Adam's Role In Bringing Us Mortality
President Joseph Fielding Smith
Canaries With Gray On Their Wings
President Thomas S. Monson
The Father Who Cares
President James E. Faust
President Gordon B. Hinckley
President Gordon B. Hinckley
The Master Bridge Builder
President Thomas S. Monson
Of Things That Matter Most
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Perspective Is Everything
Strengthening The Family
A Testimony of Missionary Work
Elder David J. Barnett
The Worth of A Teacher
President Thomas S. Monson
Adam's Role In Bringing Us Mortality
President Joseph Fielding Smith
Jan 2006 Ensign
Joseph Fielding Smith was long noted for the depth of his knowledge of the gospel and the scriptures. He served as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for more than 55 years before he was sustained as a counselor in the First Presidency in October 1965 and then as Church President in 1970. In October 1967, he spoke of the blessing for mankind that is known as the Fall of Adam.
When Adam was placed in the Garden of Eden, he was in the presence of God our Eternal Father. He talked with the Father and the Father with him. But something happened, and it had to happen: Adam partook of certain fruit. My Bible, the King James Version, [speaks in a commentator's note] of Adam's Fall [as] "man's shameful fall." Well, it wasn't a shameful fall at all.
Adam came here to bring mortality upon the earth, and that resulted in the shutting out from the presence of the Eternal Father of both Adam and Eve and their posterity. The Son of God comes upon the scene from that time henceforth as our Redeemer. … It is the Savior who stands between mankind and our Heavenly Father. … The Son is the mediator between mankind and the Eternal Father. You seldom hear a prayer that isn't offered to our Heavenly Father in the name of His Beloved Son, and that's right. Christ came into this world to represent His Father. He came into this world to teach mankind who His Father is, why we should worship Him, how we should worship Him. He performed the greatest work that was ever performed in this mortal world by the shedding of His blood, which paid a debt that mankind owes to the Eternal Father, and which debt we inherited after the Fall of Adam.
They Opened The Door
Adam did only what he had to do. He partook of that fruit for one good reason, and that was to open the door to bring you and me and everyone else into this world, for Adam and Eve could have remained in the Garden of Eden; they could have been there to this day, if Eve hadn't done something.
One of these days, if I ever get to where I can speak to Mother Eve, I want to thank her for tempting Adam to partake of the fruit. He accepted the temptation, with the result that children came into this world. … If she hadn't had that influence over Adam, and if Adam had done according to the commandment first given to him, they would still be in the Garden of Eden and we would not be here at all. We wouldn't have come into this world. So the commentators made a great mistake when they put in the Bible … "man's shameful fall."
Well, that was what the Lord expected Adam to do, because that opened the door to mortality; and we came here into this mortal world to receive a training in mortality that we could not get anywhere else or in any other way. We came here into this world to partake of all the vicissitudes, to receive the lessons that we receive in mortality from or in a mortal world. And so we become subject to pain, to sickness. We are blessed for keeping the commandments of the Lord with all that He has given us, which, if we will follow and be true and faithful, will bring us back again into the presence of God our Eternal Father, as sons and daughters of God, entitled to the fulness of celestial glory.
Privileged To Be Mortal
That great blessing of celestial glory could never have come to us without a period of time in mortality, and so we came here in this mortal world. We are in school, the mortal school, to gain the experiences, the training, the joys, and the sufferings that we partake of, that we might be educated in all these things and be prepared, if we are faithful and true to the commandments of the Lord, to become sons and daughters of God, joint heirs with Jesus Christ; and in His presence to go on to a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever, and perhaps through our faithfulness to have the opportunity of building worlds and peopling them.
Brethren and sisters, let's thank the Lord, when we pray, for Adam. If it hadn't been for Adam, I wouldn't be here; you wouldn't be here; we would be waiting in the heavens as spirits pleading for somebody … to pass through a certain condition that brought upon us mortality.
We are in the mortal life to get an experience, a training, that we couldn't get any other way. And in order [for us] to become gods, it is necessary for us to know something about pain, about sickness, and about the other things that we partake of in this school of mortality.
So don't let us, brethren and sisters, complain about Adam and wish he hadn't done something that he did. I want to thank him. I am glad to have the privilege of being here and going through mortality, and if I will be true and faithful to the covenants and obligations that are upon me as a member of the Church and in the kingdom of God, I may have the privilege of coming back into the presence of the Eternal Father; and that will come to you as it will to me, sons and daughters of God entitled to the fulness of celestial glory.
Canaries With Gray On Their Wings
President Thomas S. Monson
June 2010 Ensign
Nearly 60 years ago, while I was serving as a young bishop, Kathleen McKee, a widow in my ward, passed away. Among her things were three pet canaries. Two, with perfect yellow coloring, were to be given to her friends. The third, Billie, had yellow coloring marred by gray on his wings. Sister McKee had written in a note to me: "Will you and your family make a home for him? He isn’t the prettiest, but his song is the best."
Sister McKee was much like her yellow canary with gray on its wings. She was not blessed with beauty, gifted with poise, or honored by posterity. Yet her song helped others to more willingly bear their burdens and more ably shoulder their tasks.
The world is filled with yellow canaries with gray on their wings. The pity is that so precious few have learned to sing. Some are young people who don’t know who they are, what they can be or even want to be; all they want is to be somebody. Others are stooped with age, burdened with care, or filled with doubt—living lives far below the level of their capabilities.
To live greatly, we must develop the capacity to face trouble with courage, disappointment with cheerfulness, and triumph with humility. You ask, "How might we achieve these goals?" I answer, "By gaining a true perspective of who we really are!" We are sons and daughters of a living God, in whose image we have been created. Think of that: created in the image of God. We cannot sincerely hold this conviction without experiencing a profound new sense of strength and power.
In our world, moral character ofttimes seems secondary to beauty or charm. But from long ago the Lord’s counsel to Samuel the prophet echoes: "The Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7).
When the Savior sought a man of faith, He did not select him from the throng of the self-righteous who were found regularly in the synagogue. Rather, He called him from among the fishermen of Capernaum. Doubting, unschooled, impetuous Simon became Peter, Apostle of faith. A yellow canary with gray on his wings qualified for the Master’s full confidence and abiding love.
When the Savior chose a missionary of zeal and power, He found him not among His advocates but amidst His adversaries. Saul the persecutor became Paul the proselytizer.
The Redeemer chose imperfect people to teach the way to perfection. He did so then. He does so now—even yellow canaries with gray on their wings. He calls you and me to serve Him here below. Our commitment must be total. And in our struggle, should we stumble, let us plead: “Lead us, oh lead us, great Molder of men, out of the darkness to strive once again."
My prayer is that we will follow the example of the Man of Galilee, who could be found mingling with the poor, the downtrodden, the oppressed, and the afflicted. May a true song come from our hearts as we do so.
The Father Who Cares
President James E. Faust
September 2006 Ensign (p.3)
Some time ago a father of six children who had the sole responsibility for raising the family, beginning when the youngest was in diapers, told of the struggles of doing so alone. One night he came home from work faced with the problems of being both father and mother and felt unusually burdened with his responsibilities. One of his appreciative daughters, age 12, approached him eagerly after having laid on his dresser a rock that she had painted at school. On the flat portion of the rock, she had written, "Happiness is having a dad who cares." This painted rock and its sublime message instantly and permanently lightened the burden of this father.
Speaking in general conference some years ago, President Stephen L. Richards (1879–1959), First Counselor in the First Presidency, quoted from an article, written by a veteran criminal court judge, titled "Nine Words That Can Stop Juvenile Delinquency." The nine words suggested by the judge were "Put Father back at the head of the family." President Richards concluded from the article "that the primary reason for the reduced percentages of juvenile delinquency in [certain] European countries was respect for authority...in the home, which...normally reposes in the father as head of the family." President Richards continued: "For generations we as a Church have been endeavoring to do just what the judge advocates—to put and keep Father at the head of the family, and with all our might we have been trying to make him fit for that high and heavy responsibility." Since the primary purpose of the Church is to help the family and its members, how well the father functions in his responsibility is of utmost importance.
More recently I read in the paper: "Social scientists across the political spectrum tell us that father absence is a stronger predictor of criminal behavior than family income, education, or...race.
"And while individual youngsters can manage life without father reasonably well in many cases, few are able to come unscathed through fatherless communities."
In urging that fathers be put back at the head of their homes, we wish to take nothing away from mothers. In all the world there is no higher or greater honor or responsibility than motherhood. Hopefully they too will have their powerful influence extended to even a greater degree within the home and beyond the home.
To Strengthen Father
In order to strengthen the father in the home, I make two simple suggestions: first, sustain and respect the father in his position; second, give him love, understanding, and some appreciation for his efforts.
There are some voices in our society who would demean some of the attributes of masculinity. A few of these are women who mistakenly believe that they build their own feminine causes by tearing down the image of manhood. This has serious social overtones because a primary problem in the insecurity of sons and daughters can be the diminution of the role of the father image.
Let every mother understand that if she does anything to diminish her children's father or the father's image in the eyes of the children, it may injure and do irreparable damage to the self-worth and personal security of the children themselves. How infinitely more productive and satisfying it is for a woman to build up her husband rather than tear him down. You women are so superior to men in so many ways that you demean yourselves by belittling masculinity and manhood.
In terms of giving fathers love and understanding, it should be remembered that fathers also have times of insecurity and doubt. Everyone knows fathers make mistakes — especially they themselves. Fathers need all the help they can get; mostly they need love, support, and understanding from their own.
A Father's Responsibilities
As fathers we need to set priorities to guide us in allocating our time. Some men forget that their "first priority should be to maintain their own spiritual and physical strength. Then comes their family, then the Church, and then their professions — and all need time." In giving time to his children, a father should be able to demonstrate that he has enough love for them to command as well as discipline them. Children want and need discipline. As they approach some dangers, they are silently pleading, "Don't let me do it." President David O. McKay (1873–1970) said that if we do not adequately discipline our children, society will discipline them in a way we may not like. Wise discipline reinforces the dimensions of eternal love. This reinforcement will bring great security and stability into their lives.
In a landmark address to the priesthood in October 2000, President Gordon B. Hinckley focused his remarks on the role of fathers. He told us: "This is a subject which I take very seriously. It is a matter with which I am deeply concerned. I hope you will not take it lightly. It concerns the most precious asset you have. In terms of your happiness, in terms of the matters that make you proud or sad, nothing — I repeat, nothing — will have so profound an effect on you as the way your children turn out." He went on to give counsel to fathers: that they are to help their children resist temptation, to listen to them, to be patient and prayerful, and to teach them the ways of the Lord.
The exalted position of a father was well stated by American general Douglas MacArthur, who said: "By profession I am a soldier and take pride in that fact. But I am prouder — infinitely prouder — to be a father. A soldier destroys in order to build; the father only builds, never destroys. The one has the potentiality of death; the other embodies creation and life. And while the hordes of death are mighty, the battalions of life are mightier still. It is my hope that my son, when I am gone, will remember me not from the battle but in the home repeating with him our simple daily prayer, 'Our Father who art in heaven.'"
It is important to remember that in this Church, the husbands and fathers, and members of the family through them, enjoy a power and influence in their lives far beyond the natural gifts of intellect and character of the father. I refer to the priesthood of God, which every worthy man and boy over 12 years of age enjoys.
A prominent Church and business leader, now healthy, was born without life. His father, exercising his priesthood, made a promise that if his firstborn could live, that he, the father, would do all in his power to provide the proper example and teachings for his son. After a few minutes his infant son began to breathe and is well and vigorous to this day.
It is through the power of the priesthood that marriage and the family unit can extend into and continue throughout all eternity. The conscientious women of this Church wish to have such a righteous influence in abundance in their homes.
A Legacy of Joy
One gracious mother joyously recounted in a stake conference the marvelous experience of being in one of the temples with her husband and with all of her children but one and being sealed together as husband and wife and family for time and all eternity. Her husband, newly involved in the priesthood, sat in the conference audience a few rows back. For a moment she seemed to forget all of the rest of us and spoke only to him. Over the pulpit and through the loudspeaker, with more than a thousand people in tears watching and listening, she said: "John, the children and I don't know how to tell you what you mean to us. Until you honored the priesthood, the greatest blessings of eternity would not open up for us. Now they have. We all love you very much, and we thank you with all our hearts for what you have made possible for us."
You may recall the story about a child trapped in a hole in the ground who could be extricated only by sending another, smaller child into the tunnel. One little fellow was approached to see if he would be willing to go down and rescue the one who was lodged. The lad said, "I am scared to go in that hole, but I will go if my father will hold the rope."
Elder Richard L. Evans (1906–71) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gave the proper dimension for all fathers in this faith when he said: "First of all, fathers are giving a name and a heritage to their children — clean and honorable. Fathers are for long, hard work, mostly their own kind of work;...for trying to give their children things [their] fathers never had. Fathers are for talking with, for encouraging, for putting arms around; for understanding mistakes, but not condoning them; for disciplining when needed, then loving all the more; for being strong and forceful, and for being tender and gentle."
It is always appropriate in all family relationships to ask, "What would Jesus do?" Having turned to the scriptures for the answer to this question, President Marion G. Romney (1897–1988), First Counselor in the First Presidency, testified: "There in the Gospel as recorded by St. John, I found the clear and certain answer: Jesus would always do the will of his Father. ...'For I do always those things that please him' [John 8:29]."
God bless you children to have listening ears and understanding hearts. God bless you mothers for the endless dimension of your love and for all the help you give the fathers of your children. God bless you fathers to be equal to your overwhelming responsibilities and to have a father's special caring for each one under your protective arms. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).
President Gordon B. Hinckley
Nov 2005 Ensign/October Conference
Somehow forgiveness, with love and tolerance, accomplishes miracles that can happen in no other way.
My dear brothers and sisters, I thank my Father in Heaven that He has prolonged my life to be a part of these challenging times. I thank Him for the opportunity of service. I have no desire but to do all that I can in furthering the work of the Lord, in serving His faithful people, and in living at peace with my neighbors.
I recently traveled around the world, more than 25,000 miles, visiting Alaska, Russia, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, India, Kenya, and Nigeria, where in this last place we dedicated a new temple. We then dedicated the Newport Beach California Temple. I have just been to Samoa for another temple dedication, another 10,000 miles. I do not enjoy travel, but it is my wish to get out among our people to extend appreciation and encouragement, and to bear testimony of the divinity of the Lord's work.
I often think of a poem I read long ago. It goes like this:
Let me live in a house by the side of the road,
Where the race of men go by -
The men who are good and the men who are bad,
As good and as bad as I.
I would not sit in the scorner’s seat,
Or hurl the cynic’s ban; -
Let me live in a house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.
(Sam Walter Foss, "The House by the Side of the Road," in James Dalton Morrison, ed., Masterpieces of Religious Verse , 422)
That is the way I feel.
Age does something to a man. It seems to make him more aware of the need for kindness and goodness and forbearance. He wishes and prays that men might live together in peace without war and contention, argument and conflict. He grows increasingly aware of the meaning of the great Atonement of the Redeemer, of the depth of His sacrifice, and of gratitude to the Son of God, who gave His life that we might live.
I wish today to speak of forgiveness. I think it may be the greatest virtue on earth, and certainly the most needed. There is so much of meanness and abuse, of intolerance and hatred. There is so great a need for repentance and forgiveness. It is the great principle emphasized in all of scripture, both ancient and modern.
In all of our sacred scripture, there is no more beautiful story of forgiveness than that of the prodigal son found in the 15th chapter of Luke. Everyone should read and ponder it occasionally.
"And when [the prodigal] had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want."
And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine."
"And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him."
"And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!"
"I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,"
"And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants."
"And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him."
"And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son" (Luke 15:14-21).
And the father caused that a great feast should be held, and when his other son complained, he said to him, "It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found" (Luke 5:32).
When there has been wrongdoing and then there has come repentance, followed by forgiveness, then literally the offender who was lost is found, and he who was dead is made alive.
How wonderful are the blessings of mercy and forgiveness.
The Marshall Plan following World War II with the gift of millions of dollars helped put Europe on its feet.
In Japan, after this same war, I saw great steel mills, the money for which I was told had come from America, Japan’s former enemy. How much better this world is because of the forgiveness of a generous nation in behalf of its former enemies.
In the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord taught:
"Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:"
"But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also."
"And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also."
"And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain."
"Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away."
"Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy."
"But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you" (Matt. 5:38-44)."
Those are very strong words.
Do you really think you could follow that injunction? They are the words of the Lord Himself, and I think they apply to each of us.
The scribes and Pharisees brought before Jesus a woman taken in adultery so that they might entrap Him.
"But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not."
"So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her."
"And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground."
"And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst."
"When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?"
"She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more" (John 8:6:11).
The Savior taught of leaving the ninety and nine to find the lost sheep, that forgiveness and restitution might come.
"Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil;"
"Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow."
"Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool" (Isa. 1:16-18).
The great crowning love of the Savior was expressed when in His dying agony He cried out, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34).
In our day the Lord has said in revelation:
"Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin."
"I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men" (D&C 64:9-10>).
The Lord has offered a marvelous promise. Said He, "He who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more" (D&C 58:42).
There are so many in our day who are unwilling to forgive and forget. Children cry and wives weep because fathers and husbands continue to bring up little shortcomings that are really of no importance. And there also are many women who would make a mountain out of every little offending molehill of word or deed.
A time back, I clipped a column from the Deseret Morning News, written by Jay Evensen. With his permission, I quote from a part of it. Wrote he:
"How would you feel toward a teenager who decided to toss a 20-pound frozen turkey from a speeding car headlong into the windshield of the car you were driving? How would you feel after enduring six hours of surgery using metal plates and other hardware to piece your face together, and after learning you still face years of therapy before returning to normal - and that you ought to feel lucky you didn’t die or suffer permanent brain damage?"
"And how would you feel after learning that your assailant and his buddies had the turkey in the first place because they had stolen a credit card and gone on a senseless shopping spree, just for kicks?"
"This is the kind of hideous crime that propels politicians to office on promises of getting tough on crime. It’s the kind of thing that prompts legislators to climb all over each other in a struggle to be the first to introduce a bill that would add enhanced penalties for the use of frozen fowl in the commission of a crime."
"The New York Times quoted the district attorney as saying this is the sort of crime for which victims feel no punishment is harsh enough. 'Death doesn’t even satisfy them,' he said."
"Which is what makes what really happened so unusual. The victim, Victoria Ruvolo, a 44-year-old former manager of a collections agency, was more interested in salvaging the life of her 19-year-old assailant, Ryan Cushing, than in exacting any sort of revenge. She pestered prosecutors for information about him, his life, how he was raised, etc. Then she insisted on offering him a plea deal. Cushing could serve six months in the county jail and be on probation for 5 years if he pleaded guilty to second-degree assault."
"Had he been convicted of first-degree assault - the charge most fitting for the crime-he could have served 25 years in prison, finally thrown back into society as a middle-aged man with no skills or prospects."
"But this is only half the story. The rest of it, what happened the day this all played out in court, is the truly remarkable part."
"According to an account in the New York Post, Cushing carefully and tentatively made his way to where Ruvolo sat in the courtroom and tearfully whispered an apology. 'I’m so sorry for what I did to you.'"
"Ruvolo then stood, and the victim and her assailant embraced, weeping. She stroked his head and patted his back as he sobbed, and witnesses, including a Times reporter, heard her say, 'It’s OK. I just want you to make your life the best it can be.' According to accounts, hardened prosecutors, and even reporters, were choking back tears" ("Forgiveness Has Power to Change Future," Deseret Morning News, Aug. 21, 2005, p. AA3).
What a great story that is, greater because it actually happened, and that it happened in tough old New York. Who can feel anything but admiration for this woman who forgave the young man who might have taken her life?
I know this is a delicate and sensitive thing of which I am speaking. There are hardened criminals who may have to be locked up. There are unspeakable crimes, such as deliberate murder and rape, that justify harsh penalties. But there are some who could be saved from long, stultifying years in prison because of an unthoughtful, foolish act. Somehow forgiveness, with love and tolerance, accomplishes miracles that can happen in no other way.
The great Atonement was the supreme act of forgiveness. The magnitude of that Atonement is beyond our ability to completely understand. I know only that it happened, and that it was for me and for you. The suffering was so great, the agony so intense, that none of us can comprehend it when the Savior offered Himself as a ransom for the sins of all mankind.
It is through Him that we gain forgiveness. It is through Him that there comes the certain promise that all mankind will be granted the blessings of salvation, with resurrection from the dead. It is through Him and His great overarching sacrifice that we are offered the opportunity through obedience of exaltation and eternal life.
May God help us to be a little kinder, showing forth greater forbearance, to be more forgiving, more willing to walk the second mile, to reach down and lift up those who may have sinned but have brought forth the fruits of repentance, to lay aside old grudges and nurture them no more. For this I humbly pray, in the sacred name of our Redeemer, even the Lord Jesus Christ, amen.
President Gordon B. Hinckley
April 2005 General Conference/May 2005 Ensign
If you have never been involved in poker games or other forms of gambling, don't start. If you are involved, then quit now while you can do so.
My dear brethren, we’ve had a wonderful meeting. I wish to endorse all that has been said and to leave my blessing with you.
First I’d like to say just a word concerning those we have sustained this afternoon as members of the Quorums of the Seventy.
I am convinced that there are literally hundreds of brethren worthy and capable to serve as general officers of the Church. We see them everywhere. Those sustained today have been chosen to fill particular responsibilities. In most cases, this will involve sacrifice, which will be willingly made.
Among those sustained, as you have noted, is my 63-year-old son. I make it clear that I did not advance his name. That was done by others whose right it was to do so. I feel extremely sensitive about the matter of nepotism. As the lawyers say, I recused myself from participating. However, I believe he is worthy and qualified in every respect. In the first place, he had a great and wonderful mother. I wish I could recommend his father.
I mention this only because of my sensitivity concerning the matter of nepotism. Please do not hold it against him for his relationship to me. He’s powerless to help it.
Now, to go on to the subject that I wish to discuss tonight. I do so in response to a number of requests that have come to me concerning the position of the Church on a practice that is becoming more common among us, and particularly among our youth. That is the matter of gambling in various forms.
The story is told that one Sunday Calvin Coolidge, onetime president of the United States and a man noted for few words, returned from church. His wife asked him what the preacher spoke about. He replied, "Sin." "What did he say?" she asked. "He was against it," was his reply.
I think I could answer the question concerning gambling just that briefly. We are against it.
Gambling is to be found almost everywhere and is growing. People play poker. They bet on horse races and dog races. They play roulette and work the slot machines. They gather to play in bars, saloons, and casinos, and, all too often, in their own homes. Many cannot leave it alone. It becomes addictive. In so many cases it leads to other destructive habits and practices.
And so very many of those who become involved cannot afford the money it takes. In many cases it robs wives and children of financial security.
The game of poker, as it is called, is becoming a college and even a high school craze.
I read to you from a New York Times News Service article:
"For Michael Sandberg, it started a few years ago with nickel-and-dime games among friends.
"But last fall, he says, it became the source of a six-figure income and an alternative to law school.
"Sandberg, 22, essentially splits his time between Princeton, where he is a senior and a politics major, and Atlantic City, where he plays high-stakes poker....
"Sandberg's is an extreme example of a gambling revolution on the nation's college campuses. Sandberg calls it an explosion, one spurred by televised poker championships and a proliferation of Web sites that offer online poker games.
"Experts say the evidence of gambling's popularity on campus is hard to miss. In December, for example, a sorority at Columbia University conducted its first, 80-player, poker tournament with a $10 buy-in, a minimum amount required to play, while the University of North Carolina conducted its first tournament, a 175-player competition, in October. Both games filled up and had waiting lists. At the University of Pennsylvania, private games are advertised every night in a campus e-mail list" (Jonathan Cheng, "Poker Is Major College Craze," in Deseret Morning News, Mar. 14, 2005, p. A2).
The same thing is happening right here in Utah.
A mother writes me as follows:
"My 19-year-old son plays poker on the Internet, and the people on the Internet do not [seem to] care if you are not 21. All you have to do is have a bank account with money in it. He has been playing steady for almost a year now. He used to have a job, which he quit because he is so addicted to the Internet and poker playing for money right now. He enters poker tournaments all the time, and, if he wins, that is the money that he [uses] to buy the things that he needs. All he does is sit and play on the Internet."
I am told that Utah and Hawaii are now the only two states in the United States that have not legalized lotteries and gambling of various forms. From the letters I have received from members of the Church, it becomes apparent that some of our young people start by playing poker. They get the taste of getting something for nothing, and then travel outside of the state to where they can gamble legally.
One writer says in a letter to me: "I can see this evil creeping up in so many lives lately. It is all over the TV. ESPN has something called Celebrity Poker and National Poker Championships."
She continues: "One of our friends invited my husband to sign up for the local poker championship game for a fee. His friend said, 'It's not gambling. Your money just goes into this big pot, and whoever wins gets the pot.'"
Is this gambling? Of course, it is. Gambling is simply a process that takes money and does not offer a fair return in goods or services.
We now have state lotteries on a very large scale. Once the law almost universally prohibited them. Now they are operated as a means of gaining revenue.
Some 20 years ago, speaking in conference, I said: "Lottery fever recently peaked when New York State announced that three winning tickets would split $41 million. People [had] lined up to buy tickets. One winning ticket was held by 21 factory workers, with 778 second-place winners, and 113,000 who received token amounts. That may sound pretty good.
"But there were also 35,998,956 losers, each of whom had paid for a chance to win [and received nothing]" (in Conference Report, Oct. 1985, 67; or Ensign, Nov. 1985, 52).
Some American states have imposed heavy taxes on casinos as a source of revenue. The operating company also must have its profit. Then comes the winning ticket holder. All others who bought tickets are left empty-handed.
I am so grateful that when the Lord established this Church He gave us the law of tithing. I talked at one time with an officer of another church which, I understand, relies on the playing of bingo for a substantial part of its income. I said to this man, "Have you ever considered tithing to finance your church?" He replied, "Yes, and oh, how I wish that we might follow this practice instead of playing bingo. But I do not expect this change in my lifetime."
Casinos have been opened on Indian reservations as a means of securing income for those who own them. A few win, but most lose. They have to if some win and if the house is to make its profit.
One of our young men recently said, "Pay five bucks to see a movie; pay five bucks to play poker-it is the same idea."
It is not the same idea. In one case you get something for which you pay; in the other case, only one picks up the winnings and the others are left empty-handed.
Experience has shown that the playing of poker can lead to an obsession to gambling.
From the early days of this Church, gambling has been denounced.
As far back as 1842, Joseph Smith described conditions when the Saints lived in Missouri. Said he, "We made large purchases of land, our farms teemed with plenty, and peace and happiness were enjoyed in our domestic circle, and throughout our neighborhood; but as we could not associate with our neighbors...in their midnight revels, their Sabbath breaking, horse racing and gambling, they commenced at first to ridicule, then to persecute, and finally an organized mob assembled and burned our houses, tarred and feathered and whipped many of our brethren, and finally, contrary to law, justice and humanity, drove them from their habitations" (in James R. Clark, comp., Messages of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6 vols. [1965-75], 1:139).
Brigham Young, in October of 1844, said this concerning Nauvoo, "We wish to suppress all grogshops, gambling houses, and all other disorderly houses or proceedings in our city, and to tolerate no intemperance or vice in our midst" (in Messages of the First Presidency, 1:242).
Presidents of the Church and counselors in the Presidency have repeatedly spoken concerning this evil. George Q. Cannon, counselor to three Presidents of the Church, said: "There are many evils in the world which young folks need to be guarded against. One of these is gambling. There are various forms of this evil but they are all bad and should not be indulged in" (Gospel Truth: Discourses and Writings of President George Q. Cannon, sel. Jerreld L. Newquist, 2 vols. , 2:223).
President Joseph F. Smith stated, "The Church does not approve of gambling but strongly condemns it as morally wrong, and classes also with this gambling, games of chance and lottery, of all kinds, and earnestly disapproves of any of its members engaging therein" ("Editor's Table," Improvement Era, Aug. 1908, 807).
President Heber J. Grant counseled: "The Church has been and now is unalterably opposed to gambling in any form whatever. It is opposed to any game of chance, occupation, or so-called business, which takes money from the person who may be possessed of it without giving value received in return. It is opposed to all practices the tendency of which is to . . . degrade or weaken the high moral standard which the members of the Church, and our community at large, have always maintained" (in Messages of the First Presidency, 5:245).
President Spencer W. Kimball said: "From the beginning we have been advised against gambling of every sort. The deterioration and damage comes to the person, whether he wins or loses, to get something for nothing, something without effort, something without paying the full price" (in Conference Report, Apr. 1975, 6; or Ensign, May 1975, 6).
Elder Dallin H. Oaks, who is with us tonight, in 1987 delivered a masterful discourse on this subject at what was then Ricks College. It was entitled Gambling-Morally Wrong and Politically Unwise" (see Ensign, June 1987, 69-75).
To these statements of the position of the Church I add my own. The pursuit of a game of chance may seem like harmless fun. But there attaches to it an intensity that actually shows on the faces of those who are playing. And in all too many cases this practice, which appears innocent, can lead to an actual addiction. The Church has been and is now opposed to this practice. If you have never been involved in poker games or other forms of gambling, don't start. If you are involved, then quit now while you can do so.
There are better ways to spend one's time. There are better pursuits to occupy one's interest and energy. There is so much of wonderful reading available. We are not likely to ever get too much of it. There is music to be learned and enjoyed. There is just having a good time together-in dancing, in hiking, in cycling, or in other ways-boys and girls together enjoying one another's company in a wholesome way.
I have been reading a new book, recently published by the Oxford University Press, which has received considerable attention among us. It contains a study conducted by members of the faculty of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It deals with the religious and spiritual lives of American teenagers. Those who conducted the study questioned young people of various faiths and traditions. (See Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers .)
They reached the conclusion that our LDS youth know more about their faith, are more committed to it, and abide more closely by its teachings concerning social behavior than do their peers.
One of the researchers stated, "The LDS Church asks a lot of its teenagers, and...more often than not, they get it" (in Elaine Jarvik, "LDS Teens Rank Tops in Living Their Faith," Deseret Morning News, Mar. 15, 2005, p. A3).
Our young people were found to be more likely to hold the same religious beliefs as their parents, to attend religious services once a week, to share their faith with others, to engage in fasting or some other form of self-denial, and to have less doubt about their religious beliefs.
Commentators on the study speak of our youth arising early in the morning to attend seminary. "It is hard to get up so early," one seminary student said. "But there are blessings that come from doing it. It is a wonderful way to start the day."
The researchers point out that not all of our youth are perfect, but by and large they excel in a most remarkable way. I should add that there is no time to play poker for these high school students.
My dear young friends to whom I speak tonight, you mean so very much to us. You are so very important. As members of this Church and as holders of the priesthood, you have so great a responsibility. Please, please do not fritter away your time or your talents in an aimless pursuit. If you do so, it will lessen your capacity to do worthwhile things. I believe it will dull your sensitivity to your studies in school. It will disappoint your parents, and as the years pass and you look back, you will be disappointed with yourselves.
The priesthood which you hold as young men carries with it the privilege of the ministering of angels. That companionship, I submit, is incompatible with indulgence in games of chance.
"Choose the right when a choice is placed before you" ("Choose the Right," Hymns, no. 239).
May heaven's blessings rest upon you, I humbly pray, as I leave you my testimony of this work and my love for all who are engaged in it, in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.
The Master Bridge Builder
President Thomas S. Monson
January 2008 Ensign (p.4–9)
Jesus Christ was the supreme architect and builder of bridges for you, for me, for all humankind. He has built the bridges over which we must cross if we are to reach our heavenly home.
Many years ago I read a book titled The Way to the Western Sea by David S. Lavender. It provides a fascinating account of the epic journey of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark as they led their famed expedition across the North American continent to discover an overland route to the Pacific Ocean.
Their trek was a nightmare of backbreaking toil, deep gorges which had to be crossed, and extensive travel by foot, carrying with them their supply-laden boats to find the next stream on which to make their way.
As I read of their experiences, I frequently mused, "If only there were modern bridges to span the gorges or the raging waters." There came to my mind thoughts of magnificent bridges of our time which accomplish this task with ease: beautiful Golden Gate Bridge of San Francisco fame; sturdy Sydney, Australia, Harbour Bridge; and others in many lands.
In reality, we are all travelers — even explorers of mortality. We do not have the benefit of previous personal experience. We must pass over steep precipices and turbulent waters in our own journey here on earth.
Perhaps such a somber thought inspired the poet Will Allen Dromgoole's classic poem titled "The Bridge Builder":
An old man, going a lone highway,
Came at the evening, cold and gray,
To a chasm, vast and deep and wide,
Through which was flowing a sullen tide.
The old man crossed in the twilight dim;
The sullen stream had no fears for him;
But he turned when safe on the other side
And built a bridge to span the tide.
"Old man," said a fellow pilgrim near,
"You are wasting strength with building here;
Your journey will end with the ending day;
You never again must pass this way;
You have crossed the chasm, deep and wide—
Why build you the bridge at the eventide?"
The builder lifted his old gray head:
"Good friend, in the path I have come," he said,
"There followeth after me today
A youth whose feet must pass this way.
This chasm that has been naught to me
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be.
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I am building the bridge for him."
The message of the poem has prompted my thinking and comforted my soul, for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was the supreme architect and builder of bridges for you, for me, for all humankind. He has built the bridges over which we must cross if we are to reach our heavenly home.
The Savior's mission was foretold. Matthew recorded, "And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins."
There followed the miracle of His birth and the gathering of the shepherds who came with haste to that stable, to that mother, to that child. Even the Wise Men, journeying from the East, followed that star and bestowed their precious gifts upon the young child.
The scripture records that Jesus "grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him" and that He "went about doing good."
Bridges the Savior Built
What personal bridges did He build and cross here in mortality, showing us the way to follow? He knew mortality would be filled with dangers and difficulties. He declared:
"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."
"Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls."
"For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
Jesus provided the bridge of obedience. He was an unfailing example of personal obedience as He kept the commandments of His Father.
When He was led of the Spirit into the wilderness, He was weak from fasting. Satan was at his seductive best in the offerings he proffered. His first was to satisfy the Savior's physical needs, including His hunger. To this the Savior replied, "It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God."
Next Satan offered power. Responded the Savior, "It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God."
Finally the Savior was offered wealth and earthly glory. His response: "Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve."
The Apostle Paul was inspired of the Lord to declare for our time, as well as for his: "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it."
Lest we equivocate, I mention something Ted Koppel, TV news journalist, said in a university commencement address: "What Moses brought down from Mt. Sinai were not the Ten Suggestions. They are commandments."
A bit of humor is found in an account of a conversation between author Mark Twain and a friend. Said the wealthy friend to Twain, "Before I die, I plan to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. I will climb to the top of Mount Sinai and read the Ten Commandments aloud."
Replied Twain, "Why don't you stay home and keep them?"
The second bridge provided by the Master for us to cross is the bridge of service. We look to the Savior as our example of service. Although He came to earth as the Son of God, He humbly served those around Him. He came forth from heaven to live on earth as mortal man and to establish the kingdom of God. His glorious gospel reshaped the thinking of the world. He blessed the sick; He caused the lame to walk, the blind to see, the deaf to hear. He even raised the dead to life.
In Matthew 25, the Savior tells us this concerning the faithful who will be on His right hand at His triumphal return:
"Then shall the King say unto them..., Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:"
"For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:"
"Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me."
"Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?"
"When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?"
"Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?"
"And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."
Elder Richard L. Evans (1906–71) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles once counseled, "We can't do everything for everyone everywhere, but we can do something for someone somewhere."
May I share with you an account of an opportunity of service which came to me unexpectedly and in an unusual manner. I received a telephone call from a granddaughter of an old friend. She asked, "Do you remember Francis Brems, who was your Sunday School teacher?" I told her that I did. She continued, "He is now 105 years of age. He lives in a small care center but meets with the entire family each Sunday, where he delivers a Sunday School lesson. Last Sunday Grandpa announced to us, 'My dears, I am going to die this week. Will you please call Tommy Monson and tell him this. He'll know what to do.'"
I visited Brother Brems the very next evening. I could not speak to him, for he was deaf. I could not write a message for him to read, for he was blind. What was I to do? I was told that his family communicated with him by taking the finger of his right hand and then tracing on the palm of his left hand the name of the person visiting and then any message. I followed the procedure and took his finger and spelled on the palm of his hand T-O-M-M-Y M-O-N-S-O-N. Brother Brems became excited and, taking my hands, placed them on his head. I knew his desire was to receive a priesthood blessing. The driver who had taken me to the care center joined me as we placed our hands on the head of Brother Brems and provided the desired blessing. Afterward tears streamed from his sightless eyes. He grasped our hands, and we read the movement of his lips. The message: "Thank you so much."
Within that very week, just as Brother Brems had predicted, he passed away. I received the telephone call and then met with the family as funeral arrangements were made. How thankful I am that a response to render service was not delayed.
The bridge of service invites us to cross over it frequently.
Finally, the Lord provided us the bridge of prayer. He directed, "Pray always, and I will pour out my Spirit upon you, and great shall be your blessing."
I share with you an account described in a mother's letter to me relating to prayer. She wrote:
"Sometimes I wonder if I make a difference in my children's lives. Especially as a single mother working two jobs to make ends meet, I sometimes come home to confusion, but I never give up hope."
"My children and I were watching a television broadcast of general conference, and you were speaking about prayer. My son made the statement, 'Mother, you've already taught us that.' I said, 'What do you mean?' And he replied, 'Well, you've taught us to pray and showed us how, but the other night I came to your room to ask something and found you on your knees praying to Heavenly Father. If He's important to you, He'll be important to me.'"
The letter concluded, "I guess you never know what kind of influence you'll be until a child observes you doing yourself what you have tried to teach him to do."
The Master's Example
No relating of a prayer touches me so deeply as the prayer offered by Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. I believe Luke describes it best:
"He...went...to the mount of Olives; and his disciples also followed him."
"And when he was at the place, he said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into temptation."
"And he was withdrawn from them about a stone's cast, and kneeled down, and prayed,"
"Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done."
"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."
In due time came the trek to the cross. What suffering He endured as He made His burdensome way, carrying His own cross. Heard were the words He uttered upon the cross: "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do."
At length Jesus declared, "It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost."
These events, coupled with His glorious Resurrection, completed the final bridge of our trilogy: the bridge of obedience, the bridge of service, the bridge of prayer.
Jesus, the Bridge Builder, spanned that vast chasm we call death. "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." He did for us what we could not do for ourselves; hence, humankind can cross the bridges He built—into life eternal.
I close by paraphrasing the poem "The Bridge Builder":
"You have crossed the chasm, deep and wide—
Why build you the bridge at the eventide?"
"There followeth after me today
A vast throng whose feet must pass this way.
This chasm that has been naught to me
To that great throng may a pitfall be.
They too must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I am building the bridge for them."
I pray that we may have the wisdom and determination to cross the bridges the Savior built for each of us.
Of Things That Matter Most
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf
October 2010 General Conference/November Ensign 2010 (p.19–22)
If life and its rushed pace and many stresses have made it difficult for you to feel like rejoicing, then perhaps now is a good time to refocus on what matters most.
It’s remarkable how much we can learn about life by studying nature. For example, scientists can look at the rings of trees and make educated guesses about climate and growing conditions hundreds and even thousands of years ago. One of the things we learn from studying the growth of trees is that during seasons when conditions are ideal, trees grow at a normal rate. However, during seasons when growing conditions are not ideal, trees slow down their growth and devote their energy to the basic elements necessary for survival.
At this point some of you may be thinking, “That’s all very fine and good, but what does it have to do with flying an airplane?” Well, let me tell you.
Have you ever been in an airplane and experienced turbulence? The most common cause of turbulence is a sudden change in air movement causing the aircraft to pitch, yaw, and roll. While planes are built to withstand far greater turbulence than anything you would encounter on a regular flight, it still may be disconcerting to passengers.
What do you suppose pilots do when they encounter turbulence? A student pilot may think that increasing speed is a good strategy because it will get them through the turbulence faster. But that may be the wrong thing to do. Professional pilots understand that there is an optimum turbulence penetration speed that will minimize the negative effects of turbulence. And most of the time that would mean to reduce your speed. The same principle applies also to speed bumps on a road.
Therefore, it is good advice to slow down a little, steady the course, and focus on the essentials when experiencing adverse conditions.
The Pace of Modern Life
This is a simple but critical lesson to learn. It may seem logical when put in terms of trees or turbulence, but it’s surprising how easy it is to ignore this lesson when it comes to applying these principles in our own daily lives. When stress levels rise, when distress appears, when tragedy strikes, too often we attempt to keep up the same frantic pace or even accelerate, thinking somehow that the more rushed our pace, the better off we will be.
One of the characteristics of modern life seems to be that we are moving at an ever-increasing rate, regardless of turbulence or obstacles.
Let’s be honest; it’s rather easy to be busy. We all can think up a list of tasks that will overwhelm our schedules. Some might even think that their self-worth depends on the length of their to-do list. They flood the open spaces in their time with lists of meetings and minutia—even during times of stress and fatigue. Because they unnecessarily complicate their lives, they often feel increased frustration, diminished joy, and too little sense of meaning in their lives.
It is said that any virtue when taken to an extreme can become a vice. Overscheduling our days would certainly qualify for this. There comes a point where milestones can become millstones and ambitions, albatrosses around our necks.
What Is the Solution?
The wise understand and apply the lessons of tree rings and air turbulence. They resist the temptation to get caught up in the frantic rush of everyday life. They follow the advice "There is more to life than increasing its speed." In short, they focus on the things that matter most.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks, in a recent general conference, taught, "We have to forego some good things in order to choose others that are better or best because they develop faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and strengthen our families."
The search for the best things inevitably leads to the foundational principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ—the simple and beautiful truths revealed to us by a caring, eternal, and all-knowing Father in Heaven. These core doctrines and principles, though simple enough for a child to understand, provide the answers to the most complex questions of life.
There is a beauty and clarity that comes from simplicity that we sometimes do not appreciate in our thirst for intricate solutions.
For example, it wasn’t long after astronauts and cosmonauts orbited the earth that they realized ballpoint pens would not work in space. And so some very smart people went to work solving the problem. It took thousands of hours and millions of dollars, but in the end, they developed a pen that could write anywhere, in any temperature, and on nearly any surface. But how did the astronauts and cosmonauts get along until the problem was solved? They simply used a pencil.
Leonardo da Vinci is quoted as saying that "simplicity is the ultimate sophistication." When we look at the foundational principles of the plan of happiness, the plan of salvation, we can recognize and appreciate in its plainness and simplicity the elegance and beauty of our Heavenly Father’s wisdom. Then, turning our ways to His ways is the beginning of our wisdom.
The Power of Basics
The story is told that the legendary football coach Vince Lombardi had a ritual he performed on the first day of training. He would hold up a football, show it to the athletes who had been playing the sport for many years, and say, "Gentlemen,...this is a football!" He talked about its size and shape, how it can be kicked, carried, or passed. He took the team out onto the empty field and said, "This is a football field." He walked them around, describing the dimensions, the shape, the rules, and how the game is played.
This coach knew that even these experienced players, and indeed the team, could become great only by mastering the fundamentals. They could spend their time practicing intricate trick plays, but until they mastered the fundamentals of the game, they would never become a championship team.
I think most of us intuitively understand how important the fundamentals are. It is just that we sometimes get distracted by so many things that seem more enticing.
Printed material, wide-ranging media sources, electronic tools and gadgets—all helpful if used properly—can become hurtful diversions or heartless chambers of isolation.
Yet amidst the multitude of voices and choices, the humble Man of Galilee stands with hands outstretched, waiting. His is a simple message: "Come, follow me." And He does not speak with a powerful megaphone but with a still, small voice. It is so easy for the basic gospel message to get lost amidst the deluge of information that hits us from all sides.
The holy scriptures and the spoken word of the living prophets give emphasis to the fundamental principles and doctrines of the gospel. The reason we return to these foundational principles, to the pure doctrines, is because they are the gateway to truths of profound meaning. They are the door to experiences of sublime importance that would otherwise be beyond our capacity to comprehend. These simple, basic principles are the key to living in harmony with God and man. They are the keys to opening the windows of heaven. They lead us to the peace, joy, and understanding that Heavenly Father has promised to His children who hear and obey Him.
My dear brothers and sisters, we would do well to slow down a little, proceed at the optimum speed for our circumstances, focus on the significant, lift up our eyes, and truly see the things that matter most. Let us be mindful of the foundational precepts our Heavenly Father has given to His children that will establish the basis of a rich and fruitful mortal life with promises of eternal happiness. They will teach us to do "all these things...in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that [we] should run faster than [we have] strength. [But] it is expedient that [we] should be diligent, [and] thereby...win the prize."
Brothers and sisters, diligently doing the things that matter most will lead us to the Savior of the world. That is why "we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ,...that [we] may know to what source [we] may look for a remission of [our] sins." In the complexity, confusion, and rush of modern living, this is the "more excellent way."
So What Are the Basics?
As we turn to our Heavenly Father and seek His wisdom regarding the things that matter most, we learn over and over again the importance of four key relationships: with our God, with our families, with our fellowman, and with ourselves. As we evaluate our own lives with a willing mind, we will see where we have drifted from the more excellent way. The eyes of our understanding will be opened, and we will recognize what needs to be done to purify our heart and refocus our life.
First, our relationship with God is most sacred and vital. We are His spirit children. He is our Father. He desires our happiness. As we seek Him, as we learn of His Son, Jesus Christ, as we open our hearts to the influence of the Holy Spirit, our lives become more stable and secure. We experience greater peace, joy, and fulfillment as we give our best to live according to God’s eternal plan and keep His commandments.
We improve our relationship with our Heavenly Father by learning of Him, by communing with Him, by repenting of our sins, and by actively following Jesus Christ, for "no man cometh unto the Father, but by [Christ]." To strengthen our relationship with God, we need some meaningful time alone with Him. Quietly focusing on daily personal prayer and scripture study, always aiming to be worthy of a current temple recommend—these will be some wise investments of our time and efforts to draw closer to our Heavenly Father. Let us heed the invitation in Psalms: “Be still, and know that I am God."
Our second key relationship is with our families. Since "no other success can compensate for failure" here, we must place high priority on our families. We build deep and loving family relationships by doing simple things together, like family dinner and family home evening and by just having fun together. In family relationships love is really spelled t-i-m-e, time. Taking time for each other is the key for harmony at home. We talk with, rather than about, each other. We learn from each other, and we appreciate our differences as well as our commonalities. We establish a divine bond with each other as we approach God together through family prayer, gospel study, and Sunday worship.
The third key relationship we have is with our fellowman. We build this relationship one person at a time—by being sensitive to the needs of others, serving them, and giving of our time and talents. I was deeply impressed by one sister who was burdened with the challenges of age and illness but decided that although she couldn’t do much, she could listen. And so each week she watched for people who looked troubled or discouraged, and she spent time with them, listening. What a blessing she was in the lives of so many people.
The fourth key relationship is with ourselves. It may seem odd to think of having a relationship with ourselves, but we do. Some people can’t get along with themselves. They criticize and belittle themselves all day long until they begin to hate themselves. May I suggest that you reduce the rush and take a little extra time to get to know yourself better. Walk in nature, watch a sunrise, enjoy God’s creations, ponder the truths of the restored gospel, and find out what they mean for you personally. Learn to see yourself as Heavenly Father sees you—as His precious daughter or son with divine potential.
Rejoice in the Pure Gospel
Brothers and sisters, let us be wise. Let us turn to the pure doctrinal waters of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Let us joyfully partake of them in their simplicity and plainness. The heavens are open again. The gospel of Jesus Christ is on earth once more, and its simple truths are a plentiful source of joy!
Brothers and sisters, indeed we have great reason to rejoice. If life and its rushed pace and many stresses have made it difficult for you to feel like rejoicing, then perhaps now is a good time to refocus on what matters most.
Strength comes not from frantic activity but from being settled on a firm foundation of truth and light. It comes from placing our attention and efforts on the basics of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. It comes from paying attention to the divine things that matter most.
Let us simplify our lives a little. Let us make the changes necessary to refocus our lives on the sublime beauty of the simple, humble path of Christian discipleship—the path that leads always toward a life of meaning, gladness, and peace. For this I pray, as I leave you my blessing, in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Perspective Is Everything: How I Taught The "Big Guy" A Lesson
I did not provoke the fight, so I feel no remorse for what I forged to do. We were arguing, and seeing that I was right and He was wrong, He decided to fight to cover for His stupidity. I don't know what He was thinking because I was a good 50 pounds lighter than Him and much quicker. He swung at me first, but being in the top of condition, I was able to block the punch neatly with my head. Whereupon, I immediately jumped to the ground - knocking him down on top of me. Then I deftly placed my ear in his mouth and ruthlessly poked His finger several times with my eye. Then, because His teeth hurt so much from the strength of my ear, He became irate and tried to kick me, but I cleverly blocked the onslaught with my ribs and face. I scrambled to my feet and ran to my car in hopes I would get away and save this man from my deadly hands. Before I could start the car, however, He pulled me from the still-open door. I proceeded to swing at Him, but only managed to hit myself several times in the head. To this I shouted, "What's this? Two against one?" It wasn't even fair anymore!! That was the final straw. I lost all control!! There was no mercy!! Taking Him in my death grip, I pounded him in the knee with stomach, and then swiftly hit Him two of three times hard in the fist with my teeth. Like a cat, I dove to the ground again. He had had it, I could tell. After that, He didn't even try to pick me up off the ground. He was too chicken. It was then I knew it was over. I'm sure He'll never forget the lesson I taught Him.
We all go through experiences in life. Some are good, some are not. We have them all the same but it's a lot more fun if you have a good attitude!!
Strengthening The Family: Created In The Image of God, Male and Female
A continuing series giving insights for your study and use of "The Family: A Proclamation to the World."
January 2005 Ensign (p.48)
"All human beings - male and female - are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose."
In the Beginning
"Man was also in the beginning with God," the Lord declared. "Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be" (D&C 93:29).
Little has been revealed about the process by which we became spirit children of God, but we understand that heavenly parents organized spirit bodies for us and that these spirit bodies housed intelligence, or light and truth, which "is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself" (D&C 93:30). Thus, agency, the ability and liberty of intelligent beings to choose between one course and another "with the attendant accountability" is an eternal principle.
Offspring of God
Many religions teach that human beings are children of God, but often their conception of Him precludes any kind of bond resembling a parent-child relationship. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught of a much simpler and more sensible relationship: "God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret. If the veil were rent today, and the great God who holds this world in its orbit...was to make himself visible..., you would see him like a man in form - like yourselves in all the person, image, and very form as a man; for Adam was created in the very fashion, image and likeness of God, and received instruction from, and walked, talked and conversed with Him, as one man talks and communes with another."
We are of God’s family. We are His sons and daughters, created in the image of heavenly parents. "No greater ideal has been revealed," taught President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, "than the supernal truth that we are the children of God, and we differ, by virtue of our creation, from all other living things. (See Moses 6:8-10, 22, 59.) No idea has been more destructive of happiness, no philosophy has produced more sorrow, more heartbreak and mischief; no idea has done more to destroy the family than the idea that we are not the offspring of God, only advanced animals, compelled to yield to every carnal urge."
Gender Is Eternal and Essential
Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has taught that our creation as male and female children of God "was done spiritually in your premortal existence when you lived in the presence of your Father in Heaven. Your gender existed before you came to earth."
Gender is part of our eternal identity and is necessary for our eternal progression. President Packer explained: "The plan of happiness requires the righteous union of male and female, man and woman, husband and wife....A body patterned after the image of God was created for Adam, and he was introduced into the Garden. At first, Adam was alone....But alone, he could not fulfill the purposes of his creation. No other man would do. Neither alone nor with other men could Adam progress. Nor could Eve with another woman. It was so then. It is so today. Eve, an help meet, was created. Marriage was instituted.
Agency and Same-Gender Attraction
Confusion about gender issues is rampant today. Some men and women experience same-sex attraction - a great trial for those who desire to be obedient to God’s commandments. Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has addressed this issue: "[Satan] seeks to undermine the principle of individual accountability, to persuade us to misuse our sacred powers of procreation, to discourage marriage and childbearing by worthy men and women, and to confuse what it means to be male or female....Some kinds of feelings seem to be inborn. Others are traceable to mortal experiences. Still other feelings seem to be acquired from a complex interaction of ‘nature and nurture.’ All of us have some feelings we did not choose, but the gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us that we still have the power to resist and reform our feelings (as needed) and to assure that they do not lead us to entertain inappropriate thoughts or to engage in sinful behavior.
The trials of mortality are not easy, nor are they intended to be. But whatever our struggles, we can call upon divine doctrine, the power of the Atonement, and the Holy Spirit for help and comfort.
We can remember that we are God’s sons and daughters, that He created us in His image, and that His plan prepares us for life eternal. If we obey His commandments, He will not withhold from us any of the blessings He has promised.
A Testimony of Missionary Work
Elder David J. Barnett
March 2005 Ensign
In John 15:12 the Savior gives the commandment to "love one another, as I have loved you." He then tells His disciples to "go and bring forth fruit" (v. 16) as an expression of that love. Such counsel applies to all of us: we show our love for the Savior and for others by "bringing forth fruit," which includes guiding souls to the gospel of Jesus Christ through missionary work.
Missionary work is a prominent theme in the Doctrine and Covenants. Throughout this book of scripture, the Lord admonishes His followers to proclaim the gospel, declaring that "the field is white already to harvest" (see, for example, D&C 4:4; 11: 3; 33:3, 7).
I am grateful for the influence of missionary work in my own life. I was born in England, and in 1960, at age 20, I left London to seek my fortune. I learned of the Church two years later in Yjtwe, northern Rhodesia (now Zambia), when I started courting the beautiful woman who later became my wife.
Before I married Norma, her father insisted that I meet the missionaries and be taught the gospel. I had always believed that the Godhead was composed of three separate personages, and this helped me understand and accept the First Vision. I had also always believed in fife after death. The doctrine that really had an impact on me was that of the premortal existence. When I was taught this by an Elder Hale, it sounded so obvious and logical that I wondered why I had never thought of it before. The more I learned of the gospel, the more everything seemed to fall into place. What a wonderful day it was when I was able to enter the waters of baptism and be confirmed a member of the true Church.
Many years later, I had the opportunity as an Area Authority Seventy to travel with my wife throughout many countries in Africa and to see the growth of the Church in these countries. Many have been affected by wars, famines, lack of employment, and other afflictions. Wars are still raging within the borders of some of these countries, and many people are suffering because of the "natural man" (Mosiah 3:19).
In South Africa in the early 1990s, when negotiations for change were taking place and many were praying for a peaceful outcome, Elder Richard P. Lindsay, who was Area President at the time, said at a regional conference, "The problems of Africa will only be overcome as more people join the Church." Since that day I have observed the truthfulness of that statement. Countries and communities will be more settled as families live gospel principles. That is one of the reasons we must do our part to introduce our friends and neighbors to the missionaries, who are set apart to teach the gospel.
I am thankful for the missionaries and the families of those who taught and helped me understand the love that God has for us. I know that as we do missionary work in whatever capacity we can, we obey the vital commandment to "love one another."
Elder David Barnett served as an Area Autbority Seventy from 2001 to 2004. He is currently president of the Poland Warsaw Mission.
The Worth of A Teacher
President Thomas S. Monson
April 2010 Ensign
Some time ago three young boys were discussing their fathers. One spoke out, "My dad is bigger than your dad," to which another replied, "Well, my dad is smarter than your dad." The third boy countered, "My dad is a doctor." Then, turning to one boy, he taunted in derision, "And your dad is only a teacher."
There is one teacher whose life overshadows all others. He lived not to be served but to serve, not to receive but to give, not to save His life but to sacrifice it for others. He described a love more beautiful than lust, a poverty richer than treasure. He taught with authority and not as did the scribes. I speak of the Master Teacher, even Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Savior and Redeemer of all mankind.
When dedicated teachers respond to His gentle invitation "Come learn of me," they become partakers of His divine power.
It was my experience as a small boy to come under the influence of such a teacher. In our Sunday School class she taught us concerning the Creation of the world, the Fall of Adam, and the atoning sacrifice of Jesus. She brought to her classroom as honored guests Moses, Joshua, Peter, Thomas, Paul, and even Christ. Though we did not see them, we learned to love, honor, and emulate them.
When the boy heard the taunts: "My dad is bigger than yours," "My dad is smarter than yours," "My dad is a doctor," well could he have replied, "Your dad may be bigger than mine; your dad may be smarter than mine; your dad may be a pilot, an engineer, or a doctor; but my dad is a teacher."
May each of us ever merit such a sincere and worthy compliment!
Asking Questions That Work
The calling of lecturer does not exist in the Church. A lecturer merely imparts knowledge. But a teacher invites class members to learn, in part by teaching one another. One sure way to transform a dull lecture into a lively, Spirit-filled lesson is by asking effective questions.
1. In your lesson preparation, plan questions to ask throughout the lesson. Consider the questions suggested in the manual. Think of others that might be helpful to your class. Seek the Spirit to help you choose several questions for each main idea you want to teach.
2. To help class members discuss how a gospel concept relates to their lives, you can ask three different types of questions in a series:
• A fact question: "Whom does the Lord require us to forgive?"
• An application question: "How does forgiving someone affect us?"
• An experience question: "What is a positive experience you have had with forgiving someone?"