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Classic Speeches

A curated selection of beloved, timeless speeches

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Overcoming Ingratitude

There is a story, probably apocryphal, of an aging widow who eked out a meager living by selling soft pretzels on a busy city street corner for fifty cents apiece. Each morning a businessman passed her corner on his way to work. He had no taste for pretzels, but he wanted to help the person who sold them, so each morning he would give her the fifty cents and not take a pretzel. One morning, after the man had performed the daily ritual and was walking away, the woman called him back. He said, “I know. You’re wondering why it is that I never take my pretzel.” She replied, “I couldn’t care less about that. I just want you to know that the price has gone up to seventy-five cents.” In the mid-1970s I was the head of the Civil Division of the United States Department of Justice. Together with about three hundred other lawyers, we handled the broad range of civil law suits brought either by, or more frequently against, the United States. One of the issues with which we dealt was the nationwide effort in the fall of 1976 to provide a vaccine against what most experts predicted would be a severe epidemic of swine flu that would affect the country during the ensuing winter. The government’s medical experts predicted that millions would benefit from the vaccine, but they also predicted that with virtual certainty there would be a handful of people who would become quite ill, and some might even die—not from the flu, but from the vaccine. Some of these people would certainly sue the government, and past experience indicated that the resulting judgments might be substantial in amount. For these reasons there was a large debate within the government as to whether the predictable assistance to millions of people was justified in light of the large amounts that the government might have to pay in damage judgments. During the course of one of those deliberations, I expressed to my governmental colleagues the following thought: “This problem exists only because of the government’s humanitarian effort to save possibly millions of its citizens from serious illness and, in some cases, death. The United States of America is under no obligation to supply this vaccine. And yet we are anticipating an apparently predictable consequence in which some of the very people we are trying to help will turn around and sue us because of our Good Samaritan generosity.” And then I asked the question that caused such amazement among the dozen or so other participants at that meeting: “Wouldn’t you think that someone in this fair land of ours, maybe even one who had an adverse reaction to the vaccination, would say, ‘You know, I really appreciate what the government is doing for me, looking out for my health, and going to great and unrequired effort and expense to help me and many others cut down our chances of sickness or death?” In short, I asked, “Shouldn’t somebody be saying, ‘Thank you for doing your best,’ rather than
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These Noble Pioneers

My dear brothers and sisters—my dear young friends. There are so many of you here and so many out beyond here. We have been speaking to some very large congregations recently—last Sunday in Guatemala City, 35,199 people. Earlier we were in South America and spoke to 35,000–40,000 in Santiago; 50,000 in Buenos Aires; and so on—crowded in great football stadiums. There is great faith out across the Church: wonderful, devoted people everywhere—some large congregations, some small ones, but everywhere there is tremendous faith in this, the work of the Lord. It is a wonderful thing to see you, my dear young friends, here tonight. When you reach my age, you can call everyone else young, and so I address you as my young friends. It is a great pleasure and a great opportunity to be with you. I compliment you on your presence this evening. We constitute a vast congregation reaching across this entire nation from sea to shining sea and far beyond to many other areas of the world. Your large numbers and your great faithfulness speak of the tremendous growth and vitality of this, the Lord’s church. You are as a great army “marching forth to conquer On life’s great battlefield” (“Behold! A Royal Army,” Hymns, 1985, no. 251). This year we commemorate the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the Mormon pioneers in the Salt Lake Valley. We shall hear much of this during the coming year. There will be celebrations not only in Utah, but likewise among our people everywhere. It is proper that we pause to pay reverent respect to those who laid the foundation of this great work. In a larger sense we honor all of those who made the long journey from Nauvoo to the Missouri River beginning in 1846, and from there and other places beginning in 1847 to these western valleys. They came from Nauvoo, they came from the British Isles, and they came from the nations of Europe. Their grand objective was Zion. They sang about it. They dreamed of it. It was their great hope. Their epic journey must stand forever as an incomparable undertaking. The movement of tens of thousands to these valleys of the West was fraught with every imaginable hazard, including death, whose grim reality was familiar to every wagon train and every handcart company. I stand in reverent respect for Brigham Young. He saw the Salt Lake Valley in vision long before he saw it with his natural eyes. Otherwise I doubt he ever would have stopped here. There were greener lands in California and Oregon. There was deeper and richer soil elsewhere. There were great fields of timber in other places, much more water, and climates more equable and pleasant. There were mountain streams here, it is true, but none of them was very large. The soil was totally untried. No plow had ever broken its hard-baked surface. I marvel, I simply marvel, that President Young would lead a large company here to a place where there never before had been a sowing a
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Inertia, Entropy, and Good Cheer

Brothers and sisters, though I consider it a great privilege to speak to you today, perhaps I have never been so much aware of my personal inadequacy to deliver something of value to you without the help of the Lord. I only hope that together we can accomplish the purposes of a devotional assembly at BYU. To borrow a scriptural reference from my friend Andrew Skinner, which sums up my feelings since being asked a few weeks ago to participate, the prophet Ezra said, “And when I heard this thing, I rent my garment and my mantle, and plucked off the hair of my head and of my beard, and sat down astonished” (Ezra 9:3). I seek your silent and sincere prayers that in spite of my astonishment, and perhaps yours, we may communicate by the Spirit. After some struggle, and knowing somewhat of the anxiety and fears that accompany the convergence of crucial decisions in young lives, I have felt I should focus on aspects of our inherent ability to feel the Spirit and to be comforted and guided and encouraged. My wife and I met in a BYU ward a few years ago. When we contemplated our future family, we thought about naming our first three daughters Faith, Hope, and Charity. Instead, we named them Inertia, Entropy, and Good Cheer. They have since asked to have their names changed. Actually, we have five sons and only two daughters, named Megan and Rosalie. But I would like to relate the focus of my remarks to inertia, entropy, and good cheer. The gospel encompasses all truth. Even if you have math phobia or science anxiety, I think that we can have some fun discussing two physical properties, inertia and entropy. Inertia and entropy are properties of matter that have some analogous meaning in our lives on this earth. All of us daily experience the effects or the influence of these properties. Let me describe how these properties relate to us and how I think we can best respond to their effects on us. The responses to each of the two become the basis for two keys in developing and maintaining what the Lord calls “good cheer.” The operation of these keys leads to a third key reason for us to “be of good cheer.” Inertia Inertia is that tendency of matter, if at rest, to remain at rest, or, if moving, to continue moving in the same direction unless acted upon by some external force. Thus, when young David pitted his sling against the Philistine giant, the armored Goliath of Gath, we can identify the effects of inertia in this interesting episode. David propelled a smooth stone toward the great Goliath by using a sling. The inertia of the small high-velocity stone created a force that embedded the stone in Goliath’s forehead. I like President Hugh B. Brown’s characterization of the result: “Nothing like that had ever entered his head before” (The Abundant Life [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965], p. 342). The inertia of Goliath’s large head and body limited the response to just enough movement to push
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Christ the Savior Is Born

With Christmas only a fortnight away, thoughts turn to our homes and families. Sister Nelson and I enjoy many Christmas traditions. On our mantle over the fireplace we display a small framed photograph of each member of the family. With 10 children, their spouses, and 54 grandchildren, that’s quite a flock of photos. We have been doing this for so long that most of the pictures are no longer current. The children scramble to find their own pictures among the many. They also admire Sister Nelson’s large assortment of dolls collected from various countries throughout the world. Those dolls are nestled among the branches of our Christmas tree. Her cookies, cakes, and candies are always in great demand. And we love to read scriptures of the Christmas story with our family. Through all of our various Christmas traditions, I hope that we are focused first upon the Lord Jesus Christ. Wise men still adore Him. At this special devotional, many of you have come with a prayer in your hearts that you may learn from one of the Twelve Apostles more about our Lord and Master. We commemorate His humble birth at this time of year, even though we know it did not occur in December but more likely in April. Scriptures declare that His mother, Mary, was espoused to Joseph. They had participated in the first of two components of a Jewish marriage ceremony. Their espousal might be likened to an engagement in our culture, which is followed later by the second component of a marriage ceremony. Luke’s account records the appearance of the Angel Gabriel to Mary when she first learned of her favored future. I read from chapter 1: “Hail, thou that art highly favoured . . . : blessed art thou among women. . . . “And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. “And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest.”1 (Note the capital S; capital H.) God is the Highest. Jesus was to be the Son of the Highest. “Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?”2 She knew of her virginal status. “And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.”3 Before Joseph and Mary came together, she was expecting that holy child. Joseph desired to protect her privacy,4 hoping to spare Mary the punishment given to a woman pregnant without a completed marriage. While he pondered these things, the Angel Gabriel appeared to Joseph, saying, “Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. “And she shall bri
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“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, t
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A Wholesome, Hallowed, Gracious Christmas

It’s an honor to be here. Although my present competence is geared more to a first-position version of “Flow Gently, Sweet Afton,” my years with the violin so long ago perhaps qualify me to express deep gratitude and some appreciation for that magnificent music. I am thankful. It had occurred to me that I might talk today about a subject such as voluntary compliance with established standards, but I drove here on the freeway. I think I won’t discuss that subject today. Instead, I’d like to talk to you about the season. I am aware that examinations are dead ahead and would hope that in some marvelous way the alchemy of this special time of year might dissuade us temporarily from contemplating them and permit us to join together in consideration of this wonderful holy day season, which I love. I love its sights, its sounds, its scents, the thoughts and feelings that it inspires, its songs, its sentiments. I love the tenderness it evokes, the gratitude and generosity, the sensitivity to thanks and to giving, its acts of kindness and of love, the effect on family. I love what it does to release friendliness and goodwill between one man and another, which most of us keep under pretty rigid control the rest of the year. There are occasions, of course, when those carefully reserved feelings come forth naturally and spontaneously, as, for instance, when we’re caught under an awning in a downpour, or waiting behind a snowplow, or joined together in distress or action in the face of some calamity or personal difficulty. But of all these occasions, Christmas seems to be chief among those which bring out from good men, and maybe some of us less than good, those repressed emotions of brotherliness and kindliness. I love the Christmas season. I love its spirit and its memories. It was at Christmas long ago that a tiny girl nestled snugly in my arms in the middle of the night and sighed with relief. She had been upchucking, perhaps from a slight overdose of excitement and anticipation, mixed with the season’s largess of goodies. “Daddy,” she said, “for a while I was afraid I was going to lose the Christmas spirit.” And I love to remember the little hand on my knee as we rode through soft flakes of snow to our grandmother’s on Christmas morning. We had been singing with the carolers on the radio when she said, “What does it mean to adore him?” I worked at an answer, but every attempt engendered more questions and further efforts to explain until finally, compassionately, she laid that little hand on my knee and said, “I guess to adore him just means to love him.” Well, I come this morning with three themes, or one theme and two variations, to express briefly my love for the season. The theme is centered in a few words in a very familiar song, much like the one we sang together. These are the words. Have you heard them as well as sung them? Joy to the world, the Lord is come.
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Living on the Lord’s Side of the Line

For someone who bleeds blue, it is wonderful to be back on this campus. I love BYU. But as much as I love this university, I love you more. For me, you embody the vitality of this magnificent Church. You are living, breathing evidence that righteousness will prevail in a cynical, seductive world. Every time I am in a gathering of men and women your age, I have the sense that I am surrounded by spectacular spiritual potential. I wonder how many future mission presidents, bishops, Laurel advisors, and Primary presidents are in this room. How many children will be reared in righteousness because of your devotion as mothers and fathers? Who in this audience will help unlock a nation or a people to the gospel? Who will develop technologies to spread our message more effectively? Who will stand up in communities and schools and countries for values essential to the stability of an intact society? In short, I can’t help but wonder what place in this latter-day battlefront each of you will occupy, for of this I am sure: Every one of you has a unique mission to fulfill. It is about standing where you have been foreordained to stand that I would like to speak today. When I was a student here, I took a year off from my studies to tour with a USO group that entertained at military bases around the world. One trip took us to the Far East, and before we left, my father gave me a strong warning. “I am worried about this trip,” he said. “Be careful. Don’t go anywhere you shouldn’t go.” His words caught my attention, but, frankly, as our adventure in the Orient began, I forgot about his caution. One day we were scheduled to perform at a base near the Demilitarized Zone that separates North and South Korea. Our escort officer asked if we would like to go into the DMZ and visit Panmunjom, where the peace treaty ending the Korean War had been signed. It was a place of great historical significance. Relations between the two Koreas were strained at the time, and we asked if it was safe. The officer assured us it was, but then promptly furnished waivers we were to sign that absolved the military of responsibility in the event of accident or death. I suddenly remembered Dad’s warning: “Be careful. Don’t go anywhere you shouldn’t go.” But not wanting to be the killjoy, and being a little curious myself, I shrugged off my worry, signed the waiver, and headed into the DMZ, where we were no longer under the protection of the U.S. armed forces. That reality was immediately evident as we drove past rows of somber North Korean soldiers sporting machine guns. “Don’t look them in the eyes,” we were warned. “Anything can set them off.” As we joked about our bodies never being found, my stomach started to churn and my father’s warning played in my mind in digital, Dolby sound. I knew that I had indeed gone somewhere I shouldn’t have gone. The experience was nerve-racking. I felt as though I was behind enemy li
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The Spirit of Christmas

I drove here today in a snowstorm, and my thoughts turned to the season of the year in which we find ourselves—a season that can be so meaningful if we will but let it be. As I heard my little son last evening stand before the fireplace and recite what he thought was a new poem, I was reminded that this is the Christmas season. “Daddy, I’ve learned a new poem,” he said, “and I’d like to teach it to you. I know you’ll like it.” The poem that he then recited commenced: ’Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. [Clement C. Moore, A Visit from St. Nicholas (Boston: The Atlantic Monthly Press, 1921), 3] And on he went. He said, “Isn’t that a wonderful poem, Daddy?” I had an opportunity to tell him it was a wonderful poem, because almost everything that I associate with Christmas is important to me. A Little Girl and Santa Claus Just a couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of taking my family downtown as Santa Claus made his appearance. It was interesting. Crowds gathered. One little girl I particularly noticed had been standing on the side of the curb for what seemed like many minutes, waiting for this great event. Just as Santa Claus was to make his entry, great throngs of people crowded in front of her, and she began to cry. A six-foot-three man who stood by her asked, “What’s the matter, dear?” She said, “I have been waiting to see Santa, and now I can’t see him.” He picked her up and placed her on his shoulders, providing her a commanding view. As Santa Claus came by, she waved her little hand toward him, and he smiled and waved back to her and to everyone else who was in the crowd. That little girl grabbed the hair of that great, big fellow and exclaimed, “He saw me! He saw me and smiled at me! I’m so glad it’s Christmas!” That little girl had the Christmas spirit. A Little Boy and a Blessing I thought back on another little child, under different circumstances, who had the Christmas spirit. As a very young elder, I went to the old Primary Children’s Hospital on North Temple Street to provide blessings for the sick children. As we entered the door, we noted the Christmas tree with its bright and friendly lights. We saw carefully wrapped packages beneath its outstretched limbs. Then we went through the corridors where lay tiny boys and girls—some with a cast upon an arm, some with a cast upon a leg, others with ailments that perhaps could not be cured so ­readily—each one with a smile upo
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The Family

Since the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ through the Prophet Joseph Smith until September 23, 1995, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has issued a proclamation only four times. It has been more than fifteen years since the last one, which described the progress the Church had made in 150 years of its history. Thus you can imagine the importance our Heavenly Father places upon the subject of this most recent proclamation. Newspapers and television flood us with words and pictures about issues and events to think about and worry about. One of the great blessings of having faith in living prophets is that we can know what really matters, what is worth our attention in this confusing world and in our crowded lives. Because our Father loves his children, he will not leave us to guess about what matters most in this life concerning where our attention could bring happiness or our indifference bring sadness. Sometimes he will tell us directly, by inspiration. But he will, in addition, tell us through his servants. In the words of a prophet named Amos, recorded long ago, “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7). He does that so that even those who cannot feel inspiration can know, if they will only listen, that they have been told the truth and been warned. The title of the proclamation reads: “The Family: A Proclamation to the World—The First Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” (see Ensign, November 1995, p. 102). Three things about the title are worth our careful reflection. First, the subject: the family. Second, the audience, which is the whole world. And third, those who proclaimed are those we sustain as prophets, seers, and revelators. That means that the family must be as important to us as anything we can consider, that what the proclamation says could help anyone in the world, and that the proclamation fits the Lord’s promise when he said, “Whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same” (D&C 1:38). Before we start to listen to the words of the proclamation together, the title tells us something about how to prepare. We can expect that God won’t just tell us a few interesting things about the family; he will tell us what a family ought to be and why. And we know at the outset that we could be easily overwhelmed with such thoughts as “This is so high a standard, and I am so weak that I can never hope for such a family.” That feeling can come because what our Heavenly Father and his Son Jesus Christ want for us is to become like them so that we can dwell with them forever, in families. We know that from this simple statement of their intent: “This is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). Eternal life means to become like the Fathe
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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 sustai
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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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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.
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Charity: How We Treat Each Other

It is such a pleasure to be with you. I’m especially glad to be here this week because we are celebrating the Relief Society Sesquicentennial. We celebrate 150 years of Relief Society service and sisterhood. That is an accomplishment I’m very proud to share with you. Relief Society is glorious because we join as sisters who come unto Christ. In all our roles as sisters, wives, mothers, daughters, friends, roommates, teachers, leaders, and on and on, we strive to come to the Savior. I know how rich our Relief Society sisterhood can be because of what each of us brings to it. Think about how unified we feel and yet how individual we are. The women who founded the Relief Society consisted of eleven married women, two widows, six unmarried women, and one whose marital status is unknown. They ranged in age from three teenagers to one woman in her fifties. They were all converts, and some had been converted when they were very young. They lived in different sections of town and in varying economic circumstances. This campus is like that first Relief Society—full of diverse, interesting, faithful women. Belle Spafford, a general president of the Relief Society, said, “Relief Society is only on the threshold of its divine mission” (History of Relief Society, 1842–1966 [Salt Lake City: General Board of Relief Society, 1966], p. 140). I echo that sentiment. And I add that because of women like you, we shall cross that threshold and bless the world in ways our founding mothers may never have dreamed of. I am confident that as the women of Zion earnestly seek to expand their faith, cultivate deeper hope, and develop and exercise charity, we shall walk past that threshold into a new realm of spiritual awareness and light. Brethren, don’t think I’ve forgotten you when I talk about Relief Society. I haven’t. As men and women we work together in building the kingdom of God. Just as discussions about priesthood apply to all of us, so do discussions about the principles of Relief Society apply to all. I talk a little about Relief Society today so all of us male and female—might better appreciate the significance of individual spirituality and faith. It is because of faithful men and women that the Relief Society was founded and the Church has flourished. Brothers and sisters, I know how good you are. I know because I observe you closely whenever I’m on campus, and I see many Christlike qualities in your daily interactions with others. I am pleased as I watch you treat each other with kindness and love. I also think on this historic occasion of the Relief Society’s 150th year about how many wonderful things will occur in the world because of you. Emma Smith, the first general president of the Relief Society, said, “We are going to do something extraordinary. We expect extraordinary occasions and pressing calls” (Minutes of the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo, 17 March 1842, p.
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The Dauntless Spirit of Resolution

It is a delight for me to be with you on this campus tonight. It makes me feel young to see you and be with you, and I commend you for choosing to be in attendance at this fireside. I suppose the title of “fireside” is a bit of a misnomer inasmuch as we’re not allowed to start any open fires, but you do kindle great warmth in my heart, and I surely pray that the Spirit of the Lord will kindle a flame in yours. We have just enjoyed another season of rejoicing and commemorating the birth of the Savior and, for most of us, the opportunity of renewing family ties. Almost all agree that December is a happy month, when we sing of “Peace on earth and good will toward men,” but too many people leave this festive season and move into January with feelings of depression or discouragement. To some, January is foreboding: the beginning of the winter doldrums or, heaven forbid, something worse—the beginning of winter semester. Too many of us slip into a mind-set of grim resignation. We somberly look beyond January, and probably beyond February and March, to the warmer days of spring. In fact, we think if we look far enough, we can almost see the end of the school year. I think January ought to be a happy month of the year. Of all people on the face of the earth, Latter-day Saints, with the perspective given them by the gospel, ought to be happy and optimistic. I hope that your very presence here today is indicative of your optimistic outlook. The start of a new semester and a new year gives you every reason to be happy, and I encourage you to feel that way tonight. January always brings a renewed hope for personal and family progress in the coming year. It is the time of the year when people tend to set goals and make commitments—resolutions, if you will, New Year’s resolutions. I am assuming that most of you made one or more resolutions last Wednesday as the new year began. I am also assuming, because that was all of four days ago, that you may have already bent a few of those resolutions, if not totally broken them. So perhaps our discussion of such a topic tonight is still timely—sort of a Sunday-night resolution to be a bit more resolved about the original ones made last Wednesday. But that’s all right. This is a gospel of repentance, and we need to be repenting and resolving. Indeed, the process of repenting, making commitments, and setting goals should be a continuous one, so there is nothing wrong with using this traditional time of the year to evaluate the past and plan the future. It is much like our personal prayers in which, while communicating with our Father in Heaven, we ponder our thoughts, words, and deeds of the day and seek help in our personal progress for the morrow. The practice of reviewing the past and setting new directions for the future is a very healthy one, a scripturally encouraging one, in which we can beneficially alter our lives. I commend the practice to you, especially if it
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Gifts of Love

Thank you, President Holland. I am delighted to be here with you. I pray that I may have the blessings of the Spirit so that I can say something useful to you. A father asked me yesterday to advise him about giving a Christmas gift to his daughter. He just can’t decide whether or not to give this gift, or how to give it. His daughter is a college student; she may even be listening today. Her hectic life of school activities is made even harder because she doesn’t have a car. She begs rides, and she sometimes misses appointments. Her dad doesn’t have enough money for another car, at least not without some real sacrifice by his family. But he’s found a used car he might buy for her if he cuts enough corners on the family budget. And now he’s wondering. He asked me, “Will that car really be good for her, or will it be a problem? I love her, and she really could use it, but do you think it will help her or spoil her?” Let me guess. I can hear you rooting for the car: “Go for it! Go for it!” I didn’t try to answer his question then, but I could sense his worry and sympathize with him. You ought to have sympathy for both givers and getters at Christmastime. Last night my sons, Matthew and John, and I spent time at a toy store. Above us a red Santa Claus spun slowly as the sound of a mother whispering with clenched teeth floated over the stacks of toys to our aisle: “Don’t tell me what your brother did to you. I saw everything. Do you want me to hit you right here in the store? Now you go outside and sit on that bench. And you stay there. And if you don’t I won’t get you a thing.” John and I shrugged and smiled at each other as we moved on, and I hummed inwardly, “’Tis the season to be jolly. . . .” Gift giving isn’t easy. It’s hard to give a gift with confidence. There are so many things that can go wrong. You wonder if the person on the other end will want it. My batting average on that is low. At least I think it is. You can’t really tell what gets returned after Christmas, but I am cautious enough that I always wrap the gift in the box from the store where I bought it. I’ve always daydreamed of being a great gift giver. I picture people opening my gifts and showing with tears of joy and a smile that the giving, not just the gift, has touched their hearts. You must have that daydream, too. Many of you are probably already experts in gift giving. But even the experts may share some of my curiosity about what makes a gift great. I’ve been surrounded by expert gift givers all my life. None of them has ever told me how to do it, but I’ve been watching and I’ve been building a theory. I think it’s finally ready to be shared, at least among friends at this university. Here it is: The Eyring Theory of Gift Giving and Receiving. I call it a theory because it is surely incomplete. And calling it a theory means I expect you will change and improve it. I hope
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“Live in Thanksgiving Daily”

I love to be among the youth of the Church. I love your energy, your optimism, your faith. I have heard others say they always feel younger when they spend time with young people. This has always been my experience. It is good to be here today. I felt a certain thrill as I watched you enter this great Marriott Center. I noticed the beautiful smiling faces, the well-kept hair, the appropriate dress. I thank you for being here today. Think for a moment, if you will, of someone you know who is truly happy. We’ve all met those who seem to radiate happiness. They seem to smile more than others, they laugh more than others—just being around them makes us happier as well. Now think of someone you know who isn’t happy at all. Perhaps they seem 10 years older than they are, drained of energy—perhaps they are angry or bitter or depressed. What is the difference between them? What are the characteristics that differentiate the happy from the miserable? Is there something that unhappy people can do to be happier? I believe there is. Let me tell you a story to illustrate this observation. A long time ago in a faraway village lived a man who everyone did their very best to avoid. He was the type of person who believed that there was only one competent person in the world, and that one person was himself. Consequently he was never satisfied with anything. His shoes never fit right. His shirt never felt comfortable. When his food wasn’t too cold, it was too salty, and when it wasn’t too hot, it was too bland. If a field wasn’t sowed by himself, it was not sowed well. If he didn’t close the door, the door was not closed properly. In short, he made a career of frowning, lecturing, criticizing, and mumbling about the incompetencies of every other person in the rest of the world. Unfortunately, the man was married, which made matters all the worse. No matter what his wife did, in his eyes it was wrong. No matter what the unfortunate woman cooked, sewed, or cleaned, or even when she milked the cow, it was never satisfactory, and he let her know it. She tried very hard to be a good wife, but it seemed the harder she tried the less she pleased him. Finally, one evening she could take no more. “I’ll tell you what we’ll do,” she told him. “Tomorrow I will do your chores and you will do mine.” “But you can’t do my chores,” the man replied. “You don’t know the first thing about sowing, hoeing, and irrigating.” But the woman was adamant. And on top of that, she was filled with a righteous anger that frankly astonished and frightened the man to the point where he didn’t dare disagree. So the next morning the wife went off to the fields and the man began the domestic chores. After thinking about it, he had actually convinced himself he was looking forward to it. Once and for all, he would demonstrate to his wife how things should be do
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Identity, Priority, and Blessings

Thank you, President Robert L. Millet, for your introduction. We appreciate you and all who faithfully serve as leaders among the wonderful youth of Zion. We acknowledge the presence of Elder Henry B. Eyring of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Elder Merrill J. Bateman of the Seventy, and each of you wonderful young adults. Thousands are attending here tonight, and thousands more will participate via satellite broadcast or taped delay in North, South, and Central America; Europe; Africa; Asia; and the isles of the sea. I am told that about a quarter of a million youth will be participating with us on this occasion. Sister Nelson and I express our admiration for each of you. We bring greetings from President Gordon B. Hinckley, President Thomas S. Monson, President James E. Faust, and our brethren of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. And we most sincerely thank Brother Stanley A. Peterson for his message and his ministry in the Church Educational System. Sister Nelson and I appreciate your beautiful songs of faith and devotion. Although the world is experiencing a spiritual drift, you young people stand as living proof that Latter-day Saints can be different! Like a giant rock centered in a raging river, you are steadfast. We admire you! We wish we could meet each of you personally. Not knowing how to do that, we hope you can know of our love for you and of our prayers for your success and happiness. My message tonight is about identity, priority, and blessings. An understanding of their interrelationship can help you deal better with life’s challenges. It is important for you to know who you are and who you may become. It is more important than what you do, even as vital as your work is and will be. You pursue an education to prepare for life’s work. But I want you also to prepare for life—eternal life. I emphasize this because some people on life’s journey forget who they really are and what is really important. Without sure identity and priority, blessings that matter most are at the mercy of things that matter least. May I illustrate by reading from a letter written by a young mother: Dear Elder and Sister Nelson, My husband . . . just started his internship. . . . We have four children, ages twenty months to seven years (and would like to have more). My problem is that I don’t see how he can give time to our family as the prophets have directed us to do. . . . My seven-year-old and five-year-old have already asked me, “Why doesn’t Daddy come home anymore?” They seem to be comfortable with my answer that Daddy is busy helping many sick people, but what should I tell them when they are old enough to understand that Daddy could have chosen a less time-consuming specialty? . . . Please help me understand. I have been praying for peace and understanding. Signed, With much respect and admiration. Now, why do I trouble you with their probl
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“Walk in Newness of Life”

Nothing is more beautiful than the beginning of a new life. I cried and rejoiced at the birth of each of our four children. A new baby is so beautiful, so sweet, so tender. At such moments, the veil between mortality and eternity seems almost transparent, and the love of God is unmistakable. Likewise, I rejoice and get a little teary every time I witness a renewal of spiritual life. How beautiful, how sweet, how tender it is to see the heart changed, the lost found, and the blind restored to sight. Though we may not understand how it happens, we know why—because God loves His children (see 1 Nephi 11:17). Rebirth really is as precious as birth.  It seems fitting, then, that the Lord would use birth as a metaphor to describe the change that is made possible by the Atonement of Jesus Christ. We may smile when we read Nicodemus’s bewildered question, “How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb?” (John 3:4). But in our own way, we have all wondered the same thing: Can I really change? After all the mistakes I have made, can I really begin again? Is there hope for me—and for my loved ones? We have all fallen short and longed for another chance, a fresh start, a new beginning. We have all wished we could rewind time and try again. We all have weaknesses that may at times feel like unshakable parts of our nature. We hear the expression “There are no guarantees in life.” But here’s a promise, a guarantee you can count on no matter where you are or what you have done: we can change; we can “walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).  That is the central message of the gospel, the doctrine of salvation, the whole point and purpose of life. In fact, it could be argued that this sublime truth is the gospel—the “good news” that Jesus Christ came to proclaim. Whenever God speaks to man—through His prophets or directly—His main message seems to be either that we need to change or that we can change. My purpose today is to affirm just how anxiously our Heavenly Father wants us to believe that we can change. If the Atonement of Jesus Christ is the ultimate expression of God’s love—and I testify that it is—then another equally powerful expression of that love is found in the many, varied ways in which He urges and encourages us to believe in the Atonement and access its power to change our lives. The Necessity of Change When the Apostle Paul encouraged the Romans, and each of us, to “walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4), he was speaking from firsthand experience. He knew what it was like to be born again. He was forever changed after his experience on the road to Damascus. That doesn’t mean he was perfect or that he never sinned again, but something was certainly different after that experience t
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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 Muggeridge 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” (
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The Olive Press

My wife and I have returned only within hours from Jerusalem—the old Jerusalem which is now rapidly becoming new. Heavy on our hearts, therefore, is what we experienced there, and I would like to share with you tonight in an ambling fashion, if you will permit, some of those impressions. A prophecy uttered by the Prophet Joseph Smith in 1842 is in fact being fulfilled before our very eyes: to wit, “Jerusalem must be rebuilt, and the temple, and water come out from under the temple, and the waters of the Dead Sea be healed, . . . and all this must be done before the Son of Man will make His appearance” (Teachings, p. 286). On first touching that ground with our feet more than a decade ago, I think I had a prejudice that the setting of the Savior’s life really was not significant, that the meaning of his life and his words was what mattered, and that the events in the environment and circumstances of the time were not crucial. After many visits since, for we have both visited and lived there, I am of the contrary opinion: that he cared very much about the setting and that meaning is lodged, still, in the very rocks, in the very mountains, in the very trees of Israel. On an earlier trip a woman past 82 traveled with us. She had to prepare at length, exercise, and get constant reassurances from her physician that she could endure the rigors. We were touched that, as we turned our backs on a church that has been built near—and some say over—the ancient site of Gethsemane, she who had come so far and had lived so long was on her knees near the place where tradition says Jesus knelt. Significance of Setting North of Jerusalem is the Galilee. And I am struck that the location of Caesarea Philippi is at the mount called Hermon. It may be the Mount of Transfiguration. It is, in any case, at the headwaters of the Jordan, which then feeds the Galilee and in turn flows south and is literally the nourishment of all Israel. It was there, and I think he chose the place carefully, that the Savior announced to Peter, after Peter’s confession, that he would build his church as on a rock. I think it is significant that there is there still a huge, faced rock. Below it and in it is a cave, and out of that cave, at the time Jesus stood there, flowed water. Not so since—an earthquake changed all that. But was he, therefore, saying to Peter, who he knew by revelation was to be his presiding apostle, and of Peter, who by revelation had recognized him, “Upon this flowing rock I will build my church”? Well, such are the suggestions of the setting. Is it also, one may ask, only happenstance that he chose to be baptized near the waters called dead at the lowest point of the earth—it’s 1200 feet below sea level—descending thus even physically below all things? Symbolism of Trees There are trees in Israel, and we are taught from the record that each in a way was significant i
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A Message to Our Granddaughters

Because some may not agree with what I have to say, I would direct these remarks primarily to our granddaughters. The rest of you are invited to listen. On Brittany’s last birthday, I told her mother with considerable grandfatherly pride that I thought I detected some seeds of promise developing in Brittany. Of course I feel the same way about Nicole, Melissa, Kelly Ann, Katy, Sarah, and little Ashley, our other granddaughters. I do not want to tell you girls what you must be. That is for each of you to decide. You have your free agency. Each of you will have to work very hard to learn all you can and develop your skills. It will not be easy to achieve anything really worthwhile. I want only to tell you what I think will help bring to you identity, value, and happiness as a person. I also want to challenge you to reach your potential, to become a person of great worth, to become a great woman. Because you descended from great women, each of you has the potential to become a great woman. Now you need to know that to me great does not necessarily mean your becoming a great doctor, lawyer, or business executive. You may, of course, become any of these if you so desire, if you work hard enough, and I would be proud of such an achievement. However, to me greatness is much, much more. I hope that each of you girls will become an individual of significant worth and a person of virtue so that your contributions are maintained in both human and eternal terms. You Have a Great Mission Elder Boyd K. Packer tells me that among the species of birds where both male and female sing, they sing a different melody. Yet it is pleasant to hear them singing at the same time, and they harmonize beautifully together! There can be no question but that women are wonderful and special. You also have a great mission, a great errand, and a great calling. The work of God was devised by God for both men and women. “All those who receive my gospel are sons and daughters in my kingdom” (D&C 25:1). Being born as women brings to you many endowments that are not common to men and therefore make you unique. President Spencer W. Kimball, in speaking of the roles of men and women, said in a way that adds some personal perspective, Within those great assurances, however, our roles and assignments differ. These are eternal differences—with women being given many tremendous responsibilities of motherhood and sisterhood and men being given the tremendous responsibilities of fatherhood and the priesthood—but the man is not without the woman nor the woman without the man in the Lord. . . . Remember, in the world before we came here, faithful women were given certain assignments while faithful men were foreordained to certain priesthood tasks. While we do not now remember the particulars, this does not alter the glorious reality of what we once agreed to. You are accountable for those thing
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There Is Always Hope

I want to visit with you this evening on a level that is both mutually understandable and mutually profitable. In order for that to happen I ask for your faith and prayers on behalf of all of us, that what is said and what is heard will be influenced and touched by the Spirit of God. I appreciate that. (It’s good to pray for one another; it helps everyone.) The subject I wish to speak on is one that I hope you will appreciate. I know I do. It is simply this: there is always hope. I have read and heard from different psychologists and teachers that we must hear something at least twenty times before we really hear it. My experience with my own children is that twenty times is far too few. But, in any event, to make sure we all hear, I will use the phrase “There is always hope” not just twenty, but at least thirty times this evening. I hope that you don’t get tired, but that you understand. Do We Listen to the Words? There is always hope. No matter how dismal things appear, no matter how problem-prone we seem to be, no matter what reversals and setbacks we suffer, there is always hope. Hope is the thing that keeps us going. We sing the hymn “We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet” all the time, but do we listen to the words? What do you feel when you sing “When dark clouds of trouble hang o’er us And threaten our peace to destroy, There is hope smiling brightly before us, And we know that deliverance is nigh” (Hymns, no. 196)? Do we really believe that? Part of the thirteenth article of faith reads, “We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things.” Do we really believe that? Are we literally supposed to hope all things? What do we mean by hope? What is hope? Why should we have hope? What do we hope for? What are some of the signs of true hope? How do we get more hope? Let’s take these questions and discuss them. Hope Is Light What is hope? I suppose that it is like trying to define faith or love; it is very difficult, but we can use some examples. As near as I can tell, hope is light. It is a light within us that pierces the darkness of doubt and discouragement and taps into the light (hope) of all creation—even the Savior. I think that in some instances we may be able to substitute the word hope for light and get some understanding in the scriptures, i.e., we talk about Christ as being the light of the world—he is the hope of the world (see Mosiah 16:9). The Lord sent the everlasting gospel to be a light unto the Gentiles—to be a hope to the Gentiles (see
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The Loneliness of Leadership

I appreciated very much the music of the band [BYU Symphonic Band, directed by Richard A. Ballou]. You are all awake after that. I will do what I can to restore you to your former state. I have come here today without a written talk. I had one, but I discarded it. I awoke at five this morning thinking of something else. When I get through, I suppose you will say, “He should have slept.” I am not here to preach. I do not wish to preach to you. It is easy to preach, and we do a great deal of it to young people. I would simply like to talk with you. I believe you are worth spending time with. I believe you are worth reasoning with. This is a devotional service. I have only one desire, and that is to share with you a few thoughts in a very informal way, with a hope and prayer that I can bring some small measure of inspiration and lift to you. I think you need that; I think we all do. I prayed this morning that I might be able to do so, that I would be guided by the Holy Spirit. And I hope that you will add your prayers to mine. President Nixon I suppose many of you watched President Nixon last night as I did, when he spoke to the nation and was listened to by the world. I watched him with great interest. I observed him as he wiped the perspiration from his face, realizing, I am sure, the importance of what he was saying. As I looked at him, I thought of the terrible loneliness of leadership. The Loneliness of Leadership True, he has advisors. He has at his beck and call any number of men with whom he can consult; but when all the chips are down, he has to face the world alone, as it were. His advisors do not face the cannon fire of public opinion. That comes to the leader. As I sensed the loneliness of leadership while watching him, there came to my mind some great words from William Shakespeare: “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown” (King Henry IV, Part II, act 3, scene 1, line 31). The Vietnam War If the Lord will inspire me, I should like to talk briefly about that. I was asked, when someone found out I was speaking here, to say something about the Vietnam War. I am a little reluctant to do so, but I think in terms of this general theme I might express a few thoughts. I have had many feelings about that conflict. I have been in South Vietnam a number of times. I have witnessed the growth of our forces from a handful since I first went there in 1961 to the 540,000 who were there the last time I was there. I have known something of a feeling of bitterness over some aspects of that conflict. I have spoken quietly in private conversation, never publicly, some rather trenchant criticism about some of the things I have observed. I have been in situations where I have tried to comfort those who mourned over the loss of choice sons. I have wept as I have turned away from the beds of those who have been maimed for life. I think I have fel
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The Human Soul’s Quest for God

It is really so inspiring and heartwarming to look out and see so many of you here. I wish I had learned earlier in my career that the secret of success for a clergyman is to keep the talk the same and come up with a new congregation every week. I am especially gratified by your invitation to come here to Provo and to Brigham Young University. I have been looking forward to this visit ever since we fixed the appointment. This is the only place in America where I get to be a gentile. In fact, along those lines, I met with some of the students at 9:00 a.m. When we had finished and were just chatting afterward, one of them came up and said, “Rabbi Kushner is a Jew. I know you can be objective about this. What do you think about the major theological confrontation that’s coming up this Saturday when BYU plays Notre Dame?” I can picture some of the undergraduates going up to some of the leaders of the Church and the community and saying, “You know, this is really a big game—national television exposure. Don’t you think it would really be wonderful for the faith if we could win? Could you put in an extra prayer for us or something?” And the administrators would have to smile and say, “Gee, I’m sorry. We’re in sales, not management.” Now if we are in sales, what is it we are selling? What is it we are really offering people when we make the claim that their lives will be richer and deeper and more satisfying if they are committed to a faith system? What is it that belief in God, belief in religion, and involvement with a religious community give a person? My main thesis this morning is a very straightforward one. We in the twentieth century have become so sophisticated, so modern, and so enmeshed in the trappings of the modern world that we have been enriched in a lot of ways and impoverished in a lot of important ways. And I want to put the spotlight on what we lose out on, what we miss when we become ­modern—so modern that there is no room for faith in our lives. Reverence The first gift of a religious commitment is . . . (I am going to have to dust off a word you don’t hear very often these days. And perhaps it is a sign of the imbalance of the late twentieth century that this word has become so old-fashioned.) The word is reverence—being in the presence of a power so overwhelming that it defines who you are, that you feel small but you don’t feel diminished. It is not fear. When you are afraid, you are overawed by something and you want to run away. When you feel reverent, you are overawed but you want to come closer. It is the sense you get when you walk into a cathedral and the architecture says to you, “No matter how important you may be out there, in the presence of God you are really very small.” Here is a story about what has happened to reverence in our time: You—living here in Provo at the foot of the mountains, going to BYU—don’t ha
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Fear Not

If my fourteen-year-old son’s vocabulary is any indication, it is in vogue to be “weird” or feel “weird” or act “weird.” I’d like to begin this morning telling you of a truly “weird” experience I had last year. A “Weird” Dream Some of you will remember that last November we had a concert on campus featuring Billy Joel. Now President Holland and I aren’t quite up to the Billy Joel kind of performance (we are more into the St. George Senior Citizens Chorus), so we didn’t attend. But the night after the Billy Joel concert, I had a very unusual dream—a “weird” dream, I think it is safe to say. I dreamed that Billy and I were driving down the highway talking about his experience at BYU. I was driving the car and completely in control, but suddenly I became terrified of something that was ahead. So, instead of continuing on our journey, I veered off the road and sent the car careening over the edge of a steep cliff. Instead of the crash landing expected, we were somehow plucked out of the car and perched safely on a ledge hidden from view. We sat comfortably, watching huge crowds of people milling down below. They were coming and going and looking around but never discovering the occupants of the battered car. When I awoke the next morning, I was incredulous! What on earth—I said to myself—would a forty-five-year-old mother hen to thousands of BYU students have in common with Billy Joel? Now, at this point, I suppose I do have to confess to you that one of my lifelong secret desires has been to play the drums in a rock band, but that didn’t seem to be adequate motivation for a 3-D, Cinerama, Dolby sound, full-length “weird” dream. I pondered a long time about that dream—and whether it is the right interpretation or not, I finally decided that I had associated Billy Joel’s concert performance for you with my own frequent assignments to speak to the same kind of crowd in this same monstrous hall and with every one of those same eyes upon me. I surmised that neither of us needed to put up with such performance fears any longer, so I just detoured us over the cliff. Unfortunately, I forgot to ask Billy if he wanted to accompany me. But that’s the price he had to pay for riding with me. Next time he may want to take Greyhound. Nonsense and rock concerts aside, I think I really did identify with the public performance of such a concert and subconsciously preferred to hide in safety, far from the gaze of the crowd. Anonymity has always seemed pretty appealing to me, yet here I am—and there you are—and the show must go on, again! I tell that ridiculous, but true, story for a purpose this morning. I have wondered and worried and prayed about what to say to you. And I have felt that perhaps some of you, who may feel a bit shy and more than a little overwhelmed at a place like BYU, need to know that the rest of us are pretty shy, to
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The Voice of the Spirit

It is a pleasure to be with all of you special young people this evening. I feel deeply my responsibility to teach you sacred things. I appreciate the fact that as I teach you, I am standing on holy ground. I am well aware that the world in which you live will be vastly different from the one I have known. Values have changed. Basic decency and respect for good things are eroding. A moral blackness is settling in. You are in many ways the hope of the future, and I remind you that valuable diamonds shine better against a dark background. For you outstanding young men and women there is a scriptural text found in the Doctrine and Covenants: “Give ear to the voice of the living God” (D&C 50:1). The voice of the Spirit is universally available to all. The Lord said, “The Spirit enlighteneth every man [and every woman] . . . that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit” (D&C 84:46). He further says that “everyone that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit cometh unto God, even the Father” (D&C 84:47). Some people are seeking to find the abundant life. Paul made it clear that it is “the Spirit [that] giveth life” (2 Corinthians 3:6). Indeed, the Savior said, “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63). You may ask, then, What are the fruits of the Spirit? Paul answered this by saying they are “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance” (Galatians 5:22–23). The joy we seek is not a temporary emotional high, but a habitual inner joy learned from long experience and trust in God. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Rectitude is a perpetual victory, celebrated not by cries of joy, but by serenity, which is joy fixed or habitual” (“Character,” Essays: Second Series [1844]). Lehi’s teaching to his firstborn son in the wilderness, Jacob, declares: “Men are, that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25). To achieve this great objective, we must “give ear to the voice of the living God” (D&C 50:1). I wish to testify as a living witness that joy comes through listening to the Sp
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God Is the Gardener

President Wilkinson, members of the faculty, honored guests, members of the board, graduating class, and the wonderful group of Brigham Young University student body, I am glad that President Wilkinson kept a little sense of humor in what he had to say, because I think that humor is a very essential part of rich and radiant living. I want to speak about humor for just a minute. J. Golden Kimball is reported to have said that the Lord Himself must like a joke or He wouldn’t have made some of you people. I hope none of you will take that personally. It is indeed a daring, if not a reckless, venture for an octogenarian to undertake to speak across a void of sixty years to a group of vibrant young students who are graduating. But knowing of your four years of training, especially in patience and endurance in your classes, I think you will have some sympathy with me if I attempt to address you from the far side of the stream of life. I should like to congratulate the graduating class and all the students of this great university on the fact that you have kept pretty much aloof from the activities that have been prevalent on the campuses of many other universities, where students have attempted to take control, not only of the disciplinary activities on the campus itself but to supplement civil government, both on the campus and in life. It is too bad that these young people have thought to try to supersede established government. We cannot agree with their attempts to get what they want by means of force. I congratulate the members, too, of the student body and the faculty on what President Wilkinson has referred to: namely, accepting the call to duty in our great land when it comes and not shirking the responsibility incident to that call. There is another matter I want to speak of briefly but sincerely. You young people are leaving your university at a time when our nation is engaged in an abrasive and increasingly strident process of electing a president. I wonder if you would permit me—one who has managed to survive a number of these events—to pass on to you a few words of counsel. First, I would like you to be reassured that the leaders of both major political parties in this land are men of integrity and unquestioned patriotism. Beware of those who feel obliged to prove their own patriotism by calling into question the loyalty of others. Be skeptical of those who attempt to demonstrate their love of country by demeaning its institutions. Know that the men of both major political parties who guide the nation’s executive, legislative, and judicial branches are men of unquestioned loyalty, and we should stand by and support them. And this refers not only to one party but to all. Strive to develop a maturity of mind and emotion and a depth of spirit that will enable you to differ with others on matters of politics without calling into question the integrity of those with whom you differ. Al
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Self-Esteem: A Great Human Need

It is an honor to be one of the participants of the Campus Education Week and to join all of you and the distinguished faculty who are participating here. I am at once humbled and challenged in trying to speak of a great human need, self-esteem. I refer to what we think of ourselves, how we relate to what others think of us and the value of what we accomplish. Shakespeare in Othello said, “I have never found a man that knew how to love himself” (Act 1, scene 3). The consequences of falling in love with oneself generally continue as an extended romance. This is what Thomas Carlyle, the famous Scottish writer referred to as “the sixth insatiable sense.” And the English author Browning said self-esteem is “an itch for the praise of fools.” The self-esteem that I speak of today is something different. It is not blind, arrogant, vain self-love, but self-respecting, unconceited, honest self-esteem. It is born of inner peace and strength. Last month I went to get my driver’s license renewed. I stood in the lines and looked at the eye charts. Then I waited with everyone else for the picture-taking process. In the picture on my license this time, my eyes are open! It was appalling to see the lack of self-esteem in so many who came to this public office. In the name of comfort and informality, many were immodestly dressed and others unkempt. I wondered why they would present themselves in public so poorly. In their manner of speech and their dress they had greatly shortchanged themselves. “Speech,” it has been said, “is a mirror of the soul: as a man speaks so is he” (Publilius Syrus, Maxim 1073). Self-esteem goes to the very heart of our personal growth and accomplishment. Self-esteem is the glue that holds together our self-reliance, our self-control, our self-approval or disapproval, and keeps all self-defense mechanisms secure. It is a protection against excessive self-deception, self-distrust, self-reproach, and plain old-fashion selfishness. After a lifetime of observing, I have found the greatest respect is owed not necessarily to the rich, or the famous, but to the quiet, unsung, unknown heroes whose true identity, like the unknown soldier’s, is known only to God. The unsung often have little of status, but much of worth. When I was growing up in the Cottonwood area of Salt Lake County; it was the rural part of the valley. One of the men who had the greatest dignity and commanded the greatest respect was an old Scandinavian brother who, after walking a couple of miles, traveled by streetcar to work at the Salt Lake City Cemetery and back every day. His work was to water and mow the grass, tend the flowers, and dig the graves. He said little because he did not speak English well, but he was always where he should be, doing what he should do in a most dignified and exemplary way. He had no problems with ego, or with faith, for while he dug graves for a living, his work was to serv
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Take upon Yourself the Whole Armor of God

I am pleased to be with you today. This is a very humbling moment. I can assure you that I have given much thought and prayer to this assignment so that I could say a few words that would be of benefit to you this morning. It has been my pleasure and honor to be at this great university for the past 40 years. My interaction with the students has been mostly as a coach. I did, however, spend seven-and-a-half years as a bishop and high councilor in a student ward and stake, which I consider the most enjoyable and rewarding Church assignments of my life. In the Doctrine and Covenants it reads: Wherefore, lift up your hearts and rejoice, and gird up your loins, and take upon you my whole armor, that ye may be able to withstand the evil day, having done all, that ye may be able to stand. Stand, therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, having on the breastplate of righteousness, and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, which I have sent mine angels to commit unto you; Taking the shield of faith wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked; And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of my Spirit, which I will pour out upon you, and my word which I reveal unto you. [D&C 27:15–18] We have all seen pictures of Moroni dressed in his armor including the breastplate and helmet. It is a little like a football player dressed in full uniform with all the required pads, shoes, and helmet. They are both dressed for protection from their adversaries. The football player has to withstand the blocks, tackles, and other hits he will take while practicing or playing a game. The Lord has offered us protective armor to use in our battles, and that is what I would like to discuss today. As the scripture states, we should have our “loins girt about with truth.” As members of the Church, we must seek truth in all areas, be it spiritual, educational, scientific, or in the social and moral settings of society. If we don’t seek truth, we will not find it or recognize it. Probably the most profound search for truth was Joseph Smith’s search for the true church. Just think where we would be today if he had not had that hunger for truth. To recognize truth, to be truthful, and to be honest with others, we first have to be honest and truthful with ourselves. Self-deception is deadly. Deceiving ourselves leaves us open to Satan’s ways—such as blaming others for our poor choices, justifying a little white lie, and cheating on a test. However, being honest with ourselves allows us to learn who we are and what we are all about. It helps our minds and hearts be open to further truth and inspiration. In a First Presidency message, Spencer W. Kimball said, “If men are really humble, they will realize that they discover, but do not create, truth” (“Absolute Truth,”Ensign, Septembe

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