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“Look unto Him in Every Thought”

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It is such a remarkable privilege to be here with you today. The years I spent on this campus afforded me a delightful assortment of memories, but never in a thousand years would I have imagined that I would be standing here addressing you today, my dear brothers and sisters. I honor and thank my Heavenly Father for this opportunity. I had the sweetest and most distinct impression last week that my great-great-great-grandfather and my great-great-great-grandmother had something to do with my speaking here today. His name is Brigham Young, and his first wife’s name is Miriam Works Young. It is good to have support from both sides of the veil. Being a student at Brigham Young University was a life-changing experience for me. Coming from a small town in Oregon, I felt the world open up to me right here in Provo, Utah. The Spirit was alive in every classroom, in each activity, and in the incredible roommates, friends, and teachers I loved and learned from. It has been priceless over the years to watch our children have their own life-changing experiences at this wonderful university. A couple of weeks ago, I asked Gigi, our three-year-old granddaughter, “Will you go to college?” She said yes. I asked if she would go to BYU. She again said yes. Then she turned to her daddy and asked, “Daddy, will you come with me?” One of the sweet highlights of my BYU experience was meeting my precious husband, Rob. Little did we know during our growing up years that we lived just a little over an hour from each other. But we have all heard of BYU’s reputation for bringing people together, and that reputation became our reality. Rob was called as my family home evening “father,” and the ward rules prevented us from dating that year. But as soon as he was released, we made up for lost time. We just celebrated our forty-fourth anniversary. This dear man has put toothpaste on my toothbrush nearly every night of those forty-four years. I know he has been tempted a time or two to surprise me by putting something other than toothpaste on my brush, but he never has. Although life is not over yet, is it? Growing Our Spiritual Muscles My dear brothers and sisters, I welcome you to Campus Education Week! Oh, how wonderful it is to learn! We have gathered here to be taught, inspired, and challenged. I pray that the Holy Ghost will be with each of us as we learn, apply, and change. Dear friends, I believe that the gospel of Jesus Christ is our Heavenly Father’s practical guide for happy living. President Brigham Young explained the practicality of the gospel in these words: The principles of eternity and eternal exaltation are of no use to us, unless they are brought down to our capacities so that we practice them in our lives.1 The Lord likewise told us, “I give unto you directions how you may act before me, that it may turn to you for yo
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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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“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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“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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Hard Sayings and Safe Spaces: Making Room for Struggle as Well as Faith

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Jesus ended His pivotal and heavily symbolic discourse on the Bread of Life by declaring: Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. . . .  He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. [John 6:53, 56] The crowds who had followed Jesus since His miraculous feeding of the 5,000 and the Jewish religious authorities who opposed Him were not the only ones who failed to understand His meaning. Even many of His own disciples exclaimed: This is an hard saying; who can hear it? . . . From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. [John 6:60, 66] Somewhat plaintively, Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked, “Will ye also go away?” (John 6:67). In response, Peter asked: Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God. [John 6:68–69]1 The expression a “hard saying” has become a trope for any doctrine or practice that is difficult to understand, accept, or follow.2 Over the past few years, when I have asked my students what are hard sayings for them, although they have mentioned faith issues and apparent historical problems, they have increasingly spoken about life’s challenges—challenges that seem to call into question God’s love for them or struggles that they often feel they must endure alone, without the love and understanding of their fellow Saints. Such hard sayings include gender disparities, sexual and other identities, and racial and ethnic discrimination. In addition, they include a challenge that is common to almost all of us—the pain of loss and disappointment, whether that comes from the death of a loved one; poor physical, mental, or emotional health; or lost dreams. These are challenges that do not go away easily. Rather, often they are struggles that we must deal with throughout our lives. While ideally we would all, with Peter, simply respond with seemingly immediate faith, the reality is as Moroni taught: “[We] receive no witness until after the trial of [our] faith” (Ether 12:6). Just as Jacob wrestled with an angel till dawn (see Genesis 32:24–29) and Enos wrestled all night before the Lord (see Enos 1:2–6), for many of us the trial of our faith often includes long—sometimes lifelong—struggles. I submit that these struggles are necessary to our progression, but they are not struggles that we should ever face alone. While it is true that Jesus Christ and His Atonement provide us strength, healing, and salvation, in this life He often succors and blesses us through others. Employing the image of the Church as “the body of Christ” in 1 Corinthians 12:27, Quaker missionary Sarah Elizabeth Rownt
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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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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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“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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“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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Living on the Lord’s Side of the Line

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For someone who bleeds blue, it is wonderful to be back on this campus. I love BYU. But as much as I love this university, I love you more. For me, you embody the vitality of this magnificent Church. You are living, breathing evidence that righteousness will prevail in a cynical, seductive world. Every time I am in a gathering of men and women your age, I have the sense that I am surrounded by spectacular spiritual potential. I wonder how many future mission presidents, bishops, Laurel advisors, and Primary presidents are in this room. How many children will be reared in righteousness because of your devotion as mothers and fathers? Who in this audience will help unlock a nation or a people to the gospel? Who will develop technologies to spread our message more effectively? Who will stand up in communities and schools and countries for values essential to the stability of an intact society? In short, I can’t help but wonder what place in this latter-day battlefront each of you will occupy, for of this I am sure: Every one of you has a unique mission to fulfill. It is about standing where you have been foreordained to stand that I would like to speak today. When I was a student here, I took a year off from my studies to tour with a USO group that entertained at military bases around the world. One trip took us to the Far East, and before we left, my father gave me a strong warning. “I am worried about this trip,” he said. “Be careful. Don’t go anywhere you shouldn’t go.” His words caught my attention, but, frankly, as our adventure in the Orient began, I forgot about his caution. One day we were scheduled to perform at a base near the Demilitarized Zone that separates North and South Korea. Our escort officer asked if we would like to go into the DMZ and visit Panmunjom, where the peace treaty ending the Korean War had been signed. It was a place of great historical significance. Relations between the two Koreas were strained at the time, and we asked if it was safe. The officer assured us it was, but then promptly furnished waivers we were to sign that absolved the military of responsibility in the event of accident or death. I suddenly remembered Dad’s warning: “Be careful. Don’t go anywhere you shouldn’t go.” But not wanting to be the killjoy, and being a little curious myself, I shrugged off my worry, signed the waiver, and headed into the DMZ, where we were no longer under the protection of the U.S. armed forces. That reality was immediately evident as we drove past rows of somber North Korean soldiers sporting machine guns. “Don’t look them in the eyes,” we were warned. “Anything can set them off.” As we joked about our bodies never being found, my stomach started to churn and my father’s warning played in my mind in digital, Dolby sound. I knew that I had indeed gone somewhere I shouldn’t have gone. The experience was nerve-racking. I felt as though I was behind enemy li
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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 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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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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Joseph Smith Lecture 1: The First Vision and Its Aftermath

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Years ago I prepared a paper titled “Joseph Smith Among the Prophets.”1 It attempted to present ten characterizations of prophets that are typical in Judeo-Christian literature. For instance, a prophet is a foreteller; he has prophetic access to the future. Also, prophets have been called “forth-tellers,” meaning that they speak forth boldly in judgment and in recommendation as to their own time. A prophet too is a man who has authority, who speaks with more than human sanction. He is a recoverer or discoverer of truth. He is an advocate of social righteousness. He is a charismatic, one whose personality manifests something that attracts in a spiritual sense. He is one who endures suffering, and does so radiantly. He is an embodiment of love. He is a seer, meaning that he has the capacity to clearly understand and reveal truth. Finally, among the great prophets of the past, many have been martyrs. Lecture 1 | Lecture 2 | Lecture 3 | Lecture 4| Lecture 5 | Lecture 6 | Lecture 7 | Lecture 8 In that presentation I showed that, under each of those heads, Joseph Smith qualifies as a prophet. If we can use any one of them to characterize a prophet, what can we say of a man who manifests them all? More intimately than in the Judeo-Christian captions above, we come to a subjective approach to Joseph’s glorious first vision. In 1969 BYU Studies published a collection of the four known written accounts of the First Vision.2 One was first recorded in 1832; another in 1835, after a visit Joseph had with a Jewish visitor named Matthias; there is the 1838 statement, which has been published to the world in the Pearl of Great Price; and finally, the well-known Wentworth letter written in 1842 to the Chicago Democrat, in which the Prophet briefly recapitulated his first vision. What was intended by the B
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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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Lessons Learned in the Journey of Life

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It is a pleasure to be with you this evening. As I look over this vast audience, I notice one common denominator. You’re all so young. Really young. Of course, my noticing how young you are is like a shuttle astronaut noticing that the runway is really, really far down there. But even though a few years separate me from the time I was your age, it is not hard for me to remember when I was in college. I attended a university just north of here. I could tell you the name of this university, but since I intend to talk about football, discretion may be the better part of valor. I loved many things about college life. I loved learning. I loved the comradery. And I loved football. I had always dreamed of playing football at the university level, and during my freshman, sophomore, and junior years, I wore a crimson uniform and played running back. When I was your age, the world tottered on the brink of chaos. Opposing political forces roiled and ground against each other. Tension mushroomed. Nations chafed against each other. It was as though the entire world groaned in a burgeoning rumble, a volcano that had to erupt, that ultimately would erupt. Before it was over, every nation, every people felt the effects of those dark days. I remember the day my father came to me. It was just after the 1936 football season had ended. “Joseph,” he said, “Do you want to go on a mission?” I told him I did. “Then you must go now,” he said. “If you wait any longer, you’ll never go.” I didn’t want to believe him. I wanted to pursue my dream of continuing to play football and to graduate from the university. If I were to accept a mission call, I would have to give up everything. In those days a mission call was 30 months long, and I knew if I accepted, there was a good chance I would never play football again—perhaps I would not even be able to graduate. But I also knew what my father had said was true. My bishop was Marion G. Romney, who later became a member of the First Presidency of the Church. He had spoken with me before about serving a mission, and I went to tell him that now was the time. A few months later I stepped aboard the SS Manhattan and began a long voyage that would take me into the heart of the world crisis. My mission call was to the German/Austrian Mission. My first field of labor was in Salzburg, Austria. The mission was shorthanded, and not long after I arrived, my companion was transferred to another district in the mission. Soon I found myself alone in Salzburg, a young missionary in a strange, new country. One other thing was happening that I haven’t mentioned: a large army of Hitler’s Third Reich was gathering just over the border, not 20 miles from Salzburg. Everywhere you went you could sense a mounting tension in the air. No one knew if tomorrow would be the day the panzer tanks would flood across the bor
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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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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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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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“Let Us Think Straight”

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My brothers and sisters, I hope you are having a wonderful time while here at BYU during Campus Education Week. This is a great opportunity to learn more about the plan of happiness our Heavenly Father has given to us. There is so much information that I always feel we need to be cautious and wise to ever keep uppermost in our minds the simple doctrine and gospel of Christ. Simply stated, it is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repentance of sin, baptism by immersion for the remission of sin, receiving the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. Sister Ballard and I returned a few days ago from England, where we had the privilege, along with several of the Brethren and their wives, to watch the first-ever presentation of the British Pageant. Some 200 cast members, and several hundred other volunteer members, told the story in song, dance, and the spoken word about the arrival of Elders Heber C. Kimball, Orson Hyde, Willard Richards, Joseph Fielding, and a few others who came to establish The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in England. As I watched that story unfold, it brought great memories flooding back to my mind of my experience sixty-five years ago arriving in England to serve a full-time mission as a young man. And as the story progressed, I was deeply touched by the overwhelming contribution converts in the British Isles, and, of course, some from Scandinavia, made in building up and strengthening The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1837 and even on through to today. These fearless early missionaries, bearers of the priesthood and the message of the Restoration, touched hundreds and later thousands of lives through their testimonies, priesthood blessings, and love for the people of Great Britain. They reaped a great harvest of wonderful converts. As I watched the pageant, I thought to myself, “How did they do this?” The early Saints did not have any proselytizing systems. They did not have Preach My Gospel. They did not have a Missionary Training Center. They did not have easy ways of transportation. But what they did have was an abiding, deep testimony that Joseph Smith knelt in the presence of the Father and the Son as They appeared to him in 1820 and opened the way of the Restoration of the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Father and the Son gave him the principles of the doctrine of Christ that I have previously mentioned. As I pondered the miracle of the mission to Great Britain, it seemed to me that the simple gospel truths, powerfully explained by those great apostles of yesteryear, just penetrated the hearts of the people. I was also deeply impressed—in fact, so much so that I changed what I had in mind to share with you today because of the impressions that came to me about the power and the importance of the faith and testimony of the dear women and even the children who joined the Church during that formative era. As I watched and remembered, it was ov
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Joseph Smith Lecture 5: Joseph Smith and the Kirtland Temple

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How early in the Prophet’s consciousness did the idea germinate that God would require the building and dedicating of temples and would reveal his ordinances to be performed in them? One way of reading our history is that the first and last revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants that Joseph received concerned the temple, though at first he may not have fully understood this. When the promise about priesthood which is part of section 2 of the Doctrine and Covenants1 began to be fulfilled through John the Baptist’s conferral of priesthood authority, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were told, “And this shall never be taken again from the earth until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness.”2 Oliver Cowdery’s wording of that statement is “that the Sons of Levi may yet offer an offering unto the Lord in righteousness.”3 The Prophet later came to understand that this offering relates to the temple.4 Lecture 1 | Lecture 2 | Lecture 3 | Lecture 4 | Lecture 5 | Lecture 6 | Lecture 7 | Lecture 8   Elijah is a character whose life and promises apparently were reviewed when Moroni taught the Prophet over successive years. The passages about Elijah in the book of Malachi were quoted to the Prophet at least four times in two successive days in 1823. Somehow the hearts of the fathers would turn to the children and the hearts of the children to the fathers. And this was a key or power which Elijah would reconfer. Kirtland became the preparatory location for the full restoration of those keys and ordinances. It was a revelatory moment when the Prophet was told that a house must be built, the exact dimensions were spelled out,5 and he was told that it must be built by the sacrifice of the people—meaning, among other things, that it would not be easy—and that great blessings depended upon the completion of that work. The Church at the time was feeble, struggling, impoverished. Since the Prophet and the other New York Saints had come to Kirtland, divisions
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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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The Three Pillars of Eternity

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I know, as do we all, that the things of God can be understood only by the power of the Holy Spirit. And I pray that we may receive a mighty outpouring of that Spirit as we consider the three pillars of eternity—the three great eternal verities upon which salvation rests. My purpose is to take the three greatest events that have ever occurred in all eternity and show how they are interwoven to form one grand plan of salvation. If we can gain an understanding of them, then the whole eternal scheme of things will fall into place, and we will be in a position to work out our salvation. If we do not build our house of salvation on a true foundation, we will never make the spiritual progress that will prepare us to enter the Eternal Presence. Three Great Events The three pillars of eternity, the three events, preeminent and transcendent above all others, are the creation, the fall, and the atonement. These three are the foundations upon which all things rest. Without any one of them all things would lose their purpose and meaning, and the plans and designs of Deity would come to naught. If there had been no creation, we would not be, neither the earth, nor any form of life upon its face. All things, all the primal elements, would be without form and void. God would have no spirit children; there would be no mortal probation; and none of us would be on the way to immortality and eternal life. If there had been no fall of man, there would not be a mortal probation. Mortal man would not be, nor would there be animals or fowls or fishes or life of any sort upon the earth. And, we repeat, none of us would be on the way to immortality and eternal life. If there had been no atonement of Christ, all things would be lost. The purposes of creation would vanish away. Lucifer would triumph over men and become the captain of their souls. And, we say it again, none of us would be on the way to immortality and eternal life. And so I now say: Come and let us reason together; let us reason as did righteous men of old that we may come to understanding. Come and hear us declare sound doctrine; let us declare it plainly and in power as do the angels of God in heaven. Come and let us testify of those things which God has made known to us; let us testify as do those whose souls are afire with the Spirit and who know by revelation of the truth and verity of their spoken word. The Atonement Let us gaze first at a scene of sorrow and suffering in a garden called Gethsemane, the garden of the oil press. There, outside Jerusalem’s walls, on the now sacred side of Olivet, we see eight of the Twelve huddled at the garden gate. Inside the garden are Peter, James, and John. It is night, and the eyes of all are heavy with sleep. About a stone’s cast removed from the three we see the Son of God in sorrow and agony beyond compare. He has fallen on his face. We
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Joseph Smith Lecture 6: Joseph Smith as Teacher, Speaker, and Counselor

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This lecture begins with a glimpse of three principles of teaching that are discernible in practice in the School of the Prophets. Even before the completion and dedication of the Kirtland Temple, the Lord commanded that a teacher be appointed for that school and then gave specific instructions on who should be admitted to the school, where they should meet, how they should greet each other as they entered the school, and precisely how they should conduct themselves.1 The spirit of those counsels, I believe, should apply to every gathering of Latter-day Saints. We cannot always duplicate exactly what those in that school were taught, but as an ideal framework of the attitudes that should prevail in our classrooms, council meetings, and one-on-one discussions, those verses in section 88 of the Doctrine and Covenants seem to me universal in their worth to Latter-day Saints today. Lecture 1 | Lecture 2 | Lecture 3 | Lecture 4| Lecture 5 | Lecture 6 | Lecture 7 | Lecture 8 The Saints were told that no one was to be admitted to this school “save he be clean.” Clean, as the Lord put it, “from the blood of this generation.”2 That phrase troubled me for a time until I realized that it didn’t simply mean forgiven of the blood shed in that generation (that was the way I first interpreted it) but that it meant more still. It meant that these persons, by receiving the gospel of Jesus Christ in faith and repentance and through the ordinances, would be cleansed; that whatever they had inherited, of the human, of the sinful, of the weak, down through the centuries, would be overcome until it would be proper to say that the impurities of the past had been redeemed in the present in the personality.3 That is a high requirement to impose on anyone. And yet in faith those early Saints aspired to it and sought to fulfill it. Having been given that charge, they were taught the three principles which should prevail in their teaching process. First, they were not simply to listen to one speaker. A teacher was to be appointed, said the revelation, an
1,558 Views

That We Might Have Joy

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We are taught that “Adam fell that men might be; and men [and women] are, that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25). The second half of that truth makes clear that we are all here on earth to learn from our experiences and especially to learn how to have joy in our lives. However, the word might in that equation indicates that having joy in our lives is not a given. It says that we might have joy, not that we will have joy. Joy is something we have to choose. I believe that how we approach that choice, rather than the circumstances in which we find ourselves, is the key factor in whether we will have joy. I believe that most of us have much more control over whether we are joyful than we may think. Let me illustrate. The story is told of a gentleman named Harvey Mackay, who was waiting in line for a ride at the airport. When a cab pulled up, the first thing Harvey noticed was that the taxi was polished to a bright shine. Smartly dressed in a white shirt, black tie, and freshly pressed black slacks, the cab driver jumped out and rounded the car to open the back passenger door for Harvey. He handed [Harvey] a laminated card and said: “I’m Wally, your driver. While I’m loading your bags in the trunk, I’d like you to read my mission statement.” Taken aback, Harvey read the card. It said: Wally’s Mission Statement: To get my customers to their destination in the quickest, safest and cheapest way possible in a friendly environment. This blew Harvey away. Especially when he noticed that the inside of the cab matched the outside. Spotlessly clean! As he slid behind the wheel, Wally [asked Harvey if he would like something to drink. Wally had a variety of beverages to choose from. Harvey was quite surprised by the offer and the variety and chose a soft drink]. . . . Handing him his drink, Wally said, “If you’d like something to read, I have The Wall Street Journal, Time, Sports Illustrated and USA Today.” As they were pulling away, Wally handed [Harvey] another laminated card. “These are the stations I get and the music they play, if you’d like to listen to the radio.” And as if that weren’t enough, Wally told Harvey that he had the air conditioning on and asked if the temperature was comfortable for him. Then he advised Harvey of the best route to his destination for that time of day. He also let him know that he’d be happy to chat and tell him about some of the sights or, if Harvey ­preferred, to leave him with his own thoughts. “Tell me, Wally,” [Harvey] asked the driver, “have you always served customers like this?” Wally smiled into the rearview mirror. “No, not always. In fact, it’s only been in the last two years. My first five years driving, I spent most of my time complain