Most Viewed Speeches

333,764 Views

His Grace Is Sufficient

I am grateful to be here with my wife, Debi, and my two youngest children—who are currently attending BYU—and several other family members who have come to be with us. It is an honor to be invited to speak to you today. Several years ago I received an invitation to speak at Women’s Conference. When I told my wife, she asked, “What have they asked you to speak on?” I was so excited that I got my words mixed up and said, “They want me to speak about changing strengths into weaknesses.” She thought for a minute and said, “Well, they’ve got the right man for the job!” She’s correct about that. I could give a whale of a talk on that subject, but I think today I had better go back to the original topic and speak about changing weaknesses into strengths and about how the grace of Jesus Christ is sufficient (see Ether 12:27, D&C 17:8, 2 Corinthians 12:9)—sufficient to cover us, sufficient to transform us, and sufficient to help us as long as that transformation process takes. Christ’s Grace Is Sufficient to Cover Us A BYU student once came to me and asked if we could talk. I said, “Of course. How can I help you?” She said, “I just don’t get grace.” I responded, “What is it that you don’t understand?” She said, “I know I need to do my best and then Jesus does the rest, but I can’t even do my best.” She then went on to tell me all the things she should be doing because she’s a Mormon that she wasn’t doing. She continued, “I know that I have to do my part and then Jesus makes up the difference and fills the gap that stands between my part and perfection. But who fills the gap that stands between where I am now and my part?” She then went on to tell me all the things that she shouldn’t be doing because she’s a Mormon, but she was doing them anyway. Finally I said, “Jesus doesn’t make up the difference. Jesus makes all the difference. Grace is not about filling gaps. It is about filling us.” Seeing that she was still confused, I took a piece of paper and drew two dots—one at the top representing God and one at the bottom representing us. I then said, “Go ahead. Draw the line. How much is our part? How much is Christ’s part?” She went right to the center of the page and began to draw a line. Then, considering what we had been speaking about, she went to the bottom of the page and drew a line just above the bottom dot. I said, “Wrong.” She said, “I knew it was higher. I should have just drawn it, because I knew it.” I said, “No. The truth is, there is no line. Jesus filled the whole space. He paid our debt in full. He didn’t pay it all except for a few coins. He paid it all. It is finished.” She said, “Right! Like I don’t have to do anything?” “Oh no,” I said, “you have plenty to do
189,992 Views

“Remember Lot’s Wife”: Faith Is for the Future

You all look so good. Sister Holland walked in and said, “I think I’m going to cry.” You have to understand: Give yourselves 20 or 30 years—then you’ll know how we feel coming back here. We love this campus. We’re thrilled to be with you on it, and we love you personally with all our hearts. You have had, will have, and now have better university presidents than I was, but you’ll never have one who loves you and loves this university more than I do. Thank you for serving here, and thank you for being in attendance on a bright, clear, January morning. We are grateful to President and Sister Samuelson for their kindness and their leadership at this university. We actually know something about their jobs and what they entail. You and we are very lucky to have them at the helm of this special school, and we praise them publicly for the time they spend, the success they are having, and the strength that they bring. I loved every word of their counsel to you last week, and I pray that my remarks to you today are consistent with their messages about light, about trust, and about the privilege it is to have the gospel of Jesus Christ enhance our study at BYU. President and Sister Samuelson, we do love you. You have our prayers, our gratitude, and our support. The start of a new year is the traditional time to take stock of our lives and see where we are going, measured against the backdrop of where we have been. I don’t want to talk to you about New Year’s resolutions, because you only made five of them and you have already broken four. (I give that remaining one just another week.) But I do want to talk to you about the past and the future, not so much in terms of New Year’s commitments per se, but more with an eye toward any time of transition and change in your lives—and those moments come virtually every day of our lives. As a scriptural theme for this discussion, I have chosen the second-shortest verse in all of holy scripture. I am told that the shortest verse—a verse that every missionary memorizes and holds ready in case he is called on spontaneously in a zone conference—is John 11:35: “Jesus wept.” Elders, here is a second option, another shortie that will dazzle your mission president in case you are called on two zone conferences in a row. It is Luke 17:32, where the Savior cautions, “Remember Lot’s wife.” Hmmm. What did He mean by such an enigmatic little phrase? To find out, I suppose we need to do as He suggested. Let’s recall who Lot’s wife was. The original story, of course, comes to us out of the days of Sodom and Gomorrah, when the Lord, having had as much as He could stand of the worst that men and women could do, told Lot and his family to flee because those cities were about to be destroyed. “Escape for thy life,” the Lord said, “look not behind thee . . . ; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed” (Genesis 19:1
169,268 Views

Meeting the Challenges of Today

Thank you very much, President Oaks; and thank you, sisters, for that lovely music. This is always a great experience for any of us to have. Often, when speaking to student leaders in higher education, I have used the analogy that—in a university—the faculty, staff, and administration are like the natives, and the students are like the tourists. In many ways, a recurring devotional speaker is more like one of the natives. Even so, I thank President Oaks for once again extending this precious privilege to me. You may conclude today, however, that I am becoming more like a tourist, since I shall try to cover two topics in order to make the most of these fleeting moments. Discipleship includes good citizenship; and in this connection, if you are careful students of the statements of the modern prophets, you will have noticed that with rare exceptions—especially when the First Presidency has spoken out—the concerns expressed have been over moral issues, not issues between political parties. The declarations are about principles, not people, and causes, not candidates. On occasions, at other levels in the Church, a few have not been so discreet, so wise, or so inspired. But make no mistake about it, brothers and sisters; in the months and years ahead, events will require of each member that he or she decide whether or not he or she will follow the First Presidency. Members will find it more difficult to halt longer between two opinions (see 1 Kings 18:21). President Marion G. Romney said, many years ago, that he had “never hesitated to follow the counsel of the Authorities of the Church even though it crossed my social, professional, or political life” (CR, April 1941, p. 123). This is a hard doctrine, but it is a particularly vital doctrine in a society which is becoming more wicked. In short, brothers and sisters, not being ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ includes not being ashamed of the prophets of Jesus Christ. We are now entering a period of incredible ironies. Let us cite but one of these ironies which is yet in its subtle stages: we shall see in our time a maximum if indirect effort made to establish irreligion as the state religion. It is actually a new form of paganism that uses the carefully preserved and cultivated freedoms of Western civilization to shrink freedom even as it rejects the value essence of our rich Judeo-Christian heritage. M. J. Sobran wrote recently: The Framers of the Constitution . . . forbade the Congress to make any law “respecting” the establishment of religion, thus leaving the states free to do so (as several of them did); and they explicitly forbade the Congress to abridge “the free exercise” of religion, thus giving actual religious observance a rhetorical emphasis that fully accords with the special concern we know they had for religion. It takes a special ingenuity to wring out of this a governmental indifference to religion
92,270 Views

Knowing When to Persevere and When to Change Direction

When my daughter Stephanie was five years old, I took her to register for kindergarten. When we arrived, she was invited to go into a classroom to “play games” with the teachers and other children. As a former elementary school teacher, I was certain the “games” were a method of testing for placement purposes. A teacher was sitting just outside the room with a box of crayons and several sheets of blank paper, and I smiled confidently to myself from across the hall as Stephanie was asked to choose her favorite color and write her name. “She could write all the names in our family,” I thought to myself. “She is so well prepared, there isn’t anything in that room she can’t handle!” But Stephanie just stood there. The teacher repeated the instructions, and again my daughter stood still, staring blankly at the box of crayons with her knees locked and hands behind her back. In the sweet, patient voice that teachers use when they are beginning to feel slightly impatient, the teacher asked once more, “Stephanie, choose your favorite color, dear, and write your name on this piece of paper.” I was about to come to my daughter’s aid when the teacher kindly said, “That’s okay. We will help you learn to write your name when you come to school in the fall.” With all the restraint I could muster, I watched Stephanie move into the classroom with a teacher who believed my daughter did not know how to write her name. On the way home I tried to ask as nonchalantly as possible why she had not written her name. “I couldn’t,” she replied. “The teacher said to choose my favorite color, and there wasn’t a pink crayon in the box!” I reflect on this incident often as I watch my children grow and observe life in general. How many times are we, as Heavenly Father’s children, immobilized because the choice we had in mind for ourselves just isn’t available to us, at least not at the time we want it? Is progress halted when acceptance into a chosen major is denied, when enrollment in a required class is closed, when a desired job doesn’t come through, when that dream date doesn’t progress beyond friendship, or when the money hoped for isn’t there? Are we ever, for reasons that are hard to understand or beyond our control, faced with a set of circumstances that we did not have in mind for ourselves? In other words, what happens when we look in the box and the pink crayon just isn’t there? It is so easy to lock our knees, put our hands behind our back, and do nothing when things wished for and dreamed about are beyond our reach. But to do so would defy the very reason we are placed here on this earth. As hard as it sometimes is to understand, stumbling blocks are essential to our progression. Remember what the Lord said: “If thou art called to pass through [some] tribulation . . . know . . . that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy
76,311 Views

“Cast Not Away Therefore Your Confidence”

There is a lesson in the Prophet Joseph Smith’s account of the First Vision that virtually everyone in this audience has had occasion to experience, or one day soon will. It is the plain and very sobering truth that before great moments, certainly before great spiritual moments, there can come adversity, opposition, and darkness. Life has some of those moments for us, and occasionally they come just as we are approaching an important decision or a significant step in our life. In the marvelous account that we read too seldom, Joseph said he had scarcely begun his prayer when he felt a power of astonishing influence come over him. Thick darkness, as he described it, gathered around him and seemed bent on his utter destruction. But he exerted all his powers to call upon God to deliver him out of the power of this enemy, and as he did so a pillar of light brighter than the noonday sun descended gradually until it rested upon him. At the very moment of the light’s appearance, he found himself delivered from the destructive power that had held him bound. What then followed is the greatest epiphany since the events surrounding the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Christ in the meridian of time. The Father and the Son appeared to Joseph Smith, and the dispensation of the fulness of times had begun. (See JS—H 1:15–20.) Most of us do not need any more reminders than we have already had that there is one who personifies “opposition in all things,” that “an angel of God” fell “from heaven” and in so doing became “miserable forever.” What a chilling destiny. Lehi teaches us that because this is Lucifer’s fate, “he sought also the misery of all mankind” (2 Nephi 2:11, 17–18). Surely this must be the original ecclesiastical source for the homely little adage that misery loves company. A morning’s devotional could be devoted to this subject of the adversary’s strong, preliminary, anticipatory opposition to many of the good things that God has in store for us. But today I want to move past that observation to another truth we may not recognize so readily. This is a lesson in the parlance of the athletic contest that reminds us “it isn’t over until it’s over.” It is the reminder that the fight goes on. Unfortunately we must not think that Satan is defeated with that first, strong breakthrough that so dramatically brings the light and moves us forward. To make my point a little more vividly, may I go to another passage of scripture, indeed to another vision. You will recall that the book of Moses begins with him being taken up to “an exceedingly high mountain” where, the scripture says, “he saw God face to face, and he talked with him, and the glory of God was upon Moses” (Moses 1:1–2). What then followed was what happens to prophets who are taken to high mountains. The Lord said to Moses, Look, and I will show thee the workmanship of mine hands. . 
67,783 Views

“In the Strength of the Lord”

Good morning, brothers and sisters. It is for me a blessing and a remarkable responsibility to stand before you today. I appreciate the invitation from Elder Bateman to speak with you. As I entered the Marriott Center this morning, my mind was flooded with wonderful memories. I have been in this arena many, many times. I was a freshman at BYU in 1970 when the construction work on this building was started. I vividly remember sitting way up there on September 11, 1973, and listening to the teachings and testimony of President Harold B. Lee. I had returned from my mission to southern Germany just three weeks earlier, and the message he presented that day was entitled “Be Loyal to the Royal Within You.” I hope I shall never forget what I felt and heard and learned that day. His teachings have positively influenced me for the last 28 years. I remember sitting right over there in 1973 when President Spencer W. Kimball, as president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, delivered a powerful and extremely direct message about the importance of eternal marriage (“Marriage Is Honorable,” 30 September 1973). I also remember how squirmy I and the young woman with whom I attended that fireside were—on our first date. (For those of you who may be wondering, the young woman with whom I attended that fireside then is not Sister Bednar now.) And I remember sitting right over there in 1977 as a married student walking and wrestling with a young son. I sat right up there in 2000 when that same son graduated from BYU with his baccalaureate degree. I recall with great fondness numerous other occasions in this building when I have listened to inspired leaders and learned from great teachers. It frankly never occurred to me that someday I might be invited to stand at this pulpit and speak to a group like you. It is clear to me that I likely will never be asked to do so again. Thus I have been most prayerful and serious about preparing my presentation for today. Assuming that I would never again stand at this pulpit to teach and testify, I have considered what might be the most important message I could share with you. My objective this morning is to describe and discuss both the redeeming and enabling powers of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. And I hope to place particular emphasis upon the enabling power of the Atonement. I yearn and invite and pray for the companionship of the Holy Ghost to be with me and with you as we visit together for these few minutes about this sacred subject. The Journey of Life The framework for my message today is a statement by President David O. McKay. He summarized the overarching purpose of the gospel of the Savior in these terms: “The purpose of the gospel is . . . to make bad men good and good men better, and to change human nature” (from the film Every Member a Missionary, as acknowledged by Franklin D. Richards, CR, October 1965, 136–
57,135 Views

How Do I Love Thee?

I am delighted to be with you the day after Valentine’s Day and the day before Sister Holland’s birthday. Guess what is on my mind! Guess what I am going to talk about! Yes, I am going to talk about love, because Shakespeare made me do it. You see, it is the fifteenth of February. If it were the fifteenth of March, it would be the ides of March. And everybody remembers what Brutus did to Julius Caesar on the ides of March—and it befell Mark Antony to get back at Brutus in the great funeral oration, the same Mark Antony who let Cleopatra take him for the proverbial trip up the Nile without a paddle. Never mind that the ides of February were actually the day before yesterday. I am certainly not going to let that stop me from speaking about love and romance and marriage—a topic absolutely foreign to the interests of those on the BYU campus and one scarcely mentioned here this entire month. Indulge me. Pretend you are interested—if only because Sister Holland is my valentine and it is her birthday tomorrow. You know, winning Sister Holland was not an easy thing to do. I worked at it and worked at it and worked at it until I finally had the courage to ask for her hand. In a romantic setting I said as meekly and humbly as I could, “Pat, will you marry me?” To which she said, “Oh, dearest darling, dearest loved one, yes. Yes, yes, yes. When shall we set the date? Oh, we have got to reserve the temple. I know exactly what colors I want for the bridesmaids. Should we have the reception indoors or out? And someone must be at the guest book. And I can just see in my mind the cake that we want. . . .” Then she stopped mid-sentence and said, “Oh, darling. You are so overcome you are speechless. Here I have just gone on and on. Wouldn’t you like to say something on this night of nights?” To which I replied, “I think I have said too much already.” She counters that story by reminding me that when I arrived for our first date, her little brother shouted to her, “Hey, dreamboat, your barnacle is here!” Actually neither of those stories is true, but who knows? Maybe you can use them someday when you have to speak at BYU on love and marriage. Do let me now be serious. What I have learned of romantic love and the beauty of marriage I have learned from Sister Holland. I am honored to be her husband and am happy for you that she is on this campus again this morning, if only for an hour or two. As I once said of her, paraphrasing what Mark Twain’s Adam said of his Eve, “Wherever she was, there was paradise” (see “Adam’s Diary”). I wish to speak to you this morning about Christlike love and what I think it can and should mean in your friendships, in your dating, in serious courtship, and, ultimately, in your marriage. I approach the subject knowing full well that, as a newly engaged young woman said to me just last month, “There is certainly a lot of advice
54,146 Views

A Compensatory Spiritual Power for the Righteous

My dear brothers and sisters, I am humbled to stand before you. Many of you will know that the First Presidency originally assigned Elder L. Tom Perry to speak here today. I am honored to stand in his place. In the past ninety days we have witnessed, as President Russell M. Nelson likes to say, “the graduation” of two extraordinary Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ. President Boyd K. Packer was made a General Authority just after my tenth birthday. Elder L. Tom Perry was ordained an Apostle before my wife, Kathy, and I were married, when we were students here at Brigham Young University. For more than forty years they sat together in the Quorum of the Twelve, and for more than half of that time they sat next to one another. President Packer, with a smile, would say that the Lord put Elder Perry next to him to kick him in the ankles when he got out of line. During those many decades they moved across the world and used every opportunity to testify of the divine mission of the Lord Jesus Christ and of the restoration of His gospel. And as they bore witness of Him, He refined them, purified them, and sanctified them. President Packer, who was by his nature a very private man, would lament at times that members of the Quorum of the Twelve were destined to die onstage. President Packer had a very quick wit. One Thursday morning before our meeting began in the temple, Elder Perry was conversing with me at the junior end of the semicircle of chairs. President Packer, speaking in a cheerful voice so all could hear, said, “Tom, come up here where you belong. Ten good men have died to put you in this chair.” They both moved through the veil with dignity and spiritual power. On the week that Elder Perry passed away, he attended our meeting on Tuesday. On Tuesday night, as recorded by his son, Lee, he had a spiritual experience that let him know his time was soon.1 With Elder Russell M. Nelson on assignment in eastern Europe, Elder Perry, on Wednesday morning, called Elder Oaks and Elder Ballard to his apartment. He told them his time was short and that he would not be coming back into the office. He recorded a six-minute message for the Quorum of the Twelve, telling us he loved us, encouraging us in the work ahead, and bearing his sure witness of the Savior. We were sobered as that recording was played for us Thursday morning in the temple. The First Presidency went Thursday afternoon to say their good-byes to their dear friend. Elder Nelson called Elder Perry from Bulgaria Thursday evening. On Friday morning President Packer rose from his feeble ­condition and traveled to Elder Perry’s apartment to say good-bye. They reflected on their many years together. President Packer reminded him that Elder Perry had always said that he wanted to go through the veil at least one day before President Packer. They rejoiced that they would soon see each other on the other side. On Friday af
53,866 Views

The Seven Deadly Heresies

I have sought and do now seek that guidance and enlightenment which comes from the Holy Spirit of God. I desire to speak by the power of the Holy Ghost so that my words will be true and wise and proper. When any of us speak by the power of the Spirit, we say what the Lord wants said, or, better, what he would say if he were here in person. I shall depart from my normal and usual pattern and read portions of my presentation because I want to state temperately and accurately the doctrinal principles involved and to say them in a way that will not leave room for doubt or question. I shall speak on some matters that some may consider to be controversial, though they ought not to be. They are things on which we ought to be united, and to the extent we are all guided and enlightened from on high we will be. If we are so united—and there will be no disagreement among those who believe and understand the revealed word—we will progress and advance and grow in the things of the Spirit; we will prepare ourselves for a life of peace and happiness and joy here and now, and for an eventual eternal reward in the kingdom of our Father. There is a song or a saying or a proverb or a legend or a tradition or something that speaks of seven deadly sins. I know nothing whatever about these and hope you do not. My subject is one about which some few of you, unfortunately, do know a little. It is “The Seven Deadly Heresies” —not the great heresies of a lost and fallen Christendom, but some that have crept in among us. Now I take a text. These words were written by Paul to certain ancient Saints. In principle they apply to us: I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you. [1 Corinthians 11:18–19] Now let me list some axioms (I guess in academic circles we call these caveats): —There is no salvation in believing a false doctrine. —Truth, diamond truth, truth unmixed with error, truth alone leads to salvation. —What we believe determines what we do. —No man can be saved in ignorance of God and his laws. —Man is saved no faster than he gains knowledge of Jesus Christ and the saving truths of his everlasting gospel. —Gospel doctrines belong to the Lord, not to men. They are his. He ordained them, he reveals them, and he expects us to believe them. —The doctrines of salvation are not discovered in a laboratory or on a geological field trip or by accompanying Darwin around the world. They come by revelation and in no other way. —Our sole concern in seeking truth should be to learn and believe what the Lord knows and believes. Providentially he has set forth some of his views in the holy scriptures. —Our goal as mortals is to gain the mind of Christ, to believe what he believes, to think what he thinks, t
53,359 Views

You Were Born to Lead, You Were Born for Glory

My dear brothers and sisters, I pray that the Spirit will speak to each of you who is ready to hear what the Lord wishes you to hear. For I am not the teacher—He is. Two Christmases ago I went out to my car one evening to find the passenger window smashed and my briefcase stolen with everything in it—money, credit cards, all of my ID (including the passport that had taken me to 50 countries), and irreplaceable documents. I was beside myself. Hoping the thieves had stolen the money and discarded everything else, a friend and I spent all night prowling through area dumpsters, hoping to find something. But we found nothing. The next day I began the tedious process of replacing the contents. Suffice it to say, the whole process was a pain. Then, unexpectedly, two mornings later, my phone rang at 3:00 a.m. It was a Church operator. “Sister Dew, did you lose a briefcase?” “Yes,” I answered. “I have a man on the line who says he found it in a dumpster behind a bar. Been to any bars lately, Sister Dew?” Laughing at her own joke, she connected me with this man whose pickup, as it turned out, had been robbed that night and who had been going through dumpsters. In one he had found a briefcase. My briefcase. When I asked how he had tracked me down, he replied, “When I looked inside the briefcase and saw that Mormon recommendation, I knew this must be important.” He was referring, of course, to my temple recommend. He had then called the Church number, where the operator on duty knew how to reach me. The phrase Mormon recommendation instantly reminded me of Mormon’s tender words to his son Moroni: “I recommend thee unto God, and I trust in Christ that thou wilt be saved” (Moroni 9:22). I have often pondered what it would mean to be recommended to God. In essence, every time we qualify for a temple recommend, our priesthood leaders are doing just that. But on this subject of recommendation there is another dimension to consider. For God our Father and His Son Jesus Christ, with Their perfect foreknowledge, already recommended every one of you to fill your mortal probation during the most decisive period in the history of the world. You are here now because you were elected to be here now (see 1 Peter 1:2). This is not new news. You have been told countless times that you are a chosen generation reserved for the latter part of the latter days. Just two months ago, in general conference, President Gordon B. Hinckley said once again: “You are the best generation we have ever had” (“An Ensign to the Nations, a Light to the World,” Ensign, November 2003, 84). It’s akin to being chosen to run the last leg of a relay, where the coach alw
52,052 Views

Patience

Thank you very much, Bob. I appreciate this great privilege each time that it is mine, my brothers and sisters. I am grateful to the choral group today for that last number, the lyrics of which I hope will linger with you somewhat, because I will turn to them as I close my speech. I have chosen to speak today about a very pedestrian principle: patience, I hope that I do not empty the Marriott Center by that selection. Perhaps the topic was selfishly selected because of my clear and continuing need to develop further this very important attribute. But my interest in patience is not solely personal; for the necessity of having this intriguing attribute is cited several times in the scriptures, including once by King Benjamin who, when clustering the attributes of sainthood, named patience as a charter member of that cluster (Mosiah 3:19; see also Alma 7:23). Patience is not indifference. Actually, it means caring very much but being willing, nevertheless, to submit to the Lord and to what the scriptures call the “process of time.” Patience is tied very closely to faith in our Heavenly Father. Actually, when we are unduly impatient we are suggesting that we know what is best—better than does God. Or, at least, we are asserting that our timetable is better than His. Either way we are questioning the reality of God‘s omniscience as if, as some seem to believe, God were on some sort of postdoctoral fellowship and were not quite in charge of everything. Saint Teresa of Avila said that unless we come to know the reality of God, including his omniscience, our mortal existence “will be no more than a night in a second-class hotel” (quoted by Malcolm Muggerridge in “The Great Liberal Death Wish,” Imprimis [Hillsdale College, Michigan], May 1979.) Our second estate can be a first-class experience only if you and I develop a patient faith in God and in his unfolding purposes. We read in Mosiah about how the Lord simultaneously tries the patience of His people even as He tries their faith (Mosiah 23:21). One is not only to endure, but to endure well and gracefully those things which the Lord “seeth fit to inflict upon [us]” (Mosiah 3:19), just as did a group of ancient American saints who were bearing unusual burdens but who submitted “cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord” (Mosiah 24:15). Paul, speaking to the Hebrews, brings us up short by writing that, even after faithful disciples had “done the will of God,” they “[had] need of patience” (Hebrews 10:36). How many times have good individuals done the right thing only to break or wear away under subsequent stress, canceling out much of the value of what they had already so painstakingly done? Sometimes that which we are doing is correct enough but simply needs to be persisted in patiently, not for a minute or a moment but sometimes for years. Paul speaks of the marathon of life and of how we must “run w
51,043 Views

Healing = Courage + Action + Grace

I should start by confessing I will likely cry. I am a therapist. I can’t help it; emotion is what I do. But in my defense, I bet no one on this campus looks more like Bronco Mendenhall than I do, and we all know he is very manly. Wait for the hat and the super-serious stare. Do you see what I mean? When we first moved to Utah, two of our children were walking around campus, and they saw Bronco. Our then thirteen-year-old daughter said, “Dad, you do look just like him—minus the muscles.” Notwithstanding my emotional or physical condition during this talk, please remember as I speak today that it is never about the messenger; it is about the message. I pray I can remember what Martin Luther King Jr. said to himself before his first speech at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church: “Keep Martin Luther King in the background and God in the foreground and everything will be all right. Remember you are a channel of the gospel and not the source.”1 On that note, I want you to know how much I am humbled by this opportunity. I have tremendous respect for the BYU devotional experience. I have for years read, listened to, and benefited from BYU devotionals. I keep a long list of talks in a file that I give out to clients, family members, friends, and young adults like you. I have seen many times that healing, hope, and peace can come through the word of God, or, as Jacob said, “the pleasing word of God, . . . which healeth the wounded soul” (Jacob 2:8). For that reason I felt perhaps the most helpful thing I can do is simply provide a list of resources in the endnotes of this talk. I hope these references will help you, your family, your friends, bishops, and therapists as we all try to deal with the adversities of life and find healing. I have organized the references by topic (for example, adversity, depression, anxiety, pornography, and same-gender attraction) and have listed the talks (most often BYU devotionals) that might be helpful to some reader in the future. Throughout this talk I will reference many different authors and highlight additional reading that may be helpful for those who are interested. Please take the time to read through the endnotes. I know that healing can be found as we listen to and read words of wisdom and apply the true principles found therein. A Formula for Healing That brings me to today’s topic: healing. We all need healing. For some of us that need is great today. There are likely among us those who are brokenhearted because a relationship has ended badly. Others are in pain because their parents have decided to divorce or a loved one has renounced the Church. Some have learned recently that they have a chronic illness, and others have just relapsed into addictive behavior for what seems like the hundredth time. I would guess that there are some today who have wondered if depression or anxiety will always be a suffocating influence in their l
44,316 Views

Our Identity and Our Destiny

In keeping with the theme of this week, I would like to discuss with you a vision of who we are and what we may become. At a recent training session for General Authorities, the question was asked: “How can we help those struggling with pornography?” Elder Russell M. Nelson stood and replied, “Teach them their identity and their purpose.” That answer resonated with me, not only as a response to that specific question but as an appropriate response to most of the challenges we face in life. And so today I speak of the true nature of our identity and a correct vision of our divine destiny. First, our identity. There is a sentiment among many in the world that we are the spirit creations of God, just as a building is the creation of its architect or a painting the creation of its painter or an invention the creation of its inventor. The scriptures teach, however, a much different doctrine. They teach that we are more than creations of God; they teach that we are the literal spirit offspring or children of God our Father.1 What difference does this doctrinal distinction make? The difference is monumental in its consequence because our identity determines in large measure our destiny. For example, can a mere creation ever become like its creator? Can a building ever become an architect? A painting a painter? Or an invention an inventor? If not, then those who believe we are creations of God, rather than His spirit offspring, reach the inevitable conclusion that we do not have the capacity to become like our creator, God. In essence, their doctrine of identity has defined and dictated a diminished destiny. On the other hand, as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we believe that we are the spirit offspring of God with inherited spiritual traits that give us the divine potential to become like our parent, God the Father. As to this identity, President Packer has written: You are a child of God. He is the father of your spirit. Spiritually you are of noble birth, the offspring of the King of Heaven. Fix that truth in your mind and hold to it. However many generations in your mortal ancestry, no matter what race or people you represent, the pedigree of your spirit can be written on a single line. You are a child of God!2 It is this doctrine of identity that defines our potential destiny of godhood. If one does not correctly understand his divine identity, then he will never correctly understand his divine destiny. They are, in truth, inseparable partners. What, then, has God revealed to us about our destiny? He has spoken clearly and frequently and forthrightly on this subject from the very beginning. When Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden, they lived in a state of innocence—meaning they only had a limited knowledge of good and evil. Lehi described their condition as follows: “Wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocen
43,637 Views

For Times of Trouble

I would like to be quite personal this morning—personal about you and personal about myself. I have thought about you a great deal over the past few weeks and have prayed to know what might be helpful to you. In doing so I have been drawn back to my own days as a student and some of the challenges I faced then. While such experiences now border on primitive history, fit only for a geology lecture, I’m nevertheless going ahead. I have wondered if some of your experiences and feelings might even now be very much the same. I come this morning knowing the semester is nearly over and that what suggestions I offer were perhaps needed months ago. Furthermore, the year is nearly over and maybe for some an entire college career. But part of what I want to stress is that every day counts—including these remaining few in the semester—and that you have thousands of days thereafter. I will speak of you as you are right now and will hope it matters as much to the graduating senior as to the first-semester freshman. I wish to speak today of a problem that is universal and that can, at any given hour, strike anywhere on campus—faculty, staff, administration, and especially students. I believe it is a form of evil. At least I know it can have damaging effects that block our growth, dampen our spirit, diminish our hope, and leave us vulnerable to other more conspicuous evils. I address it here this morning because I know of nothing Satan uses quite so cunningly or cleverly in his work on a young man or woman in your present circumstances. I speak of doubt—especially self-doubt—of discouragement, and of despair. In doing so I don’t wish to suggest that there aren’t plenty of things in the world to be troubled by. In our lives, individually and collectively, there surely are serious threats to our happiness. I watch an early morning news broadcast while I shave and then read a daily newspaper. That is enough to ruin anyone’s day and by then it’s only 6:30 in the morning. Iran, Afghanistan, inflation, energy, jogging, mass murders, kidnapping, unemployment, floods. With all of this waiting for us we are tempted, as W. C. Fields once said, to “smile first thing in the morning and get it over with.” But my concerns for you today are not the national and international ones. I wish to speak a little more personally of those matters that do not make headlines in the New York Times but that may be important in your personal journal. I’m anxious this morning about your problems with school and love and finances and the future, about your troubles concerning a place in life and the value of your contribution, about your private fears regarding where you are going and whether you think you will ever get there. Against a backdrop of hostages and high prices I wish to speak more personally of you and fortify you, if I am able, against doubt—especially self-doubt—and discouragement and despair. This morning I wa
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“True Doctrine, Understood, Changes Attitudes and Behavior”

Good morning. My thanks go to those who provided the music this morning. Their music has helped to bring the Spirit to this meeting. I would hope to speak by that Spirit today. My late friend Robert J. Matthews, who taught religion here at BYU, used to say, “If I speak by the Spirit and you listen by the Spirit, you will hear things better than I say them.” I pray that that can happen today. I thought it appropriate to begin with a little poem written by a young man that I think might illustrate what sometimes may happen in parents’ attempts to change the behavior of their children. He wrote: My parents told me not to smoke— I don’t. Nor listen to a naughty joke— I don’t. They made it plain I must not wink At pretty girls, or even think About intoxicating drink— I don’t. To dance and flirt is very wrong— I don’t. Wild youths chase women, wine and song— I don’t. I kiss no girls, not even one— I do not know how it is done— You wouldn’t think I had much fun— I DON’T. [“I Don’t,” Goldendale Sentinel (Klickatat County, Washington), 24 October 1918, 1, gld.stparchive.com/Archive/GLD/GLD10241918P01.php] Now, you see that this young man’s behavior was changed, but not his attitude. What is needed is a change in attitude as well as behavior. So I pose this question: What causes a change in attitude and behavior? President Boyd K. Packer stated: True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior. . . . That is why we stress so forcefully the study of the doctrines of the gospel. [“Little Children,” Ensign, November 1986, 17] The purpose of my presentation today is to explore four points of doctrine as found in the scriptures and in the words of the Brethren. Principle Number 1: Draw upon the Power of the Word Daily The prophet Mormon wrote: And now, as the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just—yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened unto them—therefore Alma thought it was expedient that they should try the virtue of the word of God. [Alma 31:5] When I taught seminary years ago, I wanted to show the youth the power of the word that Alma described. I wanted to show them that if they would make the word of God (as found in the scriptures) a part of their lives, it would change them. I didn’t know exactly how to do that, but I tried this way. On the first day of class I gave them a blank sheet of paper and s
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A Reservoir of Living Water

Sister Bednar and I are grateful to meet with you tonight. As we travel the earth, we especially appreciate opportunities to gather with and learn from faithful young people like you. Tonight I pray for the assistance of the Holy Ghost as we worship together and seek in unity to be taught from on high (see D&C 43:16). I want to begin by asking a simple question. What is the most valuable substance or commodity in the world? We might initially think that gold, oil, or diamonds have the greatest worth. But of all the minerals, metals, gems, and solvents found on and in the earth, the most valuable is water. Life springs from water. Life is sustained by water. Water is the medium required to perform the various functions associated with all known forms of life. Our physical bodies are approximately two-thirds water. Whereas a person can survive for many days or even weeks without food, an individual will usually die in only three or four days without water. Most of the world’s great centers of population are situated near sources of fresh water. Simply stated, life could not exist without the availability of and access to adequate supplies of clean water. Living Water Given the vital role of water in sustaining all forms of life, the Savior’s use of the term “living water” is supernally significant. As described in the fourth chapter of John, Jesus and His disciples passed through Samaria as they were traveling from Judea to Galilee. In the city of Sychar they stopped at Jacob’s well: There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink. (For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.) Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans. Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water? . . . Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. [John 4:7–11, 13–14] The living water referred to in this episode is a representation of the Lord Jesus Christ and His gospel. And as water is necessary to sustain physical life, so the Savior and His doctrines, principles, and ordinances are essential for eternal life. You and I need His living water daily and in ample supply to sustain our ongoing spiritual growth and development. The Scr
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Successfully Failing: Pursuing Our Quest for Perfection

This is my first opportunity to address you in a devotional as president of the university. Let me begin by telling you, “You look really good.” That is different from being good-looking, though you are that as well. I hope that each of you has some inkling of the spirit you carry with you and the light that radiates from you. It is evident to visitors to the campus—who sometimes struggle to come up with words to describe what they see and feel in your presence. I thank each of you for your individual contribution to what is the real Spirit of the Y that those who come on campus experience so profoundly. It truly is an honor to be your president. Those who have heard me speak these past few months will not be surprised that I begin by quoting a portion of the BYU mission statement, which was approved and adopted by the board of trustees more than thirty years ago. That mission statement describes well both the process and the anticipated results of a BYU education. I urge each of you to read and ponder it, as well as the BYU Aims, as this new year begins. The most familiar line of that mission statement summarizes, in general terms, the details that follow. “The mission of Brigham Young University,” it states, “is to assist individuals in their quest for perfection and eternal life.”1 My remarks today focus on one reality about that quest for perfection. It is a truth that is hard to deny, yet difficult to accept. It is this: We will all fail. More than once. Every day. I know that may sound startling and not the most optimistic of messages, so let me be quick to add that this does not mean that you or I are failures or that the quest for perfection is futile. There is a difference between failing, even repeatedly, and being a failure, as I hope to explain. Failing is an essential part of the mortal phase of our quest for perfection. We don’t often think of it that way, but that is only because we tend to focus too much on the word perfection and not enough on the word quest when we read the mission statement. Failure is an inevitable part of the quest. In our quest for perfection, how we respond when we fail will ultimately determine how well we will succeed. My plea for you today is to learn how to fail successfully. To help you in that regard, let me provide a little broader context for the quest for perfection and the role that failure plays in that process. The primary purpose of our mortal existence is to help us become like our heavenly parents. One of the things we need to do in order to accomplish that purpose is to learn and apply truth in our lives. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that “it is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance”2 and that “a man is saved no faster than he gets knowledge.”3 Thus learning is an essential part of not only our BYU experience but also this mortal phase of our quest for perfect
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“It Is Not Good That . . . Man Should Be Alone”

My message today is summarized in a familiar scripture, Genesis 2:18, in which the Lord declared, “It is not good that . . . man should be alone.” I suppose most of you upon hearing this will think that I am about to deliver the standard BYU speech on marriage. You are wrong—well, at least mostly wrong. Although the principles I address will apply with full force to marriage, I wish to speak about a broader truth, one recognized in both secular studies and gospel teaching. It is that no one can flourish in isolation and that the quality of our relationships with others will ultimately determine our level of fulfillment and happiness in both this mortal existence and the life to come. It is in this sense that it is not good for man—or woman—to be alone. I learned this insight from an unexpected source about twenty years ago. I was ­helping teach a class at the University of Chile about that country’s law dealing with indigenous ­people. Members of the class included not only law students but also a number of leaders of indigenous communities, principally Mapuche communities from southern Chile. Each week after the regular class, these Mapuche leaders would teach the ­students—and the ­professors—various aspects of Mapuche culture. On one occasion the topic was Mapuche cosmology, or religion. One Mapuche leader began the discussion by noting that the Mapuche understanding of the meaning of life was quite different from that of the traditional Western world and that that difference could be summarized in part by differences in the Mapuche understanding of the nature of God and the devil. He explained that while the traditional Christian belief was that God was a single, solitary person, Mapuche belief was that the principal deity consisted of four individuals: an older man, an older woman, a younger man, and a younger woman. He explained that to him this was a much more logical view of the world, as everyone knew that happiness can exist only if we share it with other people. By contrast, he noted, the principal evil spirit in the Mapuche cosmology existed all by himself. And that was what made him evil. His eternal destiny was to be alone, and it was his loneliness that made him so angry and destructive. There is some disagreement among scholars as to the accuracy of this community leader’s view of Mapuche religion,1 but his insight about the effect of being alone in the world draws support from other disciplines. As Martin E. P. Seligman reported, “Social neuroscientist John Cacioppo has argued [that] loneliness is such a disabling condition that it [is clear] that the pursuit of relationships is a rock-bottom fundamental to human well-being.”2 Now I am fully aware that there are times when we want to be by ourselves; when we have to get away from others; when our roommates, classmates, brothers and sisters, and others just drive us crazy. All of us can relate, at
32,753 Views

The Return of the King

Today I would like to talk about some of the big issues of our time through the lens of history and literature as well as the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. We live in a day of technological and scientific marvels. It is also a time of uncertainty—one in which many ­question whether or not faith and religion have a place in their lives or in the public square. You too will have to decide whether faith has an enduring place in your own life. In fact, there are dramatic changes occurring within this country as it relates to faith and religion. A recent Pew Research Center study reported a dramatic decline in the share of the U.S. population that identifies as Christian. From 2007 to 2014—in just seven years—it fell by an extraordinary 8 percent.1 While the drop is occurring across the board, it is especially pronounced among young adults. The world today poses many threats to faith in God, and the unfortunate fact is that faith in God is waning. This is not the first time in history that such a crisis of faith has loomed. There was a similar period around 100 years ago. As the twentieth century opened, the world held great hope and enthusiasm for the future. Science was supplying astounding breakthroughs at every turn and the world seemed to be rushing toward a modern period when mankind, through its own self-generated progress and technology, might finally be able to solve the ancient problems of our world. Consider some of the varied discoveries and inventions in just the first decade of the twentieth century. The modern escalator was invented—perhaps a kind of metaphor of man’s supposedly inevitable rise. Marconi sent the first transatlantic radio signal. The vacuum cleaner and the tractor were developed—­harbingers of liberation from more arduous forms of labor. The Wright brothers flew the first manned flight. Albert Einstein stunned the world with his theory of relativity. Henry Ford produced more than 10,000 cars on the first assembly line of its kind. The world saw its first talking motion picture and Marie Curie discovered radium.2 Cultural historian Richard Tarnas characterized the period this way: Using his own natural intelligence, and without the aid of Holy Scripture’s divine revelation, man had penetrated nature’s mysteries, transformed his universe, and immeasurably enhanced his existence. . . . His own wits and will could change his world. Science gave man a new faith—not only in scientific knowledge, but in himself.3 This period of time gave rise to what is known as “the myth of progress”—that is, the idea that mankind was somehow destined to rise inexorably on this wave of scientific progress to a new Eden. So it was that on the eve of the First World War, as the quest for power and political dominance reared its ugly head yet again in Europe, the response was a sadly naïve one. If a war must be fought
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Religious Freedom and Fairness for All

Good morning, my dear friends and associates in this great cause. You are an impressive group this morning, with so much potential. I know your participation in these devotionals is highly recommended and encouraged, and many of you have homework, tests, and other commitments, so I thank you for attending and will do my best to make this morning worth your investment of time. One of my Church assignments is to serve on the Public Affairs Committee of the Church. This is a First Presidency–directed committee, and I am very honored to serve under their leadership. The chairman over the committee is a member of the Quorum of the Twelve. In my tenure, those chairmen have been Elder L. Tom Perry and, before him, Elder M. Russell Ballard. Elder D. Todd Christofferson is currently the acting chairman. It is with the assistance of the Public Affairs Committee that I speak to you on an important topic that is attracting more and more public attention, and that is the subject of religious freedom. Because you are a sophisticated and intelligent audience, I plan to speak with you with the candor that your generation craves. I suspect that for some of you the phrase “religious freedom” feels more like “freedom to discriminate.” I want to talk with you about this view and help you understand what the Church means when it talks about religious freedom and why it is so vitally important for your future and for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I also plan to address some misgivings and misunderstandings some of you may have when it comes to religious freedom. Some of you might struggle with an understanding of religion’s role in society, politics, and civic issues. Some in your age group wonder why religious groups are involved in politics in the first place, and they are often skeptical of the motives of religious people when they do so. In recent years the collective voice of groups who feel that religion should not play a role in political deliberation has grown louder. The opportunity to be involved in the ­political process is a privilege given to every citizen. Our laws and legislation play an important teaching role in shaping our social and moral culture. We need every individual in society to take an active role in engaging in civic dialogue that helps frame laws and legislation that are fair for everyone. Freedom for All What are we talking about when we refer to religious freedom? I am going to tell you the stories of two people who may be just a little older than you, and, as I do so, I would like you to think about how you would feel if you were one of these individuals. The first story is about someone I will call Ethan. He had recently started his job in a career he had longed for, and he wanted to make a good impression. He came early to work and stayed late. He picked up extra projects and did excellent work. He was well liked by many of his colleagu
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But for a Small Moment

I am delighted to be with you tonight, my brothers and sisters, to partake of the spirit that is here and of that marvelous music. I wish you knew how much as a generation you inspire those of us who have the privilege of working with you. I want you to know that I regard you highly—collectively and all here whom I know individually–and have great expectations for you. The highest compliment I can pay to you is that God has placed you here and now at this time to serve in his kingdom; so much is about to happen in which you will be involved and concerning which you will have some great influence. It is because you will face some remarkable challenges in your time; it is because the Church has ceased to be in the eyes of men a mere cultural oddity in the Mountain West and is now, therefore, a global church—a light which can no longer be hid; it is because you have a rendezvous with destiny that will involve some soul stretching and some pain that I have chosen to speak to you tonight about the implications of two things we accept sometimes quite casually. These realities are that God loves us and, loving us, has placed us here to cope with challenges which he will place before us. I’m not sure we can always understand the implications of his love, because his love will call us at times to do things we may wonder about, and we may be confronted with circumstances we would rather not face. I believe with all my heart that because God loves us there are some particularized challenges that he will deliver to each of us. He will customize the curriculum for each of us in order to teach us the things we most need to know. He will set before us in life what we need, not always what we like. And this will require us to accept with all our hearts—particularly your generation—the truth that there is divine design in each of our lives and that you have rendezvous to keep, individually and collectively. God knows even now what the future holds for each of us. In one of his revelations these startling words appear, as with so many revelations that are too big, I suppose, for us to manage fully: “In the presence of God, . . . all things . . . are manifest, past, present, and future, and are continually before the Lord” (D&C 130:7). The future “you” is before him now. He knows what it is he wishes to bring to pass in your life. He knows the kind of remodeling in your life and in mine that he wishes to achieve. Now, this will require us to believe in that divine design and at times to accept the truth which came to Joseph Smith wherein he was reminded that his suffering would be “but a small moment” (D&C 121:7). I’d like to talk to you about some of those small moments that will come your way in life and that come to each of us. Let me begin by reminding you that we so blithely say in the Church that life is a school, a testing ground. It is true, even though it is trite. What we don’t accept are the imp
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All Hell Is Moved

Thank you very much, President Oaks. One of the joys of my life has been the association in recent years with President Oaks. He is, in my opinion, the outstanding university president in America today. He could preside over other universities and render a great service, but I am glad he is here. I am grateful for this beautiful music that has been so well sung, for those anthems of praise, and for the prayer offered in each of our behalfs. Because President Oaks has been courteous to me many times, I have had this signal honor before; but, as he pointed out, for the first time I feel as though I belong and am one of you. And as a father and an adopted alumnus of this University, may I take this opportunity to thank the faculty of Brigham Young University who have taught and are now teaching so well my four children and two children acquired through marriage. It is a great blessing to have a faculty of such fine men and women and to feel as a father that one’s children are being so well taught. With us today also is our first grandchild, Peter, a grandson seven months old, who is checking the campus out. Hopefully he will come here too, someday, unless today’s devotional speaker proves too depressing. The theme of my address comes from a prophecy in President George Q. Cannon’s speech given in the Tabernacle in May of 1866. President Cannon spoke of the generations that had passed before the restoration of the gospel during which the adversary was indifferent and unconcerned with regard to the fractious religious movements among mankind which were not based upon the fulness of truth. However, President Cannon observed that the movement of the Holy Priesthood of God and the Church were restored, “then all hell is moved.” He catalogued the forms of resistance that can be expected when “all hell is moved.” President Cannon, who knew that the adversary regards this telestial turf as his own, said that Satan will vigorously resist all rezoning efforts because this is his world. President Cannon further observed that the Saints—meaning you and I—must not make the mistake of assuming the existence of any truce between the forces of Satan and God. To believe so, said President Cannon, is “a very great delusion, and a very common one.” President Cannon then warned that the forms of resistance to righteousness will strike us “with wonder and astonishment.” This, he said, would occur because “the war” which was waged in heaven has been transferred to the earth,” and that this conflict, he said, “will [come to] occupy the thoughts and minds of all the inhabitants of the earth” (Journal of Discourses 11:227–29). Brothers and sisters, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will be at the epicenter of all that. On the sixth of April, 1845, the Twelve Apostles issued a proclamation which included these words: As this work progresses in its onward course, and be
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Terror, Triumph, and a Wedding Feast

I want to excuse Sister Holland tonight. She would have dearly loved being with us, but she is in Houston, Texas, tonight, helping with a brand-new granddaughter born to our daughter and son-in-law there. If those of you gathered in Houston turn around slowly and look near the back of the room, you may see a cute little grandmother hiding on the back row pretending to be an institute student. Now I know full well how young she looks, brethren, but please, she is already taken. I appreciate her support there just as much as if she were here at my side tonight. I bring you her love, and only such duty as grandmothers have at such times would keep her from being here with us. “Hermana Holland, te amo.” As many of you know, Sister Holland and I have just returned from a two-year assignment in Chile, where, like so many of you tonight are doing, we sat with young adults and institute students in stake centers half a world away, receiving these broadcasts far from Church headquarters. We too felt the Spirit of the Lord and the love of our leaders. We especially felt the fellowship of thousands around the world, like you, who were the same age, shared the same faith, and wanted the same things for a full and happy future. I come tonight very mindful of my young friends in Chile but equally mindful of all our other friends around the world—in England and France, in Korea and Japan, in Australia and Nigeria and the Ukraine, to say nothing of the legions of you gathered throughout North America. Bienvenidos to all of you, whatever language you speak, and please know that I love you. There is such strength in our numbers. I pray for the Spirit and blessings of the Lord to be upon all of us and earnestly desire that what I say will be of some value to each of you. Terror I want to speak to you tonight in the context of ongoing anxiety in the world and some of the challenges we face at home and abroad. Of course there have always been challenges in every age and dispensation, but yesterday—September 11—was the third anniversary of a violent and near-unimaginable event that rocked the whole world. Indeed, the aftermath of that act has dramatically and perhaps permanently affected many of the ways in which the world now lives. Perhaps with such an anniversary yesterday, the fears and concerns of our modern times are still in your hearts today. In any case, certainly our neighbors—the citizens of the nations to which we are beaming this broadcast tonight—have, since September 11, 2001, been dangling off balance, have been made more fearful, and have been alarmed by international events and the almost wholesale new use of the word terror. Not many years ago that word was reserved almost entirely for B-grade movie advertisements and Stephen King novels. Now, sadly, it is daily fare in our newspapers and so common in conversation that even young children, including the schoolchildren in Russ
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Money Matters: Living Joyfully Within Your Means

Good morning. I am excited to be here today. I pray that the Spirit will bless us. The topic today is important, both temporally and spiritually, and I invite you to listen with both your mind and your heart. Each year I teach almost a thousand BYU students in SFL (School of Family Life) 260 about family finance. Oddly enough, the purpose of this course is not to teach students how to get rich. Instead, the goal is to help students gain a stewardship perspective and wisely manage their money to joyfully strengthen family relationships. As a bonus, this class ­fulfills the quantitative reasoning general ­education requirement. At the beginning of each semester I tell my class to remember three things, and I invite you to do the same: First, life is hard, but you can do hard things. With the help of the Lord you can do anything He wants you to do—even balance a budget or invest in a mutual fund. Second, when life doesn’t go as planned, don’t get frustrated; make the best of it. Most of the time things don’t go as planned—­especially in financial matters—and if you don’t make the best of it, you will spend most of your life feeling frustrated. And third, remember TTT: things take time. In fact, the best financial plan is the “get rich slowly” plan in which you safely and systematically invest. Whenever I talk about finances, I am reminded of a story I heard about a college freshman who didn’t budget very well. He kept running out of money before he ran out of month. One night the student texted home: “No mon, no fun, your son.” His wise father texted right back: “How sad, too bad, your dad.”1 I hope my talk this morning will help you avoid the plight of this student. The title of this devotional is “Money Matters: Living Joyfully Within Your Means.” To introduce this theme, I would like to get personal and briefly share some things I have learned over my lifetime about money and ­joyful living. A long, long time ago, Juanita Ray and I met while attending BYU. We played racquetball together, courted for a time, and were married in the temple. As newlyweds, we had no money. We lived in a tiny two-room apartment with low ceilings, we bought clothes from Deseret Industries, and we ate her family’s food storage. We drank powdered milk for almost a year—yuck! But we had each other, we had our love, and we had the gospel. It was a good year. We learned that you don’t need a lot of money to be happy. I graduated, I got a good job, and we started drinking whole milk—heavenly! I had been taught to pay 10 percent to the Lord, save 10 percent to invest, and live on the rest. Juanita and I did this as we created our family budgets over the years. We were fruitful, and after twenty-five years we had lots of kids who filled our mortgage-free home. We also had solid investments. We learned about the miracle of compo
29,525 Views

Why We Must Be Wholeheartedly Holy

It is good to be with you this morning. While in a moment I will draw on the academic disciplines of Egyptology and biblical studies, in which I have been so steeped over the last few decades, I want to start out by trying to draw an analogy from one of my favorite things to do: waterskiing. The way I read the accounts of the Savior and Peter on the Sea of Galilee, it seems to me that waterskiing is the closest thing we have to a celestial sport. I can’t get enough of it. In fact, one year my brothers, a cousin, and I made the goal of skiing on Utah Lake every month of the year. During January and February we questioned the wisdom of this goal, but we did it. I skied every time I got the chance. During all these years of waterskiing I have had the chance to teach a lot of people how to ski. I believe I taught around 100 people. As I did so, I realized that there are really only three things people have to do to learn how to ski. The first is to keep their skis together. Often the pressure of the water will cause a person to do the splits, and it is very hard to ski that way. But there are ways to tie skis together, so this isn’t the biggest problem. The most difficult problem comes because you have an instinctive tendency to try to stand on top of the water as the boat pulls you. As a result, just as the boat pulls people up, most of them pull on the rope and push with their legs. Instead of being helpful, both of these actions tend to pull people’s legs out from under them, and they immediately fall. Most of the time the action of pulling on the rope was so instinctive that people didn’t even realize they had done it. I can’t tell you how many times I repeated the mantra “arms straight, knees bent, skis together.” I would explain again and again that the boat was strong enough to pull a person up—they just had to be patient enough to let it. Here is the lesson: When those I taught learned to forget about using their own strength to get up and relied on the power of the boat, they would ski. When you master your impulse to pull yourself up, you get on top of the water; then the ability to accelerate, cut through the water, float on a sea of glass, and sail with an amazing feeling of freedom and exhilaration is waiting for you. While this analogy can be applied in a number of ways, today I want to compare it to something I have seen that ancient Israel struggled with. During the two decades I have been teaching the Old Testament, I have found that for most of us it just seems weird when we read about ancient Israel’s struggles with idolatry. We cannot imagine why they would stop worshipping Jehovah and instead worship things carved from wood or stone or molded from metal. We ask ourselves, “What were they thinking? What is wrong with them?” Yet I have found that we should never ask ourselves, “What is wrong with them?” Instead we should ask, “What is wrong with them and me?” If ancient I
28,416 Views

Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled

It is good to be here with you this morning, my dear young friends. I ask that the Lord will help me to say something that will help you. Recently I spent the better part of a week in Washington, D.C., living in a hotel room. Each morning I watched the early news on television and then read the morning paper while eating breakfast. President Ford had just granted a pardon to his predecessor. The amount of venom that spewed from the mouths and pens of the commentators was unbelievable. They were aflame with indignation. In all that week of morning watching and reading I never heard nor read among the commentators and editorialists a single paragraph of positive thought. The speakers were brilliant. They were men of incisive language, scintillating in expression. The columnists were masters of the written word. With studied art they poured out the sour vinegar of invective and anger, judging as if all wisdom belonged to them. At the conclusion of that week, I too made a negative observation. Said I, “Surely this is the age and place of the gifted pickle sucker.” The tragedy is that this spirit is epidemic. Criticism, fault-finding, evil speaking—these are of the spirit of the day. They are in our national life. To hear tell these days, there is nowhere a man of integrity among those holding political office. In many instances this spirit has become the very atmosphere of university campuses. The snide remark, the sarcastic gibe, the cutting down of associates—these, too often, are of the essence of our conversation. In our homes wives weep and children finally give up under the barrage of criticism leveled by husbands and fathers. Criticism is the forerunner of divorce, the cultivator of rebellion, sometimes a catalyst that leads to failure. Even in the Church it sows the seed of inactivity and finally apostasy. I come this morning with a plea that we stop seeking out the storms and enjoy more fully the sunlight. I am suggesting that we “accentuate the positive.” I am asking that we look a little deeper for the good, that we still our voices of insult and sarcasm, that we more generously compliment virtue and effort. I am not asking that all criticism be silenced. Growth comes of correction. Strength comes of repentance. Wise is the man who can acknowledge mistakes pointed out by others and change his course. I am not suggesting that our conversation be all honey and blossoms. Clever expression that is sincere and honest is a skill to be sought and cultivated. What I am suggesting and asking is that we turn from the negativism that so permeates our society and look for the remarkable good in the land and times in which we live, that we speak of one another’s virtues more than we speak of one another’s faults, that optimism replace pessimism, that our faith exceed our fears. When I was a boy our father often said to us: Cynics do not contribute. Skeptics do not create.
22,236 Views

Religion: Bound by Loving Ties

One of my BYU professors of yesteryear—actually quite a few yesteryears—was Edward L. Hart, who wrote the text of a much-loved hymn in the Church. The second verse of that hymn, Our Savior’s Love, reads this way: The Spirit, voice  Of goodness, whispers to our hearts A better choice  Than evil’s anguished cries. Loud may the sound  Of hope ring till all doubt departs, And we are bound  To him by loving ties.1 An omnibus word familiar to us all that summarizes these “loving ties” to our Heavenly Father is religion. Scholars debate the etymology of that word just as scholars and laymen alike debate almost everything about the subject of religion, but a widely accepted account of its origin suggests that our English word religion comes from the Latin word religare, meaning “to tie” or, more literally, “to re-tie.”2 In that root syllable of ligare you can hear the echo of a word such as ligature, which is what a doctor uses to sew us up if we have a wound. So, for our purpose today, religion is that which unites what was separated or holds together that which might be torn apart—an obvious need for us, individually and ­collectively, given the trials and tribulations we all experience here in mortality. What is equally obvious is that the great conflict between good and evil, right and wrong, the moral and the immoral—conflict that the world’s great faiths and devoted religious believers have historically tried to address—is being intensified in our time and is affecting an ever-wider segment of our culture. And let there be no doubt that the outcome of this conflict truly matters, not only in eternity but in everyday life as well. Will and Ariel Durant put the issue squarely as they reflected on what they called “the lessons of history.” “There is no significant example in history,” they said, “of [any] society successfully maintaining moral life without the aid of religion.”3 If that is true—and surely we feel it is—then we should be genuinely concerned over the assertion that the single most distinguishing feature of modern life is the rise of secularism with its attendant dismissal of, cynicism toward, or marked disenchantment with religion.4 How wonderfully prophetic our beloved Elder Neal A. Maxwell was—clear back in 1978—when he said in a BYU devotional: We shall see in our time a maximum . . . effort . . . to establish irreligion as the state religion. [These secularists will use] the carefully preserved . . . freedoms of Western civilization to shrink freedom even as [they reject] the value . . . of our r
16,549 Views

Choose Happiness

Last October I was assigned to speak in ­general conference. I decided to speak about perfecting our lives so that we could eventually become like our Father in Heaven. In my talk I invited the Saints to participate in a spiritual exercise. I suggested that members take the time to humbly ask the Lord the question “What lack I yet?” and then wait for a prompting from the Holy Ghost. In the weeks that followed, as I visited stakes around the Church, members came up to me and said, “Elder Lawrence, I tried the suggestion you gave in your conference talk. I asked the Lord what I needed to improve, and I got a clear answer.” Some have even shared with me the specific direction they received from the Lord. I was interested to learn that many Saints have been prompted to “be more cheerful” or to “smile more often” or to “count their blessings.” I am convinced that, more than anything else, our Heavenly Father wants His children to be happy. Latter-day prophets have taught that happi­ness is the purpose of our existence. Joseph Smith understood this principle. In spite of all his challenges, he chose to be happy, maintaining his cheerful disposition to the end of his life. One who knew him well described the prophet as always wearing “an unconscious smile.”1 I have known people like that—­individuals who are continually smiling ­without even realizing it. Their faces reflect genuine inner peace. When I speak at stake conferences, I look around the congregation for one of those happy faces to focus on. A smiling face in a crowd of strangers is a great comfort. What is the secret of inner happiness? The obvious answer is righteous living. But besides being “temple worthy,” what are some ways that you can increase the joy in your lives? Modern-day prophets have shared helpful insights. For example, President Gordon B. Hinckley taught that the more often a person says thank you, the happier he will be.2 It might be a worthwhile experiment to keep track of how many times you say thank you in a typical day—and then to make an effort to increase it. The theme of gratitude has been addressed by every latter-day prophet—and more often than almost any other topic. Our inspired leaders know that being grateful leads to happiness, and they are compelled to remind us. In the scriptures we are commanded to “thank the Lord thy God in all things” (D&C 59:7), and that means to thank Him for trials as well as for obvious blessings. If we look close enough, we discover that there is always something to be grateful for. For example, one BYU coed had the stomach flu all during Thanksgiving week, but she tried to keep a positive attitude. She recorded in her journal only these words: “I los
15,354 Views

Angels, Chariots, and the Lord of Hosts

The title of my presentation is “Angels, Chariots,
 and the Lord of Hosts.”1 Please know that I have, through various means, sought for the
 Spirit of the Lord. Please know also that the Lord’s angels exist and are empowered by Jesus Christ
 through His infinite Atonement. The Ministry of Angels Since the days of Adam and Eve
 angels have had significant responsibilities in the Lord’s great plan of happiness. Angels figure
 prominently in ancient and modern scripture. Angels have ministered to or communicated with such
 notables as Adam, Hagar (see Genesis 16:7–11), Manoah’s wife (see Judges 13:3, 6, 19–21), Daniel,
 Mary the mother of Jesus (see Luke 1:26–38), Mary Magdalene, Salome, Joanna, Mary the mother of
 James, other women (see Mark 16:4–6; Luke 24:2–4; John 20:11–12), Peter, Paul, John the Revelator,
 and many others. Angels have also ministered to Book of Mormon characters, including Nephi (see
 1 Nephi 11:14; 2 Nephi 4:24), King Benjamin (see Mosiah 3:2), Alma the Younger (see Mosiah 27:10–11;
 Alma 8:14), Amulek (see Alma 10:7), Samuel the Lamanite (see Helaman 13:7), and
 others. Furthermore, in our own dispensation prophets and apostles have testified of the
 eminence and considerable standing of angels. In fact, our dispensation has been a period of
 extraordinary angelic activity. Joseph Smith received dozens of communications from angels.
 Additional Church authorities and others have been recipients of angelic
 communications. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was restored, in part,
 when angels imparted revelations and truths to the Prophet Joseph Smith. A passage in the Doctrine
 and Covenants summarizes: The voice of Michael, the archangel; the voice of Gabriel,
 and of Raphael, and of divers angels, from Michael or Adam down to the present time, all declaring
 their dispensation, their rights, their keys, their honors, their majesty and glory, and the power
 of their priesthood. [D&C 128:21] Elder Jeffrey R. Holland reminded us that
 it is appropriate to speak about angels. He wrote, “I believe we need to speak of and believe in and
 bear testimony of the ministry of angels more than we sometimes do.”2 For a
 definition of angels, see the Bible Dictionary. In this presentation I will refer to the Lord’s
 angels unless otherwise stated. The Angels of the Lord of Hosts How many angels are
 there? There are hosts of angels. The Old Testament expression “Lord of hosts” sometimes
 refers to the Lord of hosts of angels. The Bible Dictionary states: “The Lord of Sabaoth was a title
 of Jehovah; the hosts were the armies of Israel (1 Sam. 17:45), but also included the angelic armies
 of heaven.”3Hebrew lexicons agree with this interpretation. One prominent Hebrew lexicon
 states that
13,286 Views

The Power of Not Knowing

When I came to campus this morning, I had a bit of a panic, and it wasn’t at the thought of you, because you all are an awesome sight. It was seeing the signs—those big signs at the entrance to campus. I have to admit that those signs always give me a little panicky feeling because they are a reminder that this is the place where I was abandoned by my parents. This is the place where I was left to figure things out on my own and to wonder, “Am I even smart enough to be here?” But today these signs gave me this panic because I knew I was coming here to campus—a place that cultivates knowledge and reveres intelligence—to talk about the dangers of knowledge and the downside of intelligence. Essentially I was coming here to ask this question: Can we actually get too smart? You have probably heard this saying: “Knowledge is power.” But today I want to ask, Is there actually more power in not knowing? I want to make a case for ignorance—not ignorance as in stupidity or the lack of education but simply the lack of certainty. My dad had a saying. He used to say, “It looks like someone has gotten too big for their britches.” By this he meant that they were a little too full of themselves, a little too much of a smarty-pants. As we gain knowledge and intelligence and as we get smart, can we get a little too full of ourselves? A little too smart for our own good and maybe even a little too smart for the good of others? I want to center our conversation today on two questions. They are both questions that I have spent years researching and writing about. The first is a question about leadership: How does the knowledge of a leader affect the intelligence of the team around them and why is it that some leaders seem to amplify the intelligence of people around them while other leaders seem to just suck the intelligence and life right out of a room? That is our first question. The second question is a question about learning and performance. I want to begin with the first question. Multiplier Leadership When I graduated from BYU and from the Marriott School, I took a job working for a small maverick software company called Oracle. No one knew this company at the time; people thought it was a toothbrush manufacturer. Oracle had a very simple and clear hiring ­strategy: hire the top grads out of the top schools, mix them all together, and just see what happens. At the time, Oracle didn’t recruit at BYU, and Oracle did not actively recruit me. I simply found Oracle and wiggled my way into the mix. It wasn’t as if I felt like I didn’t belong there; I just felt really lucky to be working there and to be working around all these brilliant people. So I became a genius watcher. I could see how intelligence—just raw ­brilliance and smarts—was a really powerful tool for growth and for innovation, but I could also see how intelligence was being used as a weapon. W
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