Good day friends,
This week I learned a lot about the grace of the Savior. I found these definitions on the LDS.ORG website:
Grace is a gift from Heavenly Father given through His Son, Jesus Christ. The word grace, as used in the scriptures, refers primarily to enabling power and spiritual healing offered through the mercy and love of Jesus Christ.
The grace of God helps us every day. It strengthens us to do good works we could not do on our own. The Lord promised that if we humble ourselves before Him and have faith in Him, His grace will help us overcome all our personal weaknesses (see Ether 12:27).
From True To The Faith a publication from the Church comes one of my favorite definitions of grace:
In addition to needing grace for your ultimate salvation, you need this enabling power every day of your life. As you draw near to your Heavenly Father in diligence, humility, and meekness, He will uplift and strengthen you through His grace (see Proverbs 3:34; 1 Peter 5:5; D&C 88:78; 106:7–8). Reliance upon His grace enables you to progress and grow in righteousness. Jesus Himself “received not of the fullness at first, but continued from grace to grace, until he received a fullness” (D&C 93:13). Grace enables you to help build God’s kingdom, a service you cannot give through your strength or means alone (see John 15:5; Philippians 4:13; Hebrews 12:28; Jacob 4:6–7).
If you ever become discouraged or feel too weak to continue living the gospel, remember the strength you can receive through the enabling power of grace. You can find comfort and assurance in these words of the Lord: “My grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them” (Ether 12:27).
This week I would challenge you to allow grace to work in your life and open your hearts to the Lord. Let him in to enable your weaknesses to be made strong. Below are two MP3 links because I could not choose which one of these talks was the best. I also truly believe that one may be better for you than the other. The first is by Jay Parry entitled "Receiving the Marvelous Grace of God" He teaches how we can use grace in our daily lives(This talk will be broadcast on BYU Television on April 4 at 3:00 PM.) Second is a talk from Robert Millett, "After All We Can Do: The Meaning of Grace". He goes into great detail for the first 30 minutes about the Saviors grace and then how we can live by grace in our daily lives. Please do not feel like you have to listen to both of these but instead chose the one that appeals to you the most. I know you will be blessed to do all that you can do this week as you allow the grace of the Lord into your hearts and lives.
Lots of Love,
Jay Parry, "Receiving the Marvelous Grace of God"
Robert Millet, After All That We Can Do: The Meaning Of Grace
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Good day friends,
Thursday, March 20, 2008
I am so excited about this weeks talk and the subject matter. While I was researching for the talk I had an experience that prompted a thought that I should study and get to know the Savior better. I decided that by the law of attraction if I where to study the Savior and His characteristics that maybe just maybe I would attract some of those into my life and I would be a better wife and mother. It is amazing how these thoughts started and how the ways were given to begin my study. I want invite you all on my journey, "To Know and to Be Known of God". Over the next few weeks I will study some of the characteristics of Christ. I thought I would base my studies on these scriptures found in Alma 9:26-27 "...the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace, equity, and truth, full of patience, mercy, and long suffering, quick to hear the cries of His people and to answer their prayers. And behold, He cometh to redeem those who will be baptized unto repentance, through faith on His name." If you have a great talk or insight on any of these characteristics please feel free to share!
Here is one of my favorite quotes from this weeks talk. I think it sums up why it is so important for us all to come unto the Savior and to know Him and and be known of Him. "The more we know of Jesus, the more we will love Him. The more we know of Jesus the more we will trust Him. The more we know of Jesus, the more we will want to be like Him and to be with Him by becoming the manner of men and women that He wishes us to be." [Neal A. Maxwell, "Plow in Hope", Ensign, May 2001, 60]
Enjoy the journey,
To Know and to Be Known of GodMARY WILLIAMS
at BYU when this devotional address was given on 17 July 2001.
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In a revelation given through the Prophet Joseph Smith to David Whitmer, we are told that eternal life "is the greatest of all the gifts of God" (D&C 14:7). When we understand that the entire work and glory of the Savior is "to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" (Moses 1:39), a most significant question for us is "How do we obtain eternal life?" The Savior provided the key in His great intercessory prayer recorded by John, the beloved apostle: "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent" (John 17:3). The key, then, to eternal life is to know God the Father and Jesus Christ.
Here at BYU, as at any university, we are engaged in the business of knowing. Our knowledge is tested in exams, papers, laboratories, and applied settings. If you are like me, some of those things we know just long enough to take a test for, and there are other things we know and retain long past any examination.
I believe that the "knowing" spoken of by the Savior is far above a knowing of facts, techniques, or theories. To know Jesus Christ requires a different kind of knowledge. To gain eternal life we cannot merely be acquainted with Him or recall some factoid about His life as if we were playing a trivia game. We cannot simply read about Him. Knowing Him is more than knowing His doctrine and certainly more than professing His doctrine. The New Testament tells of many who spent time with Jesus, who heard His words and even saw His miracles, but who, sadly, never knew Him. Knowing Him in the way that He has counseled and pled with us to know Him requires everything we are and, in the end, changes our beings forever.
Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone described the transforming power of knowing Him in this way:
One who truly knows Him does not--nor cannot, nor will not--forget Him, ever. Whatever daily task, pleasure, sport, or activity we may be involved in, His desires are supreme in our lives. If we become careless in the way we wear the garment, haphazardly use the Lord's name, or serve only socially in the Church, we clearly do not "know" the Master. We might even know the Church is true, but actually knowing Jesus Christ would dramatically change our conduct. We would no longer have a disposition to do evil; rather, we would feel absolutely submissive to His will and turn our lives over to Him. Knowing Him is much, much more than knowing about Him. [Vaughn J. Featherstone, The Incomparable Christ: Our Master and Model (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1995), 26]
We gain understanding of the power of knowing Him when we reflect on His visit to the American continent. What happened changed the way those people "knew" the Savior. His words had been available to them for their entire lifetimes. Believers among them had taught of Him and prophesied of Him. But when the people really "knew Him," their civilization changed for nearly 200 years. This dramatic change in the Nephite society came because each individual had a thorough knowledge of the Savior. It wasn't a group experience, although I am sure their testimonies were strengthened by each other. Rather, this was an individual experience, a very personal experience, as Jesus showed Himself to the multitude gathered at the land Bountiful and invited each to "come forth," one by one. He said:
Thrust your hands into my side, . . . feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world. [3 Nephi 11:14]
Through this powerful testifying experience hearts were softened and converted, and agency was used to follow Him and know Him.
Sooner or later every person who has lived on this earth will be given knowledge regarding the divinity of Jesus Christ. When He comes the second time, the signs of His divinity will be so overwhelming that "every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess" (D&C 88:104) that Jesus is the Christ. But as explained in section 76 of the Doctrine and Covenants, that type of knowing does not result in a place in the celestial kingdom. Clearly, being acquainted with or being willing to acknowledge that Jesus is the Christ has limited value in the eternities. Brigham Young said:
The greatest and most important of all requirements of our Father in heaven and of his Son Jesus Christ, is . . . to believe in Jesus Christ, confess him, . . . cling to him, make friends with him. . . . Open and keep open a communication with . . . our Saviour. [JD 8:339]
In a recent conference address, Elder Dallin H. Oaks indicated that the ultimate priority of Latter-day Saints should be to "seek to understand our relationship to God the Eternal Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, and to secure that relationship by obtaining their saving ordinances and by keeping our personal covenants" (Dallin H. Oaks, "Focus and Priorities," Ensign, May 2001, 84).
One of the reasons a mere acquaintance is not enough is that it does not have the power to change us. That type of knowing leaves us as "natural" men and women. Unlocking the key to eternal life is unlocking the power to change our lives, which power comes from the Savior, Jesus Christ.
Elder Neal A. Maxwell described the process of the "mighty change":
The more we know of Jesus, the more we will love Him. The more we know of Jesus, the more we will trust Him. The more we know of Jesus, the more we will want to be like Him and to be with Him by becoming the manner of men and women that He wishes us to be. [Neal A. Maxwell, "Plow in Hope," Ensign, May 2001, 60]
How then do we come to know Him? I have received great counsel and guidance from John 10:27, where the Savior said, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me."
I would like to share several thoughts with you on how we can hear His voice, follow Him, and then be known of Him.
First, the Savior will be our tutor and trainer in learning to know Him and be as He is. He is there to direct each of us if we will listen to His voice through the Holy Ghost and heed His counsel. I have come to know that His direction and counsel are deeply personal and demonstrate not only the Savior's love for us but His knowledge of us.
When President Bateman was serving as the Presiding Bishop of the Church, he testified in a general conference that
the Savior, as a member of the Godhead, knows each of us personally. . . . In the garden and on the cross, Jesus saw each of us and not only bore our sins, but also experienced our deepest feelings so that he would know how to comfort and strengthen us. [Merrill J. Bateman, "The Power to Heal from Within," Ensign, May 1995, 14]
In this way, President Bateman explained, the Atonement is not only infinite but also very intimate (see p. 14).
One of the most profound ways to follow the Savior is through serving others. As we serve others as He served, we come to know Him with great power. The Savior has provided us with many examples of compassion and concern. We see Him with the crippled man at the pool of Bethesda and hear His words of "rise, take up thy bed, and walk" (John 5:8). On the American continent we hear Him ask, "Have ye any that are sick among you? Bring them hither. . . . I will heal them, for I have compassion upon you" (3 Nephi 17:7). As we serve, we know Jesus more, and, as Elder Maxwell has said, "To know Jesus more and more is to experience His attributes. . . . We truly accelerate knowing Him, as we become more like Him by means of our imperfect adulation" (Neal A. Maxwell, The Promise of Discipleship [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2001], 20).
Often we have so many opportunities to serve His children that we become overwhelmed at where to start, and so we do nothing. Our time feels limited. But if we will follow the counsel of Elder Eyring and pray,
"Please tell me who needs me," answers will come. A face or a name will come into our minds. Or we may have a chance meeting that we feel isn't chance. In those moments, we will feel the love of the Savior for them and for us. As you watch over His sheep, your love for Him will grow. And that will increase your confidence and your courage. [Henry B. Eyring, "Watch with Me," Ensign, May 2001, 40]
The very details of their needs will be revealed to us. Elder Eyring has explained it this way:
He [the Savior] watches with us. He who sees all things, whose love is endless, and who never sleeps--He watches with us. He knows what the sheep need at every moment. By the power of the Holy Ghost, He can tell us and send us to them. [Eyring, "Watch with Me," 39]
Let me illustrate the point I am trying to make. A number of years ago I read in the Ensign an experience of Sister Garnee Faulkner. Sister Faulkner had made the commitment to befriend a woman in her ward who had been recently widowed. The widow, named Emma, "was extremely reserved and quiet. Few knew her well. As the months went on, her sorrow did not seem to lessen. Grief and poor health found her withdrawing from activity outside her home." Sometimes Emma quickly terminated Sister Faulkner's visits. Still, Sister Faulkner "was determined to be her friend, her sister in the gospel, and not let fear or personal rejection dilute [her] concern."
One day Sister Faulkner and her husband were in San Francisco. As they walked past the large, steaming crab vats on Fisherman's Wharf, she felt prompted to take some crab home to Emma. Her husband suggested that a more easily transported gift might be a better souvenir. "In and out of the shops [they] went, searching in vain for just the right memento. Empty-handed and tired, [they] started for [the] car, only to pass the crab vats once more." Again the impression came, and so they purchased the crab and a loaf of the Wharf's famous bread.
When Sister Faulkner delivered the crab and bread, Emma received them coolly and asked, "Is this for any special occasion?"
Sister Faulkner replied, "No, I just thought you might enjoy some crab from the Wharf."
Emma said, "Thank you very much," and closed the door. Sister Faulkner was disheartened and wondered why she had had such a prompting. Two days later she received a letter from Emma.
Emma described how touched she was by the kind gesture and went on to explain that on that day she had been remembering her anniversary. She had wondered if her husband knew what day it was and if he remembered their marriage and their anniversary. She recalled their first trip to San Francisco and the purchase of steaming crab and a loaf of bread. From then on crab and bread from Fisherman's Wharf symbolized the many wonderful excursions she and her husband had made to San Francisco.
"Then," Emma said in her letter, "at the close of day when I opened the door and saw you standing there with a loaf of bread and a package of fresh crab, it was like a direct message. You denied knowing it was a special day. Therefore I felt it was Ed's way of saying, 'Happy anniversary. I do remember.'" (See Garnee Faulkner, "Fresh Crab and French Bread," Ensign, June 1985, 38–39.)
The Savior knew the intimate details of Emma's grief, sorrow, and loneliness. And because He knew her, He could give just exactly the right counsel to Sister Faulkner. Sister Faulkner had to be prepared to receive the counsel, and she had demonstrated that preparation in her anxious desire to try to befriend Emma. When the counsel came, it was precisely what Emma needed, and Sister Faulkner became the instrument to do what the Savior knew needed to be done for Emma.
President Monson has counseled:
Acquire the language of the Spirit. . . . The language of the Spirit comes to him who seeks with all his heart to know God and keep His divine commandments. Proficiency in this "language" permits one to breach barriers, overcome obstacles, and touch the human heart. [Thomas S. Monson, "To the Rescue," Ensign, May 2001, 50]
One of the most powerful insights I have had in my life is that hearing His voice through the Holy Ghost and acting on the promptings are spiritually synergistic. As we hear and then do, we become more capable of hearing a more refined signal than we have been able to hear before. The result of this upward spiritual spiral is increased auditory and functional capacity as we are taught how the Savior thinks, teaches, and acts. Through these kindergartens for our character we learn how to be like Him.
An incident from my own life demonstrates this principle. One day I returned home from work. It had been a particularly difficult day, and I felt the burdens of the world. I was extremely fatigued, emotionally and physically. I had not been home long when I felt impressions of the still small voice that I should go to the home of a woman that I had visit-taught for a number of years. She had been inactive for many years. Many times I would try to visit her, but I was often unsuccessful in my attempts. On the few occasions when I was able to visit her, I came to know that she had a strong belief in a Heavenly Father but had been offended many years previously and had difficulty with some of the teachings of the Church. When I felt impressed that I should go to her home, my first response was, "Not tonight. I am so tired. It can wait until tomorrow." But, as is often the case, the impressions continued to come more strongly. Finally I drove to her home, thinking, "Why am I doing this? She probably won't answer the door." I knocked on the door, and soon the door opened. I could tell she was extremely distraught. She invited me in. Her first words were, "How did you know to come?"
I responded that the promptings had been there. For the next several hours we talked about her desperate family situation, her suicidal feelings, and her sense of hopelessness. I prayed that I might know how to comfort her as the Savior would do. The words came, the promptings came, and I began to see a calm come to her. That night forever changed my relationship with her and forever changed my relationship with the Savior. Now I never have trouble getting into her home or making contact with her. I no longer question the Spirit's promptings when they come, for I recognize them more clearly. We have had many opportunities for gospel conversation.
What did I learn about the Savior that night? I learned that He loved this dear sister regardless of her current standing in the Church. I learned how He comforted as I listened to the promptings I received as I talked with her. Did I know my Savior better after that night? Yes! I learned the Savior trusted me enough to let me participate as He met her needs. I was part of how He "succored" her (see Mosiah 4:16). It was through the listening and the acting that I was able to participate in the Savior's plan to bless another person's life. I knew with great assurance that the Savior loves people who are struggling--and it made it easier to believe that He loves me when I struggle as well.
We come to know the Savior as we try to emulate Him, particularly in charity. Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone described charity as
the very essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is the very conduct and total being of the Savior. Charity is the pure love of Christ. Those who have charity are directed by it in everything they do. It becomes the central motivation for their living and being. [Featherstone, The Incomparable Christ, 98]
This trait of charity allows our eyes to be open to seeing one another as He sees us.
One of our nursing students learned that being like the Savior is more than being able to teach charity, describe charity, or even profess charity. Let me quote from her journal:
I learned the deeper meaning of charity when I cared for a wheelchair-bound HIV patient who had lesions on his hands and buttocks. He was pale as a ghost with a red, spotted rash consuming his body. He wore dark sunglasses, which made him seem even ghastlier, and his partner sat at his bedside. Initially, looking at the men made me physically ill to my stomach. I felt like I should hold my breath, toss the patient his gown, and spend as little time in the room as possible, for I feared that somehow he would inevitably sneeze and I would catch his disease and bring it home to my husband and 10-month-old baby.
However, when his mother entered the room, she went to him and kissed him on the forehead and whispered, "Sweetheart, I will never leave you." The words "charity never faileth" came to mind, and my soul melted. I put on my gloves, picked up a bottle of lotion at his bedside, and asked him if he wanted a back rub. That day I felt like I understood the words of the Savior more than ever before: "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
I have been raised with the belief that homosexuality and IV drug abuse are immoral, unethical, and simply wrong. . . . I do believe that there comes a turning point in each person's life. We must decide when we come to this point whether we will love others for who they are, surrendering judgment and criticism, or allow our prejudgments and the social barriers of the world to stifle another's spiritual growth as well as our own. [Used by permission; Lisa Flindt, N442 Journal, fall 1994]
This student learned the powerful truth that we can be taught as we open our minds and hearts to learning from others who are also trying to emulate the Savior in their behavior.
Coming to know the Savior, learning to hear His voice, and allowing Him to be our Shepherd also requires commitment. This kind of commitment requires all that we have and are. The young man in the New Testament desired to have eternal life and was committed to hearing what the Savior told him he should do to achieve it, yet he could not bring himself to act on what he had heard (see Matthew 19:16–22).
My great-great-grandmother, Elizabeth Taylor Reynolds, made such a commitment. She heard the gospel taught in England and listened to the Spirit and was baptized. She and her mother acted on what the Spirit taught them after their baptism and made the commitment to journey to Zion. The summer of 1856 found her with approximately 500 other English Saints camped in Nebraska. They heard many reasons why they should not attempt the handcart trek to the Great Salt Lake at that time of year. Elizabeth and her mother voted with the company to move forward and leaned on their trust of God. They survived the terrible snowy ordeal in Martin's Cove, but their uncle who accompanied them did not. They were rescued by young men who had listened and acted on the counsel of a prophet. She could never look at another handcart after that. But then, the handcart wasn't the important part of her experience. Elizabeth learned that hearing the Shepherd's voice and following it may not be easy and may be highly inconvenient, uncomfortable, and potentially life-threatening. To come to know the Lord does require sacrifice, especially the sacrifice of our time, our talents, and everything with which we have been blessed. Elizabeth came through the sacrifice with a deep abiding knowledge of the Lord and His purposes, and so will we.
Last summer I made a visit to Martin's Cove, a place made hallowed by the Saints' ultimate sacrifice. Because of Elizabeth's sacrifice I have had the opportunity of having the gospel in my life and of coming to know the Shepherd.
Through the process of our listening and doing, the Lord comes to know us. It is true that He knows everything there is to know about us, and He still loves us. Nothing we do or fail to do will ever diminish His love for us. But through our active listening and faithful doing we demonstrate to Him that He can trust us, and we are known of Him in an entirely different way. We are known by Him in friendship and in trust. We are His (see D&C 84:77).
Mary Ellen Edmunds described it this way in her book Love Is a Verb: While in the post office, she noticed a man who looked as if he might have come from Mexico. He was trying to buy stamps from the stamp machine with a very worn five-dollar bill. The stamp machine repeatedly rejected the bill. Mary Ellen was struck with a deep feeling that she wanted to help the man get his stamps. She found new, crisp bills in her purse, and she and the man were able to buy the stamps he needed. Mary Ellen wrote:
I had another thought that added even more meaning to the experience. I imagined Them Up There somewhere in a meeting. . . .
. . . I could imagine someone interrupting the meeting with an important message: "Excuse me. I hate to interrupt, but there's a man down there in the Springville Post Office, and he's trying to get some stamps and can't make the machine work."
Wouldn't it be something if someone in the meeting had said, "It's okay. Edmunds is on her way. She'll help him. We can go back to the agenda." Wouldn't it be a wonderful thing if God could count on MEE? [Mary Ellen Edmunds, Love Is a Verb (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1995), 34–36]
Yes, it is a wonderful thing when God can count on us to do His work, to be His instruments in bringing to pass much good in the world. That is how I want my Heavenly Father and my Savior to think of me. I want Them to know me as a friend, as a participant, as a disciple, and as a believer. I want Them to think of me as someone who is trying hard each day to get to know Them better; as someone who is praying and studying and listening and acting, trying to learn to put off the natural man or woman and become a true Saint.
Brothers and sisters, I testify that the Savior meant it when He said, "Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only" (James 1:22). And I also testify that we come to know Him as we hear His voice and follow Him: "For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart?" (Mosiah 5:13). My grandfather left his wife and eight children to serve a mission when my father was a baby. My grandfather's mission president was the apostle Melvin J. Ballard. Because Elder Ballard was held in such high esteem by our family, I have often read his writings. He, as one who knew God and His Son Jesus Christ, described what it was like to come into the presence of the Savior. "One evening in the dreams of the night" he found himself in the temple. He was informed that he would "have the privilege of entering into one of [the] rooms, to meet a glorious Personage." He described it this way:
As I entered the door, I saw, seated on a raised platform, the most glorious Being my eyes have ever beheld or that I ever conceived existed in all the eternal worlds. As I approached to be introduced, he arose and stepped towards me with extended arms, and he smiled as he softly spoke my name. If I shall live to be a million years old, I shall never forget that smile. He took me into his arms and kissed me, pressed me to his bosom, and blessed me, until the marrow of my bones seemed to melt! When he had finished, I fell at his feet, and, as I bathed them with my tears and kisses, I saw the prints of the nails in the feet of the Redeemer of the world. The feeling that I had in the presence of him who hath all things in his hands, to have his love, his affection, and his blessing was such that if I ever can receive that of which I had but a foretaste, I would give all that I am, all that I ever hope to be, to feel what I then felt! [In Bryant S. Hinckley, Sermons and Missionary Services of Melvin Joseph Ballard (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1949), 156]
My prayer is that we may all know the Savior and be known of Him; that we might engage in the powerful process of hearing the Shepherd's voice and following Him and in the process become like Him; that we might be counted among His friends and enjoy a life like His--eternal life, the greatest of all the gifts of God. I so testify of Him, my Savior and Redeemer, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Thursday, March 13, 2008
This weeks talk is one that I have personally found much strength by listening to. It is by President Eyring, "The Power of Deliverance". He talks about 3 kinds of challenges that we all will be in need of deliverence from and how by the spirit we will each personally and individually know what we need to do to be delivered. Enjoy and have a wonderful week!
The Power of Deliverance
HENRY B. EYRING
Henry B. Eyring was Second Counselor in the First Presidency
of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
when this devotional address was given on 15 January 2008.
Complete volumes of Speeches are available wherever LDS books are sold.
For further information contact:
Speeches, 218 University Press Building, Provo, Utah 84602.
(801) 422-2299 / E-mail: email@example.com / Speeches Home Page
We are unique. No two of us are in exactly the same circumstances. We have not had identical experiences in the past, nor do we have a single vision of what happiness in the future would be for us. There will be people from every part of the United States and many countries of the world listening. Because of that variety, I have prayed to know what help God wants to offer to us all. An answer finally came.
Today I wish to bear witness of God’s power of deliverance. At some point in our lives we will all need that power. Every person living is in the midst of a test. We have been granted by God the precious gift of life in a world created as a proving ground and a preparatory school. The tests we will face, their severity, their timing, and their duration will be unique for each of us. But two things will be the same for all of us. They are part of the design for mortal life.
First, the tests at times will stretch us enough for us to feel the need for help beyond our own. And, second, God in His kindness and wisdom has made the power of deliverance available to us.
Now you might well ask, “Since Heavenly Father loves us, why does His plan of happiness include trials that could overwhelm us?” It is because His purpose is to offer us eternal life. He wants to give us a happiness that is only possible as we live as families forever in glory with Him. And trials are necessary for us to be shaped and made fit to receive that happiness that comes as we qualify for the greatest of all the gifts of God.
Today I will talk about some of the trials we are given and the power of deliverance available to us as we pass through them. There are many different tests, but today I will speak of only three. You may be in one of these tests now. For each, the power of deliverance is available—not to escape the test but to endure it well.
First: We can feel overcome with pain and sorrow at the death of a loved one.
Second: Each of us will struggle against fierce opposition—some of which comes from dealing with our physical needs and some from enemies.
Third: Each of us who live past the age of accountability will feel the need to escape from the effects of sin.
Each of these tests can provide the opportunity for us to see that we need the power of God to help us pass them well.
Some of you may feel the pressures of those tests now, but all of us will face them. It helps to know that they do not come from random chance or from a cruel God. And knowing what a wonderful reward lies ahead helps to endure the tests well. The Prophet Joseph Smith needed and got that assurance when he was feeling deserted and nearly overwhelmed by persecution and contention among those he led and loved:
My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;
And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high.1
The Lord told Joseph that his trials would be for a small moment. That was true for him, and it will be for us as we compare the duration of any earthly trial with the endlessness of eternity. And the reward for passing the tests well is to become worthy of eternal life. That assurance will help us when enemies defame us or doctors deliver a grim prognosis.
That brings us to the first category of trials we will consider: the tragedy that death can bring. Life ends early for some and eventually for us all. Each of us will be tested by facing the death of someone we love. Just the other day I met a man I had not seen since his wife died. It was a chance meeting in a pleasant social holiday situation. He was smiling as he approached me. Remembering his wife’s death, I phrased the common greeting very carefully: “How are you doing?”
The smile vanished, his eyes became moist, and he said quietly, with great earnestness, “I’m doing fine. But it’s very hard.”
It is very hard, as most of you have learned and all of us will sometime know. The hardest part of that test is to know what to do with the sorrow, the loneliness, and the loss that can feel as if a part of us has been lost. Grief can persist like a chronic ache. And for some there may be feelings of anger or injustice.
The Savior’s Atonement and Resurrection give Him the power to deliver us in such a trial. Through His experience He came to know all our griefs. He could have known them by the inspiration of the Spirit. But He chose instead to know by experiencing them for Himself. This is the account:
And behold, he shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers, she being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed and conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son, yea, even the Son of God.
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.2
Good people around you will try to understand your grief at the passing of a loved one. They may feel grief themselves. The Savior not only understands and feels grief but also feels your personal grief that only you feel. And He knows you perfectly. He knows your heart. So He can know which of the many things you can do that will be best for you as you invite the Holy Ghost to comfort and bless you. He will know where it is best for you to start. Sometimes it will be to pray. It might be to go to comfort someone else. I know of a widow with a debilitating illness who was inspired to visit another widow. I wasn’t there, but I am certain that the Lord inspired a faithful disciple to reach out to another and thus was able to succor them both.
There are many ways that the Savior can succor those who grieve, each fitted to them. But you can be sure that He can and that He will do it in the way that is best for those who grieve and for those around them. The constant when God delivers people from grief is people feeling childlike humility before God. A great example of the power of that faithful humility comes from the life of Job. You remember the account:
Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped,
And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.
In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.3
Humility is one constant in those who are delivered from grief. The other, which Job had, is abiding faith in the power of the Savior’s Resurrection. We all will be resurrected. The loved one who dies will be resurrected as the Savior was. The reunion we will have with them will not be ethereal but with bodies that need never die nor age nor become infirm. When the Savior appeared to His apostles after the Resurrection, He not only reassured them in their grief but also all of us who might ever grieve. He reassured them and us this way:
Peace be unto you. . . .
Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.4
The Lord can inspire us to reach out for the power of deliverance from our grief in the way best suited to us. We can invite the Holy Ghost in humble prayer. We can choose to serve others for the Lord. We can testify of the Savior, of His gospel, and of His restoration of His Church. We can keep His commandments. All of those choices invite the Holy Ghost. It is the Holy Ghost who can comfort us in the way suited to our need. And by the inspiration of the Spirit we can have a testimony of the Resurrection and a clear view of the glorious reunion ahead. I have felt that comfort as I looked down at the gravestone of someone I knew—someone that I know I can at some future time hold in my arms. Knowing that, I was not only delivered from grief but was filled with happy anticipation.
Had that little person lived to maturity, she would have needed deliverance in another set of trials. She would have been tested to stay faithful to God through the physical and spiritual challenges that come to everyone. Even though the body is a magnificent creation, keeping it functioning is a challenge that tests us all. For too many in the world it is hard to find enough food and clean water to get through the next day. Everyone must struggle through illness and the effects of aging.
Beyond the challenges of the body that come from within, we face the opposition of enemies from without. There is anger and hatred in the world around us, and some of it will at times be directed at us. As the Prophet Joseph learned, the opposition grew as he became more valuable to the Lord’s purposes.
The power of deliverance from these trials is in place. It works in the same way as the deliverance from the trial that comes in facing the death of a loved one. Just as that deliverance is not always to have spared the life of a loved one, the deliverance from other trials may not be to remove them. It may not be to have perfect health or to have enemies vanish or ignore us. He may not give relief until we develop faith to make choices that will bring the power of the Atonement to work in our lives. He does not require that out of indifference but out of love for us. Here is His warning:
For behold, the Lord hath said: I will not succor my people in the day of their transgression; but I will hedge up their ways that they prosper not; and their doings shall be as a stumbling block before them.5
There is a guide for receiving the Lord’s power of deliverance from opposition in life. It was given to Thomas B. Marsh, then the president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. He was in difficult trials, and the Lord knew he would face more. Here was the counsel to him that I take for myself and offer you: “Be thou humble; and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand, and give thee answer to thy prayers.”6
The Lord always wants to lead us to deliverance through our becoming more righteous. That requires repentance. And that takes humility. So the way to deliverance always requires humility in order for the Lord to be able to lead us by the hand where He wants to take us through our troubles and on to sanctification.
We might make the mistake of assuming that illness, persecution, and poverty will be humbling enough. They don’t always produce by themselves the kind and degree of humility we will need to be rescued. Trials can produce resentment or discouragement. The humility you and I need to get the Lord to lead us by the hand comes from faith. It comes from faith that God really lives, that He loves us, and that what He wants—hard as it may be—will always be best for us.
The Savior showed us that humility. You have read of how He prayed in the garden while He was suffering a trial on our behalf beyond our ability to comprehend or to endure, or even for me to describe. You remember His prayer: “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.”7
He knew and trusted His Heavenly Father, the great Elohim. He knew that His Father was all-powerful and infinitely kind. The Beloved Son asked for the power of deliverance to help Him in humble words like those of a little child.
The Father did not deliver the Son by removing the trial. For our sakes He did not do that, and He allowed the Savior to finish the mission He came to perform. Yet we can forever take courage and comfort from knowing of the help that the Father did provide:
And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.
And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
And when he rose up from prayer, and was come to his disciples, he found them sleeping for sorrow,
And said unto them, Why sleep ye? rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.8
The Savior prayed for deliverance. What He was given was not an escape from the trial but comfort enough to pass through it gloriously.
His command to His disciples, who were themselves being tested, is a guide for us. We can determine to follow it. We can determine to rise up and pray in great faith and humility. And we can follow the command added in the book of Mark: “Rise up, let us go.”9
From this you have counsel for passing the physical and spiritual tests of life. You will need God’s help after you have done all you can for yourself. So rise up and go, but get His help as early as you can, not waiting for the crisis to ask for deliverance.
The way that President Hinckley designed the Perpetual Education Fund—about which you have heard—is an example. It was intended for those who would find it hard to follow the prophet’s admonition to get an education. They would face difficulty, almost overwhelming challenges. But the plan required that they stand up and do all they could for themselves while being faithful enough to God to qualify for His help when the difficulties might become overwhelming. They had to make and follow their own plan to get the education and to find the means to finance it. They were required to attend institute and be faithful in the Church.
I was able to see what happened. I saw miracles come to help those who went forward as if it all depended upon them but acted as if it would finally all depend on God’s power of deliverance.
In education and in life you will face stumbling blocks and opposition. You can and must go forward with confidence. If you start determined to qualify for God’s power of deliverance, not just in education but also in all the trials of mortality, you will succeed. You will be strengthened. You will be guided around and through barriers. Help and comfort will come. Your faith in Heavenly Father and the Savior will be increased. You will be strengthened to resist evil. And you will feel the gospel of Jesus Christ working in your life.
And that brings us to the third trial. All of us will at times struggle to feel free from the effects of sin. Only the Savior had the power to resist every temptation and never sin. So the most important and most difficult trial for us all is to become clean and to know that we are. All of us yearn at times for the confidence that we will see the Lord’s face, as we will, in the final judgment and see it with joy and pleasure.
The purpose of our long discussion today about trials and what it takes to get the powers of deliverance was to give you and me hope for happiness in that day of judgment that will come for all of us. What it takes to qualify for the powers of deliverance in the trials of life also can qualify us for the assurance we need that we will have passed the ultimate test of mortality.
We have seen that deliverance always requires humility before God. It takes submission to His will. It takes prayer and the willingness to obey. It takes serving others out of love for them and for the Savior. And it always requires and invites the Holy Ghost.
As you are delivered in trials, the Holy Ghost comes to you. Many of you have felt the result of frequent contact with the Holy Ghost. It may have been in your missionary service, where you needed deliverance many times. The Holy Ghost came to comfort and to guide you. As that recurred again and again, you may have noticed a change in yourself. The temptations that once troubled you seemed to fade. People who once seemed difficult began to appear more lovable. You began to see almost unreasonable potential in very humble people. You came to care more about their happiness than about your own.
If that change in you came, it was more likely gradual than sudden. Yet it was what the scriptures call the “mighty change.”10 And it is the evidence you and I need to have hope and assurance as we look forward to the great and final test [the final Judgment] that comes after this life. Your experience in enduring well in the trials of life by drawing on God’s power of deliverance can bring you the assurance you need to find peace in this life and confidence for the next.
I bear you my solemn witness that God the Father lives and loves us. I know that. His plan of happiness is perfect, and it is a plan of happiness. Jesus Christ was resurrected, as we will be. He suffered so that He could succor us in all of our trials. He paid the ransom for all of our sins and those of all of Heavenly Father’s children so that we could be delivered from death and sin. I know that in the Church of Jesus Christ the Holy Ghost can come to comfort and to cleanse us as we follow the Master. You have felt that influence today as I have.
I testify that the keys of the priesthood were restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith. They are exercised today by President Gordon B. Hinckley. This is the true Church of Jesus Christ.
I leave you my witness and my love, and I bless you that you may receive sufficient comfort and succor in your times of need, through all the tests and trials of your life. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
1. D&C 121:7–8.
2. Alma 7:10–12.
3. Job 1:20–22.
4. Luke 24:36, 39.
5. Mosiah 7:29.
6. D&C 112:10.
7. Luke 22:42.
8. Luke 22:43–46.
9. Mark 14:42.
10. Mosiah 5:2, Alma 5:12–14.
Thursday, March 6, 2008
This week the talk is called, 'Don't Be in a Hurry' by John Thomas at BYU Idaho. I actually had a wonderful experience choosing this talk. It may be more for me than for any one else. I also attached a song that I felt went really well with this topic. I really want to say more about it all but feel constrained to do so. My prayers are with you all this week that you will be led to the answers you seek and the opportunity to come unto Christ. If your reading the Blog the song "Slow Down can be found in the music player on the side bar.
Don't Be in a Hurry
Brigham Young University–Idaho Devotional
November 6, 2007
1845 was a busy year for the Latter-day Saints in Nauvoo, Illinois. Still mourning the violent death of the Prophet, they continued their efforts to complete the Nauvoo temple, spread the gospel, and gather believers, even as conflict with critics and dissenters hastened plans for an exodus to the West. On a Sunday in August 1845, Brigham Young paused from the demands of leadership to record a dream he’d had the previous night. “I dreamed . . . I saw Brother Joseph Smith,” he wrote, “and as I was going about my business, he said, ‘Brother Brigham, don’t be in a hurry.” Joseph repeated the counsel twice more, with some “degree of sharpness”: “Brother Brigham, don’t be in a hurry. Brother Brigham, don’t be in a hurry” (History of the Church 7:435).
As important as that message was to Brigham Young in his day, it may be even more vital today. Think how the pace of life has quickened since then, and think of all the things—mundane and meaningful—that compete for our attention every day. We live in a world of fast food, rapid transit, instant messaging, and constant claims about how to get rich quicker, get fit faster, and make it big now. A non-stop information economy constantly markets ideas, images, and sound-bites—some of them virtuous, some of them not. And despite the proliferation of supposed time-saving tools, we often feel pressed and stressed by the demands on our time.
Perhaps this is one meaning of the prophecy that “all things shall be in commotion” in the latter days. If so, it is troubling that the scriptures link that “commotion” with men’s hearts failing them (D&C 45:26; 88:91). As President James E. Faust observed, “Our hurry to meet the relentless demands of the clock tears away at our inner peace” (Ensign, July 2005, 2). It’s easy to see how love can fade, fear can rise, and sin can harden a distracted heart “in a hurry.”
This afternoon I hope we can pause, lay aside our hurry, and explore some alternatives to “business as usual,” as we seek to prepare our hearts for the “great things” which await us (see D&C 45:62). I pray for the Holy Ghost to help us understand one another, be edified, and rejoice together (see D&C 50:22)—and you can pray too. Let’s explore four areas where the tendency to “hurry” may blind us to the “immediate goodness of God” (Mosiah 25:10), and then consider how we can obtain the peace He wants us to enjoy, even in a a world in commotion.
First, don’t be in a hurry to forget the first commandment.
Second, don’t be in a hurry to do it all yourself.
Third, don’t be in a hurry to fill your days with “busyness.”
And fourth, don’t be in a hurry to be done.
First, don’t be in a hurry to forget the first commandment.
In the midst of our modern-day frenzy, how well do we remember that our time on earth is actually a gift from God? While we go about our “business,” this earth is hurtling through space, spinning on its axis, and all the while the Lord is “preserving [us] from day to day,” “lending [us] breath to live and move and do” what we will, and “even supporting [us] from one moment to another” (Mosiah 2:21).
Consider the Creator’s magnificent effort to organize our place in the solar system to provide us with days and nights and seasons and years. If attentive, we can sense the rhythms of mortal life reminding us that “He first loved us” (1 John 4:19) Do we recall, when complaining that “there’s just never enough time,” that God actually “prolonged” the days of our first fallen parents, granting them time to “repent” and find “joy” in this life and beyond? (2 Nephi 2:21, 25) Can we remember, when peeved at pauses and delays, that we live on borrowed time, purchased by the Savior’s blood, and that everything He does is “for the benefit of the world”? (2 Nephi 26:24; see also 1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
And in return for all He gives us, the Lord invites us to love Him. When asked, “Which is the first commandment of all,” Jesus replied, “thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart . . . soul, . . . mind, and . . . strength: this is the first commandment” (Mark 12:28-30; see also Deut. 6:5; Matt. 22:37). I think we know those words—they hearken back to Sinai and have been restated in our day (see Exodus 20:2; D&C 59:5)—but we may sometimes forget the power of keeping the first commandment in our hurried pursuit of other good things.
The problem reminds me of a little test teachers sometimes give students to see how well they follow directions. The test is pretty simple, but it uses the press of time, a lengthy list of directions or tasks, and our forgetful tendency to hurry against us. Remember, the first set of directions is crucial, and they go something like this: “read all directions carefully before doing anything.” Got it? Then come some other instructions: “write your name in the upper right hand corner of the page”; “draw five squares in the upper left hand corner of the page”; “write the city where you were born”; and everyone’s favorites, “clap your hands three times,” and “say out loud, ‘I am nearly finished. I have followed directions.’” Did you recognize the trap? What were those first directions again? Those who “read all directions carefully before doing anything,” find the following instructions, usually at the end: “now that you have read all of the directions carefully, go back and do only number 2.” They write their name and sit quietly, while others draw and clap and shout.
Remembering the first great commandment can save us from far more serious traps. I think that this is what President Spencer W. Kimball meant when he said, “we will move faster if we hurry less.” Undistracted by other “gods,” we trust the Lord to help us allocate our “time and talents” to their very best uses each day. As a result, we do more good, and we make real progress (Ensign, May 1979, 83).
Years ago, President Ezra Taft Benson asked a great question: “Why did God put the first commandment first?” His answer showed me the grace that flows into our lives when we love the Lord. Not only will we want to keep His other commandments, but He will help us keep them better, granting us wisdom and strength that enhance our capacity to love our neighbors as our selves. “When we put God first,” President Benson promised, “all other things fall into their proper place or drop out of our lives.” For that reason and others, “We bless our fellowmen the most when we put the first commandment first” (Ensign, May 1988, 4, 6).
If you’re wondering what you can do to put God first and love him more deeply, consider the power of the word. President Kimball found that he drew closer to God and loved him more “intensely” when he immersed himself in the scriptures (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 135). President Henry B. Eyring taught us to go to the words of prophets because they “help us know [God. And as] we know Him better, we love Him more” (Ensign, November 2001, 17).
So don’t be in a hurry to forget the first commandment.
Second, don’t be in a hurry to do it all yourself.
We are all agents, we’re accountable, and we need to learn to work hard, live providently, and use our time wisely. But we need help—in fact, the Savior’s Atonement actually preserved our agency (see 2 Nephi 2:26-27). And this life is more than an earthly career; it is “a time to prepare to meet God; a time to prepare for that endless state . . . after the resurrection” (Alma 12:24). God knows infinitely more about that state than we do, and so He invites us to “call upon [Him] in the name of the Son forevermore” (Moses 5:8).
I love that He asks me to pray and serve in the name of His Son, for I know that I am weak, but the Savior is “full of grace of truth” (Moses 5:7). Nephi put it this way: “[Ye] must pray always, and not faint; . . . ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul” (2 Nephi 32:9).
That kind of praying was modeled for me one morning when I taught at the Missionary Training Center, as a timid senior sister missionary opened our class with a prayer that really opened our minds and hearts. When I asked her about it, she said that she had been frightened when asked earlier to pray in class that day, so she had gone alone and prayed to know what to pray. In her weakness, He made her strong, and all of us benefited.
And yet, it seems that many of us live each day like we give talks—we generally remember to close in the name of the Son, but we forget to open the day in His name. Decades after that dream with Joseph, Brigham asked a congregation in Utah if they had prayed that morning as families. Observing that many had not, he proposed an all too familiar reason: “I was in too much of a hurry.” I fear that rings familiar for many of us, as time to commune with the Lord gets squeezed in the morning “rush hour.” “Ere you left your room this morning, did you think to pray?” (see Hymns, 140)
Then Brigham gave us wise counsel. “Stop! Wait!” he pleaded, “When you get up in the morning, before you suffer yourselves to eat one mouthful of food, . . . bow down before the Lord, ask him to forgive your sins, and protect you . . . from temptation and all evil, to guide your steps aright, that you may do something that day that shall be beneficial to the kingdom of God on earth” (Deseret News Weekly, 5 June 1872, 248).
That counsel has blessed my life as it reminds me each morning to kneel in prayer before I tackle the tasks ahead. As I pray, I frequently think of the metaphor Brigham used to teach the Saints: “Keep your dish right side up,” he said, “so that when the shower of porridge does come you can catch your dish full” (Deseret News Weekly, 5 June 1872, 248). Do you picture the image? You’ve got your dish, prayer turns it upward to receive, and the porridge is God’s sustaining spiritual gifts, sent to nourish and strengthen you through the demands of the day. Think of it as your daily bread—manna from heaven.
How sad to dash into the world without thinking to pray, and thereby fail to “catch” our Father’s gifts that day. Too many in college are like the little boy President Faust once described. Asked why he prayed at night but not in the morning, the little boy said, “I ain’t scared in the daytime” (Ensign, May 2002, 60-61). But wait a minute—you know better. Daytime is when you do most of your work and face most of your tests—it’s usually scarier than sleeping time, isn’t it? As President Faust put it, “You need help from a power beyond your own to do something extraordinarily useful” (Ensign, May 2002, 47). And some days you may need that power just to be ordinarily decent and kind.
Missionaries learn that they can’t do it all themselves, and it shows in their mornings. They seek the Lord early in prayer and study, usually calling on Him at least a few times before they even leave their apartment. By getting up early and not hurrying past prayer, they prepare themselves for help and guidance later, and thereby bless others in the name of the Son.
My neighbor Joe Woods had such an experience while serving in Trinidad. One day in November, like other days, he and his companion prayed several times before they went to work. Later that day, they had a long walk up Port-au-Spain’s biggest hill to teach an investigator at the home of a local Church member, and they were a little behind schedule. As they hustled up “Z” street, a drunken man named John loudly asked them what they were doing on the island. (Now, drunken men are often less than ideal contacts, as my wife could tell you.) But this time, despite their hurry, the elders stopped; it may have been John’s felt hat or red sneakers, but it was probably something more.
That morning they had practiced teaching through questions, so Elder Woods tried out a couple of questions—“What are you doing? Why are you drunk?” In reply, John asked them to pray for him. There in the street they bowed their heads, and Elder Woods prayed, asking God to help John stop drinking and get baptized. You don’t get to pray like that in your own name, but only in the name of the Son. As he prayed, John started weeping. It’s true that drunken people can weep easily, but this was different. The elders walked a little way with him, made an appointment to teach him the next day, and continued to their previous engagement, arriving late. When they returned to teach John the next day, he struggled to explain what he felt as Joe prayed. It was so new, and so powerful, that remembering it quenched his thirst for alcohol. Elder Wood’s prayer was answered: John stopped drinking, and later he got baptized. They met in the evening, but the story began that morning.
So remember, don’t be in a hurry to do it all yourself.
Third, don’t be in a hurry to fill your days with “busyness.”
The beehive has long been a symbol of Mormon industry, but as an icon of personal development it is incomplete at best. After all, we are not bees, and the purpose of our life is much higher than making honey. We need to be industrious, for God does not want us to be drones. But neither does He want us simply to be creatures of habit, nor does He want us constantly preoccupied by the busy buzz of the world.
Yet recently a national journalist shared the following blunt assessment: “A good Mormon is a busy Mormon,” he said (Kenneth Woodward, New York Times, 9 April 2007). A historian has also observed that “in Mormon culture . . . action is esteemed over contemplation.” Noting the Church’s mandate to prepare the world for the millennium, the author wondered if our sense of “urgency, [initially] fed by noble purposefulness, [might] morph into busyness” (Philip L. Barlow, Journal of Mormon History, vol. 33, no.1 , 3).
It is true that we have work enough to do, but when it comes to “busyness,” we may be taking our cues from the world, rather than the Lord and His servants. Recent sociological studies of the wealthiest countries report “widespread unease in the presence of silence or aloneness, accompanied by a contemporary stunting of the human attention span” (Philip L. Barlow, JMH, vol. 33, no.1 , 3). I fear this condition may have infected many of us. Uncomfortable with stillness, we substitute noise and motion for insight and progress.
Try a quick self-examination: How do you respond to silence, stillness, slowness, or even seriousness? Do you relish those contemplative moments, or do you show signs of inattention, indifference, or even irritation in the absence of noise and action?
Let’s try it right now—one minute of silence. See how comfortable it feels. See what you do with sixty seconds of stillness.
[1 minute silence]
So how comfortable were you? How’s your appetite for quiet? Where did your thoughts lead? What did you hear? Did you miss the noise? If you felt some compelling need to escape the stillness for some kind of buzz, you might ask who it is who wants you constantly distracted and never at peace.
Listen to the words of the prophets. Elder Neal A. Maxwell cautioned us against a “frantic, heedless busyness . . . [that often] crowds out contemplation and . . . leaves no room for renewal.” He likened thoughtful “intervals between [our] tasks” to “the green belts of grass, trees, and water that . . . interrupt the asphalt,” and said that when we “plan some time for contemplation and renewal,” we will feel “drawn” to our work instead of “driven” to it (Ensign, August 1976, 26).
Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin observed how easily we fill our lives with “appointments, meetings, and tasks,” and then act frightened at the prospect of some quiet time. Why would that be? He feared that we may “feel that the busier we are, the more important we are—as though our busyness defines our worth” (Ensign, May 2002, 15-16). On another occasion, he reminded us that “being busy is not necessarily being spiritual”—for in fact, noise and “busyness” can actually crowd out the “still small voice” of the Spirit (Ensign, May 2003, 27; see 1 Kings 19:12).
President Gordon B. Hinckley has expressed similar concerns (see Ensign, November 2003, 102), and in the most recent General Conference, Elder Dallin H. Oaks pointed out that we may busy ourselves with pleasure as easily as work. With so many outlets for entertainment and diversion, he warned us that, “Some young people are amusing themselves to death—spiritual death.” He urged us to forego things that may be good if they come at the expense of things that are best (Ensign, November 2007).
Does Brigham Young’s diagnosis sound familiar? “[You] are all the time on the wing, and in such a hurry that you do not know what do to first” (Deseret News Weekly, 5 June 1872, 248). I’m sad to say I’ve caught that fever at times (and it makes me tired). Elder Wirthlin described it as spending “a lifetime whirling about at a feverish pace, checking off list after list of things that in the end really don’t matter” (Ensign, May 2002, 16).
President Hinckley has prescribed a remedy for this fever of busyness. He learned it from his father and from President David O. McKay. The remedy is meditation, or pondering, or introspection, and he says we need at least some of it to develop. Surely this is one way we differ from bees. President Hinckley recalls that his father “never ceased growing” because he made time for “thinking, meditating, [and] pondering” (Ensign, February 1999, 5). You may have to turn off your TV, computer, cell phone, or MP3 player, but it’s worth it. As Sister Bonnie D. Parkin put it: “take time to slow down and ponder so that you can feel the Lord’s love for you” (Spring 2005 Relief Society Open House Message).
Some years ago, President Hinckley offered a special Christmas gift to every member of the Church. This gift, he promised, would help us understand the “true essence of Christmas,” and feel the peace of Christ, the love of Christ, and “an overwhelming sense of gratitude” to Him. So what was the Prophet’s Christmas gift? It was one hour—sixty minutes “spent in silent meditation and quiet reflection on the wonder and the majesty of this, the Son of God” (Ensign, December 2000, 5). Do you remember getting that gift? Would you prize it? Do you understand the directions? They’re pretty simple, really: spend one hour, in silence, thinking of the Savior. Remember the results: peace, love, and “overwhelming” gratitude. Why not add it to your Christmas list—both to give and to receive? If you need practice, you could probably try it at Thanksgiving.
Remember, don’t be in a hurry to fill your days with busyness.
Fourth, don’t be in a hurry to be done
Do you know that feeling? “I wish I were done.” We get it about our homework, and that’s okay, but we also tend to get it about more important things. It is a mistake to want to rush redemption, whether for ourselves or others. This hurry to be done shows up in the way we think and talk about our testimony, our conversion, and the Lord’s redeeming work in the world. If we hurry, we can short-circuit the marvel of conversion, and miss the moments that God has given us to help us feel His love and renew our hope in Christ.
“There seems to be little evidence,” Elder Richard L. Evans once said, “that the Creator of the universe was ever in a hurry. Everywhere, on this bounteous and beautiful earth . . . there is evidence of patient purpose and planning and working and waiting” (CR, Oct 1952, 95). Think about that—do you ever picture God in a hurry? Was there anything frantic about the wonder of creation? Have you read any evidence of a mad dash to guard the tree of life after Adam and Eve partook of the forbidden fruit? When young Joseph Smith found himself in the fight of his life, “seized upon” by a powerful “enemy” who wanted to choke his prayer with “despair” and destroy him; when it took “all [of Joseph’s] powers [simply] to call upon God to deliver him”; “at this moment of great alarm” (not only for the Prophet but his adversary)—how did deliverance come? In a “pillar of light . . . which descended gradually until it fell upon me” (JS-H 1:15-17). The Father and the Son were in no hurry, for they were masters of the situation.
Do we want to be tutored by such masters? If we do, we should recognize that their pace and timing may be much different from our own. Remembering the patient and watchful care with which they prepared the schoolroom of this earth, we can anticipate a long and wondrous tutorial when it comes to the “perfecting” of their saints. Paul described their aim for us this way: “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13). To learn and grow into the “stature of the fulness of Christ” is an awesome aim—and it is not an overnight project.
So, are we ready? Where to begin? For me, it is significant that the first step King Benjamin taught his people about becoming Saints was to yield “to the enticings of the Holy Spirit” (Mosiah 3:19). Learning to yield is foundational, I think, in the tests that follow. It is certainly prerequisite to the final examination, which requires us to be “meek, humble, patient, full of love, [and] willing to submit” to whatever the Lord requires (Mosiah 3:19). The word “yield” reminds me of another verb—to let—as in “let the Holy Spirit guide” (Hymns, 143); or “let the solemnities of eternity rest upon your mind” (D&C 43:34); or “let your hearts be comforted” (D&C 98:1); or “let your hearts rejoice” (D&C 100:12).
Still, many of us grow impatient with our progress, continually seeking hints that the Lord is really working with us, that our efforts please him, and that we are changing for the better. In a frantic search for approval, we may even settle for “the honors of men” or ask for a sign “that [we] may consume it upon [our lusts]” (D&C 121:35; 46:9). Instead, we need to “ask with a firmness unshaken . . . that [we] will serve the true and living God” (Mormon 9:28). If we commit our hearts and minds to love and serve God and our neighbors, our “small” deeds will bring about something “great” in us; even though “all things must come to pass in their time” (D&C 64:31-33).
President Boyd K. Packer said we grow “taller in testimony” like our bodies grow in stature, which makes it hard to notice. He pleaded, “Do not be impatient to gain great spiritual knowledge. Let it grow, help it grow, but do not force it or you will open the way to be misled” (Ensign, January 1983, 53-54).
Think about the metaphor Alma used to show how testimony and conversion progress—it was a seed that grows into a tree. Have you ever planted a tree from a seed? That takes time! And this particular tree is designed to last forever, bearing fruit that is “sweet above all that is sweet, . . . and pure above all that is pure.” Surely such a tree—whether just sprouting or more deeply rooted—deserves our “faith” and “diligence” and “patience” (Alma 32:37, 40-43).
If you’re still in a hurry to be done, remember President Benson’s description of the process: “Becoming Christlike is a lifetime pursuit and very often involves growth and change that is slow, almost imperceptible.” Almost is an important word there. If we are in a hurry, the growth will be imperceptible, but if we slow down, God will help us perceive true progress. As the song says, “take time to be holy; let Him be thy guide”—in times of prayer, study, meditation, and other periods of reflection, such as the sacrament and temple service. “The Lord is pleased with every effort,” said President Benson, “even the tiny, daily ones in which we strive to become more like Him,” and if we let Him, He can tell us so (Ensign, October 1989, 4)
In these quiet moments, we may remember the invitation we heard when God’s servants confirmed us members of the Church—“receive the Holy Ghost.” And as President Eyring has taught, we choose to accept that invitation “not [just] once, but every day, every hour, every minute” (Ensign, May 2002, 28). In doing so, we let the Lord renew our hope and teach us what we lack as yet to become godly—to grow into the “stature of the fulness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13; see Moroni 8:26). And He does this patiently, “line upon line, and precept upon precept”—for He is not in a hurry, and He knows that we are like “little children” who “cannot bear all things now,” so He has promised, “I will lead you along” (D&C 78:17-18).
So remember, don’t be in a hurry to be done.
Perhaps all I’ve said was summarized in eight words by the Psalmist long ago, “Be still, and know that I am God.” Notice that the Lord reaffirmed that counsel in our day, during a time of great commotion for the Prophet Joseph and early members of the Church (Psalms 46:10; D&C 101:16). “Be still, and know that I am God.” I suppose that can be read as two separate commands, but I think it works especially well as a statement of cause and effect. If we will be still, put God first, call on Him first, and wait on Him always, then we will come to discern His “still small voice,” reminding us how well He knows us and how much He loves us, and He will teach us how to love and serve our neighbors as our selves (see 1 Kings 19:12; 1 Nephi 17:45). As we do so, the promise is sure, “even peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come” (D&C 59:23). So, brothers and sisters, please don’t be in a hurry.