my daughter called and said, "Daddy, I just had the little baby."
I said, "How are you sweetheart?"
She said, "I'm fine."
I said (it was the hardest question I've ever asked in my life), "How's the baby?"
Then amid sobs she said, "He's healthy and normal in every way."
I hung up the phone, and all I could do was say thank you God; thank you God; thank you God. It was just a little problem in our life. Some of you have had those kind of situations in your homes–down syndrome children or children born with other abnormalities or something's wrong with them. God can perform miracles, but we have to ask. I think as you find when you pray, you do ask.
And then, let me conclude with just two thoughts. The first one again is a great verse that I memorized–I think since I was in the mission field. I got it from a missionary. He quoted it, read it and I got it from him. It applies to every single person in this room.
"The God of the great endeavor gave me a torch to bear.
I lifted it high above me in the dark and murky air;
And straightway with loud hosannas the crowd proclaimed its light
And followed me as I carried my torch through the dark and starless night,
Till drunk with the people's praises and mad with vanity
I forgot 'twas the torch they followed and fancy they followed me.
"Then slowly my arm grew weary upholding the shining load
And my tired feet went stumbling over the dusty road.
I fell with the torch beneath me. In a moment the light was out.
When lo! from the throng a stripling youth sprang forth with a mighty shout,
Caught up the torch as it smoldered, and lifted it high again,
Till fanned by the wings of heaven, it fired the souls of men.
"And as I lay in the darkness the feet of the trampling crowd
Passed over and far beyond me, its paeans proclaimed around,
And I learned in the deepening twilight this glorious verity,
‘Tis the torch the people follow, whoever the bearer may be."
("The Torchbearer," unknown, from The Master of Men, comp. by Thomas Curtis Clark)
In our day it's been President [David O.] McKay and President Joseph Fielding Smith and President [Spencer W.] Kimball, all the way up now to President [Gordon B.] Hinckley. Each time one of them passes away, a new torchbearer carries them. But isn't the torchbearer, it's the gospel of Jesus Christ. If we always get that straight in our minds, we'll be blessed.
And then this from the Savior and the greatest sermon ever taught: "And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I said unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, o ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought saying, What shall we eat? Or, What shall we drink? Or, wherewithal shall we be clothed? For after all these things do the Gentiles seek" (Matt. 6:28-32). [And here it is:] "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matt 6:33).
I promise you that is true. This is the greatest work on the earth. There's only one true, living Church. I love it with all my heart. I can't tell you the feelings I have down deep inside. I want everyone to know. I wish there were some way. It's like we have diamonds and rubies, and we would like to share them with everyone.
This is the Church of Jesus Christ. He is the author of the atonement. He is the King of Kings, and I love Him more than my own soul. I pray I might be worthy just to walk a few steps in this life doing something worthwhile and trying to follow His pattern of living.
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