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“Thy Troubles to Bless”

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Dark clouds filled the Provo sky on April 15, 2003. It was the due date for our second daughter, but there were still no signs of imminent delivery. My wife, Christine, was concerned that she had not felt the baby move for a day or so. She felt urgently that we needed to go to the hospital for a test. I thought she was overly cautious, but we went. I remember our cheerful nurse that morning, chatting away as she hooked Christine up to monitors and quickly found a heartbeat. All was well. With the monitor running, the nurse left the three of us—Christine, one-year-old Lizzy, and me—chatting pleasantly in the room. Suddenly something changed. The reassuring, regular beep of the heart monitor stopped. We called for the cheerful nurse, who assured us that this happens—babies move or monitors slip. It would just take a second to find the heartbeat. I remember the nurse’s face as she searched for the heartbeat, her smile fading, her eyes becoming serious. Still searching. She called for another nurse to try. No, she couldn’t find it either. Oh, there it was. Wait—no, that was Christine’s heartbeat. And then there was a sudden rush of nurses into the room. There were calls for doctors and hurried explanations. I sat in the corner, holding Lizzy on my lap, watching with a growing, helpless dread. Emergency C-section, they said, and they rushed out the door with my wife. Lizzy and I retreated to the hallway where, in a few minutes, a cart sped by with a too-white, too-still, too-quiet baby on it. Was that our baby? It wasn’t clear. In a room behind glass windows, doctors painstakingly inserted an IV through the tiny umbilical cord. Yes, I was told, that is your baby—not breathing, faint heartbeat, lost a lot of blood. Mother is fine. The baby—Caroline, we would call her—was placed on a gurney and prepped for a helicopter ride to Primary Children’s Medical Center. My father had arrived. We slipped our hands beneath the plastic shield that covered my little girl and placed them on her tiny head with its dark, wispy hair. In the name of Jesus Christ and by His priesthood, I blessed her with a strong heart and lungs; I blessed her with a full recovery. Then Caroline was whisked out the door to the waiting helicopter, Lizzy went home with my parents, Christine stayed at the hospital to recover, and I drove to Salt Lake City, chasing the helicopter. I felt the sudden fragmentation of our family—each of my girls now in someone else’s care and me driving alone through the rain. Over the next hours and days there were a lot of tests and questions, a lot of indefinite answers and tearful conversations. Family members, friends, and ward members joined their faith with ours in earnest fasting and prayer. Gratefully, Caroline lived. In some ways the blessing I pronounced that day was fulfilled directly. She has a healthy heart and strong lungs. She did not, however, fu
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His Grace Is Sufficient

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I am grateful to be here with my wife, Debi, and my two youngest children—who are currently attending BYU—and several other family members who have come to be with us. It is an honor to be invited to speak to you today. Several years ago I received an invitation to speak at Women’s Conference. When I told my wife, she asked, “What have they asked you to speak on?” I was so excited that I got my words mixed up and said, “They want me to speak about changing strengths into weaknesses.” She thought for a minute and said, “Well, they’ve got the right man for the job!” She’s correct about that. I could give a whale of a talk on that subject, but I think today I had better go back to the original topic and speak about changing weaknesses into strengths and about how the grace of Jesus Christ is sufficient (see Ether 12:27, D&C 17:8, 2 Corinthians 12:9)—sufficient to cover us, sufficient to transform us, and sufficient to help us as long as that transformation process takes. Christ’s Grace Is Sufficient to Cover Us A BYU student once came to me and asked if we could talk. I said, “Of course. How can I help you?” She said, “I just don’t get grace.” I responded, “What is it that you don’t understand?” She said, “I know I need to do my best and then Jesus does the rest, but I can’t even do my best.” She then went on to tell me all the things she should be doing because she’s a Mormon that she wasn’t doing. She continued, “I know that I have to do my part and then Jesus makes up the difference and fills the gap that stands between my part and perfection. But who fills the gap that stands between where I am now and my part?” She then went on to tell me all the things that she shouldn’t be doing because she’s a Mormon, but she was doing them anyway. Finally I said, “Jesus doesn’t make up the difference. Jesus makes all the difference. Grace is not about filling gaps. It is about filling us.” Seeing that she was still confused, I took a piece of paper and drew two dots—one at the top representing God and one at the bottom representing us. I then said, “Go ahead. Draw the line. How much is our part? How much is Christ’s part?” She went right to the center of the page and began to draw a line. Then, considering what we had been speaking about, she went to the bottom of the page and drew a line just above the bottom dot. I said, “Wrong.” She said, “I knew it was higher. I should have jus
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Be 100 Percent Responsible

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Brothers and sisters, I am grateful to be with you in this opening session of the 2017 BYU Campus Education Week. This year’s theme comes from Doctrine and Covenants 50:24, with special emphasis on these words: “And he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light.” I am going to take a different approach to this theme than might be expected by exposing and illustrating some very cunning and effective ways that the “wicked one” prevents people from progressing and receiving more light (D&C 93:39). Many gospel principles come in pairs, meaning one is incomplete without the other. I want to refer to three of these doctrinal pairs today: Agency and responsibility Mercy and justice Faith and works When Satan is successful in dividing doctrinal pairs, he begins to wreak havoc upon mankind. It is one of his most cunning strategies to keep people from growing in the light. You already know that faith without works really isn’t faith (see James 2:17). My primary focus will be on the other two doctrinal pairs: first, to illustrate how avoiding responsibility affects agency; and second, how “denying justice,” as it is referred to in the Book of Mormon (see Alma 42:30), affects mercy. The Book of Mormon teaches us that we are agents to “act . . . and not to be acted upon” (2 Nephi 2:26)—or to be “free to act for [our]selves” (2 Nephi 10:23). This freedom of choice was not a gift of partial agency but of complete and total 100 percent agency. It was absolute in the sense that the One Perfect Parent never forces His children. He shows us the way and may even command us, but, “nevertheless, thou mayest choose for thyself, for it is given unto thee” (Moses 3:17). Assuming responsibility and being accountable for our choices are agency’s complementary principles (see D&C 101:78). Responsibility is to recognize ourselves as being the cause for the effects or results of our choices—good or bad. On the negative side, it is to always own up to the consequences of poor choices. Except for those held innocent, such as little children and the intellectually disabled, gospel doctrine teaches us that each person is responsible for the use of their agency and “will be punished for their own sins” (Articles of Faith 1:2).1 It isn’t just a heavenly principle but a law of nature—we reap what we sow. Logically then, complete and total agency comes with complete and total responsibility: And now remember, remember, my brethren, that whosoever perisheth, perisheth unto himself; and whosoever doeth iniquity, doeth it u
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“Cast Not Away Therefore Your Confidence”

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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, “
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“Remember Lot’s Wife”: Faith is For the Future

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

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This responsibility to speak to you never gets any easier for me. I think it gets more difficult as the years go by. I grow a little older, the world and its litany of problems get a little more complex, and your hopes and dreams become evermore important to me the longer I am at BYU. Indeed, your growth and happiness and development in the life you are now living and in the life you will be living in the days and decades ahead are the central and most compelling motivation in my daily professional life. I care very much about you now and forever. Everything I know to do at BYU is being done with an eye toward who and what you are, and who and what you can become. The future of this world’s history will be quite fully in your hands very soon—at least your portion of it will be—and an education at an institution sponsored and guided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the greatest academic advantage I can imagine in preparation for such a serious and significant responsibility. But that future, at least any qualitative aspect of it, must be vigorously fought for. It won’t “just happen” to your advantage. Some­one said once that the future is waiting to be seized, and if we do not grasp it firmly, then other hands, more determined and bloody than our own, will wrench it from us and follow a different course. It is with an eye to that future—your future—and an awareness of this immense sense of responsibility I feel for you, that I approach this annual midyear devotional message. I always need the help and sustaining Spirit of the Lord to succeed at such times, but I especially feel the need for that spiritual help today. Human Intimacy My topic is that of human intimacy, a topic as sacred as any I know and more sacred than anything I have ever addressed from this podium. If I am not careful and you are not supportive, this subject can slide quickly from the sacred into the merely sensational, and I would be devastated if that happened. It would be better not to address the topic at all than to damage it with casualness or carelessness. Indeed, it is against such casualness and carelessness that I wish to speak. So I ask for your faith and your prayers and your respect. You may feel this is a topic you hear addressed too frequently at this time in your life, but given the world in which we live, you may not be hearing it enough. All of the prophets, past and present, have spoken on it, and President Benson himself addressed this very subject in his annual message to this student body last fall. I am thrilled that most of you are doing wonderfully well in the matter of personal purity. There isn’t as worthy and faithful a group of university students anywhere else on the face of the earth. You are an inspiration to me. I acknowledge your devotion to the gospel a
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The Human Soul’s Quest for God

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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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Seeing the Divinity in Others

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When our children were teenagers, whenever they would leave our home, my husband or I would usually say to them, “Remember who you are.” If you asked them what that means, they would probably say a couple of things. First, it means that they are a Wadsworth and that there are certain behaviors and responsibilities that come with that. But, more important, I hope that they would say it means they are children of God. We knew that each time we sent them out the door, they would be faced with all kinds of decisions—some that were very difficult—and we wanted to make sure they were armed with the knowledge of their divinity. I believe that knowing of our divinity changes the way we view ourselves and influences our daily decision-making. President Boyd K. Packer shared the following: You are a child of God. He is the father of your spirit. Spiritually you are of noble birth, the offspring of the King of Heaven. Fix that truth in your mind and hold to it. However many generations in your mortal ancestry, no matter what race or people you represent, the pedigree of your spirit can be written on a single line. You are a child of God!1 I love the counsel to “fix that truth in your mind and hold to it.” We need to be unwavering in our belief in our individual divinity. As President Packer described, we each have “a single line” that leads directly back to our Heavenly Father. The power of that single line can be accessed through prayer, scripture reading, and church and temple attendance. Each of these seemingly simple steps are vital to seeking and receiving access to inspiration and revelation from our Heavenly Father. These are the steps of “holding fast to the rod,” as illustrated in Lehi’s dream.2 And, just as promised, these steps will provide access to our own personal revelation and will “safely guide us through.”3 In Doctrine and Covenants 112:10 we are told, “Be thou humble; and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand, and give thee answer to thy prayers.” I know without a doubt that He will answer your prayers when you are making decisions about things like marriage, raising children, and a career. He will even answer seemingly simple prayers. Prayer is the opportunity to ask for and receive guidance; it is an essential part of our ­relationship with our Heavenly Father. As we come to know and understand what it means to be a child of God, we also must come to know that everyone else on this earth is a child of God. Look around you. You are surrounded by children of God. Every single person on the earth now and forever is a child of God. It doesn’t matter what their religious or political affiliation is, it doesn’t matter where they come from or the color of their skin, and it doesn’t matter if they are just like you or are vastly different from you—they are all children of our Heavenly F
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“Meek and Lowly”

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Wearing His Yoke Meekness ranks so low on the mortal scale of things, yet so high on God’s: “For none is acceptable before God, save the meek and lowly in heart” (Moroni 7:44). The rigorous requirements of Christian discipleship cannot be met without the tutoring facilitated by meekness: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly” (Matthew 11:29). Jesus, the carpenter, “undoubtedly had experience making yokes” with Joseph (Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, vol. 4 [New York: Abingdon Press, 1962], p. 925), and thus the Savior gave us that marvelous metaphor (see Matthew 11:20). Unlike servitude to sin, by wearing his yoke, we truly learn of the Yoke Master in what is an education for eternity as well as for mortality. Meekness is needed, therefore, in order for us to be spiritually successful—whether in matters of the intellect, in the management of power, in the dissolution of personal pride, or in coping with the challenges and routine of life. With meekness, living in “thanksgiving daily” is actually possible even in life’s stern seasons (Alma 34:38). Meanwhile, the world regards the meek as nice but quaint people, as those to be stepped over or stepped on. Nevertheless, the development of this virtue is a stunning thing just to contemplate, especially in a world in which so many others are headed in opposite directions. These next requirements clearly show the unarguable relevance as well as the stern substance of this sweet virtue. Serious disciples are not only urged to do good but also to avoid growing weary of doing good (see Galatians 6:9 and Helaman 10:5). They are not only urged to speak the truth but also to speak the truth in love (see Ephe-sians 4:15). They are not only urged to endure all things but also to endure them well (see D&C 121:8). They are not only urged to be devoted to God’s cause but also to be prepared to sacrifice all things, giving, if necessary, the last full measure of devotion (see Lectures on Faith6:7). They are not only to do many things of worth but are also to focus on the weightier matters, the things of most worth (see Matthew 23:23). They are not only urged to forgive but also to forgive seventy times seven (see Matthew 18:21–22). They are not only to be engaged in good causes, but also they are to be “anxiously engaged” (see D&C 58:27). They are not only to do right but also to do right for the right reasons. They are told to get on the strait and narrow path, but then are told that this is only the beginning, not the end (see 2 Nephi 31:19–20). They are not only to endure enemies but also to pray for them and to love them (see Matthew 5:44). They are urged not only to worship God but, astoundingly, they are instructed to strive to become like him! (See Matthew 5:48; 3 Nephi 12:48, 27:27.) In the midst of al
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For Times of Trouble

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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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A Holier Approach to Ministering

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My dear brothers and sisters, young friends of Brigham Young University, how happy my wife, Kathy, and I are to be with you today. I feel your beautiful spirits. Always remember who you are. Some of the very noble spirits of our premortal time together are here today. I am honored to be with you. The entire Church is speaking about general conference. We participated in a solemn assembly sustaining President Russell M. Nelson as the seventeenth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Two new apostles were called to the Quorum of the Twelve. Priesthood quorums at the ward level were combined. Home teaching and visiting teaching were retired for “ministering.” And, in the final session, seven temples were announced, including in such exotic places as Russia, India, and Layton, Utah. I will never forget the sustaining of President Russell M. Nelson. I anticipated that it would be a spiritual experience, but the rush of power and peace that permeated the LDS Conference Center was palpable to me. I pray that it was to you who were not in the Conference Center as well. The closing session, with the announcement of the temples and the singing of “Let Us All Press On,” moved my soul. Do you remember the words? We will not retreat, though our numbers may be few When compared with the opposite host in view; But an unseen pow’r will aid me and you In the glorious cause of truth.1 There have been some humorous memes following the conference. One I liked had three men in their seventies or eighties dressed in gym clothes, revealing their sunken chests and protruding midsections. The tagline read, “Elders quorum basketball this coming Wednesday.” Another had a close-up of the ferocious green face of the Incredible Hulk, gritting his teeth, with the tagline “Young President Nelson looking at those liquor bottles.” And finally, I liked the one emphasizing the powerful announcements in the Sunday afternoon session. The tagline read, “You snooze, you lose.” I have entitled my talk “A Holier Approach to Ministering.” It comes from the general conference words of President Russell M. Nelson. He said: We have made the decision to retire home teaching and visiting teaching as we have known them. Instead, we will implement a newer, holier approach to caring for and ministering to others. We will refer to these efforts simply as “ministering.”2 Being a student at Brigham Young University means you have chosen to be different from the world. The book entitled The Narcissism Epidemic begins with exaggerated examples of our American culture: On a reality TV show, a girl planning her sixteenth birthday party wants a major road blocked off so a marching band can precede her grand entrance on a red carpet. A book called My Beautiful Mommy explains plastic s
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How Do I Love Thee?

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

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

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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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Our Identity and Our Destiny

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

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Brothers and sisters, not too many years ago, as an undergraduate student at BYU, I was attending these devotionals with a wonderful young lady I had met in a BYU student ward. Through some investigation, I learned that on certain days, when I was finishing a physics class in the Eyring Science Center, this young lady was also finishing a class in the Spencer W. Kimball Tower. I was careful to make sure that each week we would “coincidentally” meet on the sidewalk of the intersection of these two buildings so we could attend devotionals together or walk to the Wilkinson Center to have lunch. This young lady and I have now been married for thirty-three years. My wife, Joyce, and I are happy to be here today and to share this brief time with you. I hope that what I say today might be meaningful and uplifting, and I appreciate the prayer and music, which have invited the Spirit to be with us. Quickening Our Pace When I was first considering what topic I might address for this devotional, I was walking home from the priesthood session of our last general conference reflecting on my impressions of our new prophet, President Russell M. Nelson. Everything—from the way President Nelson approached the stand to the manner and tone in which he delivered his messages to the new directions that were presented regarding priesthood quorums and, later, the reemphasis on ministering in the Savior’s way—caused me to reflect on my service in the gospel of Jesus Christ. I determined that in order to keep up in terms of the gospel, I was going to need to roll up my sleeves and rededicate myself to the work—early retirement didn’t seem to be an option. Indeed, if I needed to “lengthen my stride” to accept President Spencer W. Kimball’s challenge as a young man in the 1970s, I would now need to “quicken my pace” to be able to follow President Nelson’s counsel as an adult. President Nelson’s comment during the Sunday morning session of the April 2018 general conference was especially poignant to me: In coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost.1 Surviving spiritually and having the constant influence of the Holy Ghost are the two main topics I would like to emphasize in the remaining time we have together. Getting Off the Horse to Walk To introduce my talk and to provide a context for our discussion today, I would like to tell you a story from when I was ten or eleven years old. I was raised on a cattle ranch in northwestern Wyoming, in an area that is referred to as the Big Horn Basin, between the communities of Cody and Thermopolis. Each spring on the ranch, after the baby calves were born, we would round up our cattle and take them to a pasture area in the mountains behind my grandfather’s place. In this particular year we had alrea
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Banishing All Shadows

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A funny thing happened to me on the way to these services. Just to make sure I wasn’t late, I started out for Provo more than two weeks ago. And boy, is it a good thing I did. I am not sure where I made the wrong turn, but the next thing I knew I was seeing road signs that said Jerusalem, Nairobi, Bangalore, and Hong Kong! My goodness, it has taken me all I could do to finally get here. And the unusual thing about this is that it was President Russell M. Nelson who was giving me advice on the route I should take. I wonder if that is the way he always gets people from Salt Lake to Provo! Sister Holland and I come to you newly returned from one of the most remarkable experiences of our lives. Can you imagine circling the globe on a worldwide ministering assignment with the Lord’s prophet and his wonderful wife? It was an experience of a lifetime. In those oft-quoted words of Oliver Cowdery, these past two weeks with President and Sister Nelson were truly “days never to be forgotten.”1 This is not the time nor the place to regale you with stories of our experience, but I bear witness to you that President Russell M. Nelson is a prophet ordained of God from before the foundation of the world and that he is exercising that calling in a most magnificent way in public and in private. I bring you his love as chairman of the BYU Board of Trustees and the love of all those who serve with him, including Presidents Dallin H. Oaks and Henry B. Eyring. It is no small matter, my beloved friends, that those giving oversight to your alma mater are ­prophets, seers, and revelators. That is just one more very special blessing you can count on this happy graduation day. On behalf of all of you and our governing board, I thank President Kevin J Worthen, his associates in the administration, those on this marvelous faculty, and all of the efficient staff at this university. I am grateful for the effort they have all put into making this day what it is for 6,300 graduates and degree recipients. Gaining an education is hard work, but providing that ­opportunity also is hard work. For nine wonderful years I had the pleasant opportunity to say to students and their families that such a thrilling day of academic triumph was more than worth the difficult days it took to get here—on everyone’s part. I know firsthand what BYU does in providing an unequaled university experience, but I know equally well and even more tenderly the scrimping, saving, sacrifice, and hard work that many students and their parents have experienced in order to arrive at this moment. Mindful of that sacrifice in a grand cause—and education is a truly grand cause—I want this to be a terrifically happy day for every one of you. You have earned it. I pray that all your days may be so. I was told I am to say something wise and original to you, but, being incapable of that, let me just remind you of one or two things you al
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Patience

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

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My beloved young friends, it is a thrill for Sister Holland and for me to be with you tonight for this worldwide satellite broadcast. It’s always a thrill to be in the Marriott Center. I wish it were possible for us to be in each of your individual locations, seeing you personally and being able to shake your hands. We haven’t figured out a way to do that yet, but we send our love and greeting to all of you wherever you are in the world. In spite of the vastness of our global audience, we hope all of you are individually able to feel the love we have for you tonight and that each of you can gain something from our message that is applicable in your personal lives. The Prophet in Liberty Jail One of the great blessings of our assignments as General Authorities is the chance to visit members of the Church in various locations around the world and to glean from the history that our members have experienced across the globe. In that spirit I wish to share with you tonight some feelings that came to me during a Church assignment I had last spring when I was assigned to visit the Platte City stake in western Missouri, here in the United States. The Platte City Missouri Stake lies adjacent to the Liberty Missouri Stake, now a very famous location in Church history encompassing several important Church history sites, including the ironically named Liberty Jail. From your study of Church history, you will all know something of the experience the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brethren had while imprisoned in that facility during the winter of 1838–39. This was a terribly difficult time in our history for the Church generally and certainly for the Prophet Joseph himself, who bore the brunt of the persecution in that period. Indeed, I daresay that until his martyrdom five and a half years later, there was no more burdensome time in Joseph’s life than this cruel, illegal, and unjustified incarceration in Liberty Jail. Time does not permit a detailed discussion of the experiences that led up to this moment in Church history, but suffice it to say that problems of various kinds had been building ever since the Prophet Joseph had received a revelation in July of 1831 designating Missouri as the place “consecrated for the gathering of the saints” and the building up of “the city of Zion” (D&C 57:1, 2). By October of 1838, all-out war seemed inevitable between Mormon and non-Mormon forces confronting each other over these issues. After being driven from several of the counties in the western part of that state and under the presumption they had been invited to discuss ways of defusing the volatile situation that had developed, five leaders of the Church, including the Prophet Joseph, marching under a flag of truce, approached the camp of the Missouri militia near the small settlement of Far West, located in Caldwell County. As it turned out, the flag of truce was meaningless, and the Church leaders
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Faith to Do His Will

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I would like for us to go on a journey together. The journey I am going to ask you to take, however, won’t be a vacation. In fact, it will likely be a little painful. You see, for you to go on this journey, I need you to reflect upon a moment in your life when you were surviving a trial—a painful, discouraging trial wherein you experienced intense suffering. I need you to go back to how you felt in the midst of the darkness, the loneliness, and the anger, back to the moment when you felt you could no longer endure the heartache. It is this state of suffering that I would like to focus on today. Our mortal life can be compared to a long journey. Sometimes the journey is easy for a time: the path is smooth, the warmth of the sun is comforting, and the light breeze is refreshing. Other times—what seems to be most of the time—the journey is difficult: the terrain is steep, treacherous, and fraught with all manner of obstacles, some of which cause us to trip or stumble on our way. And sometimes the journey requires us to shoulder much more of a burden than we think we can carry. It is during these turbulent and troubling times of life that the journey compels us to descend into a dangerously deep valley—so deep that we are surrounded by numbing cold temperatures, so deep that it seems like we are descending into a bottomless chasm, so deep, in fact, that the unmitigated darkness causes us to question whether or not the sun still exists. It is under these inhospitable conditions that I reverently contemplate Jesus willingly entering the Garden of Gethsemane to suffer for the sins of all mankind. It is difficult to imagine how He felt at that exact moment. We know from Matthew 26 that the Savior earnestly prayed, asking the Father three times if there were another way to accomplish His purpose. Verse 39 reads: And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. The Savior pleaded again in verse 42, saying: O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done. In verse 44 the Savior prayed again a third time, “saying the same words.” Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained: The Lord said, in effect, “If there is another path, I would rather walk it. If there is any other way . . . I will gladly embrace it.” . . . But in the end, the cup did not pass.1 “I stand all amazed”2 at the Lord’s response as recorded in Luke 22:42: “Nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” This means Jesus willingly submitted to the will of the Father in order to fulfill the need for an Atonement. Jesus, in perhaps the greatest example of humility and faith, submitted to the Father’s will, even though it meant He
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Change: It’s Always a Possibility!

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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
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The Worth of Souls Is Great

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Good morning, friends. A few months ago I had the opportunity to travel to Italy for the first time. While there I saw art created by the great masters: Michelangelo, Botticelli, Fra Angelico, and many others. In Milan I was able to see the famed The Last Supper of Leonardo da Vinci. This mural is in the refectory of the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, and to see it one must purchase tickets ahead of time and wait for one’s fifteen minutes with the painting. When my time drew near, I was corralled with twenty-four others into a waiting area, guided through two air-locked chambers, and finally allowed in front of the painting for fifteen minutes of communion. As I sat there I contemplated the painting and why it is considered priceless—the value of which is beyond measure. Is it because the painting is old, created in the fifteenth century? Is it because of where it is located—in Milan? Is it because access is limited—few people can see it, so it is more valuable than paintings just anyone can see? Is it because it has been threatened in the past—like when Napoleon used the convent as an armory, a prison, and a stable or when it was partially destroyed by bombs during World War II? Is it because it was painted in an unconventional style—on a dry wall versus in the wet plaster—making it more fragile and rare? Is it because of who painted it—the great master da Vinci? Is it because of its subject? These questions and others I chewed on while sitting and looking at this painting. I’d like to say that I came up with profound answers that shook me to my core, but instead I came up with more questions. How do we measure value? What makes something—and, more important, someone—of worth? Defining Value As a professor of literature and culture, it is my job to look at systems of meaning and value, language being the first and foremost. If we go to the Oxford English Dictionary—the fifth standard work for all English majors—excerpts from the entry for the word value (n) read: • worth or quality as measured by a standard of equivalence • a standard of estimation or exchange • [something] worth having • material or monetary worth of something • an appraisement • relative rank or importance • worth based on esteem • estimation [based on] real or supposed desirability or utility [later extended] to an individual or group • opinion of or liking for a person or thing • worth or worthiness . . . in respect of rank1 According to these definitions, a thing’s value is contingent on ideas of estimation, desirability, likeability, and worthiness. It is at the center of the word evaluate—to analyze—yet often we do not ask the questions, Who determines the system of val
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A Reservoir of Living Water

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

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Introduction—It Is Easier to Avoid Temptation Than It Is to Resist Temptation The focus of my message today is based on a proverb from Solomon, who was given a gift from God of “exceeding” wisdom, “and his fame was in all nations round about. . . . And there came of all people to hear the wisdom of Solomon.”1 Even 3,000 years later, when we read Solomon’s proverbs we often nod in agreement with his profound wisdom because life has also taught us the same lesson—often through a trying or difficult experience. If life hasn’t yet taught you the wisdom of the proverb I am about to share, it would be my prayer that by the end of my remarks it will have enlightened your understanding and touched your hearts sufficiently to motivate you to make some helpful and wise changes in your life. Here is the proverb: “Enter not into the path of the wicked. . . . Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away.” 2The wisdom of Solomon in this passage is to be discovered in the word avoid. Solomon had discovered, as all wise people do, one of life’s most helpful guiding principles: It is easier to avoid temptation than it is to resist temptation. Chocolate Chip Cookies To illustrate the wisdom of this principle, let’s suppose my great temptation in life is chocolate chip cookies and I’m trying to conquer the temptation. It is easier for me not to have the cookies in the house than it is to walk through the front door and smell two dozen of them fresh out of the oven—warm, moist, and smelling good. At that moment I am no longer simply fighting temptation; I am also fighting chemistry. The aroma triggers the pleasure center of my brain. My mouth begins to water in preparation for the cookies. With each tempting breath my resistance grows weaker as my craving grows stronger and my appetite begins to overpower my reason and resolve. My other self—the one that is carnal3—argues in favor of the cookies: “You know, dieting doesn’t have to mean deprivation. It’s your overall effort that counts, and one cookie certainly isn’t going to blow your diet.” With my pleasure center activated, I don’t need much convincing, and I yield to the cookie’s enticing aroma. How easy is it to stop when that first cookie only intensified your appetite rather than satisfied it? That same voice says, “Well, you’ve blown it now! You may as well enjoy yourself and recommit to your diet tomorrow.” So after I’ve eaten about six cookies, maybe with a glass of milk, I begin to feel remorseful about breaking my resolution and diet. Hormones, Intimacy, and Families I hope you will understand the metaphor as I now apply it to a far stronger desire. The Lord has blessed each of us with powerful hormones that also link to the brain’s pleasure center. It is a very desirable attr
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“Walk in Newness of Life”

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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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You Were Born to Lead, You Were Born for Glory

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

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