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333,764 VIEWS

His Grace Is Sufficient

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

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

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

Meeting the Challenges of Today

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

Knowing When to Persevere and When to Change Direction

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

“Cast Not Away Therefore Your Confidence”

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

“In the Strength of the Lord”

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

How Do I Love Thee?

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

A Compensatory Spiritual Power for the Righteous

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

The Seven Deadly Heresies

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

You Were Born to Lead, You Were Born for Glory

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