What Goes Around Comes Around

We may never know how badly someone needs our simple act of kindness. We also may never know when we will need someone else's kindness. What we do know is that service and love are never wasted.

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Recent Speeches


B-Y-You Matter to Him

Six years ago President Dieter F. Uchtdorf gave a profound conference talk entitled “You Matter to Him.”1 In his talk he explained that God is the Creator of all things and yet is concerned about each one of us individually. Today I would like to build upon President Uchtdorf’s topic and title my remarks “BYU Matters to Him.” However, I would like to redefine the acronym for Brigham Young University as B-Y-You, as in you (y-o-u). Thus the title of my address is “B-Y-You Matter to Him.” This past semester one of my students submitted the following account. With her permission, I share her tender feelings about when she first arrived at BYU: Leaving everything you have known for the entirety of your life to attend a university that is 547 miles away is difficult. You can no longer lean on the support of your family and friends; you can no longer enjoy the safety and security of your home; you can no longer simply follow your parents. Your life is in your own hands, and it is terrifying. I distinctly remember the hurricane of emotions I experienced as I bid farewell to my dad as he drove away, leaving me standing outside my dorm with five people I had never met. I had to make my own food, and I felt sorely unprepared. Actually, I felt more than unprepared—I felt absolutely and entirely lost. My student then went on to describe her feelings that day as those of “ultimate vulnerability.”2 As I pondered my student’s feelings of vulnerability and isolation, I felt a personal surge of déjà vu from when I first arrived at BYU some forty-seven years ago. My student’s account stirred within me some tender and painful emotions from decades past. I suspect that many of you here today can also recall the daunting memories of when you first arrived on this campus. As I address you today, perhaps some of you find yourself in the throes of similar feelings of trepidation or of being lost. The Greatness of BYU I do not mean to minimize these feelings of loneliness or intimidation, but they present a marked contrast to the feelings we first had when we were accepted to BYU. Consider the following glossy accolades and advantages of attending Brigham Young University. BYU consistently ranks in the top 25 percent of national universities.3 BYU is in the top five of the best value universities4 and costs around $30,000 less per year than other private schools.5 Consequently, BYU students graduate with substantially less debt.6 BYU is the number-one stone-cold sober university,7 and students will never have to tolerate drunk classmates or professors. Also, BYU has launched more of its ­students into PhD programs than Harvard, Yale, or Stanford.8 Upon arrival, every student here has a church unit waiting to receive and support them. Additionally, more than 60 percent of the students

“Lay Hold upon the Word”: The Power of Wholehearted Living

When I was fifteen years old, I worked on a sod farm located close to where the Payson Utah Temple now stands. To cut the sod, we used a harvester that weighed about fourteen tons. One day I was assigned to work with my high school classmate on the back of the harvester. We were moving the harvester from one end of the field to another. I was walking alongside the slow-moving harvester, and I attempted to jump up onto the platform to sit next to my friend. I misjudged my jump and landed only partway on the platform. I lost my balance and fell in front of the double set of dual wheels underneath the platform. I immediately tried to scurry out of the path of the wheels, but the big, knobby tires caught my high-top sneakers, and the wheels started to roll up my leg, throwing me to the ground. I quickly realized I was in quite a predicament. I was now lying feet first directly in the path of the wheels that were going to roll over the entire length of my body, starting with my feet and ending with my head. I felt my right leg break under the immense weight. The wheels continued to roll, crushing my pelvis. I have never felt anything so excruciatingly painful in my life. My back and ribs were the next to break in multiple places as the wheels climbed up my stomach and chest. Then the machine mercilessly twisted me onto my back, with the knobby treads passing over my shoulder and the side of my face and neck, miraculously missing most of my head. By the time the fourteen tons finished their devastating work, I had lost consciousness. The first thing I remember when I opened my eyes was the inconceivable pain. I couldn’t breathe. It felt like I was underwater. I was trying to breathe, but things weren’t working the way they were supposed to work. I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t cry out, even though I frantically wanted to cry for help. Everything hurt. I quickly grasped the fact that I was about to die. Honestly, the pain was so extreme that I wanted to die. I just wanted it to stop. I later learned that I had suffered a traumatic pneumothorax, or, in simple terms, my lungs had collapsed. If there is a puncture in your lung due to trauma, the air escapes from the lung to the area outside of your lungs inside the chest ­cavity. As a result, your lungs push together like a wet paper sack. The air inside your chest cavity is unable to escape, and the pressure keeps the lungs from expanding. This can lead to cardiac arrest or respiratory failure. Everything in my body was screaming for oxygen. In my desperation to breathe, I had to expand my chest cavity to gather air. The pain of my broken ribs and back from even the slightest movement was more than I could possibly endure. In a matter of minutes the farm manager, Stan, arrived out of breath. He could sense I was deep in shock and on the verge of death. He asked if I could move my legs. I couldn’t respond. He knelt on the ground, took my head

Words to Live By

It is customary for speakers at a graduation ceremony to give advice to the new graduates, to share with them words of wisdom to inspire them in their next stage of life. Perhaps because such sage advice is in somewhat limited supply, much of what is said at these events has been said before and will likely be said again. With that in mind, let me give you graduates a two-part charge that I doubt you have heard in any graduation ceremony you have attended. First Charge: Be Awful The first part is a simple two-word admonition: “Be awful.” Yes, you heard right. My advice to you is be awful. You can see why I was so confident that you would not have heard this message at any prior graduations that you have attended.1 Before you dismiss my advice as a completely inappropriate effort to be unique rather than helpful, let me explain what I mean by that charge. Linguists know well that the meaning of words can change dramatically over time. One form of change is what is called pejoration. “Pejoration is the process by which a word [with a positive or neutral meaning] acquires negative connotations”2 over time. One classic example of pejoration is shown by the history of the word silly. In the ­thirteenth century the word silly meant ­“worthy, good,” and “pious, holy.”3 Over the ensuing centuries, however, the meaning changed first to “innocent” or “harmless,” then to “deserving of pity or sympathy,” to “weak/feeble,” then to “ignorant.” By the ­sixteenth century it had descended to “foolish,” its ­current meaning.4 The same thing has happened to the word awful. It too has pejorated. Centuries ago the word awful had a very positive connotation. Its original meaning was “awe-inspiring,” “worthy of . . . respect,” and “profoundly respectful or reverential.”5 But as one author explained, “Since what inspires awe isn’t always so pleasant, [over the centuries, awful] came to mean something negative.”6 The word had pejorated, linguists would say. And so today awful has come to mean “terrible, dreadful, appalling”; something not just bad but “exceedingly bad.”7 Hardly the kind of thing you would expect a graduation speaker to advise you to be. My admonition is that you be awful in its original, unpejorated sense—that you always be aware of things that are awe-inspiring. I am urging you to be full of awe, if you will. “Psychologists have described awe as the experience of encountering something so vast—in size, skill, beauty, intensity, etc.—that we struggle to comprehend it.”8 It is the kind of thing that Moses experienced when God showed him the purpose, creation, and history of this earth. Struggling to comprehend the grandeur of all he had seen, Moses “greatly marvel

A Few Secrets of Life

Elder Holland, President Worthen, honored guests, graduates, friends, and families, you are a beautiful sight. There is a buzz in the air of hard work and accomplishment. I like how I feel when I am with you. What a wonderful day it is for parents who have helped and supported both financially and emotionally to get you graduates to this point. You have made friends, have struggled to meet deadlines, have learned to exist on next to nothing, have had fun, have had trials, and have survived it all. I feel privileged to spend time with you today. I learned a long time ago to always listen to old men who, like me, are nearing the end of their lives. They always talk about what matters, not about what seems to matter. Now this is not an announcement, but I am certainly closer to that event than you graduates are. So for my theme today I want to use the following statement: On the day you were born, you cried and your ­family and friends rejoiced. Live your life so that when you die, others cry and you rejoice.1 What do I mean by that? When you are looking back on your life, you will want to have the feeling that you used your time in mortality well, that you learned and grew a lot, that you chose wisely, and that you became all that you needed to become. Often when people have lived a life that has earned the respect and love of those around them, there is sadness when they are gone. Those who are left behind no longer have their presence and wisdom that they have come to rely on—and that can be a reason to cry. Choose to live so that when it comes time to graduate from this life, you leave behind a legacy—one such that others will cry and you will rejoice. In some ways this statement is the practical essence of God’s plan of happiness and eternal progression for us. We have a certain amount of time in mortality, and in that time we make choices that help us grow and stretch—choices that help us become. I really like something the cartoonist Bil Keane used in one of his comic strips: Yesterday’s the past, tomorrow’s the future, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.2 With this gift of time, you won’t always be able to choose what happens to you, but you can always choose how you handle what ­happens to you. Develop your legacy intentionally. Deter­mine right now how you will measure your life when it is over, and then choose accordingly. Today I have three secrets of life to share with you. First Secret God has given us two things in life: time and the opportunity to choose what you do with it. This is your turn on earth. In eternal time, it is like a minute. There are only sixty seconds in it. We can’t refuse it. But it is up to us to use it. We must suffer if we lose it. We must give an account if we abuse it. It is just a

Testimony and Other “Wicked” Problems

In recent years there have been glowing, breathless reports appearing in the media that speak of a new approach to problem solving. This method promises a competitive edge for businesses, organizations, and governments alike. Innovation consultants use the approach to tease out new ideas, collecting hefty fees in the process. Time magazine, Harvard Business Review, and a new binge-worthy Netflix series all extol its virtues.1 In the corporate boardroom, the CDO, or the chief design officer, has joined the ranks of the CEO and the CFO. Design-driven companies like Apple, Nike, and Target consistently outperform their competitors.2 It seems that “design thinking,” as it is known, is all the rage. Corporate profits alone, however, cannot explain all the new interest in design thinking. In 1973 a German design theorist introduced the concept of a “wicked problem.”3 Contrary to what you might expect by the name, a wicked problem does not refer to something evil or sinister but instead describes something so tricky and complicated that it seems to defy solution. With a wicked problem, the situation is dynamic and often involves multiple variables. Both the exact nature of the problem and the solutions remain unknown when the project begins. Examples of wicked problems might include climate change, poverty, the Syrian civil war, or American healthcare, to name a few. For these problems there are no easy answers, no silver bullets. When other approaches fail, design thinking offers a fairly reliable process for solving wicked problems. It values empathy, understanding, and usability, all part of the human experience. Instead of counting widgets or poring over sales charts, design thinking takes a more anthropological approach, uncovering the human motivations behind complex problems. As I thought about the message I could share with you today, I was reminded that many design principles offer insight into solving some of life’s great challenges. I believe that by applying these principles to your own wicked problems, your chance of solving them may improve. While this morning I have chosen to apply these principles to building a testimony, the methods are transferable to any problem you face in your life that you deem wicked. Before we review these principles, take a moment to think. What is your wicked problem? Maybe it is making your next tuition payment, choosing a new roommate, finding a summer internship, or even getting a date for Saturday night. Perhaps, though, your wicked problem is more complex—maybe it is a bit trickier. You struggle with certain Church doctrines, you doubt your testimony, or you wonder whether you will stay active in the Church after you graduate. My maternal grandparents, Bill and Aleda Shuldberg, faced problems very similar to these. They were about the same age as many of you when they were courting in 1928.

Waiting upon the Lord: The Antidote to Uncertainty

I am very grateful for the opportunity I have to speak with you today. I would like to begin with a scripture in Ecclesiastes 9:11: The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all. [emphasis added] I ponder this scripture each time I have a conversation with someone who didn’t get into the graduate program they applied to, doesn’t know what job to take, came home from their mission early, or has had other unexpected experiences. As I listen to their stories, my mind returns to that scripture and the reality that “time and chance happeneth to [us] all.” Today I would like to explore this scripture with you, but I suggest that another way of talking about time and chance is to use the word uncertainty. Uncertainty as a Core Human Experience Though the sources of your uncertainty will likely differ from mine, I believe this scripture in Ecclesiastes speaks the truth. No one will be immune from uncertainty or from the struggle, questioning, heartache, and pain that may ­accompany it. Uncertainty has many faces. It includes questions, doubts, ambiguity, and the discovery that persons (or things) are not quite what we expected. In essence, uncertainty is a reflection of the gap between our desire for the ideal and our experience of reality. The ideal represents how we think things ought to or should be; reality is how things actually are. Though we live our lives in the real world, our dreams and goals are often reflected in ideals. When we experience “a gap between the ideal and the real,”1 we experience uncertainty. In some of my research I have studied this gap for women transitioning to parenthood. My colleagues and I have focused our attention on what new mothers thought their ideal work situations would be versus what their real work situations were. We defined work situations broadly, including opportunities to stay home, to combine work and family, or to combine school and family. The majority of the mothers in our sample (more than 70 percent) experienced a gap between what they believed to be ideal and what their actual work and family situation was.2 I tell you this to exemplify the claim in Ecclesiastes that “chance happeneth to them all.” Uncertainty Challenges Us My colleagues and I also discovered that the greater the gap, the higher the likelihood that a mother would experience depression. I think this finding reflects something else about uncertainty: gaps between our ideals and our real circumstances challenge us. When reality hits or when things don’t go as planned, we may struggle. About two and a half years ago, after many years of hoping another child would come to our family, my husband and I discovered we were pre

Real Causes and Real Effects

I am grateful and humbled to be with you today. As I was preparing for my talk, I was reminded of a story I once heard in a stake conference session a number of years ago. The story begins with a rancher performing chores out on his ranch one morning when he sees a shiny pickup truck drive onto his ranch and park. Out of the truck steps a man in uniform who walks up to the rancher and states, “I’m here to inspect your ranch for any illegally grown drugs.” The rancher responds, “Fine, but do not go in that field over there,” and points to a beautiful field to the east. The officer replies, “Mister, I don’t think you understand me. I am here to inspect your ranch, and I have the authority of the federal government behind me.” Reaching into his pocket he pulls out some form of a badge and proudly displays the badge to the rancher. “See this badge, old man? This badge means I am allowed to go on any land,” he says, pointing all across the farmer’s ranch. “Have I made myself clear?” The rancher apologizes, nods, and goes about his chores. A short while later the old rancher hears someone screaming, looks up, and sees the officer running while being chased by a large bull in the field that the rancher had told the officer not to enter. With every step the officer takes, the bull takes two. With the distance shrinking between the charging bull and the frantic officer, the rancher steps up onto the fence enclosing the field and yells, “Your badge—show him your badge!” On college campuses everywhere, including this one, we do a fair amount of badge showing—and for good reason. Our faculty have gone to top graduate schools and have trained with many of the best scholars, which, among other benefits, has helped prepare them to stand at the front of their classrooms and speak with expertise and authority. Unfortunately I have no badge to pull from my pocket demonstrating my credentials to speak today. I am grateful for the vote of confidence from President Worthen and Vice President Richardson in extending this invitation. I am also grateful to each of you for coming to today’s devotional. It is not lost on me that you have the choice to attend or not. To this end, I hope and pray for the presence of the Spirit and that we may be edified as a result. I am grateful for my wife, Marcie, and for my children, all of whom are here except for our oldest daughter, Sarah, who is serving a mission in South Carolina and happens to return from her mission next week; we are excited at our house. I am grateful for my mother, other family members, and dear friends and colleagues who are here today as well. Rafting Gone Awry I had the good fortune of growing up in the state of Alaska. It was a fantastic place to be raised. As an example of this, each year our Boy Scout troop would plan and carry out amazing high-adventure camps. We would go backpacking,

The Rock of Our Redeemer

During our mission in Canada, my wife and I gave a “last instruction” to departing missionaries the day before they went home. Each of these young elders and sisters were heroes to us, and we wanted their transition home to be very, very successful. Our instruction was given with love and good fun. I particularly enjoyed instructing on dating and marriage. One afternoon as I stood at the blackboard during a last instruction, the Spirit pressed Helaman 5:12 deeply into my mind. This scripture came from what could have been the Book of Mormon prophet Helaman’s “last instruction” to his sons prior to their departure for their magnificent mission to the Nephites and the Lamanites. We all quoted the scripture together: And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall. What a magnificent verse of scripture. Think of it: Helaman promised us that if we build our foundation upon our Savior, we cannot fall, regardless of what Satan throws at us. What a powerful promise! Our Savior gave the same promise in the Sermon on the Mount: Whoso heareth these sayings of mine and doeth them, I will liken . . . unto a wise man, who built his house upon a rock— And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not, for it was founded upon a rock.1 I bet a lot of you Primary graduates are thinking of a song. Would you sing it with me—just the first two verses, with hand motions? The wise man built his house upon the rock, The wise man built his house upon the rock, The wise man built his house upon the rock, And the rains came tumbling down. The rains came down, and the floods came up, The rains came down, and the floods came up, The rains came down, and the floods came up, And the house on the rock stood still.2 Thank you! Doesn’t this simple song teach a powerful lesson? Luke put it slightly differently: Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them . . . . . . is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock.3 When a person comes to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and he

On Failing and Finishing

Play Through Your Mistakes Music has always been a very important part of my life. Nearly every major memory of my childhood involves music of some kind: singing with my family on road trips to pass the time; learning barbershop music with my mom and sisters; listening to the Tijuana Brass band on the record player while decorating our Christmas tree; singing my father’s favorite song, “Love at Home” (see Hymns, 2002, no. 294), for family home evening; and admiring my mother as she played the organ in our sacrament meeting every week—something she still does at the young age of eighty. Given that music played such a prominent role in my youth, it will not surprise you to know that I took piano lessons for ten years, from the age of eight to seventeen. My first piano teacher—we will call her Mrs. Smith—was very strict and had high expectations for mastery. During my lesson she would often follow the music with a pencil as I played. Sometimes, after I hit a sour note or used the wrong fingering, Mrs. Smith would flick my fingers with that pencil. She intended to help me recognize the mistake so that I could correct it. Unfortunately, after several experiences with the dreaded pencil, I learned that the least painful way to handle my musical mistakes was to remove my hands from the keys as quickly as possible. This habit of abruptly stopping after a mistake was also unintentionally reinforced when I would practice at home. Our piano was positioned on a wall that was opposite our kitchen; in fact, it was back-to-back with our stove. I would often practice while my mother was making dinner on the other side of the wall. When I would make a mistake, she would make a staccato “ah” sound. Startled, my hands would fly from the keys. I know this was not the intended outcome because I heard her do the same thing when she made her own mistakes at the organ or piano. She still does this today, but only in practice. When she is at the organ or piano for performance, there are few errors, but when they occur, they are hardly noticeable. She can play right on through a mistake like nothing happened. I, on the other hand, cannot. Most of my piano recitals with Mrs. Smith took place in the chapel of my home ward building. These were reverent occasions—no clapping after the end of each performance, just polite smiles from the audience as we each took our turn at the grand piano. We were not allowed to use our music, so for me, the walk up those three velvety red steps to the piano felt like walking into a battle unarmed. I was terrified that I would make a mistake, take my hands from the keys, and be unable to find the right placement again. This terror of performing would follow me into adulthood. When I was still in the early years of my public accounting career and had two small children at home, I was called as the Relief Society pianist. The first week was a disaster. I lur

A Banquet of Consequences: The Cumulative Result of All Choices

One of the most cunning aspects of the adversary’s efforts to thwart our Father in Heaven’s plan of happiness is his deceitful teaching that there is no evil influence or devil1 and his attempt to redefine evil as good and good as evil, darkness as light and light as darkness, and bitter as sweet and sweet as bitter!2 This is sometimes called a paradigm shift—or “when the usual way of thinking about or doing something is replaced by a new and different way,”3 thus portraying things to be exactly the opposite of what they really are. In his classic novel The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis wrote from a senior devil’s point of view. Lewis inverted traditional values using irony and satire to make evil appear good and good appear evil.4 In this vein I had a provocative meeting with an internationally recognized advertising expert a few months ago. He is an unusually gifted and creative thinker. We were discussing the influence of evil and the consequences of bad choices. He envisioned an interesting hypothetical account of the adversary (Lucifer) meeting with an advertising agency. The adversary described his dilemma: He and his followers had rebelled and rejected the Father’s plan and had come to understand they could not prevail against God. Lucifer understood that while the Father’s plan was about joy and happiness, his own plan was resulting in grief and misery. The problem, Lucifer explained to the ad executive, was how to attract followers. After contemplating this problem, it was determined that Lucifer’s only hope of success was to achieve a paradigm shift or values inversion—in other words, to characterize the Father’s plan as resulting in grief and misery and Lucifer’s plan as resulting in joy and happiness. While this contemplated meeting with an advertising agency is hypothetical, it serves a useful purpose. The truth is, not only do the enemies of Father’s plan attempt to undermine the doctrine and principles of the plan, but they also attempt to mischaracterize the blessings that flow from the plan. Their basic effort is to make that which is good, righteous, and joyful seem utterly miserable. I will discuss some of the adversary’s efforts to mischaracterize and undermine the blessings of living according to the Father’s plan. Word of Wisdom My first example is the Word of Wisdom. I fully recognize that you magnificent students understand the importance of the Word of Wisdom and have agreed, on your honor, to live by it. However, over the course of a lifetime I have seen many of my friends’ lives blighted and sometimes destroyed by alcohol. An alcohol culture isn’t just about Church doctrine; it is about the health and happiness of everyone. You can be an important voice in educating society about the consequences of this issue. In the Father’s plan, the Word of Wisdom—secti

The Power of Your Words

I would like to explain the sequence of how I was first contacted to speak at this devotional. It was on a Monday that I got a text message from a number I didn’t recognize. It had been a hectic day, and I didn’t read the text fully. Thinking it was a request to speak at an upcoming Church assignment, I texted back politely asking who the text was from. Matthew O. Richardson, BYU advancement vice president, responded that it was he who had sent the text asking me to speak at a BYU devotional. The first thought that popped into my mind was, “Are you crazy? Do you not realize that I can barely speak the English language, let alone speak in front of so many people?” My wife, who was with me at the time, responded without hesitation, “That is desperation, not inspiration!” I texted President Richardson back with, “I think you have the wrong Craig Manning.” He then replied, “Oops, sorry, I do have the wrong person!” But he then clarified that he did have the right person. As intimidating as it is to speak in front of you, the experience of preparing for this devotional has been great. I have found that every time I have put on the radio, in every activity I have participated in, and with every thought I have had, I have double-checked myself to make sure I was in alignment with the Holy Ghost so as to have the Spirit with me. I do pray that the Spirit will be with me today as I deliver my thoughts. I would like to talk to you today about a couple of life-changing lessons the Lord has taught me. I was born and raised in Canberra, Australia. My mother was, and still is, a Catholic, and my father was a member of the Church of England before he passed away from cancer twenty years ago. We attended church on Sundays, and I attended Sunday School, completing my first Holy Communion. As I got older, I started playing rugby. Games were on Sundays, and it wasn’t long before we stopped attending church. I remember coming home from a rugby game one Sunday when my mother said to me, “You are really good at sports, so you won’t be very good at school.” This statement confused me. Although I didn’t have the maturity and clarity of thought at the time to articulate my emotions, I can look back now and see why this statement bothered me. Was there some phenomenon that controlled my destiny? I couldn’t help being good at sports; it just seemed to happen. Every time I participated in an athletic contest, I was reminded that I was a good athlete. So did that mean I had no chance of ever being a good student, and did I have any say in any of this? I don’t share this story to accuse my mother of bad parenting but rather to illustrate what can happen when we don’t understand the Lord’s plan or, more important, when we don’t learn to live and apply the gospel of Jesus Christ. I spent my teenage years focusing the majority of my attention on sports, par

The Doctrine of Christ: Our Daily Walk

Brothers and sisters, it is difficult to express what a surreal experience it is for me to stand at this pulpit and speak at a BYU devotional. For many years I have been somewhat of a BYU devotional junkie. When I was a student here, I discovered that you could purchase cassette tapes of selected devotional talks, and I bought several. I remember well Stephen R. Covey’s talk “An Educated Conscience.”1 Listening to Truman G. Madsen’s talk “House of Glory” was perhaps the best temple preparation I received.2 Nowadays I have the BYU Speeches podcast and listen regularly. In all my years of listening to these devotionals, it never occurred to me that I would be speaking in one. Since receiving this assignment a few months ago, I have pondered and prayed earnestly to know what the Lord would have me share. As I pondered, I was reminded of these words from President Dieter F. Uchtdorf: Strength comes . . . from being settled on a firm foundation of truth and light. It comes from placing our attention and efforts on the basics of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. It comes from paying attention to the divine things that matter most. Let us simplify our lives a little. Let us make the changes necessary to refocus our lives on the sublime beauty of the simple, humble path of Christian ­discipleship—the path that leads always toward a life of meaning, gladness, and peace.3 We live in days in which the mists of darkness are “exceedingly great.”4 Satan is “the father of lies,”5 and his lies “blindeth the eyes, and hardeneth the hearts of the children of men.”6 One of Satan’s subtle but more pervasive strategies is to distract us from the things that matter most with a never-ending array of mind-numbing trivialities. With President Uchtdorf’s counsel burning in my heart, I will focus today “on the basics of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ”—“the sublime . . . path of Christian discipleship.” My great desire is for each of us to “come unto Christ, and be perfected in him.”7 My message is centered in that quest and how we can be more diligent, joyful, and successful in that journey. As you begin a new year and a new semester, I hope that some of what I say will help you focus your goals on “the divine things that matter most.” I invite you to pay close attention to what the Holy Ghost whispers to your heart during our time together. More important than the words I speak, I pray that your hearts and minds will be open to receive light and truth from the Holy Ghost. The light and truth that the Restoration of the fulness of the gospel has brought about can push away all darkness from our minds and lives. We need to remember that the Lord has also described our day as “noon-day.”8 Our Identity A foundational truth we need

The Pursuit of All Truth

Each year Oxford Dictionaries selects a word of the year—“a word, or expression, that . . . is judged to reflect the . . . mood . . . of that particular year and to have lasting potential as a word of cultural significance.” Past selections include unfriend in 2009 and selfie in 2013. In 2015 the word of the year was not a word but a pictograph: the “face with tears of joy” emoji.1 Recently, Oxford Dictionaries announced that the word of the year for 2016 is post-truth, a word they define as “an adjective . . . denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”2 Casper Grathwohl, president of Oxford Dictionaries, explained the selection: “Fuelled by the rise of social media as a news source and a growing distrust of facts offered up by the establishment, post-truth as a concept has been finding its linguistic footing for some time. . . . I wouldn’t be surprised if post-truth becomes one of the defining words of our time.”3 Reflecting this view, several commentators have recently asserted that we live in a post-truth world, or a world in which truth “has become unimportant or irrelevant.”4 It is hard to know with certainty whether truth is really less important than it has been in the past. But it is clear that because we live in a digital age, in which there is so much information and there are so many different contending views of what is accurate, some people find that new information confounds and confuses rather than clarifies and enlightens. Modernizing the plight of the thirsty Ancient Mariner, who proclaimed, “Water, water, everywhere, Nor any drop to drink,”5 many today lament, “Data, data, everywhere, and not a thought to think.”6 Living in a post-truth world in which there is more information available than there is time to process it presents particular challenges. Many do not know how to determine the accuracy or the truthfulness of new information. Some deal with the matter by looking for reinforcement of their own preexisting, and sometimes ill-informed, notions, limiting their pursuit of truth to only those sources that support their views. Stuck in an echo chamber of their own making, they stunt their ability to learn truth by sealing themselves off from any meaningful dialogue with any who may have different viewpoints. A manifestation of this is the increasing polarization in American politics.7 Others go to the opposite extreme, finding any piece of information that disrupts their prior views as sufficient reason to throw aside, without further inquiry, truths that have provided sure guidance to them and others in the past. These individuals, to use the words of the apostle Paul, are “tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of do

A Safe Place

When we moved to Provo thirty years ago, I was in my twenties. Our oldest son was two, and our youngest son was just a few weeks old. I had been a member of the Church for less than ten years. Shortly after arriving in Provo, I met Bertha. Bertha was in her sixties. I knew a little bit about Bertha. I knew she lived in our stake. I knew she was respected by those who knew her. I also knew that she was a leader and a woman of service. People sought her advice. I remember attending a stake Relief Society function at which Bertha was one of the women on a panel that was answering questions and giving advice to those in attendance on a variety of topics. I noticed that Bertha was being asked for a lot of advice about raising children. I soon discovered why. She was the mother of thirteen children. I appreciated her responses to the questions. She seemed to have all the wisdom and experience that I lacked. Another thing I knew about Bertha was that she seemed to like walking. Sometimes I would see her walking in the neighborhood. One morning while I was walking with my friend, she asked me if it would be okay if Bertha joined us occasionally on our walks. I told her that was fine. But privately, the thought of walking with Bertha intimidated me somewhat, mainly because I held her in such high esteem. A few days later my friend invited Bertha to walk with us. Before Bertha met us for our walk that morning, my friend told me a couple of things about Bertha that she thought would be helpful to me. She told me that Bertha sometimes had a little difficulty hearing and that her shins sometimes bothered her—especially when walking uphill. I thought these things were good to know. Our walking route that day began in the Tree Streets south of the Provo Temple. We headed toward the temple, which is a steady uphill walk. I don’t remember much of our conversation that day. I remember only the question I asked Bertha once we reached the top of the road by the temple and began our steady descent toward home. Remembering that Bertha’s shins sometimes bothered her, I asked, “Bertha, how are your shins?” There was a bit of an awkward pause, and then, with much earnestness, Bertha replied, “I’m working on them, and hopefully they are improving every day.” I responded, “Oh, that’s good. Thankfully it’s all downhill from here.” I was feeling pretty magnanimous about my expressed concern for Bertha. For a couple of minutes we walked along in a somewhat awkward silence. Then my friend suddenly got a relieved look on her face and, turning to me, exclaimed, “You said shins, didn’t you?” My first thought was, “Yes, of course I said shins.” Then it occurred to me that they had both thought I had asked Bertha how her sins were doing! I was mortified! There I was, this inexperienced young mother, asking Bertha, this accomplished and
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