I had a surgery back in August that has given me some quality reflection time. I have been writing down my thoughts and a couple friends encouraged me to share my thoughts with others who may enjoy reading my reflective thoughts, so here I am. I hope those who read my writings will enjoy them
From a devotional address given at Brigham Young University on 31 October 2000.
Living in thanksgiving daily is a habit that will enrich our lives and the lives of those we love.
Think for a moment, if you will, of someone you know who is truly happy. We’ve all met those who seem to radiate happiness. They seem to smile more than others; they laugh more than others—just being around them makes us happier as well.
Now think of someone you know who isn’t happy at all. Perhaps they seem 10 years older than they are, drained of energy—perhaps they are angry or bitter or depressed.
What is the difference between them? What are the characteristics that differentiate the happy from the miserable? Is there something that unhappy people can do to be happier? I believe there is.
Let me tell you a story to illustrate this observation.
A long time ago in a faraway village lived a man who everyone did their very best to avoid. He was the type of person who believed that there was only one competent person in the world, and that one person was himself. Consequently, he was never satisfied with anything. His shoes never fit right. His shirt never felt comfortable. When his food wasn’t too cold, it was too salty, and when it wasn’t too hot, it was too bland.
If a field wasn’t sowed by himself, it was not sowed well. If he didn’t close the door, the door was not closed properly.
In short, he made a career of frowning, lecturing, criticizing, and mumbling about the incompetencies of every other person in the rest of the world.
Unfortunately, the man was married, which made matters all the worse. No matter what his wife did, in his eyes it was wrong. No matter what the unfortunate woman cooked, sewed, or cleaned—or even when she milked the cow—it was never satisfactory, and he let her know it.
She tried very hard to be a good wife, but it seemed the harder she tried, the less she pleased him. Finally, one evening she could take no more.
“I’ll tell you what we’ll do,” she told him. “Tomorrow I will do your chores and you will do mine.”
“But you can’t do my chores,” the man replied. “You don’t know the first thing about sowing, hoeing, and irrigating.”
But the woman was adamant. And on top of that, she was filled with a righteous anger that frankly astonished and frightened the man to the point where he didn’t dare disagree.
So the next morning the wife went off to the fields and the man began the domestic chores. After thinking about it, he had actually convinced himself he was looking forward to it. Once and for all, he would demonstrate to his wife how things should be done.
Unfortunately, not everything went according to plan. In fact, nearly everything the man touched turned into disaster. He spilled the milk, let the pig get into the house, lost the cow, burned the dinner, and ultimately set the house on fire, narrowly escaping with his own life.
When his wife returned, she discovered her husband sitting on a pile of ashes, smoke still rising from his clothes. But the woman wasn’t the type to rub things in. She helped him up, wiped the soot from his beard, fixed him a little something to eat, and then prepared a bed of straw for them to sleep on.
From that day forward, the man never complained about anyone or anything else for as long as he lived.
What do you suppose this story teaches us?
For one thing, it teaches that those who complain make their own and others’ lives miserable. The story also teaches humility. It reminds us that “pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov. 16:18). It teaches us not to judge others until we walk in their shoes for a while.
In addition, the story illustrates a quality that the Roman orator Cicero claimed was “not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others” (Marcus Tullius Cicero, Pro Plancio, 54 B.C.). It is a quality I have found in every happy person I know. It is a quality that instantly makes a person more likable and more at peace. Where there is an abundance of this virtue, there is happiness. Where there is an absence of this virtue, there is often sadness, resentment, and futility.
In our story, it was the absence of gratitude that made the man miserable. His inability to appreciate others caused him to be critical of their efforts. Not only did he not empathize with them, he could not allow himself to acknowledge their contributions.
The disasters that confronted him surely made him humble, but, more particularly, they made him appreciate and be grateful for his wife.
Gratitude is a mark of a noble soul and a refined character. We like to be around those who are grateful. They tend to brighten all around them. They make others feel better about themselves. They tend to be more humble, more joyful, more likable.
You might be surprised to know that gratitude is a commandment of the Father. “Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things” (D&C 59:7), the Lord has commanded in these latter days. Even further, He has admonished that “in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments” (D&C 59:21).
In the Book of Mormon we learn that we should “live in thanksgiving daily” (Alma 34:38). Isn’t that a wonderful thought to live in thanksgiving daily? Can you imagine how your life would improve if you lived in thanksgiving daily? Can you imagine how your life would improve if others did the same? Do you think the world would be a happier place? less stressful? less angry? more spiritual?
President Joseph F. Smith proclaimed: “The grateful man sees so much in the world to be thankful for, and with him the good outweighs the evil. Love overpowers jealousy, and light drives darkness out of his life. Pride destroys our gratitude and sets up selfishness in its place. How much happier we are in the presence of a grateful and loving soul, and how careful we should be to cultivate, through the medium of a prayerful life, a thankful attitude toward God and man!” (Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. , 263).
Earlier I asked you to think of someone you knew who was truly happy. Think of the person again, if you will, and grade on this principle: Does he or she live in thanksgiving daily?
Now think of someone you know who is unhappy or resentful. Does this person live in thanksgiving daily?
It is difficult to even imagine a resentful person who is grateful or a grateful person who is resentful. President Gordon B. Hinckley has said:
“Absence of gratitude is the mark of the narrow, uneducated mind. It bespeaks a lack of knowledge and the ignorance of self-sufficiency. It expresses itself in ugly egotism and frequently in wanton mischief. …
“Where there is appreciation, there is courtesy, there is concern for the rights and property of others. Without it there is arrogance and evil” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1964, 117).
I believe that many people are unhappy because they have not learned to be grateful. Some carry the burden of bitterness and resentfulness for many years. Some pass their days as though suffering a deep sadness they cannot name. Others are unhappy because life didn’t turn out the way they thought it would.
“If only I had money,” some might say to themselves, “then I could be happy.”
“If only I were better-looking.”
“If only I were smarter.”
“If only I had a new car, a college degree, a job, a wife, hair that wasn’t so frizzy.” (Or, in my case, if only I had more hair or I were 12 inches taller.)
If we only look around us, there are a thousand reasons for us not to be happy, and it is simplicity itself to blame our unhappiness on the things we lack in life. It doesn’t take any talent at all to find them. The problem is, the more we focus on the things we don’t have, the more unhappy and more resentful we become.
Over the course of my years, I have met thousands of people. I have dined with the prosperous as well as the poverty-stricken. I have conversed with the mighty and with the meek. I have walked with the famous and the feeble. I have run with outstanding athletes and those who are not athletically inclined.
One thing I can tell you with certainty is this: You cannot predict happiness by the amount of money, fame, or power a person has. External conditions do not necessarily make a person happy. The Brethren who have had assignments in poorer countries report that despite the abject poverty, the people are very happy. The fact is that the external things so valued by the world are often the cause of a great deal of misery in the world.
Those who live in thanksgiving daily, however, are usually among the world’s happiest people. And they make others happy as well.
Years ago Elder J. Golden Kimball (1853–1938) of the Seventy was traveling with one of the presiding Brethren in southern Utah. In those days meetings often didn’t have a time limit; they went on as long as the speaker wanted to speak. For those of you looking for something to be grateful for, perhaps I’ve just given you one idea.
One fast Sunday they had been preaching nearly all day. Everyone was hungry, especially Elder Kimball, who felt that he “was pretty nearly dead.”
Finally, at about four o’clock in the afternoon, the presiding Apostle turned and said, “Now, Brother Kimball, get up and tell them about theEra.”
The Improvement Era magazine had just been launched, and the Brethren wanted to encourage subscriptions. Elder Kimball approached the pulpit and then, after a short pause, said, “All you men that will take the Era if we will let you go home, raise your right hand.” There was not a single man who did not raise his hand that day to subscribe to the Era (see J. Golden Kimball, in Conference Report, Apr. 1932, 78).
You see, the power of gratitude is immense.
Rulon Gardner grew up in the small town of Afton, Wyoming. He is one of nine children. His mother and father are faithful members of the Church and instilled proper values in their children.
But because Rulon was so large, his classmates teased him. The taunts and name-calling troubled young Rulon, but he never became angry or resentful. He could have withdrawn and become bitter. Like so many others, he could have counted all the things that were going wrong and simply given up.
Instead, he used the insults as motivation. He determined he would use his size to his advantage. He would make something of himself.
“I would go out, as a kid,” Rulon said, “and I could barely pick up a bale of hay. By the time my senior year came around, I was grabbing four bales of hay at a time, each 100 pounds. Just grabbing them and walking with them and seeing how physically strong I could be” (quoted in Alan Robinson, “Wrestler’s Magic Moment,” Associated Press, Sydney, Australia, 28 Sept. 2000).
He milked cows twice a day, often in subzero temperatures. He lifted frozen bales of hay to feed the cows. At times he would carry a newborn calf into the safety of a warm barn. He got up early in the morning, did his chores, then went to school. After school he either went to wrestling or football practice, then back to the farm to do more chores.
Rulon found that his size wasn’t a disadvantage for him as an athlete—in fact, it was an asset. Wrestling particularly came easy to him, and he became the Wyoming state champion. After graduating from high school, he decided that perhaps he might be good enough to compete in the Olympic Games.
In Atlanta in 1996, due to a miscommunication, he arrived at the weigh-in 22 seconds too late and missed his chance to compete. Again Rulon could have despaired. He could have cursed his luck. He could have become embittered and resentful.
But do you know what he did? He worked harder. Instead of burying himself in self-pity, he began speaking at youth firesides about his experience. “I missed the Olympic Games by 22 seconds,” he told his eager listeners. “Don’t you let anything keep you from your goals.”
After four years of hard work, Rulon Gardner wanted to compete in the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. The only trouble was, he couldn’t afford the trip. That’s when the members of his hometown rallied to his side. They held bake sales and potluck dinners and raised enough money to allow Rulon and his family to make the trip to Sydney.
This time he did not miss the weigh-in. He advanced through the preliminary rounds until he reached the final obstacle to his gaining a gold medal.
That obstacle was a man the world called the Siberian Bear, Alexander Karelin. This Russian bear is considered by most as the greatest Greco-Roman wrestler in the history of the sport. Not only had he not lost a single match in 13 years, but no one had scored a point on him in more than a decade. Karelin had won the gold medal in three previous Olympic Games and was the heavy favorite to win an unprecedented fourth gold medal.
But at the end of the gold-medal match, it was the farm boy from Afton, Wyoming, who stood triumphant in what many consider the greatest upset of the summer Olympic Games.
“The reason I think I won,” Rulon said, “is because I work harder than anyone else, train harder. And every day I live my life, I do everything I need to do to put my life in order” (quoted in Robinson, “Wrestler’s Magic Moment”).
Waving an American flag, a grateful Rulon Gardner thanked his family, his God, and his hometown of Afton, Wyoming, for their helping to make the moment possible.
Winning the gold medal in such a stunning way made Rulon an instant celebrity. Sometimes this sort of attention changes people. Sometimes people become more calloused. Sometimes they forget those they owe the most to. But not Rulon Gardner.
Later, while Rulon was a guest on an evening talk show, the host invited him to watch some highlights from his Olympic victory. Without warning, the picture changed to a live shot from Afton, Wyoming. It seemed that the entire population of the town had assembled in the high school gymnasium. They cheered and shouted and held up signs that said, “Rulon’s got milk!” and “My uncle rocks!”
As this man—one of the strongest men in the world—looked into the television monitor at the faces of the people he loved, tears of gratitude came to his eyes.
In a letter written to his stake president, Rulon Gardner said: “The Lord has given me the chance to work for all my dreams. I feel the Church has helped me to focus and live my life in the ways that have helped me to train and become an Olympic champ. … I am blessed … to be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” (letter to President Val J. Call, Afton Wyoming Stake, 20 Oct. 2000).
Rulon Gardner knows what it means to be grateful.
Gratitude turns a meal into a feast and drudgery into delight. It softens our grief and heightens our pleasure. It turns the simple and common into the memorable and transcendent. It forges bonds of love and fosters loyalty and admiration.
Living in thanksgiving daily is a habit that will enrich our lives and the lives of those we love. But how do we make this part of who we are? May I suggest three things that will help as we strive to live in thanksgiving daily?
First, we must open our eyes.
I agree with Robert Louis Stevenson, who wrote, “The man who forgets to be thankful has fallen asleep in life” (Quotationary, electronic quotation dictionary). Unfortunately, because the beauties of life are so abundant, sometimes we take them for granted.
Our minds have a marvelous capacity to notice the unusual. However, the opposite is true as well: The more often we see the things around us—even the beautiful and wonderful things—the more they become invisible to us.
That is why we often take for granted the beauty of this world: the flowers, the trees, the birds, the clouds—even those we love.
Because we see things so often, we see them less and less.
Those who live in thanksgiving daily, however, have a way of opening their eyes and seeing the wonders and beauties of this world as though seeing them for the first time.
I encourage you to look around you. Notice the people you care about. Notice the fragrance of the flowers and the song of the birds. Notice and give thanks for the blue of the sky, the color of the leaves, and the white of the clouds. Enjoy every sight, every smell, every taste, every sound.
When we open our eyes and give thanks for the bountiful beauty of this life, we live in thanksgiving daily.
The second thing we can do is open our hearts.
We must let go of the negative emotions that bind our hearts and instead fill our souls with love, faith, and thanksgiving.
Anger, resentment, and bitterness stunt our spiritual growth. Would you bathe in impure water? Then why do we bathe our spirits with negative and bitter thoughts and feelings?
You can cleanse your heart. You don’t have to harbor thoughts and feelings that drag you down and destroy your spirit.
You can repent of uncleanliness. That is the miracle of Christ’s atoning sacrifice. You can become clean. You can cleanse your heart of impurity.
Begin the process today. Repent of those things you should repent of. Drink deeply of the living waters of the gospel. These latter days are a time of great spiritual thirst. Many in the world are searching, often intensely, for a source of refreshment that will quench their yearning for meaning and direction in their lives. The Lord provides the living water that can quench the burning thirst of those whose lives are parched by a drought of truth.
Pray with all your heart. Consider the love your Heavenly Father has for all His children. Open your heart to His cleansing word. Feast on the words of holy writ. Cherish the messages of modern-day prophets and apostles. Forgive others who have offended you. Don’t waste another moment feeling self-pity. Every day drain from your heart the feelings of resentment, rage, and defeat that do nothing but discourage and destroy. Fill your heart with those things that ennoble, encourage, and inspire.
The great Book of Mormon prophet Nephi certainly had reason to be resentful. Hated by his brothers, bound and beaten and nearly murdered, he had plenty to be bitter about. After his father died, Nephi must have felt completely alone. He surely felt threatened. He surely felt discouraged. He surely felt troubled. But when it came time for him to communicate his feelings, what did he write?
“Behold, my soul delighteth in the things of the Lord; and my heart pondereth continually upon the things which I have seen and heard” (2 Ne. 4:16).
Yes, his path had been difficult. Yes, his heart groaned because of mistakes he had made, but he did not allow himself to linger in negativity. Instead, he told himself:
“Rejoice, O my heart, and give place no more for the enemy of my soul.
“Do not anger again because of mine enemies. Do not slacken my strength because of mine afflictions.
“Rejoice, O my heart, and cry unto the Lord, and say: O Lord, I will praise thee forever; yea, my soul will rejoice in thee” (2 Ne. 4:28–30).
The third thing we can do to live in thanksgiving daily is open our arms.
One of the best ways we show our gratitude is by blessing the lives of those around us. The great King Benjamin taught his people:
“If you should render all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess, to that God who has created you, and has kept and preserved you, and has caused that ye should rejoice. …
“… If ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants” (Mosiah 2:20–21).
And how do we render thanks unto God? King Benjamin told us that as well: “And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God” (Mosiah 2:17).
We can live in thanksgiving daily by opening our arms to those around us. When was the last time you told someone you love how much they mean to you? When was the last time you expressed your gratitude to someone who has always been there for you, someone who has sacrificed for you, someone whose heart has always been filled with hopes and dreams for you?
When was the last time you unselfishly reached out to help another in need? Every time we cheer another’s heart, every time we ease another’s burden, every time we lift a weary hand, we show our gratitude to that God to whom we owe all that we have and all that we are.
Not long ago a mother and father from the Republic of Georgia faced a terrifying reality. The doctors told them their baby had a heart condition, and unless he had surgery he would die. Because they did not have adequate facilities in Georgia, the mother and father walked across their country and all the way to Yerevan, Armenia, seeking medical help.
The Armenian doctors examined the child and agreed that the baby needed heart surgery. They knew how to perform the surgery and they had the necessary facilities, but they couldn’t perform the operation because they didn’t have the right tubing. As much as they wanted to help, there was nothing they could do. They told the couple to take their baby home to die.
As you know, the Church—through its humanitarian service arm—sends millions of pounds of food, clothing, and medical and educational materials throughout the world each year. As it so happened, Elder Robert H. Sangster and his wife, Sister Sandra Sangster, were serving a humanitarian mission in Armenia, and they had just received a container of medical supplies.
You may have already guessed that tucked away in this container of medical supplies was a box of precisely the kind of tubing needed for this child’s operation.
When the doctors discovered the tubing, they rushed the baby into surgery and performed the operation.
That’s a wonderful story and one that repeats itself daily as a result of the tremendous humanitarian help that is given to many nations in the world. The great welfare effort given by the Church benefits members and nonmembers during times of need. It reaches out to care for others. But what happened later makes it an even better story. One day, soon after the operation, Elder and Sister Sangster heard a knock at their door. When they opened it, this loving mother and father fell to their knees and wept as they thanked the Sangsters and their church for supplying the precious tubing that had saved the life of their child.
The blessings that come from opening our arms to others are among the choicest this earth has to offer.
As we strive to open our eyes, hearts, and arms, our step will become a little lighter, our smile will become a little brighter, and the darkness that sometimes broods over our lives will become a little lighter. Don’t be discouraged if you haven’t been an especially grateful person. Rejoice and think of what an impression you will make on those who thought they knew you. Think of how delightfully surprised they will be.
Be grateful. Every day is a new canvas—a new opportunity. Our beloved President Gordon B. Hinckley has said: “My plea is that we stop seeking out the storms and enjoy more fully the sunlight. I am suggesting that as we go through life, we ‘accentuate the positive.’ I am asking that we look a little deeper for the good, that we still our voices of insult and sarcasm, that we more generously compliment and endorse virtue and effort” (Standing for Something , 101).
Choice blessings await those who live in thanksgiving daily. “He who receiveth all things with thankfulness,” the Lord has promised, “shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more” (D&C 78:19).
Don’t wait to start. Open your eyes, open your hearts, and open your arms. I promise that as you do so, you will feel greater joy and happiness. Your life will have a new level of meaning. You will forge relationships that will transcend this life and endure through the eternities.
I am grateful for this experience of mortality. I am grateful for the gospel and for the life and testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith. I am grateful for my wonderful wife, my dear children and grandchildren. I am grateful for the support and love shown to me by countless friends and members of the Church throughout the world. I am grateful for life and even more grateful for the glorious promise of eternal life to come.
Not everyone can be a star quarterback; not everyone can be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company; not everyone can win a gold medal at the Olympics; but everyone—everyone—can live in thanksgiving daily.
As a special witness, I bear solemn testimony that Jesus is the living Christ, our Savior and Redeemer. He asks that we believe in Him, that we learn of Him, that we strive to follow His teachings, and that we adhere to the teachings of our prophet, President Gordon B. Hinckley. He inspires him in the direction needed for this life and life eternal.
May we follow our Savior in all we do is my humble prayer.
Let’s Talk about It
Most Ensign articles can be used for family home evening discussions. The following questions are for that purpose or for personal reflection:
How can living in thanksgiving daily help us be happy?
What are some things we can be thankful for but which we sometimes overlook or take for granted?
How can letting go of negative feelings increase our ability to live in thanksgiving daily?
What a wonderful message, may we ponder the three questions at the end of this message and find ourselves, "Living Thanksgiving Daily."
Back in 2001 while in an English Comp class I wrote an essay about "labels" and how quick we are to judge one another and then place a label on each other based on our judgement or the judgement of others.
I chose the topic of "labels" because my entire life I had been labeled and many of the labels that were used to identify me were not accurate and quite hurtful.
Today I find that there are many who still continue to "label."
I recently found myself in a situation where a person I had never met or visited with had labeled me and judged me according to the labels heard to describe me. I was totally shocked and speechless. This person had no interest in getting to me know me.
As I sat and listened to the labels being spouted of I found myself thinking about each label and how they were half truths.
I found myself feeling sad that the people spoken with had no idea who I was.
To them I was this "label."
After the one sided conversation ended I found myself deeply hurt that a total stranger would judge me off half true labels.
As I started to sink into my little pity party I found myself thinking of another person who had been labeled.
This person was the Divine Son of the most high God and all during his brief ministry He was labeled, "Is this not He the son of Mary and Joseph?" "Is this not the Carpenters son?" "Is He not a Nazarene?"
Those who were labeling had no desire to hear His great teachings, or get to know Him.
They just wanted to stop His teaching.
I was visiting with a friend and was saddened to see that because of the labels placed upon her she was stagnant. She like so many others started believing the labels that had been placed upon her.
Not even realizing that the labels were either false or filled with half truths.
People are constantly growing and changing one cannot honestly slap a label on someone and think, "well there it is."
Another thought that ran through my mind as I was being judged, "Do you have any idea the situation that was occurring when that label was created? Alas, no."
As I was looking for talks to help uplift and edify and possibly heal those wounded by unfounded labels, I cam across this short teaching about judging.
I love how the author refers one to "judge the situation and not the person."
That is the one pearl of wisdom that I am taking away from my experience of "being judged."
May we not be so quick to judge and slap a label on our friends of whom we don't understand, without first looking at their situation and getting to know them.
I'm now on a healing journey and have decided to let go of all the labels that I have been labeled with through the years; because for the first time, I have seen them as they really are, half truths to stop one from growing and developing.
May all who have been wrongfully labeled also start that journey of healing.
Judgment is an important use of our agency and requires great care, especially when we make judgments about other people. All our judgments must be guided by righteous standards. Only God, who knows each individual's heart, can make final judgments of individuals.
Sometimes people feel that it is wrong to judge others in any way. While it is true that we should not condemn others or judge them unrighteously, we will need to make judgments of ideas, situations, and people throughout our lives. The Lord has given many commandments that we cannot keep without making judgments. For example, He has said: “Beware of false prophets. . . . Ye shall know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:15-16) and “Go ye out from among the wicked” (D&C 38:42). We need to make judgments of people in many of our important decisions, such as choosing friends, voting for government leaders, and choosing a spouse.
The Lord gave a warning to guide us in our judgment of others: “With what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother: Let me pull the mote out of thine eye—and behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast the mote out of thy brother's eye” (3 Nephi 14:2-5).
In this scripture passage the Lord teaches that a fault we see in another is often like a tiny speck in that person's eye, compared to our own faults, which are like an enormous beam in our eyes. Sometimes we focus on others' faults when we should instead be working to improve ourselves.
Our righteous judgments about others can provide needed guidance for them and, in some cases, protection for us and our families. We should approach any such judgment with care and compassion. As much as we can, we should judge people's situations rather than judging the people themselves. Whenever possible, we should refrain from making judgments until we have an adequate knowledge of the facts. And we should always be sensitive to the Holy Spirit, who can guide our decisions. Alma's counsel to his son Corianton is a helpful reminder: “See that you are merciful unto your brethren; deal justly, judge righteously, and do good continually” (Alma 41:14).
Today at our Branch we had the wonderful opportunity of listening to
one of the area seventies who came and spoke to the Hollister and Jackpot Branches.
It was a wonderful inspirational and edifying meeting.
As I was listening to this humble man teach I found my thoughts reflecting on "Rip Van Winkle."
Upon returning home I listened to a BYU-Idaho Devotional address by Sister Melody Johnson,
"The Desires of your Heart."
She was wonderful and if you would like to hear her talk go to
Her talk was amazing and truly touched my soul.
During her talk she made a comment that struck me, "Are you standing on the porch and peering into the window of discipleship? Rather than entering the door and receiving the blessings that come to those who follow the principles of the gospel...?" She then mentioned a quote by President Uchtdorf, "Either you are committed or your not. Either your moving forward or your standing still. There's no half-way. We all face moments of decision's that change the rest of our lives. As members of the Church we must ask ourselves, 'will we dive in or just stand on the edge.' 'Will I step forward or merely just test the temperature of the water with my toes.' Those who are only sort of committed may expect to only sort of receive the blessings of Testimony, Joy and Peace. The windows of Heaven might only sort of be opened to them. Wouldn't it be foolish to think, 'I'll only commit myself 50% now; but when Christ appears at the second coming I will commit myself 100%." She continued on with for me treasured pearls. She then closed with three questions:
What do you really want?
What does your heart truly desire
What are you willing to sacrifice to do and get it?
Those three questions are truly a powerful tool for one to reflect and ponder.
I loved her quote by President Uchtdorf so much that I tried to find the article from which she found it. I did not find that article but I found instead this article in which President Uchtdorf talks about Rip Van Winkle. Since Rip Van Winkle had been on my mind through my Sunday meeting I'm sharing President Uchtdorf's message also. As I read this article which was addressed to the brethren of the Priesthood, I found words of counsel that spoke to me. May you also find words of counsel within these writings and may you also reflect and ponder upon Sister Johnson's three questions and find what your Heart truly desires.
Nearly 200 years ago, the American short story “Rip Van Winkle” became an instant classic. The main character, Rip, is an unambitious man who is very good at avoiding two things: work and his wife.
One day, while wandering in the mountains with his dog, he discovers a group of strangely dressed men drinking and playing games. After accepting some of their liquor, Rip becomes drowsy and closes his eyes for a moment. When he opens his eyes again, he is surprised to find that his dog is gone, his rifle has rusted, and he now has a long beard.
Rip makes his way back to his village only to discover that everything has changed. His wife has died, his friends are gone, and the portrait of King George III in the tavern has been replaced by a portrait of someone he does not recognize—by General George Washington.
Rip Van Winkle had been sleeping for 20 years! And in the process, he had missed one of the most exciting periods in the history of his country—he had slept through the American Revolution.
In May 1966, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. used this story as an illustration for his speech “Don’t Sleep Through the Revolution.”1
Today, I would like to take the same theme and propose a question to all of us who hold God’s priesthood: are you sleeping through the Restoration?
We Are Living in the Time of the Restoration
Sometimes we think of the Restoration of the gospel as something that is complete, already behind us—Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon, he received priesthood keys, the Church was organized. In reality, the Restoration is an ongoing process; we are living in it right now. It includes “all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal,” and the “many great and important things” that “He will yet reveal.”2Brethren, the exciting developments of today are part of that long-foretold period of preparation that will culminate in the glorious Second Coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
This is one of the most remarkable periods of the world’s history! Ancient prophets yearned to see our day.
When our time in mortality is complete, what experiences will we be able to share about our own contribution to this significant period of our lives and to the furthering of the Lord’s work? Will we be able to say that we rolled up our sleeves and labored with all our heart, might, mind, and strength? Or will we have to admit that our role was mostly that of an observer?
I suppose there are a variety of reasons why it is easy to become a bit sleepy with regard to building the kingdom of God. Let me mention three major ones. As I do, I invite you to ponder if any might apply. If you see room for improvement, I ask you to consider what could be done to change for the better.
Those who are selfish seek their own interests and pleasure above all else. The central question for the selfish person is “What’s in it for me?”
Brethren, I am sure you can see that this attitude is clearly contrary to the spirit required to build God’s kingdom.
When we seek self-service over selfless-service, our priorities become centered on our own recognition and pleasure.
Past generations had their struggle with variations of egotism and narcissism, but I think today we are giving them serious competition. Is it any coincidence that the Oxford Dictionary recently proclaimed “selfie” as the word of the year?3
Naturally, we all have a desire for recognition, and there is nothing wrong with relaxing and enjoying ourselves. But when seeking the “gain and praise of the world”4 is a central part of our motivation, we will miss the redemptive and joyful experiences that come when we give generously of ourselves to the work of the Lord.
What is the remedy?
The answer, as always, lies in the words of Christ:
“Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
“For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.”5
Those who wholeheartedly turn their lives over to our Savior and serve God and fellowman discover a richness and fulness to life that the selfish or egotistic will never experience. The unselfish give of themselves. These may be small gifts of charity that have a grand impact for good: a smile, a handshake, a hug, time spent in listening, a soft word of encouragement, or a gesture of caring. All these acts of kindness can change hearts and lives. When we take advantage of the unlimited opportunities to love and serve our fellowmen, including our spouse and family, our capacity to love God and to serve others will greatly increase.
Those who serve others will not sleep through the Restoration.
Another thing that may cause us to sleepwalk through this significant season of the world is addiction.
Addictions often begin subtly. Addictions are thin threads of repeated action that weave themselves into thick bonds of habit. Negative habits have the potential to become consuming addictions.
These binding chains of addiction can have many forms, like pornography, alcohol, sex, drugs, tobacco, gambling, food, work, the Internet, or virtual reality. Satan, our common enemy, has many favorite tools he uses to rob us of our divine potential to accomplish our mission in the Lord’s kingdom.
It saddens our Heavenly Father to see how willingly some of His noble sons extend their wrists to accept the chains of devastating addictions.
Brethren, we bear the eternal priesthood of Almighty God. We are truly sons of the Most High and are endowed with unspeakable potential. We are designed to soar freely through the heavens. We are not meant to be shackled to the earth, imprisoned in straitjackets of our own making.
What is the remedy?
The first thing we must understand is that addictions are so much easier to prevent than to cure. In the Savior’s words, “Suffer none of these things to enter into your heart.”6
Several years ago, President Thomas S. Monson and I were offered an opportunity to tour Air Force One—the magnificent aircraft that transports the president of the United States. There were painstaking security checks by the Secret Service, and I smiled a little as agents searched our dear prophet prior to boarding.
Then the pilot in command invited me to take the captain’s seat. It was a remarkable experience to again sit at the helm of a wonderful flying machine like the kind I had flown for so many years. Memories of flights across oceans and continents filled my heart and mind. I envisioned exciting takeoffs and landings at airports all over the world.
Almost unconsciously, I placed my hands on the four throttles of the 747. Just then, a beloved and unmistakable voice came from behind—the voice of Thomas S. Monson.
“Dieter,” he said, “don’t even think about it.”
I’m not admitting to anything, but it just may be that President Monson read my mind.
When we are tempted to do things we should not do, let us listen to the loving warning of trusted family and friends, our beloved prophet, and always the Savior.
The best defense against addiction is never to start.
But what of those who find themselves in the grip of addiction?
Please know, first of all, that there is hope. Seek help from loved ones, Church leaders, and trained counselors. The Church provides addiction recovery help through local Church leaders, the Internet,7 and in some areas, LDS Family Services.
Always remember, with the Savior’s help, you can break free from addiction. It may be a long, difficult path, but the Lord will not give up on you. He loves you. Jesus Christ suffered the Atonement to help you change, to free you from the captivity of sin.
The most important thing is to keep trying—sometimes it takes several attempts before people find success. So don’t give up. Don’t lose faith. Keep your heart close to the Lord, and He will give you the power of deliverance. He will make you free.
My dear brethren, always keep far away from habits that could lead to addiction. Those who do so will be able to devote their heart, might, mind, and strength to the service of God.
They will not sleep through the Restoration.
A third obstacle that prevents us from fully engaging in this work is the many competing priorities we face. Some of us are so busy that we feel like a cart pulled by a dozen work animals—each straining in a different direction. A lot of energy is expended, but the cart doesn’t go anywhere.
Often we devote our best efforts in pursuit of a hobby, a sport, vocational interests, and community or political issues. All these things may be good and honorable, but are they leaving us time and energy for what should be our highest priorities?
What is the remedy?
Once again, it comes from the words of the Savior:
“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
“And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”8
Everything else in life should be secondary to these two great priorities.
Even in Church service, it is easy to spend a lot of time just going through the motions without the heart or the substance of discipleship.
Brethren, we as priesthood bearers have committed to be a people who love God and our neighbor and who are willing to demonstrate that love through word and deed. That is the essence of who we are as disciples of Jesus Christ.
Those who live up to these principles will not sleep through the Restoration.
A Call to Awaken
The Apostle Paul wrote, “Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.”9
My dear friends, know that you are sons of light.
Don’t allow selfishness! Don’t allow habits that could lead to addiction! Don’t allow competing priorities to lull you into indifference or detachment from blessed discipleship and ennobling priesthood service!
There is too much at stake for us as individuals, as families, and as Christ’s Church to give only a halfhearted effort to this sacred work.
Being a disciple of Jesus Christ is not an effort of once a week or once a day. It is an effort of once and for all.
The Lord’s promise to His true priesthood holders is almost too grand to comprehend.
Those who are faithful unto the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods and magnify their callings “are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies.” Therefore, all that our Father has will be given unto them.10
I testify that the cleansing power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the transformative power of the Holy Ghost can heal and rescue mankind. It is our privilege, our sacred duty, and our joy to heed the Savior’s call to follow Him with a willing mind and full purpose of heart. Let us “shake off the chains with which [we] are bound, and come forth out of obscurity, and arise from the dust.”11
Let us be awake and not be weary of well-doing, for we “are laying the foundation of a great work,”12 even preparing for the return of the Savior. Brethren, when we add the light of our example as a witness to the beauty and power of restored truth, we will not sleep through the Restoration. Of this I testify and leave you my blessing in the sacred name of our Master, even Jesus Christ, amen.