Classic Speeches

A curated selection of beloved, timeless speeches

"Eighteen days ago our daughter-in-law Sharon gave birth to twin boys, James and John. As you can imagine, there was much rejoicing the morning they were born. Excited and loving grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends all lined up in front of the hospital nursery window, marveling at the beautiful little faces and perfect little bodies. “Are they identical?” we all asked. The preliminary tests were inconclusive, which of course only made us more curious. We stared at them, placed side by side, and compared them from their ears down to their toes. Was one lighter, darker, fatter, thinner, smaller, or bigger than his brother? This led to other questions in our minds: Would one be more athletically or musically inclined? Would one have an easier time in school? Would one have more friends? Watching from outside the nursery window, we could see the new father, our son Michael, busily going from one baby to the other, speaking softly and gently touching them. When we were finally able to talk with him in the hallway, he was full of excitement and pride about how each one was doing, noting their individual characteristics. In our curiosity we had been drawing comparisons, but Michael, as the loving father, had focused on each boy separately. As I left the hospital, I continued to think about these new little members of our family and whether it would be hard to be compared constantly with someone else. I hoped that our family would be able to value each child individually. Then I began to think about life and how we often tend to compare ourselves to others. We compete with brothers, sisters, roommates, friends, or people with whom we work and go to school. Sometimes we even seem to be in competition with our husbands or wives. A few days later, still reflecting on this thought, I remarked to a friend, “Life is like being in school. We are continually grading ourselves on some imagined scorecard, trying to see who gets the A. “You must remember,” my wise friend answered, “the Lord does not grade on a curve.” This remarkable phrase caught my attention. Whatever we are doing, wherever we see ourselves on the scale of life, we need to put aside the world’s preconceived notions of what we should be and remember, “The Lord doesn’t grade on a curve.” We all want to do our best as we go through life. Sometimes, however, the most visible measuring stick we use to examine how we are doing is the one devised by the world. We naturally recognize people who are “at the top.” We applaud them, we see their names on honor rolls, we read about them in newspapers and magazines, and we try to emulate them. There is nothing wrong with that except when we try to determine our intrinsic worth or the value of those around us by our comparative grades, social status, acclaim, appearance, salaries, degrees, or possessions. It is an inevitable fact of life that we compare ourselves to others."

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 a

The Three A’s: Atonement, Agency, and Accountability

This pleasant introduction reminds me of some of the things I’ve been up to over the vanished years. I heard recently someone say that nostalgia is a wonderful thing, but what good is it if you can’t remember anything? We have very happy memories, and some of them relate to these folks sitting behind me for whom I have the highest and most sincere regard. These kind words also reaffirm the feeling that I had when I gave an answer to a bubbly young woman who detached herself from a handsome boyfriend at the entrance of the Salt Lake Temple and walked over to shake my hand. “Didn’t you used to be Elder Hanks?” she asked. I said, “Yes, I used to be, still am, and hope to be in the future Elder Hanks.” I remember when I came here as a substitute for a General Authority who fell ill at the last moment, and I stood in his place. I recalled an experience of Dr. Hashimoto, a revered and respected professor at the University of Utah, when he faced his class the day after Pearl Harbor. (He was an authentic American with ethnic roots.) He stood before his class that morning and quietly said, “Don’t blame me, I’m Irish.” Well, this young lady’s question—though it did in fact amuse me—indicated that, like many others, she probably doesn’t really understand what a General Authority emeritus is. She, however, is a step ahead of another bright young person who confronted me after a wedding I had performed, looked up into my face intently, and said, “Who are you?” As to what an emeritus is, I don’t really know either, but as one who started obviously very young, some things have happened in this change of status. It has not yet meant quick eradication or annihilation, but it has offered some relief from basketsful of meetings and travel so consistent and relentless that it became less than looked forward to: so many postponed dreams of family associations and participation on occasions like Mother’s Day, which I missed consistently through my years of service. These postponed dreams have been revivified and realized. We do still travel together occasionally to various parts of the world on humanitarian projects that have brought us great joy and satisfaction. We are deeply grateful for that. In the Pacific Islands just a few weeks ago, Maxine and I listened to the chatter of myna birds in their incessant, four-syllable, two-word message. They speak it constantly, with no variation in melody. At first when I heard them, “Beep-beep, beep-beep ,” I said to my wife that America’s enterprising commercial entity has reached clear across the world and what they’re saying is, “Pizza-pizza, pizza-pizza.” She said, “No, no. They’re further ahead than that. They have the political message of the current time: they’re saying, ‘Veto-veto, veto-veto.’” Well, I’m very grateful for this visit with this student body. A lot of our happiest memories occurred in relati

Keeping the Gospel Simple

Many years ago I went on a mission to New Zealand, and the day I arrived I had the opportunity of meeting President Matthew Cowley for the first time. He was to be my mission president. During the next two years we became close friends, and during the latter part of my mission I had the honor of living in the mission home with the Cowleys and traveling with President Cowley throughout New Zealand. He was an excellent teacher and a most interesting person. Some years later, while he was a member of the Council of the Twelve Apostles, I had the opportunity of bringing him here to BYU on two or three occasions when he was the speaker at devotionals. Everyone loved to hear him and his stories. Even though he has been gone for over thirty-four years, there are people in many parts of the Church still interested in the faith-promoting stories he used to tell. As I have prepared to come here today, I have been reminded over and over of the inspirational talks he gave to the students who were here. Those students might have been your parents—and for some, even your grandparents. Over and above everything else, President Cowley tried to keep simple the things he taught. In fact, he said many times that he was unable to speak very often of things beyond the first principles of the gospel. I remember well that he spoke about prayer, faith, and repentance. For several years he had a talk ready on baptism, but he was never able to get that far along and give it. He had some ideas on baptism that he wanted to give in general conference, but life ran out before he gave his special talk on baptism. He lived simply. He really didn’t concern himself with his own personal needs. He only wanted to bless people and inspire them to live the gospel in a simple way. Because of his great faith, many wonderful things continued to happen after our missions were over. We found ourselves blessing people all over who called for him. I was a very young bishop in those days who had a rather difficult time earning a living because President Cowley would insist I leave work and go with him. After we would bless people, he would fast and pray for them and return again and again to those who needed him. We saw great miracles happen in those days. My testimony to you students is that miracles do happen! They are happening on the earth today, and they will continue to happen, particularly to those who believe and have great faith. Miracles occur frequently in the lives of humble, fine Saints who have the faith to make them possible. My feeling about miracles is that the greatest of all miracles is the one that happens in the life of a person who really learns how to pray, who exercises faith to repent, and who lives the gospel in a simple and obedient way. President Matthew Cowley said many times, “The gospel of Jesus Christ is simply beautiful and beautifully simple.” He spent his whole life trying to explain that there isn’t anything very co

Thoughts about Thoughts

It’s a privilege, brothers and sisters, to join with you this morning for this devotional assembly. I’m really not a stranger to the BYU campus. I’ve been enrolled here as a graduate student. We have two daughters who have been students here at BYU and one daughter-in-law and one son-in-law who will be graduating at the conclusion of this Summer Term. I have no real difficulty in identifying with any of the colleges and universities in the northern part of the state. I began my college education at the University of Utah with a basketball scholarship there. I later transferred to Utah State University, where I was graduated. I’ve also taught at the institute adjacent to the Weber State College campus. So I have no problem in dividing my loyalties among these schools, all of which are excellent institutions. The Power of Thoughts I would like to share with you this morning some thoughts about thoughts. While serving as a mission president, I was interested in the frequency with which missionaries in our personal interviews would ask me this question: “President, how do I control my thoughts?” In that intensive environment, where a keen level of spirituality was so essential to the success of the missionaries, it didn’t take long for these young men and young women to realize that a high level of spiritual power was necessary for them in order to succeed and that thoughts were very instrumental in the acquisition of that power and influence. I’ve been intrigued for many years about thoughts and the compelling power of thoughts. In the children’s classic The Secret Garden by Frances Hodges Burnette, Mrs. Burnette gives us these observations in children’s language: One of the new things people began to find out in the last century was that thoughts, just mere thoughts, were as powerful as electric batteries, as good for one as sunlight is, or as bad for one as poison is. To let a sad thought or a bad thought get into your mind is as dangerous as letting a scarlet fever germ get into your body. If you let it stay there after it has got in, you may never get over it so long as you live. Thoughts have a great deal to do with how we live, whether we’re enthusiastic or depressed, whether we enjoy success or experience a degree of failure, whether we enjoy spirituality or suffer from a lack of it, and in many respects, I believe, whether we are obedient or disobedient to the laws of God. Some modern behaviorists have indicated that the human thought process is very much like the operation of a computer where the conscious and subconscious mind is concerned. The input which we take into that process has much to do with the output in terms of attitude, mood, and behavior. The Lord has recognized the great power of thoughts, and he warned those whom he addressed in his Sermon on the Mount against the influence of evil or negative thoughts. Proverbs tells us that as a m

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

Prayer: Try Again

I am glad to be here this evening. We have had four of our five daughters attend BYU. With the first two daughters, I was led to believe that the BYU was a two-year school because they got married after their sophomore year and didn’t come back. Our third daughter did finish here. I remember her graduation. She had married before she finished, and at her graduation we weren’t sure which would come first, the baby or the diploma. But the diploma beat the baby by a few weeks. I feel an anxiousness about my subject tonight because I know, as the scriptures have stated, that we are in the wind-down period of time that precedes the second coming of the Savior. The preparation is being hastened as never before. The signs of this hastening are all about us. The coming months and years will bring some important events in fulfillment of ancient and latter-day prophecies attesting to the times in which we now live. Each of you will have an opportunity to be part of these great experiences. Now it’s true that not all will be prophets, apostles, bishops, or presidents, but the particular assignment is unimportant in the overall perspective of what is happening and what will happen. All of us are Heavenly Father’s sons and daughters, and regardless of our ecclesiastical assignment, the eternal rewards to the faithful are the same. There is no one here tonight—and I hope you will all listen to this—there is no one here tonight whose experience in life cannot be exciting, satisfying, happy, and profitable. None of us here came into mortality to fail or to be mediocre in the things that matter most. I firmly believe in this truth. And lest we forget, there are no greater blessings than those that can come to a successful husband and wife. I don’t know when I have prayed more fervently or worried more continually about being able to communicate with any group than I have in speaking with you this evening. I feel none of us will ever be exalted except as we increase our understanding of and our dedication and commitment to the subject matter of this fireside. I have chosen to speak about prayer. Because of my desire to teach you this evening, I will share with you some experiences that are considered special and sacred by me and my family. I hope you will please forgive me for this. (Some of my family members have suggested that there are better things to talk about than one’s self and loved ones.) The greatest purpose and challenge in life is to learn to know and to live like the Savior. We learn to know Him as we live like Him—as we keep his commandments. Knowing Him is increased as we testify of Him. In this mortal experience, there are many Christlike things we can do, but unless we keep His commandments and testify of Him, we will not achieve our full purpose in life. The world has many good people who do many wonderful things but who cannot testify of the Savior and His mission. Now there are several im

Women, Feminism, and the Blessings of the Gospel

We cannot succumb to the devaluation of the family and the emerging idea that there are no differences between men and women. Even more destructive, however, is the view that women are somehow intellectually or spiritually inferior. Men and women must support one another in the educational and eternal pursuit of their divine potential.

The Constitution and the Restoration

This morning I want to talk to you about a very important relationship that exists between, on the one hand, our lives, our practices, and our beliefs as participants in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and, on the other, the Constitution of the United States. In one sense, this topic is a timeless one, because the Restoration and the Constitution trace their beginnings almost to the same point in time, and over the intervening two centuries have grown and flourished side by side. And yet, in another sense, the subject is not only timely, but also time-driven. Today’s devotional is the last one that will occur during the fifteen-year period from 1976 through the summer of 1991 that Congress officially designated as our bicentennial. Bicentennial! Over the past fifteen years—for most of you, the majority of your conscious years—this word has virtually acquired a secondary meaning. Viewed narrowly, it has been a ceremonial observance of the most remarkable period in the history of our nation, and perhaps in the history of the world. From a broader perspective, the bicentennial has symbolized patriotism and liberty and has served as a valuable reminder that the unique blessings we enjoy as Americans are largely attributable to a document that has proven to be, notwithstanding some flaws, probably the most successful governmental undertaking in the history of civilized life on this planet. Constitutional principles and constitutional issues continually bear on our day-to-day activities. This very day, January 15, 1991—President Bush’s deadline for the withdrawal of Iraqi troops from Kuwait provides an excellent example. It is an event and a day of obvious significance and concern to every American and to the world. Surrounding it on all sides is a constitutional issue. I’ll say more about what that issue is in a moment. But at the outset I want you to understand that constitutional questions enter into a spectrum of our interests ranging from global war to nude dancing to non-returnable soft-drink containers. A Dramatic Story The two-hundred-year anniversary that we have been observing was a fifteen-year period that began with the Declaration of Independence and ended with the adoption of the Bill of Rights by the first Congress in the summer of 1791. The constitution-making portions of that decade and a half lasted only four years and consisted, in my view, of three basic phases. The first was the famous Philadelphia Convention in the summer of 1787. That story has been told several times and in several ways, but nowhere more interestingly nor more accurately than by our own BYU film production A More Perfect Union. The convention was conducted in secret and represented several struggles of epic proportions among the delegates, ultimately resolved by a series of compromises. Someday someone should make another movie like A More Perfect Union, telling the story of the second and

Latter-day Saint Women in Today’s Changing World

It is always a great pleasure and a strengthening experience for me to speak to a group of Brigham Young University students. I enjoyed the chorus this morning, and I also appreciated being referred to as a young woman. I was called the other day by the National Council of Women and asked if I would accept an appointment as a delegate to an international meeting in Paris. I thought, “Before I accept this, I should refer it to one of the members of the First Presidency.” So I called President Tanner and said, “I have an invitation to serve as a delegate, and I don’t think I should accept it because and because and because—.” I had a number of very good reasons, I thought. He listened attentively, and then he said to me, “You know, I should think you’d take advantage of your opportunities while you’re still young.” I’m particularly honored this morning to be invited by the chairman of the Women’s Week program committee to speak at this devotional assembly. Since this is Women’s Week, it seems appropriate that I address myself, in the main, to the role of the Latter-day Saint woman in today’s changing world. I’m sensitive to the fact that this group consists of men as well as women. In the governing structure of the Church, men play an important role in relation to the women’s activities as they relate to the work of the Church. At early meetings of the Relief Society in Nauvoo, the Prophet Joseph Smith clearly defined this relationship. At the founding meeting, a presidency consisting of three women—a president, a first counselor, and a second counselor—was appointed to preside over the organization. Later in the meeting the Prophet Joseph said, “Let this presidency serve as a Constitution—all their decisions be considered law, and acted upon as such. If any officers are wanted to carry out the design of the institution, let them be appointed and set apart. . . . The minutes of your meetings will be precedent for you to act upon—your Constitution and law” (“A Centenary of Relief Society,” p. 15). Nonetheless, at the third meeting of the society the Prophet gave this enduring directive: “You will receive instructions through the order of the Priesthood which God has established, through the medium of those appointed to lead, guide, and direct the affairs of the Church in this last dispensation” (“A Centenary of Relief Society,” p. 16). Because of these mandates it seems imperative that not only the women but also the brethren of the priesthood should be knowledgeable regarding the role of women. The brethren will want to be familiar with the problems confronting women so that through an understanding of these and the duties and the responsibilities of the sisters they will be in a position to counsel and direct them in harmony with the design of the Lord. The advancement of the work of the Church is a joint responsibility of the men and the women of the Church, each wo

Seeing with New Eyes

When I walk to campus, my route takes me along the front of Heritage Halls. There, underneath some shady trees, the sidewalk runs along an irrigation canal, a relic perhaps of an earlier era when orchards rather than buildings graced the area. One day while walking next to the canal, I was rapt in thought about the pollination of the little aquatic plant Zannichellia palustris. How does the pollen move through water? I had been studying populations of the plant at Fish Springs in the west desert, about a three-hour drive from Provo. “Wouldn’t it be grand if Zannichellia palustris grew right here in this ditch?” I thought to myself. I glanced toward the canal and there it was—Zannichellia palustris! I couldn’t believe it. Now imagine the scene. It’s early morning. Students are scurrying to class along the sidewalk. A semi-respectable professor is walking with the students in front of Heritage Halls. Suddenly, with an excited look on his face, he rips off his sport coat, rolls up his trouser legs, and jumps into the ditch! He reaches down, pulls up a small water weed, and closely examines it with delight. Within an hour I had brought tripods and high-speed cameras to the canal to study pollination. My graduate student Rebecca Sperry and I found that Zannichellia palustris releases its pollen in mucilage that resembles a floating omelette. As the mucilage dissolves, the pollen grains, which are heavier than water, drop like little baseballs onto the waiting female stigmas below. We sent a description of these results to the world’s expert on aquatic plants, Professor C. D. K. Cook at the University of Zurich. His group repeated our study in Switzerland, and together with our respective students we published an announcement of our findings (see Guo, Y. H., Sperry, R., Cook, C. D. K., and Cox, P. A., “The Pollination Ecology of Zannichellia palustris L. [Zannichelliaceae],” Aquatic Botany 38, no. 4 (December 1990): 341–56). Although my discovery of Zannichellia palustris in the Heritage Halls ditch led to some very interesting biology, I still must confess to feeling silly. No, I didn’t feel silly about jumping in the ditch—any of my Biology 130 students would have done precisely the same thing. What I felt silly about was that I had not previously noticed Zannichellia palustris in that ditch before, although I had walked hundreds of times along that path. I had viewed the ditch but had never before truly seen it. How can we acquire the ability to truly see things as they are, rather than merely an idiosyncratic, partial version? Is there away that we can learn to see the world with new eyes? We know that our Heavenly Father is able to see things in a pure and perfect way. He can see the truth of all things because he knows things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come (see D&C 93:24). The Lord

“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, “

Leaders and Managers

Twenty-three years ago on this same occasion, I gave the opening prayer, in which I said: “We have met here today clothed in the black robes of a false priesthood.” Many have asked me since whether I really said such a shocking thing, but nobody has ever asked what I meant by it. Why not? Well, some knew the answer already, and as for the rest, we do not question things at the BYU. But for my own relief, I welcome this opportunity to explain: a “false priesthood?” The Explanation Why a priesthood? Because these robes originally denoted those who had taken clerical orders, and a college was a “mystery” with all the rites, secrets, oaths, degrees, tests, feasts, and solemnities that go with initiation into higher knowledge. But why false? Because it is borrowed finery, coming down to us through a long line of unauthorized imitators. It was not until 1893 that “an intercollegiate commission was formed to draft a uniform code for caps, gowns, and hoods” in the United States. Before that there were no rules—you designed your own; and that liberty goes as far back as these fixings can be traced. The late Roman emperors, as we learn from the infallible Du Cange, marked each step in the decline of their power and glory by the addition of some new ornament to the resplendent vestments that proclaimed their sacred office and dominion. Branching off from them, the kings of the tribes who inherited the lands and the claims of the Empire vied with each other in imitating the Roman masters, determined to surpass even them in the theatrical variety and richness of caps and gowns. One of the four crowns worn by the emperor was the mortarboard. The French kings got it from Charlemagne, the model and founder of their royal lines. To quote Du Cange: When the French kings quitted the palace at Paris to erect a Temple of Justice, at the same time they conferred their royal adornments on those who would preside therein, so that the judgments that came from their mouths would have more weight and authority with the people, as if they were coming from the mouth of the prince himself [the idea of the Robe of the Prophet, conferring his glory on his successor]. It is to these concessions that the mortar-boards and the scarlet and ermine robes of the chancellors of France and the presidents of Parlement are to be traced. Their gowns or epitogia [the loose robe thrown over the rest of the clothing, to produce the well-known greenhouse effect], are still made in the ancient fashion. . . . The name “mortar-board” is given to the diadem because it is shaped like a mortar-board which serves for mixing plaster, and is bigger on top than on the bottom. [Charles Du Fresne, Sieur Du Cange, Glossarium ad Scriptores Mediae et Infimae Graecitatis (Graz, Austria: Akademische Druck u. Verlagsanstalt, 1958; Unveränderter Abdruck der 1688 bei Anisson, Joan. Posuel u. Claud. Rigaud in Lyon erschiehenen A


Good morning, my brothers and sisters of the BYU. I’m sure that you’re going to have a let down from the inspiration we have had and the beautiful singing. But I hope that I may be in tune with the heavenly powers, that I may say something to you that will be worthwhile. I do feel very humble this morning, and sometimes when I’m introduced I get the idea that ­others might feel that I’m untouchable, but I want you to know that I’m neither untouchable nor unteachable. And since I’ve been in this position in the Church, I have learned some very fine things from some of the members of the Church, generally in anonymous letters. I don’t know why they don’t sign those letters, because almost invariably what they say is true, especially when I look it up in the books. When I was invited to come here, President Wilkinson suggested that I talk a little bit about miracles. Well, it will be a miracle if I do. I had a particular instruction from President George Albert Smith when I was called to this position. He called me into his office one day and took hold of my hand, and while he was holding my hand and looking at me, he said, “I want to say something to you, Brother Cowley.” I said, “Well, I’m willing to listen.” “This is just a particular suggestion to you—not to all the Brethren, but to you.” He said, “Never write a sermon. Never write down what you are going to say.” I said, “What on earth will I do?” He said, “You tell the people what the Lord wants you to tell them while you are standing on your feet.” I said, “That certainly is putting some responsibility on the Lord.” But I’ve tried to live up to that instruction, and I’ve had some great experiences. There have been times when the Lord has forsaken me, but when He hasn’t, I’ve had some miraculous experiences. Well, I shouldn’t say miraculous; it is the normal experience of the priesthood to have the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. I can bear witness to you, my fellow students here this morning, that God can work through His priesthood and that He does work through it. I know that without any question of doubt. I’ve had too many experiences. I’m an expert witness about these things. The Faith of a Child A few weeks ago I was called to the County Hospital in Salt Lake City by a mother. I didn’t know her. She said her boy was dying from polio, and she asked if I would come down and give that boy a blessing. I picked up a young bishop whom I generally take with me, for I think his faith is greater than mine and I always like having him along. We went down there and found this young lad in an iron lung, unconscious, his face rather a blackish color, with a tube in his throat, and they said he had another tube lower down in his abdomen. He had been flown in from an outlying community. The mother said to me, “This is an unusual boy, no

Change: It’s Always a Possibility!

During the Saturday afternoon general conference session, I was moved as I watched President Hinckley during one of the congregational hymns. He turned right around and looked at our BYU combined choir—for the longest time. It was not just a brief glance. He stood there gazing. It seemed that he was surveying and studying each student. President Hinckley is the prophet of the Lord. He knows who you as BYU students are. He knows your goodness. He knows your greatness. It struck me that the Lord’s prophet is counting on you. Teaching is a privilege anywhere, but to teach at BYU with you as students who are filled with light and the love of learning and of your fellowmen—well, it just doesn’t get much better than that for me as a professor. So even though I want to offer you some ideas about change today, there are many things I hope you will never change. Let me tell you a few: • Please don’t change your goodness—your deep core goodness. • Please don’t change being a cut above any other student body in the land. I believe it. It’s true. You are amazing—not perfect, but amazing. • Please don’t change that light in your eyes. • Please don’t change how much you want to help each other. Even when I hear distress stories about roommates and family members, the distress flows from wanting to have connections with each other that just aren’t happening. • Please don’t change your love of the Lord. • Please don’t change your courage to do so many seemingly impossible things. • Please don’t change your desire to keep improving. • Please don’t change your desire for change. So, let’s talk about change. I love change! I love it. I’ll admit it. I’m passionate about it. Actually, I’m just plain wild about change! I’m professionally committed to it—and personally enamored by it. Professionally I try to facilitate it and study it, and I love to participate in it. Personally, I advocate it, seek after it, and, basically, am in awe of it. Personally and professionally I am a detective of change. I want to discover change when everyone else says there is none present nor possible. I guess that’s as close as I come to my Sherlock Holmes name of “Dr. Watson.” For 25 years I have had the privilege of working with other seekers of change—they go by the title of “clients”: individuals, couples, and families who want change. They want something to be different in their lives. I’m not sure when my love of change commenced, but I still remember the thrill that accompanied one of the first big changes in my life: the change of advancing from riding a tricycle to riding a bicycle. The brief sinking feeling that accompanied my awareness that my Dad had let go of the back of my bike and was no longer running alongside and holding me up was quickly replaced by exhilaration. I was riding a two-wheeler—all by mysel

Celestial Marriage—A Little Heaven on Earth

My brothers and sisters, it’s a pleasure to be here today. Many thoughts went through my mind as I prepared for this occasion. I wanted to make sure that I deliver the kind of a message that is going to be helpful. I hope the Spirit will be with me that I might do just that. The subject will be that of marriage, with an eternal perspective. Temple marriage describes the place you go to have the marriage performed. Celestial marriage is being true to the sacred covenants you make in that temple marriage ceremony—living celestial principles in the marriage relationship. A celestial marriage requires, after the vows are taken, a continuing consecrated life of worthiness leading to happiness and exaltation, which President Kimball has talked to you about. If we live the laws properly, as they are intended, we will, with another individual and with our family, be able to have a little heaven on earth. We are practicing, when we live the laws pertaining to celestial marriage, the same laws that are practiced in heaven. We are practicing how to live with God the Father and his Son and with our families in the eternities to come. That to me is the message to the world of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. So my title this morning is “Celestial Marriage—A Little Heaven on Earth.” I would like to reinforce in your minds the principle of celestial marriage and the gospel lesson it gives to us. Goals for Righteous Living Something as wonderful as a celestial marriage doesn’t just happen. In the story Alice in Wonderland, Alice approaches the Cheshire Cat and asks, “Would you please tell me which way I ought to go from here?” The Cheshire Cat replies, “That depends a great deal on where you want to go.” Alice says, “I admit, I don’t much care where.” The Cheshire Cat then says, “Then it doesn’t really matter much which way you go, does it?” “Just so I get somewhere,” responds Alice. Then the Cheshire Cat reveals an interesting truth, “Oh, you’re sure to get there if you keep walking long enough.” What is the message? How many of us are going through life today telling ourselves, “If we keep going long enough, we’re going to get somewhere,” but are not defining exactly where that place is we want to be? “Somewhere” is not good enough. We must know where we want to go and be firmly committed to getting there. And we should get that knowledge and commitment early. Alma stated, “Oh, remember, my son, and learn wisdom in thy youth; yea, learn in thy youth to keep the commandments of God” (Alma 37:35). That says it all. Do it now. Temple Recommends Once we are committed to a celestial marriage, we should understand and do the things that lead to it: To enter the temple, you will need what is called a recommend. A searching interview will b

Love Is Not Blind: Some Thoughts for College Students on Faith and Ambiguity

Thank you, President Oaks. It feels good to be back on this campus. If you were to ask our children where they are from, they would still say Provo. I do not know how many more years that will continue; we hope that they will become acclimated to Rexburg soon. Provo and Rexburg have much in common, not the least of which is that in these two cities are two great colleges. It has been a source of great satisfaction to me to notice the support and concern that BYU people have for Ricks College. I want you BYU people to know that the people at Ricks appreciate your interest. I also would like to share with you something I recently heard about students in the Church schools, so that we can be alert to what the enemy is saying. A friend of mine, a graduate from another school in this state, recently asked me if I knew the difference between a rooster, a patriot, and a coed who goes to an LDS college. I said that I did not know the difference, but that I had always wondered about that very question. He said, “A rooster says ‘cock-a-doodle-doo,’ a patriot says ‘Yankee Doodle-doo,’ but a coed at Ricks or BYU says ‘Any dude’ll do.’” This obviously does not apply to us, except for the occasion on which I proposed to my wife here in Provo a number of years ago. At that time, at least, I was glad that there was some truth in that observation. The title for my remarks today, brothers and sisters, is a simple one that will leave you wondering what I mean; I hope it will be clear by the time I have finished. The title is “Love Is Not Blind.” When I was a law student, my wife and I attended a student ward in which most of the members were graduate students. We developed close friendships with many of those who were experiencing, as we were, the great expanding of our minds as we learned the tools of intellectual analysis and the expanding of our spirits as we drew close to the Lord through such experiences as marriage and the bearing of our first children. One Sunday morning, the Elders Quorum in our ward held a special testimony meeting characterized by spiritual warmth and personal openness. During that meeting, a fellow law student related a boyhood experience that had occurred just after he had been ordained a deacon. He lived on a farm and had been promised that a calf about to be born would be his very own to raise. One summer morning when his parents were away, he was working in the barn when the expectant cow began to calve prematurely. He watched in great amazement as the little calf was born; and then, without warning, the mother suddenly rolled over the little calf. He could see that she was trying to kill it. In his heart he cried out to the Lord for help. Not thinking about how much more the cow weighed than he did, he pushed on her with all his strength and somehow moved her away. He picked up the lifeless body of the calf in his arms and, brokenhearted, the tears running down his cheeks,

A Law of Increasing Returns

I’m grateful to be with you tonight. And I appreciate what it means for you to have decided to spend your time with me. I watched you take your seats and wait. I’d like to talk with you tonight about those two things: about time. And about waiting. A Time to Every Purpose I was riding in a car with a wise man a few years ago. We talked about some tragedies in lives of people we knew. Some had waited too long, missing the chance to act. And some had waited not long enough. He said quietly, more to himself than to me, “Timing is everything.” Ecclesiastes said, with an elegance that goes beyond poetry to frame our problem: To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted. And then later: A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away. [Ecclesiastes 3:1–2, 6] Waiting for a harvest takes more judgment in life than it does in gardening. In your garden, you can tell if the seed sprouts. And even an amateur can tell when the corn or carrots are ready. But I remember a story told to me long ago, far from here, by a sad voice. I remember it not because it was unique but because I have heard the same story told, again and again, about waiting or failing to wait. The details vary, but not the feeling of drama. She said it happened on a summer Saturday afternoon. She was tired. Tired of being single. Tired of trying to be a faithful Latter-day Saint. Not so much tired of being kind and virtuous as tired of nothing good seeming to come of it. She’d not had a date in months. She saw no prospect of even becoming friends with, let alone marrying, a man who shared her faith and ideals. In frustration she found herself deciding something. She decided that afternoon, consciously, that years of good works and restraint had produced too little and promised no more. She said to herself almost aloud, “Oh, what’s the use?” The phone rang. It was a man’s voice, a man she knew. He lived in the same apartment building. He’d asked her out before. She’d refused because she was sure he’d expect her to compromise her standards she’d preserved at great effort. But, almost as if directed by a scriptwriter, he called at that instant. She didn’t say, “Yes.” She said, “I’ll think about it.” She thought about it. He called again. And finally, she repeated to herself, “Oh, what’s the use?” She went. She found she had been right about his intentions. And in a choice about time and about waiting or not waiting, her life changed. So, she will never know what might have been ahead on the path she decided wasn’t worth the price; she knew quickly the other one was uphill, and a hard climb. All of us make decisions every day, almost every hour, about whether it’s

Weightier Matters

My title and subject today is taken from the Savior’s denunciation of the scribes and Pharisees: “Ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone” (Matthew 23:23; emphasis added). I wish to speak about some “weightier matters” we might overlook if we allow ourselves to focus exclusively on lesser matters. The weightier matters to which I refer are the qualities like faith and the love of God and his work that will move us strongly toward our eternal goals. In speaking of weightier matters, I seek to contrast our ultimate goals in eternity with the mortal methods or short-term objectives we use to pursue them. I read in the Universe about Professor Sara Lee Gibb’s message from this pulpit last week. She discussed the difference between earthly perspectives and eternal ones. Then, on Sunday, President Thomas S. Monson reminded you that eternal life is our goal. My message concerns that same contrast, which the Apostle Paul described in these words: “We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18). If we concentrate too intently on our obvious earthly methods or objectives, we can lose sight of our eternal goals, which the apostle called “things . . . not seen.” If we do this, we can forget where we should be headed and in eternal terms go nowhere. We do not improve our position in eternity just by flying farther and faster in mortality, but only by moving knowledgeably in the right direction. As the Lord told us in modern revelation, “That which the Spirit testifies unto you . . . ye should do in all holiness of heart, walking uprightly before me, considering the end of your salvation” (D&C 46:7; emphasis added). We must not confuse means and ends. The vehicle is not the destination. If we lose sight of our eternal goals, we might think the most important thing is how fast we are moving and that any road will get us to our destination. The Apostle Paul described this attitude as “hav[ing] a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge” (Romans 10:2). Zeal is a method, not a goal. Zeal—even a zeal toward God—needs to be “according to knowledge” of God’s commandments and his plan for his children. In other words, the weightier matter of the eternal goal must not be displaced by the mortal method, however excellent in itself. Thus far I have spoken in generalities. Now I will give three examples. Family All Latter-day Saints understand that having an eternal family is an eternal goal. Exaltation is a family matter, not possible outside the everlasting covenant of marriage, which makes possible the perpetuation of glorious family relationships. But t

Begin with the End in Mind

Our being here reminds us of those days when we were where you are now in your schooling. We had three important goals. One was to get married. Then, once married, our next goal was to get by financially. Then our goal was to get through. We got married when Sister Nelson was an undergraduate student and I was in my second year of medical school. Because I was under legal age, parental consent was required. My father was very amused when I called him away from his work to sign for me so I could get a marriage certificate. With Sister Nelson’s (and parental) help, we were able to make it through medical school after we each received our baccalaureate degree. I then informed her that it was customary to have a year internship. Following that I was determined to specialize, and I let her know that it would require additional training. I’ll confess to a bit of naivete. If we had known that the interval between my getting my doctor’s degree and our finally going into practice would be twelve and a half years with six children added, we might not have been quite as enthusiastic in the beginning. So I pay great tribute to her for her role in our partnership. I owe so much to her. Now I pray for the Spirit of the Lord to direct our discussion tonight. I have entitled my remarks “Begin with the End in Mind.” I suppose some of this comes from my surgical background. An elective incision is never made without planning to close it. The same principle is generally applicable in all fields, however. Track stars don’t begin a race without knowing the location of the finish line. So, in your important race, I would plead for you to begin with the end in mind. To assist you in defining that end, I would ask you this simple question: What would you like said about you at your funeral? Or, if you were to write your own eulogy and you could have only three sentences (no big flowery speeches, please), what would you want to say? If it’s fair for me to ask that of you, it’s fair for you to ask that of me. If I were to write what I hope might be said about me, those three sentences would include: I was able to render service of worth to my fellowmen. I had a fine family. I evidenced unshakable faith in God and lived accordingly. Some of you have already defined your goals. Some have even developed a system of priorities to give order to your interests and responsibilities. I applaud such discipline and think it’s useful, but I believe that this ordering process may often be a little artificial. Rarely do we fragment the life that we live. It is not possible to influence one facet of our life without that affecting other aspects as well. So, in my own experience, I have preferred not to compartmentalize my interests, but to synergize them. Let me explain what I mean. Nephi said, “I did liken all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profi

Being a Worthy You

I’m honored to be invited to participate at this special time, to view this great and vast audience, and to feel the impact that is possible in the world because of your lives. Your life is sacredly yours. It has never been lived before and no one else can ever live it. Only you can set the bounds. You have the capacity to determine exactly what you are to become. What Life Is All About Many of us focus our existence on earning—on acquiring, spending, and consuming. We use up our time getting things and then maintaining them, finding a place to store them, fixing them up when they break, guarding them against theft, and then upgrading them when a newer model comes out. When I think of accumulating things and the difference it makes, I think of the experience I had in Bacolod, on the Negros Island in the Philippines. We were being driven to stake conference by President Ruiz. He had borrowed a car so we would have transportation. When we drove up to the little chapel there in Bacolod, there was no one around. I said, “President, maybe the conference is at another time.” He replied, “No, they’re all inside.” We drove into the parking lot—ours was the only car there. We got out of the car and walked into the chapel. It was packed to capacity and people were standing on the sides. The meeting commenced and the great stake president, President Villerette, stood. He looked at his people and tears began to stream down his face. He said, “I’m hungry. My wife and my children are hungry. All we have to eat is a little bowl of rice each day.” Then he said, “But you, my brothers and sisters, are hungry, too. And I promise you that if you will live and keep the commandments of the Lord that this will pass, and one day again we will have our stomachs full and be able to enjoy the blessings of our country.” Our success at business, sports, friendship, love, and life—nearly every enterprise we attempt—is largely determined by our own self-image. People who have confidence in their personal worth seem to be magnets for success and happiness. When I think of happiness, I think of an experience we had in Tarawa. We were traveling to Tarawa, and as the plane landed and pulled up to the very humble terminal, the door opened, and a man jumped in, saying, “Elder Sonntag, please come quickly.” We did not know what the urgency was, but we came quickly out of the airplane, walked right through Immigration (they knew we weren’t going anywhere else), and then walked over to two vans. There was a tarp spread between the two vans, and sitting on the tarp were nineteen young men and women. We were informed that they were missionaries—young people from the islands that dot the sea, islands that really have not even been given names. They were young people who had come to Tarawa to try and get an education, to learn how to read and write. While they were there they felt the spirit of the gospel and joi

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

Because I Live, Ye Shall Live Also

This has been a glorious Easter for us. For three and one-half hours the Council of the Twelve met in the temple this morning in our semiannual testimony meeting. Following that my wife and I went to our ward fast and testimony meeting, then visited Elder Stapley in the hospital. I am happy to report that he looks better and is better. Now we have come here tonight to conclude this glorious Easter day we shall long remember. It is always a personal thrill and honor for me to be in the presence of you, the youth of Zion—“the rising generation,” as the Book of Mormon calls you (see Mosiah 26:1; Alma 5:49). As the ancient apostle declared on the Mount of Transfiguration, “It is good for us to be here” (Matthew 17:4). I have been uplifted and inspired by the fitting, lovely music provided this Easter evening. Tonight I want to share my love, appreciation, and testimony concerning our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I love the Master, our divine Redeemer. It is a sacred honor to bear witness to the divine mission of Jesus Christ; to represent His great Church; to be an ambassador of truth to our Father’s children; and to be called by a prophet of the Lord to go into the world and proclaim the glad tidings that God has again spoken from the heavens, that He still communicates with men on the earth, and that the pure gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored to the earth in its fullness for the last time. I rejoice in this glorious privilege, thank the Lord for this rich opportunity and blessing, and bear solemn witness to the truth of the message we carry to the world. We meet here at this great University with a prayer of gratitude in our hearts and on our lips for the privilege of living in this choice period when the light of truth has burst forth. We meet in a great Christian nation—a nation with a solid spiritual foundation—but a nation which has departed in great measure from the basic principles of its founders. May God help us, as His covenant people, “to arise and shine forth” and be a standard for the nations and a light to the world, as the Lord has commanded us (see D&C 115:5). As a people we have just joined with others of the Christian world in the celebration of Easter. It is therefore most fitting that we consider together that most glorious event, the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. There has been considerable publicity and media coverage recently on the reporting of experiences which seemingly verify that “life after life” is a reality. The ancient prophet’s question, asked centuries ago, has been revived. Job asked, “If a man die, shall he live again?” (Job 14:14). In other words, what happens to a person once he dies? A definite answer to that question is provided by the Savior’s ministry in the spirit world following his crucifixion, death, and burial. Even before the fall of Adam, which ushered death into the world, our Heavenly Father had prepar

Joseph Smith and the Problem of Evil

Nothing challenges the rationality of our belief in God or tests our trust in Him more severely than human suffering and wickedness. Both are pervasive in our common experience. If this is not immediately evident, a glance at the morning paper or the evening news will make it so. On the larger scale and at the moment, names like Oklahoma City, Columbine, Kosovo, and Turkey evoke image upon image of unspeakable human cruelty or grief. But Auschwitz and Belsen still haunt our memories. Closer to home, who can fathom the anguish of family members in West Valley when they discovered their precious little girls suffocated together in the trunk of an automobile, the tragic outcome of an innocent game of hide-and-seek. Or the trauma of a dear friend of mine and his five young children who day by day for several months watched their lovely wife and mother wither down to an emaciated skeleton of 85 pounds as she endured a slow and painful death from inoperable cancer of the throat. Scenes like these are repeated daily a thousand and a thousand times. But we need not speak only of the sufferings of others. Few of us here will escape deep anguish, for it is apparently no respecter of persons and comes in many guises, arising out of our experiences of incurable or debilitating diseases, mental illness, broken homes, child and spouse abuse, rape, wayward loved ones, tragic accidents, untimely death—the list goes on and on. No doubt many of us have already cried out, “Why God? Why?” And many of us, often on behalf of a loved one, have already pleaded, “Please, God, please help,” and then wondered as, seemingly, the only response we’ve heard has been a deafening silence. All of us have struggled, or likely will struggle, in a very personal way with the problem of evil.1 I say the problem of evil, but actually there are many. Today I want to consider with you just three, which I will call (1) the logical problem of evil; (2) the soteriological problem of evil; and (3) the practical problem of evil. The logical problem is the apparent contradiction between the world’s evils and an all-loving, all-powerful Creator. The soteriological problem is the apparent contradiction between certain Christian concepts of salvation and an all-loving Heavenly Father. The practical problem is the challenge of living trustingly and faithfully in the face of what personally seems to be overwhelming evil. I. The Logical Problem of Evil Soaked as it is with human suffering and moral evil, how is it possible that our world is the work of an almighty, perfectly loving Creator? So stated, the logical problem of evil poses a puzzle of deep complexity. But the conundrum evoked by our reflection on this question appears to be more than just a paradox: we seem to stare contradiction right in the face. The ancient philosopher Epicurus framed the contradiction in the form of a logical dilemma: Either God is unw

Writing His Law in Their Hearts: The Development of Religious Faith in Children

In chapter 31 of Jeremiah the Lord says, “I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jeremiah 31:33). My question for this morning is, “What can, or must, parents do to assist the Lord so that his law becomes internalized in the hearts of their children?” As some parents here can attest, it’s not that easy. I love the beautiful story in the Book of Mormon of the prophet and king Benjamin, a great example to all parents. After a lifetime of loving, teaching, and working alongside his people, Benjamin delivered such a profound sermon to them as he approached the time of his death that the entire community was converted to Jesus Christ. The Spirit had touched their hearts so completely that they knew of the truth of his words and had no more disposition to do evil but had a desire to do good continually (see Mosiah 5:2). They had become the children of Christ, his sons and his daughters. What a wonderful thing to have happen to these people, these grown-ups. In Mosiah we read that all except the little children had been taught the commandments, and that every one of the community except the little children took upon themselves the name of Christ (see Mosiah 6:2). The verses noting that the little children weren’t old enough to partake of the sermon are foreshadowings because the scriptures return to these youngsters later on as adults: Now it came to pass that there were many of the rising generation that could not understand the words of king Benjamin, being little children at the time he spake unto his people; and they did not believe the tradition of their fathers. They did not believe what had been said concerning the resurrection of the dead, neither did they believe concerning the coming of Christ. [Mosiah 26:1–2] What went wrong? How was it that these deeply committed Christian parents, spiritually diligent people, likely to be furiously active in church, missed raising their children in such a way that these children also possessed a strong religious faith? As you know, four of the unbelievers were grandsons of the prophet king Benjamin. Ammon, Aaron, Omner, and Himni didn’t believe Grandpa’s words about Christ. Using this scriptural example as a metaphor, again, my question is What can parents do to help their children internalize the religious faith of their fathers and mothers? How can they assist the Lord in putting his “law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts” (Jeremiah 3l:33)? Now I hasten to add that I am not suggesting that these ancient parents necessarily did anything wrong. There is a tendency both in the Church and in my profession to blame parents for the errors of their children. We are too prone to forget agency, sometimes biological factors, and the concept of bidirectional influence; in other words, children

Come Unto Christ

You have moments when you want to be better than you have ever been. Those feelings may be triggered by seeing a person or a family living in a way that lifts your heart with a yearning to live that way, too. The longing to be better may come from reading the words of a book or even from hearing a few bars of music. For me, it has come in all those ways, and more. A Future Home One of my early memories is reading the scriptures in a school room. The law of the land did not yet forbid it, so the Princeton, New Jersey, public schools began each school day with a standard ritual. I can’t remember the sequence, but I remember the content. In our classroom, we pledged allegiance to the flag—in unison, standing hand over heart. One student, a different one each school day, read verses he or she had chosen from the Bible, and then we recited aloud together the Lord’s Prayer. So about every twenty-five school days, my turn came to choose the scripture. I always chose the same one, so my classmates must have known what was coming when it was my day. I don’t remember when I first heard the words; that is lost in the mists of childhood. But I can recite them to you now, and with them the feelings come back. It happened every time, and it still does: Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. [1 Corinthians 13:1–2] You remember the rest, through that thirteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians. By the time I read the first few words, the feeling would come back. The feeling was not just that the words were true, but that they were about some better world I wanted with all my heart to live in. For me, the feeling was even more specific, and I knew it did not come from within me. It was that there would or could be some better life, and that it would be in a family I would someday have. In that then-distant future, I would be able to live with people in some better, kinder way, beyond even the best and the kindest world I had known as a boy. Now, little boys don’t talk about such things, not to anyone. You might confide in someone that you wanted to play big league baseball someday. But you wouldn’t say that you knew someday you’d have a home where you would feel the way you felt when you heard the thirteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians. So I never talked with anyone about those feelings. When I was eleven, my parents dropped me off at the Salt Lake City home of my great uncle Gaskell Romney. He was a patriarch and, because he was my father’s uncle, he could give me, a boy from the mission field, a patriarchal blessing. I don’t think he even sat down to visit with me. He didn’t know me exc

The Importance of Balance

It is always a very special experience to be on the campus of this great university and to feel the spirit of so many who are here for the right reason and with the right attitude. Time and time again we hear the comments of groups and individuals who have visited here as an extension of their trip to Church headquarters. It’s so reassuring to hear their praise and compliments of the school and the student body and the spirit that they perceive as they walk the halls and the grounds taking careful note of what they experience. Most every one of these visitors remark that this campus is different. There is a sense of enthusiasm and industry, a sense of respect and determination, a sense of confidence and spirituality—all of which inspires confidence by the visitors, in you the student body, the faculty, and the Church. That should be reassurance to you of how the world needs a generation of young people who know why they are here and where they are going and the direction they need to take to get there. We commend you. Today I would like to talk about some things that I hope will be helpful in your lives as students, as spouses, and as parents. I have titled what I’ll say “The Importance of Balance.” It has been my experience that balance is sometimes very elusive as we struggle to meet the pressures and challenges that are ever present. So I hope I can share some thoughts that will be useful in the challenging experience we call life. I think of the definition someone coined: “Life is what happens while you are making other plans.” First may I congratulate you on meeting the academic, citizenship, and moral requirements to gain admission here—you have instant credibility with me. Not that you won’t be required to continue to verify those requirements as you pursue your education. Of course you will, but it should make you feel good just knowing that you made the team. I commend you for having exhibited the mental and physical discipline that brings you to this point in your life. No doubt you realize the importance by now of maintaining that discipline in both the academic and moral aspects of your lives. As you continue to make the right choices, you will have tremendous opportunities for continued growth and development. It is so sad to see poor choices being made at critical times, choices that have very seriously limited the options a person has for future opportunity. No doubt you will continue to see the “poor-choices” factor operating all the days of your life. Consider it ongoing evidence for you to make good choices and to be consciously striving to improve yourself each day. I recall a motivational speaker during my teenage years making the statement, “I know of no one to be pitied more than one whose future is in the past.” What a sobering thought—bad choices seriously compromising opportunities of the future. So if you are tempted to take tha

Stones, Serpents, Swords, Seeds, and Tears

As you know from the President Lee’s introduction, my deep interest academically and humanly is the field of international health and development. The seeds of this passion were planted and rooted during my welfare services mission in the Philippines, and they have grown steadily with each subsequent experience. And, although totally unanticipated, my choice of nursing as a career has also brought the realization of a patriarch’s revelation to me when I was fourteen years old and hardly imagined leaving northern Arizona, much less the country. It is the fulfillment of this personal patriarchal revelation that directs my thoughts this morning. As my mission and career experiences have taken me to the latter-day growth edges of the Church, I have seen the temporal and spiritual evidence of the establishment and extension of the kingdom of God on earth. I arrived in the Philippines soon after the creation of the country’s first stake and second mission. That first stake president, Augusto Lim, is now one of the Second Quorum of the Seventy. As a missionary I attended the area conference in Manila when President Kimball announced the construction of the Tokyo Temple, the first in Asia, never imagining that just a few years later my Filipino companions would write to me of the miraculous events surrounding the Manila Temple dedication. I left Nigeria just as the first black stake in the Church was created by Elder Neal A. Maxwell. I’ve had the great blessing and pleasure of long conversations with the first Relief Society president in Romania. Babies I held when I returned from my mission are now serving in Saint Petersburg and what was Yugoslavia. And just three Fridays ago, I was in Amman, Jordan, where I saw the number of Jordanian Melchizedek Priesthood holders double in one day—from three to six! As a child I had a wonderful Sunday School teacher. Sister Fay Randall brought gold, silver, and copper foil so that we could create the image of King Nebuchadnezzar’s famous dream. The prophet Daniel interpreted that dream saying, Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces. . . . and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth. . . . Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure. [Daniel 2:34–35, 45] As the patriarch promised me years ago, I am a witness to the fulfillment of Daniel’s prophetic interpretation of this dream. I testify humbly, but most assuredly, that I have seen the stone rolling to fill the entire earth as the gospel is taken to every nation, kind

The Profile of a Prophet

I should like to dispense with all formality, if I may, and address both faculty and students as my brothers and sisters. I adopt that form of salutation for several reasons: first, practically all who are here are members of the Church that established and maintains this university; second, I believe in the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man; and third, I do not intend to give a lecture, certainly not an oration or even a sermon, but simply wish to bear my testimony to my brothers and sisters. I should like to be for a few minutes a witness in support of the proposition that the gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored in our day and that this is His Church, organized under His direction through the Prophet Joseph Smith. I should like to give some reasons for the faith I have and for my allegiance to the Church. Perhaps I can do this more quickly by referring to an interview I had in London, England, in 1939, just before the outbreak of the war. I had met a very prominent English gentleman, a member of the House of Commons, formerly one of the justices of the supreme court of England. In my conversations with this gentleman on various subjects—“vexations of the soul,” he called them—we talked about business, law, politics, international relations, and war, and we frequently discussed religion. He called me on the phone one day and asked if I would meet him at his office and explain some phases of the gospel. He said, “I think there is going to be a war. If there is, you will have to return to America and we may not meet again.” His statement regarding the imminence of war and the possibility that we would not meet again proved to be prophetic. When I went to his office he said he was intrigued by some things I had told him. He asked me to prepare a brief on Mormonism. I may say to you students that a brief is a statement of law and facts that lawyers like President Wilkinson prepare when they are going into court to argue a case. He asked me to prepare a brief on Mormonism and discuss it with him as I would discuss a legal problem. He said, “You have told me that you believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet. You have said to me that you believe that God the Father and Jesus of Nazareth appeared to Joseph Smith. I cannot understand how a barrister and solicitor from Canada, a man trained in logic and evidence, could accept such absurd statements. What you tell me about Joseph Smith seems fantastic, but I think you should take three days at least to prepare a brief and permit me to examine it and question you on it.” I suggested that we proceed at once and have an examination for discovery, which is, briefly, a meeting of the opposing sides in a lawsuit where the plaintiff and defendant, with their attorneys, meet to examine each other’s claims and see if they can find some area of agreement, thus saving the time of the court later on. I said perhaps we could see
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