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Stand Forever

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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
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Can You Hear the Music?

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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
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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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The Inconvenient Messiah

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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
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Knowing Who You Are

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It is wonderful to be here with you today, to know that you have arrived safely from your travels, and to see in you the bright hope of anticipation that accompanies a new year and a new semester. We Have a Divine Nature Let me begin with a story that may sound all too familiar to some of you. The airport had been packed for hours. The usually crowded holiday travel conditions were exacerbated by weather-related delays and cancellations at other airports. Hundreds of frustrated travelers were scrambling from one gate to another as they sought alternate ways to reach their destinations. At one gate, the line to talk to the agent stretched for more than fifty yards. One of the passengers in the line was a well-dressed and obviously impatient man. As he glanced at his watch with ever-increasing frequency and tapped his foot at an ever-increasing rate, it was obvious to all around him that he was not a person who was accustomed to waiting. Finally the man could stand it no longer. He bolted from his place in line and stomped up to the gate. Pounding his hand on the desk, he bellowed, “Do you know who I am?” An awkward silence instantly gripped the area. The agent at the desk calmly picked up her telephone and, in a steady voice, said, “We may need a little additional help at Gate 19. There is a man down here who doesn’t know who he is.” My question to you today is, Do you know who you are? This question may be more complicated than it at first appears. If someone were to ask you right now who you are, some of you might answer by identifying yourself as a BYU student—a worthwhile identity. Others might be more specific and identify themselves by their major or their year in school. Some would answer based on their home or place of origin. Those of you from Texas know what I mean. Some might identify themselves by an extracurricular activity in which they engage, a sport they play, or a talent they possess. Some might choose to identify themselves by their church calling, by an office they hold, or by their relationships with others, such as wife, husband, father, or mother. Each of these answers would be truthful in the sense that they accurately describe a portion of who you are. And to some extent they may be the most appropriate response because of the context in which the question is asked. Our response to the question Who are you? will likely vary from time to time and place to place. And sometimes those answers, in the abstract, will contradict one another. Thus, knowing who we really are can get a bit complicated. But what if you had to fully identify yourself in a single sentence? Could you in one sentence describe yourself in a way that would be accurate in whatever circumstance or whatever stage of life you might find yourself? It wouldn’t be that you are a freshman, for that will change. Or that you are a BYU student, for that will also change—
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Be 100 Percent Responsible

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

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

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

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My beloved brothers and sisters, there is an understandably subdued spirit on the campus of Brigham Young University today. I have thought about you and the student involved in the incident yesterday without ceasing since I learned of this episode. This morning I arose very, very early, and I would like to share with you briefly just a few thoughts that may be of some assistance to all of us. I invite you to consider and to connect four things. First, consider the titles used to describe the Lord Jesus Christ by Isaiah: “Wonderful, Counsellor [please note the word counsellor], The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”1 Connect that title of Counsellor to this verse from Alma: “Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good.”2 Connect those verses to these lyrics in the hymn “Where Can I Turn for Peace?” from Sister Emma Lou Thayne: Where can I turn for peace? Where is my solace When other sources cease to make me whole? When with a wounded heart, anger, or malice, I draw myself apart, Searching my soul? Where, when my aching grows, Where, when I languish, Where, in my need to know, where can I run? Where is the quiet hand to calm my anguish? Who, who can understand? He, only One. He answers privately, Reaches my reaching In my Gethsemane, Savior and Friend. Gentle the peace he finds for my beseeching. Constant he is and kind, Love without end.3 Last, connect those lyrics to Alma’s description of the Savior: And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people. And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.4 With all the energy of my soul, I bear witness that the Lord Jesus Christ lives. These are not words on a page in a book. These are literal, actual spiritual truths. And as His servant and in His name, I promise you will receive the counseling you need from the Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Prince of Peace. Susan and I are grateful to be here with you. We love you, and we love Brigham Young University. I desire and pray for the assistance of the Holy Ghost for you and for me as we focus now together on things of eternal worth during this devotional. Learning from the Lord’s Servants at BYU
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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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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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“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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Ten Keys to Successful Dating and Marriage Relationships

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I come to you concerned and somewhat troubled. My comments this evening are directed to those of you who will dedicate an important part of your earthly lives to making your eventual eternal marriages succeed. The emotions I feel are the deepest love and respect for you and the excitement for your futures as someday you will sit where we now sit and speak where we now speak and lead in areas where we have led, but in many areas where we have not yet led. There is a tendency in life, brothers and sisters, to simplify problems and complicate solutions. Many challenges, however, are very complex. But I have learned that, when we utilize the teachings of the Master, the solutions to even the most difficult of life’s challenges are usually basic and easy to implement. Dedication to Successful Marriage Several years ago, while visiting in Florida, I talked with Frank Shorter, a world-class marathon athlete. He won the marathon in the 1972 Olympics, placed second in 1976, and has won literally hundreds of long-distance races. As we talked about his training schedule, I learned that he had dedicated a great part of his life to succeeding in that impressive area of athletics. He knows exactly what foods to eat, how many miles to run each day (which incidentally is about 20), the frame of mind he needs to have if he expects to be victorious, and a number of other characteristics relating to success in his chosen field. Well, while thinking of Frank Shorter and his goals and others who have succeeded in their chosen lines of work or hobbies or professions, I have asked myself, Why couldn’t more of our husbands and wives have the same type of dedication to a successful marriage as do renowned athletes, physicians, educators, and governmental leaders as they excel in their professions? Tonight I shall not address the mate-selection process except to say three things: First, obedience, brothers and sisters, is the sure cornerstone of happiness. A boyfriend or girlfriend who does not have a wholesome respect for regulations during the dating process will often continue to break the rules after the word yes at the altar is spoken. Seek out those who are willing to live the rules because if you do not, we will spend time with you in offices in whichever ward or stake you live, attempting to work out the difficulties that will surely come. Second, there are not to be sexual experiences before marriage. Temporary pleasure in the backseat of an automobile is not worth the incredibly high price of heartache, self-doubt, and guilt, with always the question gnawing at one’s spirit, “Is it true love that I feel or some sort of hormonal substitute?” One penalty that comes to those who participate when they should not is that the counterfeiting procedure begins that sometimes cannot be refined out of one’s heart and mind. Don’t let it be part of yours. Third, you must
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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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“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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Meekly Drenched in Destiny

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I welcome you to a Christian campus where discipleship and scholarship are uniquely blended. I salute your ecclesiastical and academic leaders, so many of whom are with us tonight. They will serve you exceedingly well. My brothers and sisters, as on another occasion at this pulpit, I will speak out of my own strugglings about another unglamorous but very crucial gospel objective. Then, the subject was patience, a virtue which is regarded by some as quite pedestrian but which is essential to our development and happiness. A Companion Virtue to Patience Our focus tonight will be on meekness, a companion virtue to patience. Meekness, too, is one of the attributes of Deity. Instructively, Jesus, our Lord and Exemplar, called attention to Himself as being “meek and lowly in heart” (Matthew 11:29). Paul extolled the “meekness and gentleness of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:1). The Greek rendition of the word meek in the New Testament, by the way, is gentle and humble. Actually, meekness is not only an attribute essential for itself; Moroni declared that it is also vital because one simply cannot develop those other crucial virtues—faith, hope, and charity—without meekness. In the ecology of the eternal attributes these cardinal characteristics are inextricably bound up together. Among them, meekness is often the initiator, the facilitator, and the consolidator. Moreover, if one needs any further persuasion as to how vital this virtue is, Moroni warned, “none is acceptable before God save the meek and the lowly in heart” (Moroni 7:44). If we could but believe, really believe, in the reality of that bold but accurate declaration, you and I would then find ourselves focusing on the crucial rather than the marginal tasks in life! We would then cease pursuing life-styles which, inevitably and irrevocably, are going out of style! There would be little reason for speaking to you of meekness if you were not serious candidates for the celestial kingdom. You live in coarsening times, times in which meekness is misunderstood and even despised. Yet meekness has been, is, and will remain a non-negotiable dimension of true discipleship. Its development is a remarkable achievement in any age, but especially in this age. Furthermore, whether you realize it or not, you are a generation drenched in destiny. If you are faithful, you will prove to be a part of the winding-up scenes for this world, and as participants, not merely as spectators, though on later occasions you might understandably prefer to be the latter. Why So Important? Even so, why the stress on meekness? Merely because it is nice to be nice? The reasons are far more deeply imbedded in the “plan of happiness” (Alma 42:8) than that! God, who has seen billions of spirits pass through His plan of salvation, has told us to be meek in order to enhance our enjoymen
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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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“This Is My Day of Opportunity”

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Thank you all for coming. I feel the weight of saying something that will help you this morning. I want to share a message from my heart. I want to tell you some things that have helped me. Let me start with a story. Although I grew up in Provo, right before my junior year of high school, my family moved to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. President Spencer W. Kimball, the prophet at the time, called my father to serve as a mission president, so my family packed up and off we went. When I moved back to Provo for my freshman year of college, I came alone and saw the BYU campus through the eyes of a new freshman, away from home and family. I didn’t know a soul when I moved into the dorms. I had been lonely in high school, but I determined that I would use this opportunity as a fresh start. My brother challenged me to learn the names of three new people each day and then call them by name whenever I saw them. I volunteered for service opportunities that took me outside my comfort zone. Of course, even talking to some people was outside my comfort zone! I learned that focusing on others made me happier. It was here at BYU that I found joy in keeping my covenants as I got myself out of bed on Sunday mornings and attended church. And I learned the value of time. I know that you are entering finals. Your time is precious, and you may be feeling anxious about that. I honestly still have a recurring nightmare that I am back in school during finals week but that I didn’t attend class all semester. In fact, in my dreams I can’t even remember where my classroom is when I try to attend one last class period before the final! We can all relate to the feelings of fear and panic when we realize that there may just not be enough time to finish what we have committed to do. Speaking of panic, I remember walking into the Testing Center. There were times I walked in with dread—knowing that I was not prepared but that it was too late to do anything about it. Other times I remember feeling a quiet confidence; I had paid the price and felt comfortable in my mastery of the material I would be tested on. This life is like a testing center. Occasionally we are given true-false tests in life—clear right and wrong choices, moments of truth. At those moments, stand up. Stand tall. Choose with courage. But more often, everyday life hands us multiple-choice tests—and sometimes they feel like the ones we take in which we are convinced our professor is trying to trick us. Is it A? B? C? A and C? All of the above? Or none of the above? All the choices may be good but wrong for this moment. Do we study or go to the temple? Major in French or philosophy? Multiple-choice tests of life—including our decisions about the use of our time—require wisdom and deeper understanding. That is why they are given to us by our schoolteachers and by the Great Teacher and Refiner of our souls. Amulek reminded us that “this life
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The Experience of Love and the Limitations of Psychological Explanation

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It may not surprise you, but I want to declare at the outset that I have been multiply blessed. I want to initially mention an important blessing—this university—and then I would like to dwell on a forty-one-year blessing—my marriage. Those who have received this award in past years have stood here to express their gratitude to BYU, but I feel especially blessed in receiving this award as a non-Mormon. This university has insisted on valuing me regardless of my religious minority status. I am a religious “other,” yet this university has not only accepted me as a colleague and a friend but also persisted in recognizing me and celebrating my work. I think this is a sort of minor miracle. As you will see in the case of my wife, I honestly believe that when we truly value and even love those who are “other” in some way, God is there.1 I also want to acknowledge how important this university has been to my academic work. I have long desired to actively interface the sacred and the secular—the sacredness of my faith and the secularity of my discipline of psychology—but there are few places that permit this work. BYU, however, has not only welcomed this type of scholarship but also encouraged and facilitated it. For this reason, I have never had to compartmentalize my Christianity away from my discipline; I have been able to integrate the two—which has been an incredible blessing to me! As I mentioned, however, the blessing I want to dwell on today is the love I feel for my wife. But discussing such a personal experience may seem a bit strange for a psychologist. Psychologists are supposed to deal with objective data.2 Unfortunately, love isn’t objective, so psychology’s knowledge of love has been meager over the years. Consider renowned love researcher Harry Harlow and his lament in his presidential address to the American Psychological Association: So far as love or affection is concerned, psychologists have failed in this mission. The little we know about love does not transcend simple observation, and the little we write about it has been written better by poets and novelists.3 This conclusion was stated many years ago, but it is not unusual for even modern investigators of love to echo Harlow’s lament. Zick Rubin, for example, believes that some progress has been made, but he comments that love has “seemed safely beyond the research scientist’s ever-­extending grasp.”4 I won’t get into psychological methods here. Suffice it to say that a relatively new brand of psychological method—qualitative ­investigation—was specifically set up to study subjective experiences. And qualitative investigators are not afraid of even just one person’s experiences, especially when those personal experiences teach us something about the phenomenon of interest. As a marital therapist of thirty-five years, I have long realized
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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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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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Change: It’s Always a Possibility!

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

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Good morning. My thanks go to those who provided the music this morning. Their music has helped to bring the Spirit to this meeting. I would hope to speak by that Spirit today. My late friend Robert J. Matthews, who taught religion here at BYU, used to say, “If I speak by the Spirit and you listen by the Spirit, you will hear things better than I say them.” I pray that that can happen today. I thought it appropriate to begin with a little poem written by a young man that I think might illustrate what sometimes may happen in parents’ attempts to change the behavior of their children. He wrote: My parents told me not to smoke— I don’t. Nor listen to a naughty joke— I don’t. They made it plain I must not wink At pretty girls, or even think About intoxicating drink— I don’t. To dance and flirt is very wrong— I don’t. Wild youths chase women, wine and song— I don’t. I kiss no girls, not even one— I do not know how it is done— You wouldn’t think I had much fun— I DON’T. [“I Don’t,” Goldendale Sentinel (Klickatat County, Washington), 24 October 1918, 1, gld.stparchive.com/Archive/GLD/GLD10241918P01.php] Now, you see that this young man’s behavior was changed, but not his attitude. What is needed is a change in attitude as well as behavior. So I pose this question: What causes a change in attitude and behavior? President Boyd K. Packer stated: True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior. . . . That is why we stress so forcefully the study of the doctrines of the gospel. [“Little Children,” Ensign, November 1986, 17] The purpose of my presentation today is to explore four points of doctrine as found in the scriptures and in the words of the Brethren. Principle Number 1: Draw upon the Power of the Word Daily The prophet Mormon wrote: And now, as the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just—yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened unto them—therefore Alma thought it was expedient that they should try the virtue of the word of God. [Alma 31:5] When I taught seminary years ago, I wanted to show the youth the power of the word that Alma described. I wanted to show them that if they would make the word of God (as found in the scriptures) a part of their lives, it would change them. I didn’t know exactly how to do that, but I tried this way. On the first day of class I gave them a blank sheet of paper and s
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Adversity

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My dear brothers and sisters, I am grateful for your presence here today, especially in view of the fact that you anticipated hearing from President Howard W. Hunter today, and any replacement for him is clearly inadequate. Thank you for accepting a substitute with such graciousness. I bring you his love. He hopes to speak to you on another occasion. On an earlier occasion when I spoke to a large audience here at BYU, I spoke on the subject “Our Strengths Can Become Our Downfall” (7 June 1992 fireside; see Ensign, October 1994, pp. 11–19, or BYU 1991–92 Devotional and Fireside Speeches [Provo: Brigham Young University, 1992], pp. 107–15). My subject today is a variation on that theme, which I might call “Our seeming downfalls can be the means of developing our strengths.” I will speak on the significance and uses of adversity. Adversity will be a constant or occasional companion for each of us throughout our lives. We cannot avoid it. The only question is how we will react to it. Will our adversities be stumbling blocks or stepping stones? Father Lehi taught his son Jacob that in order to bring to pass righteousness, the Lord’s plan allowed for wickedness. In order for God’s children to appreciate joy, they must also be subject to misery (see 2 Nephi 2:23). To accomplish the purposes of God, there must needs be “an opposition in all things” (2 Nephi 2:11). Our adversities are part of that opposition. Elder Howard W. Hunter explained the principle in a general conference address many years ago: We came to mortal life to encounter resistance. It was part of the plan for our eternal progress. Without temptation, sickness, pain, and sorrow, there could be no goodness, virtue, appreciation for well-being, or joy. [CR, April 1980, p. 34] Some adversities are individual. Others are common to large numbers of our Heavenly Father’s children. During the last decade there have been many examples of large-scale adversities affecting tens or hundreds of thousands or millions. Only a few can be mentioned. In addition to wars in many nations, we have had earthquakes in Japan, California, China, Armenia, and Mexico; hurricanes or tornadoes in Florida and the central United States; volcanic eruptions in the Philippines; tidal waves in Nicaragua; forest fires in various western states; flooding in India and in the Mississippi valley; and famine and pestilence in Africa and elsewhere. These huge catastrophes are tragedies, but they may have another significance. The Lord uses adversities to send messages to his children. Isaiah prophesied that in the last days the Lord would visit all nations with great natural disasters (see Isaiah 29:6; 2 Nephi 27:1–2). In modern revelation, the Lord speaks of calling upon the nations of the earth by the mouth of his servants and also “by the voice of thunderings, and by the voice of lightnings, and by the voice of tempests,
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“I Can Sleep When the Wind Blows”

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My dear brothers and sisters, it is indeed an honor to be able to meet with you in this beautiful facility on this gorgeous campus. I feel like Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind when she said that she drew her strength from Tara. I feel strengthened and revitalized each time I drive onto this campus. My wife and I have so many wonderful memories of Provo, Utah, and Brigham Young University. Sister Bowen and I both graduated from this marvelous institution—she in elementary education with a minor in music and I in English with a minor in Spanish. I proposed to Sister Bowen on the stairs of the lower campus during fall semester of 1976, near the Karl G. Maeser Building. I know the very spot. Our first child, Leisle, was born in the Provo hospital in 1977. Sister Bowen picked me up in front of the administration building as we rushed to the hospital. I was so nervous and excited! What a responsibility! I was going to be a daddy. We now have seven children and twenty-three grandchildren. We have been married forty-two years, yet, somehow, I still feel I am twenty-three. To quote Jacob, “The time passed away with us, and also our lives passed away like as it were unto us a dream” (Jacob 7:26). We have found and continue to find peace, joy, and happiness through our family. I witness that the plan of happiness presented to us by our Father in Heaven has not changed, that the sealing of a man to a woman in the house of the Lord is essential for us to obtain the highest degree of the celestial kingdom and ultimately become like our Father in Heaven, and that the commandment to multiply and replenish the earth has never been revoked. True happiness is found as we strive to become an eternal family. Some members of the Church remain single through no fault of their own, even though they want to marry. . . . [Those who] remain worthy . . . will someday, in this life or the next, be given all the blessings of an eternal family relationship. The Lord has made this promise repeatedly through His latter-day prophets.1 Character, Honor, and Integrity As I begin, let me share with you one of my favorite stories. Many years ago the old country fair in parts of England was, besides being the place of exhibition for farm products, [the place] where employer and employee met. . . . Farmer Smith wanted a boy to work on his farm. He was doing some interviewing of candidates. A thoughtful looking lad of about sixteen attracted him. The boy was confronted with a rather abrupt question from the gruff old agriculturist. “What can you do?” The boy swung back at him in the same style, “I can sleep when the wind blows.” . . . Notwithstanding he didn’t particularly like the answer to a civil question he got from the teenager, t
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Women and Education: “A Future Only God Could See for You”

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It is wonderful to be here. This is not an opportunity I would have imagined for myself. It is truly a future only God could see for me. I am grateful for a Father in Heaven who knows me—who knows my potential and who wants me to become like Him. I can’t wait to someday see like He does—to know everything and to see the future and not just the past. But for now I will stand like a little girl on my Father’s feet, holding His hands and trusting Him as He guides me through the dance of this life. As His daughter, I hope someday to grow up to be just like Him. I am trying to become more like Him now by learning as much as I can and by working to refine the spiritual gifts He has given me. Daughters of God Revelation given in the book of Joel speaks of the role of women in the latter days when it says that, in preparation for the Second Coming of Christ, I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, . . .  . . . and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit. [Joel 2:28–29] Your daughters shall prophesy! In these last days we are meant to seek and receive spiritual revelation by the power of the Holy Ghost. Like Rebekah, Hannah, Elisabeth, and Mary, women are meant to receive direct spiritual revelation through the gifts of the Spirit. Like Miriam (see Exodus 15:20), Deborah (see Judges 4:4), Huldah (see 2 Kings 22:14; 2 Chronicles 34:22), and Anna (see Luke 2:36), we can develop the spiritual gift of prophecy and refine our ability to communicate with our Father in Heaven in ways that affect our own spiritual development and have a positive impact on the world around us.1 These spiritual gifts bring us closer to the image of God, in which we were created. Through her choice to partake of the tree of knowledge in the Garden of Eden, Mother Eve made it possible for each of us to exercise our agency in a world filled with choices, thereby providing a way for us to spiritually develop. I do not think it was an accident that by knowledge she opened a pathway that would allow us to become more like God. I believe this sets an eternal pattern. “The glory of God is intelligence” (D&C 93:36), and we must likewise enhance our own inherent intelligence in order to become like Him and receive His ­spiritual gifts. How do we reach this divine potential? How do we strength
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Spiritual Gifts

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Welcome to winter semester 2019. We hope you had a wonderful Christmas and that you have a prosperous year. A Christmas Gift On Christmas Eve several years ago, the Kim family, who were members of our ward, stopped by our home to give us a gift. They are from Korea, and they are incredibly talented. Sister Kim is a pianist, Brother Kim plays the flute, and each of their children play a stringed instrument. They are all accomplished musicians. That Christmas Eve they entered our home with their instruments in tow—with the exception of Sister Kim, who used our piano. Their gift to us was a musical performance of Christmas carols in our living room. Words cannot adequately express how beautiful and heavenly it was. I have to admit that I was a little sad when they concluded their performance. Imagine my joy when the following Christmas Eve, the Kim family stopped by our home to perform again! This time, however, when they were packing up their instruments to leave, Brother Kim informed us that they would return the following Christmas Eve to perform, but they expected us to be prepared to perform something for them. Of course we wanted them to return, so we agreed. After they left our home, Kevin and I quickly assessed our situation. We had one year to come up with something very special that we could perform for the Kim family, and we knew that, in reality, we really needed much longer than a year! After some thought, however, Kevin and I decided that we could sing a Christmas carol for them in Korean. We chose “Silent Night” because it was one song I thought I could play on the piano while everyone else sang. Then we asked a friend who had served his mission in Korea to write out the Korean words for “Silent Night” phonetically so that we would at least have a chance of pronouncing the Korean words correctly. When the next Christmas Eve arrived, our little choir—which consisted of our family and friends who were at our home that night—practiced the song a few times before the Kims arrived. We were as prepared as we could be for our performance. The Kims arrived, and after we had waited a whole year, it was finally time for us to perform for them. I sat down nervously at the piano and began playing, and our choir began singing “Silent Night” in Korean. We managed to get through the first line of the song just fine. The Kims sat and listened politely. Then we made it through the second line just fine too. The Kims sat with pleasant looks on their faces. I knew that we were on the home stretch, and I was feeling pretty good about our performance. And that is when it ­happened—the part of “Silent Night” that goes “sleep in heavenly peace” (Hymns, 2002, no. 204). Well, as soon as the choir sang the word sleep, every member of the Kim family—who had been sitting there watching and listening to us very quietly, respectfully, and graciously—burst o

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