Most Viewed Speeches


Stand Forever

As part of an assignment I had as a General Authority a few years ago, I needed to read through a great deal of material antagonistic to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, and the events of the Restoration. There may not be anything out there of that nature I haven’t read. Since that assignment changed, I have not returned to wallow in that mire again. Reading that material always left me with a feeling of gloom, and one day that sense of darkness inspired me to write a partial response to all such antagonistic claims. I would like to share with you some of the thoughts I recorded that day, and although what I wrote was for my benefit, I hope it will help you as well. I wanted to give a different talk today. I wrote other talks more entertaining, with more stories—more engaging than this one—but each time I wrote a new talk, I was directed back to this one. Will You Stand Forever? The prophet Daniel said that in the last days shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.1 The kingdom of God is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It will “stand for ever.” The question is, Will you and I stand? Will you stand forever, or will you go away? And if you go, where will you go? Deception Is a Sign of Our Time When the Lord described the signs of His coming and the end of the world, when He described our day, He mentioned many things, including wars and rumors of wars, nations rising against nations, famines, pestilences, earthquakes, and many other signs, including this one: For in those days [this day] there shall also arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch, that, if possible, they shall deceive the very elect, who are the elect according to the covenant.2 I am not sure of all that is implied by the qualification “if possible, they shall deceive the very elect,” but I think it means, at least, that everyone will be challenged in our day. Paul said, “We see through a glass, darkly.”3 Similarly, one of the most prominent features of the vision of the tree of life is a “great mist of darkness [in which] they who had commenced in the path did lose their way, that they wandered off and were lost.”4 The Broad Spectrum of Deception There are many who deceive, and the spectrum of deception is broad. At one end we meet those who attack the Restoration, the Prophet Joseph Smith, and the Book of Mormon. Next we see those who believe in the Restoration but claim the Church is deficient and has gone astray. There are others who also claim to believe in the Restorati

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

“As I Have Loved You”: Agency-Based Love in Dating and Marriage

Good morning, brothers and sisters. For more than twenty-five years, both as a student and now as a professor here at Brigham Young University, I have been personally blessed by many of the messages shared in these devotionals. It is truly a humbling experience to speak with you today. When I first was invited to give a devotional address, I was initially assigned to speak the Tuesday during the week of Valentine’s Day back in February. While I am sure that the selection of this date was simply a practical matter of arranging the schedule, for someone who has spent the last decade teaching the marriage preparation classes here on campus, I felt a certain amount of pressure to tie my remarks into a Valentine’s Day theme. Plus, one of my most memorable experiences with a BYU devotional happened many years ago when Elder Jeffrey R. Holland spoke during Valentine’s Day week about understanding the true nature of love in dating and marriage relationships1—so I figured he would be a good role model for me to follow. However, as final scheduling was put into place, I was asked to move to this devotional slot during the first week of April. When this happened, I wondered if I should perhaps change the focus of my remarks. But seeing as how the only holiday I can tie into this week is April Fools’ Day, I figured I would stick with my original plans—although I am sure that there are some of you who have probably had some dating experiences that you would say fit an April Fools’ Day theme quite well. I should note as I get started that while I would like to talk about how each of us can more fully emulate the Savior’s example of agency-based love in our current or future dating and marriage relationships, I believe that the principles I will discuss are applicable to a wide range of other relationships as well, including friendships, parenting, and other family relationships. I should also note that while I will share some insights with you from my studies as a marriage researcher over the years, the truest and most transformative lessons I have ever had on the subject of love I have learned from my dear wife, Stefani. Indeed, the testimony of marriage that I have been privileged to share with the students on this campus for nearly twenty years stems ­primarily from the beauty of marriage that I ­experience with her every day. In a few weeks Stefani and I will celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of our first date, and I am grateful every day for the blessing she is in my life. I am also grateful that all of my children could be here today, including my new daughter-in-law. I love each of them dearly, and my remarks today are as much for them as they are for anyone (but they will likely just roll their eyes and tell you that they have heard it all before). For my remarks today, I would like to address three questions about love.

Be 100 Percent Responsible

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 worksWhen 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

“Cast Not Away Therefore Your Confidence”

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

More Love, Less Contempt

President Worthen, distinguished guests, parents, friends, and members of the Brigham Young University class of 2019: Congratulations on this important day, and thank you for this incredible honor. With this honorary degree, I am proud to say that I am finally a real member of the BYU community. I have to confess that, up to this point, I have only ever impersonated a member of the BYU community. I know that sounds bad, so let me explain. Several years ago I came to this beautiful place, to BYU, to deliver a lecture. My wonderful hosts sent me home with a ton of branded souvenirs: T-shirts, mugs—you name it. You guys are great at product placement. One particularly nice gift that I got that day was a briefcase. It had BYU emblazoned across the front. Now, as it happened, I actually needed a new briefcase, but I kind of hesitated to use it because of the logo. It felt a little weird—like false advertising. See, I am not a member of the faculty at BYU, nor am I a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I am a Catholic. Somebody told me, by the way, that I am your favorite Catholic—but I figure you say that to all the Catholics. When I expressed this hesitance, my wife, Esther, said, “That is ridiculous. Use the briefcase. It is beautiful.” So I loaded it up and took it out on the road. I travel all the time. I am in airports constantly. And here is the thing. I noticed that people would look at my briefcase and then look up at me. They would have this weird look on their face, like, “I have never seen an aging hipster Mormon before.” (Excuse me, Latter-day Saint!) That gave me some amusement, but here is the funny part: I found that it was changing my behavior. I was acting with greater love and kindness than I ordinarily would. People would look at my briefcase, and I would want to help with their luggage. I would want to give up my place in line. That sort of thing. Why? Because I was unconsciously trying to live up to the high standards of kindness of your church and your university. At the very least, I was trying not to hurt your well-earned reputation. You know what else? I even stopped carrying cups of coffee. Look, I love coffee, but I didn’t want people to think that a member of your church is a hypocrite! I had this paranoid fantasy of some guy telling his wife, “I saw this Mormon guy in O’Hare airport ordering a venti latte at Starbucks. I knew they were hypocrites.” I didn’t want that. And you know what? That briefcase made me a happier person, a more loving person. I was like the person I wanted to be. Why? Because I was trying to be like you. So what is the lesson here? It is not that your BYU briefcases have magic properties. It is that your greatest witness to the world as members of this community is the conduct of your lives. Our nation and world need this. They need you, more than ever today. If you p

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

Souls, Symbols, and Sacraments

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

Be Renewed in the Spirit of your Mind

If some of you left emotional mothers back home, joyfully hysterical at seeing you leave for school, please know that there is someone here who welcomes you in exactly the same way. I delight in the assignment of being your mother-away-from-home. (That’s the joyful part.) And of course I want each of you to come by and tell me when you will be in each night. (That is the hysterical part!) Please know that we love you and that we are happy you are back. Because of the very special family feeling we have here at BYU, this campus can be your alma mater, literally your “fostering mother.” There is an army of people here anxious to nurture you in faith and knowledge, to help you understand that Christ-centered learning will give you an inner core of confidence and the strength to succeed in life’s tasks. Be Your Own Best Friend I know something of the anxieties with which you start the school year, so as you begin this fall, my deepest, most earnest wish for you is that you will approach this year with peace and self-assurance—that you will be more caring for yourself and as kind to yourself as you would be to a friend in need. You are in need, and you ought to be your own best friend. Military historians tell us that an army can seldom fight a successful war on two fronts. Napoleon learned that lesson too late, and we should make certain that we learn it in a less painful way than he did. We will always have some external battles to fight on an exterior front—those battles of life that the Lord in his wisdom allows us to face so we can grow and be purified and become skillful problem solvers. These “outside” problems might include a poor grade in a difficult class or some dating frustrations or perhaps the very real financial challenges you face. My prayer for you is that such troubles on the external front can be faced and finally conquered. However, the battle that many of you wage on an interior front concerns me more than these external ones I have just mentioned. Many of us create a civil war within ourselves by internalizing problems of fear, uncertainty, self-doubt, and worry—often over things we can do preciously little about. If we spend our time and energy worrying about being too tall or too short or about our freckles and warts and big noses, then I fear we are doomed to certain defeat. The person who is engaged in such a constant internal fight has little energy and power left to win the outside battles. To be successful in the many skirmishes of life, you cannot afford to be your own worst enemy. And taking the battles inside—firing mortal shells into your very soul—is potentially one of the most damaging of all human activities. Believe it or not, you can recover from poor grades or a missed date or a flat tire and dead battery on the car. But if you turn such outside matters into self-recrimination and self-criticism, letting them damage your spirit

“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

“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” (

A More Wonderful World

I am so happy and honored to have been asked to speak to you on this day that represents so much hard work, careful teaching, and eager anticipation. I have many friends and loved ones here today, so it feels much more intimate here in the Marriott Center than it otherwise might have. Sitting and listening to this talk could be a real test of those friendships! I want to thank Dr. Brooks for those excellent insights into the poison of contempt and on how love is the great antidote. My remarks are in many ways connected. Thank you, too, for the fabulous music from the BYU Women’s Chorus. The refrain from that piece of music (“I dream, I feel, I hurt, I heal”1) speaks for all of us and certainly touches on my thoughts today. Reflections As I have prepared to address you, I have inevitably reflected on where I was and what had happened in my own life by the time I was your age. I was a very poor student at school and did not go to university. I had been in a boarding school in England from the age of ten, and I spent countless hours just staring out of windows, reading magazines about airplanes, and counting the days until I could go home, dreaming only of escape. So here I am, wearing robes I haven’t earned. I have to say, they are pretty tasty robes too. I could have saved a fortune in ties, I can see. You, on the other hand, have earned your robes, your degree, and this very important stepping-stone to your dreams. I congratulate you! Many of you here are in your early twenties, and I am particularly aware that by that time in my life I had lost my father, who died in a car ­accident in Arabia when I was nineteen. My sister also lost her husband that day in the same ­accident, leaving her to raise their two young children. In the aftermath of that devastating trauma, I experienced unspeakable grief, desperate loneliness, and an emptiness that felt like it would never leave. Thankfully, my big brother stepped in to take care of all the practical issues that follow such a loss. He and my sisters led out in watching over our extraordinary mother. In the midst of it all, there were many who extended warm friendship and generous mentoring. Somehow life had to go on for the rest of us, and the love and care of ­others helped enormously. When I think of my father, amongst other treasured memories I think of his favorite music, including the song “What a Wonderful World,” made famous by the inimitable Louis Armstrong. I heard Lexi Walker sing her beautiful rendition of this a few weeks ago. The words are: I see trees of green, red roses too. I see them bloom for me and you, And I think to myself, “What a wonderful world.” I see skies of blue and clouds of white, The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night, And I think to myself, “What a wonderful world.” The co

For Times of Trouble

I would like to be quite personal this morning—personal about you and personal about myself. I have thought about you a great deal over the past few weeks and have prayed to know what might be helpful to you. In doing so I have been drawn back to my own days as a student and some of the challenges I faced then. While such experiences now border on primitive history, fit only for a geology lecture, I’m nevertheless going ahead. I have wondered if some of your experiences and feelings might even now be very much the same. I come this morning knowing the semester is nearly over and that what suggestions I offer were perhaps needed months ago. Furthermore, the year is nearly over and maybe for some an entire college career. But part of what I want to stress is that every day counts—including these remaining few in the semester—and that you have thousands of days thereafter. I will speak of you as you are right now and will hope it matters as much to the graduating senior as to the first-semester freshman. I wish to speak today of a problem that is universal and that can, at any given hour, strike anywhere on campus—faculty, staff, administration, and especially students. I believe it is a form of evil. At least I know it can have damaging effects that block our growth, dampen our spirit, diminish our hope, and leave us vulnerable to other more conspicuous evils. I address it here this morning because I know of nothing Satan uses quite so cunningly or cleverly in his work on a young man or woman in your present circumstances. I speak of doubt—especially self-doubt—of discouragement, and of despair. In doing so I don’t wish to suggest that there aren’t plenty of things in the world to be troubled by. In our lives, individually and collectively, there surely are serious threats to our happiness. I watch an early morning news broadcast while I shave and then read a daily newspaper. That is enough to ruin anyone’s day and by then it’s only 6:30 in the morning. Iran, Afghanistan, inflation, energy, jogging, mass murders, kidnapping, unemployment, floods. With all of this waiting for us we are tempted, as W. C. Fields once said, to “smile first thing in the morning and get it over with.” But my concerns for you today are not the national and international ones. I wish to speak a little more personally of those matters that do not make headlines in the New York Times but that may be important in your personal journal. I’m anxious this morning about your problems with school and love and finances and the future, about your troubles concerning a place in life and the value of your contribution, about your private fears regarding where you are going and whether you think you will ever get there. Against a backdrop of hostages and high prices I wish to speak more personally of you and fortify you, if I am able, against doubt—especially self-doubt—and discouragement and despair. This morning I wa

The Inconvenient Messiah

Henry Adams once said that any succession of American presidents that could start with George Washington and lead to Ulysses S. Grant disproved forever the theory of evolution. I may well be striking it another fatal blow by inserting myself into an otherwise outstanding devotional calendar. But one of the advantages of being president of the university is that when you ask to be the speaker, they have to let you. Let me tell you why I’m intruding. I have been a little frustrated that the only real chance I get to address you is in our opening President’s Assembly the first week of the school year. As you well know, the atmosphere that day is a cross somewhere between Disneyworld and a Jamaican pep rally. I love that first hour with you, but neither the time restraints we face there nor the frame of mind you are in is very conducive to much of a presidential message. So after thinking about it for awhile, Sister Holland and I have determined to continue being chief animal tamers at the fall welcoming assembly and then sometime early in the winter semester—like now—we will have a slightly more serious moment with you about things we feel deeply and hope you will enjoy. So in that spirit I wish to ask Sister Holland to greet you and take a few moments to share her thoughts and testimony with you. Patricia Holland As my husband said, this is a little different setting than the opening assembly. There you are bright eyed and bushy tailed, ready to set the world on fire, or at least one of the kitchens in Heritage Halls. Now as I watch you on campus, I think I detect a terminal case of the mid-winter blahs. Your roommate probably has mono, your grades have switched from Fahrenheit to centigrade as they approach absolute zero, your holiday menu consisted of no real date and lots of very real turkey, and you’re broke. Other than that it’s probably been a great winter. I’ve come to you today in kind of a motherly way, if you’ll indulge me, to speak to those of you who feel a little bit disappointed at this point, and thus, a little bit discouraged. May I just share with you a personal disappointment we’ve had in our home recently. A few months ago our daughter, Mary, decided to run for president of her seventh-grade class. She was encouraged by a teacher who felt she could win, and so she began to campaign with lots of enthusiasm and a great deal of confidence. Both her parents and her brothers rallied behind and gave her all the support and help we could. Well, she lost. Now I was told this earlier in the day before Mary got home from school, and you know mothers. I was totally devastated for her, and I just churned with emotions all day and most of the day hoped for something that I could say that might comfort her. When I heard her footsteps at the door, my heart and my feet leaped to the rescue, and all the words of comfort I could think of came tumbling out. And you know, she ju

However Long and Hard the Road

Patricia T. Holland Just before commencement exercises last spring, my husband received a letter from a student which read something like this: Dear President Holland: I am completing my undergraduate experience at BYU this month and will be graduating in our upcoming commencement service. My parents are relieved, my professors are surprised, and I am holding my breath. Things could go wrong, you know, even at this late date. And that brings my one grievance with you. It is this late date business. My dates have been so late that most of them never showed up. I thought it was an assumed part of the BYU contract that I would be married before graduation. Well, you’ve got just under three weeks to come up with somebody or I want my tuition back. Urgently yours, Obviously this letter was written in fun, but I do worry that some of you—especially the women on campus—are struggling with your social life more than you would like. I expect there are many who would like to be dating and who would like to have a guaranteed offer of marriage before graduation. As the chill of winter sets in, you may be feeling about as special as frozen custard. If you are disappointed in the romance—or lack of it—in your life, I ask you to do exactly what this student did—keep a sense of humor, retain your marriage goal for the important commandment it is, and put your energies into becoming! Don’t spend your time walking on your lower lip about what is not. That just stretches the heck out of your lower jaw. Be excited about your chance to grow and develop and become. You have so much personal potential, and this is the greatest place in the entire world to develop it. This is the time and this is the place! It’s interesting to me that the rest of the world does eventually discover what was given long ago in the scriptures. I recently read this: “Only a small portion of what we are [is developed] and there is enormous potential in the human being” (Leo Buscaglia, Love [New York: Fawcett, 1982], p. 19). In his book, The Politics of Experience, R. D. Laing said, “What we think is less than what we know: What we know is less than what we love: What we love is so much less than what there is, and to this . . . extent, we are much less than what we are” (R.D. Laing in Love, p. 19). Without being smug, we’ve known that since the dawn of the Restoration. Surely that ought to be our own exciting challenge toward becoming—of growing, seeing, feeling, touching, smelling, hearing, believing. No time for a Harlequin Romance or a long lower lip with that kind of view. Marilyn Funt, who wrote the book Are You Anybody? did so in response to people’s asking in the Hollywood swirl if she “was anybody.” In answer she said: I used to think being somebody meant public rec

Can You Hear the Music?

My beloved brothers and sisters, my dear friends, Sister Uchtdorf and I are so grateful to be with you today. We bring you the love and greetings of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. You young people are the strength and future of the Church of Jesus Christ all around the earth. You are the Latter-day Saints who will be a blessing to the world. We love and admire you! One year ago, almost exactly to the day, Harriet and I spoke to all the young adults of the Church from the Conference Center in Salt Lake City regarding your adventure through mortality. We will never forget that wonderful evening with you, and some of you might even remember our messages.1 Harriet and I are amazed by your goodness, humility, and desire to embrace your membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and how you love and serve the Lord Jesus Christ and God’s children. We are better people as a result. I hope that you will feel the Holy Spirit ministering, uplifting, and instructing you as we meet together. The Man at the Subway Station On January 12, 2007, a man dressed in jeans and a T-shirt walked into a Washington, DC, subway station, pulled a violin from its case, and began to play.2 He put his soul into the performance, sometimes pounding his bow against the strings, sometimes gently caressing them to bring out soft and sorrowful tones. As he played, more than a thousand commuters passed through the train station on their way to work. They had busy days ahead of them: lists of things to do, worries, and troubles. Their minds were occupied with everyday trivial things—like where and what to eat for lunch, how their favorite sports team was doing, or whether anyone would notice their new glasses. Some, undoubtedly, were wrestling with greater problems: a challenging health diagnosis, relationships that were unraveling, financial loss, or some other pressing anxiety. In short, these people were people like you and me: unwrapping the gift of a new day, even the gift of a brand-new year, but consumed with the trivial and tragic, the petty and profound. Did they notice the musician? Or was the man with the violin merely part of the impressionistic blur that shaded the all-too-familiar backdrop of their daily lives? What these commuters did not know was that this musician was no ordinary violinist, he was playing no ordinary instrument, and he was playing no ordinary music. The man’s name was Joshua Bell—one of the most accomplished musicians in the world. The violin he played was handcrafted in 1713 by Antonio Stradivari. Joshua Bell had purchased it a few years earlier for an estimated $3.5 million. And the music he played was some of the most challenging and beautiful ever composed. Now, this whole experience in the subway station had been set up by a journalist from the Washington Pos

Healing = Courage + Action + Grace

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

The Modern Mighty Women of Israel

What a privilege it has been to enjoy the recent general conference. I thought of one thing that happened that I would like to share with you before I begin my remarks. I was at a fairly public setting with an apostle, the Primary general presidency, and the Young Men general presidency. In that meeting, the Primary general president and the Young Men general president were saving a seat for this apostle toward the front of the room. Like most of you, I was sitting toward the back, saving a seat for the other counselor on my right-hand side. In walked this apostle. He came right up to my side and said, “Joe, is it okay if I sit here?” Well, what was I going to say: “No, you are supposed to sit up there”? So he sat down at my side. After a few moments I could tell that he wasn’t feeling well. He grabbed my wrist and said, “Joe, I don’t know what is going on. I am not feeling well.” I encouraged him to go back to his room, and I said that we had this. We could inform him what had happened later on. I knew he had an upcoming trip to Asia for about ten days. But he stayed. I could see a little bit of sweat on the side of his face. He took a drink of his water and then again grabbed my wrist. He said, “I was fine yesterday. I don’t know what is going on. I don’t feel very well.” Again I encouraged him to go back to his room. But he stayed. And then once more he grabbed my wrist, and he pulled me a little toward him. He looked me right in the eye and said, “Joe, are you happy?” I thought, “Are you kidding me? He is sick, and he is worried about me being happy?” I said, “Yes, I am happy.” And then he said, “Good. I am in charge of happy.” I want you to know that those fifteen men who we sustain as prophets, seers, and revelators, those who spoke to us this last week, feel that they are responsible for our happiness. So they speak directly, and they ask us to do things. I hope we adhere to what President Russell M. Nelson has said and asked during our general conferences. Let’s run to repentance. Let’s repent quickly. Impact Teachers: Training Human Souls Recently I have reread and contemplated two messages that had a tremendous impact on me when I was your age. They were both general conference addresses by members of the Seventy: “The Impact Teacher” and “The Modern Mighty of Israel.”1 I invite you to review those addresses at some other time. But I would invite you now to ­consider Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone’s summary of a statement by President David O. McKay: “There is no greater responsibility in the world than the training of a human soul.”2 Before going much further, I would like to introduce my topic with a personal experience. When I was about thirteen years of age, we lived on a cattle ranch in Wyoming. It was a glorious experience for a young

But for a Small Moment

I am delighted to be with you tonight, my brothers and sisters, to partake of the spirit that is here and of that marvelous music. I wish you knew how much as a generation you inspire those of us who have the privilege of working with you. I want you to know that I regard you highly—collectively and all here whom I know individually–and have great expectations for you. The highest compliment I can pay to you is that God has placed you here and now at this time to serve in his kingdom; so much is about to happen in which you will be involved and concerning which you will have some great influence. It is because you will face some remarkable challenges in your time; it is because the Church has ceased to be in the eyes of men a mere cultural oddity in the Mountain West and is now, therefore, a global church—a light which can no longer be hid; it is because you have a rendezvous with destiny that will involve some soul stretching and some pain that I have chosen to speak to you tonight about the implications of two things we accept sometimes quite casually. These realities are that God loves us and, loving us, has placed us here to cope with challenges which he will place before us. I’m not sure we can always understand the implications of his love, because his love will call us at times to do things we may wonder about, and we may be confronted with circumstances we would rather not face. I believe with all my heart that because God loves us there are some particularized challenges that he will deliver to each of us. He will customize the curriculum for each of us in order to teach us the things we most need to know. He will set before us in life what we need, not always what we like. And this will require us to accept with all our hearts—particularly your generation—the truth that there is divine design in each of our lives and that you have rendezvous to keep, individually and collectively. God knows even now what the future holds for each of us. In one of his revelations these startling words appear, as with so many revelations that are too big, I suppose, for us to manage fully: “In the presence of God, . . . all things . . . are manifest, past, present, and future, and are continually before the Lord” (D&C 130:7). The future “you” is before him now. He knows what it is he wishes to bring to pass in your life. He knows the kind of remodeling in your life and in mine that he wishes to achieve. Now, this will require us to believe in that divine design and at times to accept the truth which came to Joseph Smith wherein he was reminded that his suffering would be “but a small moment” (D&C 121:7). I’d like to talk to you about some of those small moments that w

Lessons from Liberty Jail

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,

God Is the Gardener

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

Prophetic Invitations and Promised Blessings

My dear brothers and sisters, my wife, Shelley, and I are thrilled to be with you today. We both have very fond memories of being here forty-five years ago. Let me tell you a little bit about the two of us. Neither of us came from fairytale backgrounds or perfect circumstances. My wife grew up in a part-member family. Her nonmember father passed away when she was seventeen, and a beloved older brother passed away a few years later. Fortunately, when Shelley arrived here at BYU, she was ministered to by incredible students and faculty just like you—for which I am eternally grateful. While Shelley was here, I arrived as a young full-time missionary—before the MTC was even built. My parents were already struggling in a marriage that would eventually end in divorce. Soon after arriving here, I became homesick, and I became really discouraged. Then I was Dear Johned by my girlfriend at the time. In spite of all of this, it all worked out really well, because even though neither of us knew it at the time, my future eternal companion and my very best friend was right here waiting for me. We both love being here! Now, you may not come from perfect circumstances either, but I promise that if you will act with faith in your Heavenly Father and His plan—His great plan of happiness—and if you will act with faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement and follow God’s prophets, you will be given power to do whatever the Lord needs you to do and to become whatever He needs you to become, in spite of your circumstances. While I am speaking today, the Holy Ghost will also communicate important truths to you and give you guidance that you need in your life. I encourage you to write these things down and then follow the feelings that come to you. Follow the Prophets of God First, I would like to tell you about the angel who consented to be my wife after I had made four marriage proposals. When Shelley was fifteen years old, she had an experience that changed the rest of her life. At a youth conference, she unexpectedly met an apostle. He did not know Shelley or her family, but he invited her to do something really surprising. He asked, “Will you kiss your father on the cheek every night and tell him that you love him for one full year?” Shelley agreed, even though silently she thought, “This is going to be impossible!” The apostle did not know that her father was a wonderful but very, very reserved man. Shelley had never seen her father kiss anyone, including her mother, and she had never heard her father say, “I love you,” to anyone. But, as impossible as it seemed, she decided to do what an apostle had invited her to do. The first few nights as she kissed her father on the cheek and said, “I love you, Dad,” he did not react positively at all. She persisted night after night, but her father would simply sit rigid, like a statue, while she kissed him on the ch

The Voice of the Spirit

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


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

The Glass Is Half Full: The Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ

It is a pleasure to be here today among friends, colleagues, and students. As I was seated upon the stand and thinking about what I might say to introduce my topic, it dawned on me how things have really come full circle. It doesn’t seem like it was very long ago when I was in your seats here as a student myself at the university. And, interestingly enough for me personally, I notice seated upon the stand two professors who had a profound impact upon my own education and on what I would eventually do for a living. You have heard from one, Brother Donald Q. Cannon, who gave the opening prayer. He was a very important teacher in my life who directed my attention to the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He encouraged my pursuit of a degree in that field and has been a kind friend, colleague, and important mentor ever since. Also upon the stand is associate academic vice president Noel Reynolds. Professor Reynolds was one of my political science professors. And since that time he has been a good friend and mentor. Today I would like to talk about the Second Coming, but I would like to talk specifically about two aspects that I call related but separate issues. The first aspect is the timing of the Second Coming and the second is the emphasis we sometimes place on the prophecies that tend to highlight the terrible days and tribulation that lie ahead for the generation who will witness this long-prophesied event. I often come into class the first day wearing sunglasses, so I am going to put on a pair of sunglasses right now to illustrate an important point. This is where we’ll begin today. All of us, whether we know it or not, wear a pair of glasses. The color, the tint of the lens, is determined by our social and academic background, our experience, our ethnicity, our gender, and also our religious convictions. Sometimes we go a long time without having our eyes checked, and therefore we wear glasses from an old prescription. So not only do we have a tint of color in our glasses, but sometimes the glasses are out of focus. I remember one difficult year during graduate school. You can imagine starting a family while in a PhD program and living on a shoestring budget. I broke a pair of glasses and decided that I couldn’t afford a new pair. So I went for about six months before I finally went to the optometrist and got a new prescription and a new pair of glasses. When I came out of his office, I literally stood on the sidewalk disoriented as I attempted to focus. And I said to myself, “Boy, I forgot that blades of grass can actually be discerned.” In six months my eyes had changed tremendously. When we worship together on Sunday; go to the temple; attend classes here at BYU in the sciences, humanities, mathematics, arts, religion, and all other fields; attend general conference; and receive blessings and counsel from our friends, part of the purpose in these endeavors is to get a be

Our Identity and Our Destiny

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

Marriage, Family Law, and the Temple

I am honored to be here tonight with all of you. I understand that the J. Reuben Clark Law Society now has more than 10,000 members in more than 100 chapters—plus 135 student ­chapters—and that a third of the chapters are located outside the United States. That international dimension reminds me of a young man I met recently in the St. George Temple. He was about to leave on a mission to Argentina. I asked him, “Do you speak any Spanish yet?” With utmost sincerity he replied, “I only know one word in Spanish: aloha!” Well, even though aloha isn’t a Spanish word, it works tonight, because it somehow says “hello” and “welcome” in most any tongue. I have two related purposes tonight. First, I’d like to tell you how I got into the once-boring but now almost too-dramatic field of family law and what I found there. In this first part I’ll be talking as one lawyer to another, but I hope my footnotes will also suggest some more-general perspectives.1 Second, against that background I’d like to talk about marriage—including our own marriages and marriage as taught in the temple. I realize that many devoted people do not now live in the kind of family situation they either desire or deserve. Of course Church doctrine encourages marriage and discourages divorce, but marrying is not always under our control, and there are times when divorce is the better choice.2 Our Church leaders have long taught that despite divorce or being single, no eternal blessing, even celestial glory, will be denied to those who are true and faithful. Family Law Let me take you back to the Law School’s early years and to the conversation that launched me into family law. Rex E. Lee and I were meeting to discuss something he was writing. Rex was then the founding dean of BYU Law School and would later become solicitor general of the United States. He would also later become president of BYU, but for Rex, university administration would never be as interesting as constitutional law. As we talked about recent constitutional developments, we both cheered that the powerful idea of individual rights had energized the civil rights movement, which was helping the United States overcome its embarrassing history of racial discrimination. We also applauded how those same ideas had begun to help the country eradicate discrimination against women. At one point I said to Rex, “The liberation and equality movements are gaining such a head of steam. Do you think the very idea of individual rights will ever develop so much momentum that it could overpower the principles that should be balanced against it?” His brow furrowed. “What do you mean? Give me an example.” I shrugged spontaneously. “What about children? The law ‘discriminates’ against children on the basis o

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