MotivationsEmeritus Member of the Seventy September 24, 1978 • Devotional
My brothers and sisters, I appreciate very much this great privilege of having some part with you and with the activity of this wonderful University. Not only do I always get a thrill when I come on this campus, but I get a thrill when I even think about the great numbers of you who have this wonderful privilege of coming here and spending part of your lives in studying, thinking, and enjoying the association of each other and the leadership of the wise teachers that you have here. This is a place where you can come to pray and live and enjoy the wonders that have been provided for you in this most important dispensation.
I would just like to say to you that you live in the greatest age that has ever been known in the world. Your forefather’s lived on a flat, stationary earth and plowed their ground with a wooden stick, whereas you live on an earth of power steering and jet propulsion where all kinds of knowledge explosions are constantly taking place. We need to develop a character and a personality to match the times.
You live in the greatest nation that has ever been known since creation. How grateful we ought to be that we did not have in our Founding Fathers the kind of leadership that used Stalin blood purges, Hitler gas ovens, and Castro indignities as the instruments of government! Just think what a different kind of people we might be and what a different nation this would be if we had had the leadership of men other than those that God raised up to write our Constitution and to establish this nation upon Christian principles.
You live in a time when the knowledge of medicine gives us strong bodies and clear minds. If you had lived in Jerusalem nineteen hundred years ago, your life expectancy at birth would have been nineteen years. This means that of the people who lived and died in that period some lived to be ninety, I suppose, and a great many died at birth; but the average span of life then was nineteen years. If you had been born in George Washington’s day in America you would have had an expectation of life of thirty-five years. When I was born it was forty-eight years, but the baby that was born in the Provo hospital today has a life expectation of seventy-five years. That is a very long period of time, and I know because that is just the period that I have been here. (Somebody once asked a man, “Have you lived here all your life?” And he said, “Not yet.”) But I am very grateful for those twenty-seven years of life that have already been given to me above the promise that life made to me when I was born. How grateful we ought to be that God and our civilization are adding to our life expectation to give us more time to make more out of this allimportant period of our second estate!
If any of you plan to remember anything that I am going to say to you tonight, I would just like to have you write in your notebook that—and I am sure of this—the one business of life is to succeed.
I am absolutely certain in my own mind that God did not go to all the trouble of creating this beautiful earth, with all of its utilities and beauties and opportunities, without something very important in mind for those he expected to live here upon it. And I am even more sure that he did not create us in his own image and endow us with these potentially magnificent brains, miraculous personalities, and fantastic physical bodies and then expect us to waste our lives in failure.
Yet I am also sure of this: that the greatest waste there is in the world is not the devastation that goes with war, nor the cost of crime. It is not the erosion of our soils, nor the depletion of our raw materials, nor the loss of our gold supply. The greatest waste there is in the world is that human beings—you and I—live so far below the level of our possibility. Compared with what we might be, we are just partly alive. That is, we sometimes become guilty of the great sins of fractional devotion and marginal morals, and we turn our lives into a minimum performance. What good does it do to live in this great nation and possess this magnificent earth on which we live if we do not live our lives at the top of our condition? What good does it do for us to come here and accomplish things that might just as well have been done at other, less abundantly blessed times?
We have these longer lives, and medicine gives us the clearer minds and stronger bodies. The gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored in a fullness never before known in the world. The pathway to eternal life is now brilliantly lighted and perfectly marked so that no one need get off that straight and narrow way except by his own choice. But none of this helps us very much unless we make something out of it above what was made out of it in other times. We live in a very important period; and you have the extra favorable opportunity of coming to this great University where you may have those possessing the greatest intelligence as your teachers and where you may have the most profitable information that has ever been developed in all of the world for your benefit.
One of the problems that I would like to talk over with you tonight is that great power of evil in our lives that we sometimes call inertia. There is a tendency in nature for things to remain inert; for example, the stone rests on the mountainside for a thousand years, having no power within itself to move. But this is a power that influences nature. A bullet fired from the most powerful rifle, as soon as it uses up its momentum derived from its source of power, soon stops and comes to a complete rest. An automobile being driven comes to a complete rest. An automobile being driven down the highway, unless constantly receiving new fuel from the gas tank, will run out of power, wear out its momentum, and stop.
Human beings also tend to be like that; we have a natural instinct within us to be inert, to be inactive. We have a powerful appetite to come to rest. Like the stone on the mountainside, we have a tendency to remain where we are rather than doing the things that we ought to do or being as active as we ought to be. Given a push over the cliff, the stone on the mountainside will roll down the hill, but as soon as it wears out its momentum it will come to a stop. Somebody wrote a poem about this as it applies in human life. I do not know who the author was, but this is what he says:
I wish I was a little rock,
A-sittin’ on the hill,
A-doin’ nothin’ all day long
Except just sittin’ still.
I wouldn’t eat, I wouldn’t sleep,
I wouldn’t even wash.
I’d sit and sit a thousand years
And rest myself, by gosh.
Now, isn’t that an inspiring poem? Doesn’t that just get you all excited so that you want to go out and turn the world over, do a lot of wonderful things, and be helpful in the community?
While we are on the subject of great poems, some time ago I was down in Louisville, Kentucky, when the Kentucky Derby was being run; and because I like to investigate success I thought I would like to find out why it was that one of the jockeys in this race could get his horse to run around the track faster than anybody else could get his horse to do it. Aristotle once said that one never knows a thing until he knows it by its causes—that is, every success has a cause, and every failure has a cause. Indigestion has a cause; overweight has a cause. If one can find out what causes failure, the cause can usually be eliminated. In the same way, if one can find out what causes success that cause can be reproduced.
Since I knew that someday you would invite me to come down here and talk to you, I thought you would like to have me bring some success facts along to help you with, so I checked up and discovered an interesting thing. This jockey won the race by reciting poetry to his horse! I had never heard of anybody doing that before, so I checked into it a little further, since I knew that you would want to know what the poem was; and I am prepared to leave a copy of it here with you if you would like to have it. This is what the jockey said to his horse as they went around the race track—these are the words which inspired the horse to do his best. The jockey kept repeating this poem over and over again so that the horse would be sure to understand it. He said:
Roses are red and violets are blue
And horses that lose are made into glue.
And that so inspired the horse that he won the race.
But life has also written some glue poems for us. We think of the Master as a very kind-hearted, gentle, fine person, and I am sure he was; but the Lord sometimes said some rather severe things to certain people who did certain things. I checked through all the works of the Bible and a few other places to find out what seemed to me to upset the Lord the most. The Lord was kind to the repentant adulteress, and he had a sympathetic interest with the thief on the cross who wanted to do better; but to the lazy man who said, “I was afraid so I hid my talent in the ground and have brought forth nothing,” the Lord said: “Thou wicked and slothful servant.” Now, he was a servant—not an enemy, not a traitor, but a servant. I suppose he was a member of the Church, but he was inactive and did not do his job. Then the Lord said to those who were with him,
Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. . . . And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. [see Matthew 25:14–30]
But this devastating inactivity is a common fault.
I heard a member of the genealogical committee say recently that all the genealogical work of the Church is done by two percent of the members. Two percent do the work; and under that two percent are eight percent who do the praying and bear their testimonies about genealogical work but do not do any. Then there are ninety percent that do not even bear their testimonies or say prayers about it. There is too small a percentage that do all of the things the Lord asks—such as pay the tithing, do the missionary work, and provide the leadership.
Do you remember the vine dresser who said to his sons, “Go work today in my vineyard,” and one said, “I will not go,” and the other said, “I go, sir,” but went not? In other words, one of the sons was disobedient and the other was irresponsible. To those who are in the class of the one who promised to go and did not go, Christ said, “The publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you” (see Matthew 20:28–31). That is, he put the publicans and harlots in line ahead of those who promised to do the work of the Lord and did not get it done.
Finally, you remember his promise for our own day, that when he comes he will divide the people into two great groups. In one group will be those who have done as he asked us to do. They are the doers of the word, the ones who live these great principles that we came here to understand and know something about, and to them he is going to say: “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” It would be wonderful to be in that group. And then he will say to those on his left hand, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire. . . . I never knew you” (see Matthew 25:31–46, 7:21–23). I cannot find anything that was written by Jesus in the Bible or anyplace else where he takes such a harsh attitude as with somebody who merely talks about religion and does not live it, or is not a doer of the word.
For the most part, we are not bad people. As one great sales manager said about his salesman, “There are no lazy salesmen; there are just salesmen who lack motives.” All of us have this power of inertia fastening itself upon us to keep us at rest. But the Lord has given us other powers to fight against inertia—that we might call initiative or motivation—by which we can overcome it and become doers of his word and sharers of his excellence. The thing that pleases him most is living righteous principles and obeying the word of the Lord. The greatest success formula that has ever been given in the world, no matter what one is trying to accomplish, is simply to keep the commandments and to do what the Lord says we ought to do. There is nobody in any business organization that would rather have somebody who violated the Word of Wisdom or broke the Ten Commandments or did not understand the beatitudes or did not know the Articles of Faith. Everyone who gets married wants the same kind of person as the Lord wants in the Church—someone who will keep the commandments.
I would like to talk to you about this idea of motivation, of overcoming the pull of this destructive dead weight that we call inertia or lack of initiative. There might be many instruments of motivation, but I am just going to mention six here. First, however, I would like to give you an illustration of what I am going to try to say; and although this illustration actually comes from an evil source, the principle itself is still a good one.
In 1929, Adolf Hitler, a young army corporal, sat in his prison cell in Germany writing in his book, Mein Kampf, his plan to make Germany the greatest nation in the world. The fact that, starting out singlehanded, he almost upset the world indicated that he had something. How did he do it? The answer is in his book. In effect he said that the question of Germany regaining her power was not how to manufacture or distribute arms, but how to produce in people that will to win, that spirit of determination which produces a thousand different methods, each of which ends with arms. Wars are not won with tanks or guns or airplanes or oil, but with that spirit of determination inside of people. That is also how souls are saved, great universities are built, and great scholars and scientists come into being—by the overcoming of this inertia that tends to hold us down and keep us inactive.
Many people know what is right but just do not always follow through. Let me mention some of the means by which we might get ourselves in motion. Socrates said at one time that he who would move the world must first move himself. Here are six motivating factors—and you might have a lot of others, but I hope that some of you will remember these.
Motive factor number one: We motivate people, including ourselves, with ideas. There are multitudes of ideas in books and minds and situations. Victor Hugo once said that the most powerful influence in the world is an idea whose time has come, and an idea’s time comes when we get a harness on it so that it can be made to do work for us. Where do we get ideas? I would like to suggest to you that the best ideas you will probably ever have in your life are those that you yourself think and for which you work out the details. But we do not need to limit our ideas to our own manufacture; we have a lot of wonderful sources of ideas—for example, the scriptures. I get a little chill up and down my backbone every time I think that Ican open the holy scriptures and read the word of the Lord. I know from them what he would have me do. I can go back and relive the antemortal council in heaven; I can go ahead and prelive the celestial kingdom. In the 76th section of the Doctrine and Covenants I can find out who is going to be there and why, and I can do the same with all the other kingdoms, almost as though I were having a conversation with the Lord. What a thrilling opportunity!
Another source of ideas is found in the work of the great poets. Somebody has said that the poets stand next to the prophets in their ability to lift us up. One of my heroes many years ago used to be Grantland Rice, the great sportswriter who used to go around the country following the champions of sport. He tried to isolate those traits that made athletes champions, and then he wrote some seven hundred poems about them. One of them is entitled “Courage.” He said:
I’d like to think that I can look at death and smile and say,
All I have left now is my final breath; take that away,
And you must either leave me dust, or dreams, or in far flight,
The soul that wanders where the stardust streams through endless night.
But I’d rather think that I can look at life with this to say:
Send what you will of struggle or strife, blue skies or gray,
I’ll stand against the final charge of hate by peak and pit,
And nothing in the steel-clad fist of fate can make me quit.
He was no dropout—he was not about to get weary of some good course he was following.
Ernest Henley was a hopeless cripple when he wrote “Invictus” and said:
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance,
I have not winced nor cried aloud:
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this veil of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishment the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
Just think of the great philosophies, the great ambitions, the great enthusiasms that we can get into our mind as we try to become a master of a few more ideas! We ought to memorize a lot more. We sometimes read so lightly that our brain skates over the surface and the ideas evaporate almost before they are acquired.
Out in the mission field the other day I heard a mission president say that when any missionaries over forty years of age came on a mission he never asked them to memorize, because people over forty are too old to memorize. I am about twice that age and I can memorize three times as fast as I could when I was nineteen—not that my brain is more retentive, but that my interest is greater. And I would like to let you in on a secret, because I know a little bit about this: if you have an inch of brain and a foot of interest, you can memorize a lot more quickly than if you have a foot of brain and only an inch of interest. I only have an inch of brain, but it is tremendously exciting to me that I can get just as interested as I want to be in even those greatest ideas that God himself is interested in—and then I can learn very rapidly.
I once heard of a woman who, when asked what her age was, did not want to be too specific, so she said that she was around forty. Then her friend said, “It must have gone around a second time.” My age has nearly completed that circle twice; and I would like to have you know, if it is of any value to you, that it is an easy thing, if we practice just a bit, to get these great ideas into our mind. What do you think you could accomplish if you had in your mind this idea that someone wrote and entitled “The Champion”?
The average runner sprints until the breath in him is gone
But the champion has the iron will that makes him carry on.
For rest the average runner begs when limp his muscles grow,
But the champion runs on leaden legs; his spirit makes them go.
The average man’s complacent when he’s done his best to score,
But the champion does his best and then he does a little more.[author unknown]
We live in a great age of wonders and enlightenment, and if we can have a mind that goes along with it and responds to the abundance of opportunity around us and the very fortunate situation in which we find ourselves, we are well on our way toward making our lives as successful in the sight of the Lord as they ought to be.
Motive factor number two: We are highly motivated by people.
We are motivated by great ideas, but we can motivate ourselves and others by concern for other people. We work harder for the approval of others than we do for money or for almost any other consideration. Edgar A. Guest put this idea down in writing under the title, “The Purpose.”
“Why do you pedal the fruit?” said I
To a huckster of melons passing by.
“Why do you shout from the dawn till gloam?”
Said he, “For the wife and the kids at home.”
“Why do you dig in the ditch?” I asked
Of a grimy laborer sorely tasked.
And this is the reason such work he did:
“I gotta da wife, I gotta da kid.”
On they go down that busy street,
Eager toilers with hurrying feet,
Butcher, baker, and banker grave.
Why do they work? Why do they slave?
What is it that moves them to work and plan?
What is the motive of every man?
Stop him and ask him what holds him fast,
Dreaming and striving to serve at last.
With polished speech and accent queer,
This is the purpose that you will hear:
Each will say as the digger did,
“I gotta da wife, I gotta da kid.”
And that is the purpose that moves us all:
A home and a wife and children small.
You have come to this great Church University where you are taught that all of the most important parts of life have to do with ourselves, our families, and our friends here and across the seas and around the world. It is our job and our privilege to help them to qualify for ultimate success in their eternal life—try to think of something more exciting than that, if you can.
Some years ago I heard a story about a young high school football quarterback. Just before the final game of the year his father died, and the coach said to him, “Now, Bill, we don’t expect you to be at the game Friday. You be with your family and we will get along all right. You don’t need to come to the rehearsals.”
But the boy said, “No, I want to play; and I will be able to play.”
The coach did not understand it, but he thought the boy seemed to know what he was doing, so he said, “Okay, if that’s the way you feel, we’ll let you start and see how you get along.”
The boy went into the game and threw the passes, ran the ends, kicked the punts, blocked the tackles, and generaled his team like Superman. The coach could not understand it; he had never played so well before. They won an overwhelming victory; and after the game was over, as they walked off the field, the coach put his arm around this boy and said, “Bill, would you like to tell me about it? How is it that you could do these things under these circumstances?”
This boy replied, “Coach, what you may not know about this situation is that my father was blind, and this is the first game that he has ever seen me play.”
All of us would be more concerned with our lives if we thought our Father in heaven was watching or that our spouses or our children were going to see us make a touchdown or act honorably in some other outstanding way. We are very interested by what others think of us. Think what we can do for so many other people if we work for them in the mission, the temples, and so on.
Motive number three: The consciousness of a great skill has high motivational qualities. Learning to do something better than anybody else gives high motivational power. Think for a moment about those things that you can do, that you are expected to do better than anybody else. Douglas Mallack wrote a poem about this entitled, “Be the Best of Whatever You Are.”
If you can’t be a pine on the top of the hill
Be a scrub in the valley, but be
The best little scrub by the side of the rill.
Be a bush if you can’t be a tree.
If you can’t be a bush, be a bit of the grass,
And some highway the happier make.
If you can’t be a muskie then just be a bass,
But the liveliest bass in the lake.
We can’t all be captains; there’s got to be crew.
There is something for all of us here.
There are great things to do, there are small things to do,
And the thing you must do is the near.
If you can’t be a highway, then just be a trail.
If you can’t be a sun, be a star.
For success is not measured by how large or how small;
Just be the best of whatever you are.
I would like to suggest to you students, particularly considering these wonderful opportunities we have, that we ought to go out and practice the things that we do and be able to do something well. It may be that we can be more punctual than anyone else. Abraham Lincoln excelled in honesty. There are many areas in which one can excel where there is really not very much competition, and the consciousness of a high skill has great motivational power.
Motivation factor number four is the awareness of the reward. I was down in California some time ago and found a missionary there preaching some false doctrine. I heard him say to a contact, “Missionaries don’t get paid; we work for nothing.”
When the contact had gone I said to the missionary, “Now, that’s the most ridiculous statement I have ever heard anybody make in my life. How did you ever figure out that missionaries didn’t get paid? I thought the Lord said that if you labor all your days and bring just one soul unto him your reward is going to be very great.”
I asked him if he remembered what the Lord has said about the worth of the soul being greater than the wealth of all of the earth, and he did. I asked him if he knew what the earth was worth, and he did not. I had a newspaper clipping that said the assessed valuation of just one little section of the United States alone—California, Arizona, and Nevada—was over a trillion dollars. I got this elder a piece of paper and a pencil and had him write a trillion dollars down on the paper—it has twelve zeros, in case you have never seen it written. He had brought in a convert each month for the past twelve months, which was all the time he had been out; so I had him figure out that if he worked thirty days a month and ten hours a day, that would be three hundred hours’ work to save a trillion-dollar soul. Then I had him divide a trillion by three hundred and he figured he was getting three billion three hundred thirty-three million dollars per hour.
I asked him, “What is the most that anybody ever paid you when you were at home?”
He said, “Seventy-five cents.”
I said, “All right, now what were you trying to get those poor people to believe when you said that a missionary doesn’t get paid?”
Some people think that parents do not get paid or that bishops do not get paid, or scoutmasters or teachers or great people who are trying to do the other important work of the world; but that is ridiculous. Some of them get the highest pay. People who do God’s work get God’s pay. Somebody has compared the scripture to a great collection of promissory notes. Every command has a promise attached: pay tithing and receive a reward so great that it cannot be contained; honor father and mother “that thy days may be long upon the land” (Exodus 20:12); keep the Word of Wisdom and other blessings will come. There is no commandment that does not have a promise attached.
Review the rewards for doing the work of the Lord and then think about the part you may have in it. The Lord has said,
He that receiveth my servants receiveth me; And he that receiveth me receiveth my Father; And he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him. [D&C 84:36–38]
We all like to inherit from a wealthy parent, but try to imagine what it would be like to inherit from God, to get everything that God has. Somebody has said that thrift is a great virtue, especially in an ancestor. God has been very thrifty and very wise, and he has promised that if we do a few little easy, simple things he will give us everything that he has, including eternal life in his presence. He has already given us his physical form and his mental potentialities and all of his wonderful potential personality traits, and he is trying to give to us as fast as he can develop us to the point where we will take advantage of what he gives us.
Motive number five: You must have fun at whatever you do or it will not succeed to its maximum. Shakespeare said, “No profit comes where there is no pleasure taken.” If one does not enjoy his work, in the Church or outside of the Church, he had better repent because in either case he is doing it wrong—that is, he is not doing it right if he is not enjoying what he is doing. And anyone who puts his whole heart into his work will not only do it well but will enjoy what he does.
Number six is to have a great conviction about something. I have been going around the world for quite a little while, and I find it a joy to see somebody who believes in himself, in his job, in his university, and in the work that life has given him to do. What a thrilling thing it ought to be, to be a good farmer or a good schoolteacher or a good plumber or a good electrician! Whatever one does he is helping to carry on the work of the world.
Let me tell you about a man who had a conviction about his work. On May 10, 1940, Winston Churchill was made prime minister of England. At that time the German air force was making round-the-clock trips across the Channel, dumping planeload after planeload of bombs on England, and nobody knew whether the British would be able to hang on for another week or a month; but everybody knew that if they were going to have any chance to win they had to have some new leadership in the government, because the present leaders had failed. So, on May 10, 1940, they dropped the burden of this great, groggy empire on the shoulders of this one man and said to him, “Okay, Winston, you go ahead and win the war with your bare hands.”
He had nothing more to win it with than the others had had, except that he had some convictions and some courage inside him that some of them did not have. He went on the radio and started to make some of those great motivating speeches-dev. He himself believed in what he was doing. In one of his speeches he said,
We shall not flag nor fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender. And if, which I do not for a moment believe, this empire or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our empires beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British fleet, will carry on the fight until in God’s own time the new world in its power and might steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old. [speech on Dunkirk, House of Commons, June 4, 1940]
What would you think if you were given an assignment comparable to this? Usually all the assignments we get are little easy, simple, pleasant things like teaching school, practicing medicine, practicing law, or something where we are well paid and comfortable; and Winston Churchill was told to go out, kill a lot of people, and probably destroy half the world. This is what he said about that day of May 10, 1940:
As I went to bed at about three a.m., I was conscious of a profound feeling of relief. At last I had authority to give direction over this whole sea, and I felt as though I were walking with destiny, that my past life had been but a preparation for this hour, for this trial. I could not be reproached, either for having made the war or for lack of preparation for it, and yet I felt I knew a good deal about it and I was sure I would not fail.
Fail to do what? Fail to save the world, with his bare hands, from the greatest mechanized might ever known in the world. Somebody once said that one man can, if he will, change the morale of a whole community. It was not very long before these people on both sides realized that this old man did not have the slightest intention of surrendering. He was not about to give up; he was not about to quit. As he talked to other people about the war, they all began to stand up a little straighter and to take a little greater pride in their country and in their work. Production began to go up, everybody got into the performance a little more wholeheartedly, and soon the Allies won the war. But probably the center of the victory was this rugged old Englishman who had some convictions about right and about his country and about himself and about those with whom he was associated.
I would like to tell you just two more short stories. Each year at general conference time the President of the Church invites the General Authorities to meet with him and the other members of the First Presidency in the upper room of the temple. There he talks to us about the conference and other things, bears us again his magnificent testimony, and calls on some other people to speak to the group, and we have a delightful period of worship and association there together. At the last of these meetings attended by President McKay, we were all dressed and waiting in the room when they wheeled in two wheel chairs; one had in it Thorpe Isaacson, and the other had in it David O. McKay.
I had known Brother Isaacson for a long time, and he was a good friend of mine. I tried to shake hands with him, but he was paralyzed on the right side, so he shook with his left hand; and then, in response to my greeting, he made some sounds which sounded like “Ah” or “Uh” which were not understandable to me.
I sat about six feet away from President McKay. He did not attempt to rise out of his chair as he usually did, with all of his vigor and power; instead, he sat in his chair, and everything was deathly silent. Though I was only a short distance away, I could hear probably only one word out of every five or six spoken, but I knew from past association with him what he was trying to say.
I thought of these two great men, who had in their day both been powerful athletes; now, neither one of them could stand up and neither one of them could speak. What a thrill it would be for them to run up and down the street, jump over fences, knock on doors, bear their testimonies, do home teaching, and do the genealogical work and missionary work and all the other things the Lord would like to have us do! But in their cases, the time for that had passed.
That may be a little more impressive to me than it is for you because I have been around a little longer and may be a little closer to the end of the journey. Jeremiah pointed out that for each of us the summer would someday be past and the harvest ended, and maybe we would not have done all the things that we should have done (see Jeremiah 8:20). Because I have so many things left that I would like to get done, I feel a greater sense of urgency than most people do. I am in something of a hurry because there are so many things left to be done that I would like to do. I am not ready to be informed that this glorious second estate of mine has come to an end. There are a great number of things that I must get done before that time arrives. However, I would like to leave the idea with you that even though some of you are much younger, the time will surely arrive when you are at the end of your life. The time is going to come in every person’s case when this magnificent experience of a second estate will reach the finish mark.
The other story that I would like to tell you in conclusion came out of Arabia many years ago. A horseman was riding across the desert at night, and as he went through a dried-up riverbed a voice out of the darkness commanded him to halt and dismount, which he did. Then the voice commanded him to fill his pockets with the pebbles at his feet, which he did. And then the voice commanded him remount and ride on, which he did. And as he rode out through the darkness the voice said to him, “At sunrise you will be both sad and glad.” At sunrise he looked in his pockets and found that the pebbles he had picked up were diamonds, rubies, emeralds, sapphires, and pearls. He was very glad and very sad. He was very glad that he had taken as many as he had, and he was very sad that he had not taken a lot more.
I would suggest that to all of us there will someday come a time when we will be delighted. We are going to be so pleased that we have lived in this magnificent latter day when the gospel has been restored, a time when there is no question about what the Lord wants us to do and what would make our lives successful. And when we have a great university like Brigham Young University, we can have as much education as we desire in any field.
We associate with some of the greatest men that ever lived upon the earth. I read a newspaper item the other day that said that eighty percent of all the scientists who have ever lived upon the earth are alive now. And certainly the Lord did not save his greatest scientists to come forth in this magnificent day only to bring forth religious leaders that were second-rate. Those who lead us in the Church are among the greatest spirits who have ever lived upon this earth. I am sure of this, for as the Prophet Joseph Smith said, “Every man who has a calling to minister to the inhabitants of the world was ordained to that very purpose in the Grand Council of heaven before this world was” (Joseph Fielding Smith, comp., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 365).
That means that Spencer W. Kimball was presented by the Lord in the council of heaven and was voted upon by all of us to come here to be the prophet of this last dispensation and this particular period, to increase the missionary work and the effectiveness of the Church in other areas. I am sure that all of us were there and that all of us voted for him; and then we ourselves were voted upon and approved to come here and be assistants to him, because he is only one man. After all, he is the head, the director, but he needs a lot of hands and feet and minds and spirits to go and do the missionary work, do the genealogical work, run the financial affairs of Church and government and nation, and do all the other work. The Lord has said that to him everything is spiritual, and I am sure that it is true.
We have come here in this great day, and someday we are going to be tickled to pieces—simply delighted that we have had the opportunity of living in this great period. Yet probably all of us are going to be awfully sad as well—sad that we did not take greater advantage of our opportunities to live up at the top of our condition and be the kind of people that the Lord would be proud of. You remember that on four different occasions he introduced one of his sons by saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” I am sure he would be just as pleased to say that about any of his sons or any of his daughters if we would just give him the opportunity.
May the Lord bless you, my brothers and sisters; and again I commend you and thank you and glory with you in the great privilege that you have of being alive in this great age and being in attendance at this great University. I ask the Lord’s blessings upon each and every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
© Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
Sterling W. Sill was an emeritus member of the First Quorum of the Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when this fireside address was given at BYU on 24 September 1978.