Your Whole Souls as an Offering Unto Him

Elder David A. Bednar

Ricks College Devotional

January 5, 1999

 

In the year and a half that I have been serving as the president of Ricks College, I have participated in more than 50 devotional assemblies.  Worshipping with students like you each week is a great blessing in my life.  I love looking into your faces from the stand and appreciate your preparation to worship and your eagerness to learn.  

I have noted that many, if not most, of our devotional speakers at Ricks College begin their remarks by emphasizing that the youth in the Church today are a chosen generation and the most faithful and valiant young people to ever live upon the earth.  I have often wondered if you hear this description so often that it becomes overused and trite—and that its importance and deep implications may be overlooked.  

Today in my remarks I am going to pay you the ultimate compliment.  I will not spend much time telling you about who you are; rather, I am going to treat you like who you are.  Because I love and trust you, I will strive to be direct without being overbearing.  One of my primary objectives this afternoon is to cause you to think deeply and seriously about an important topic.  I ask for both your attention and prayers as I speak, and I invite the Spirit of the Holy Ghost to be with us during this time together.  

Today I want to discuss the relationship between the doctrine of Christ and your academic work at Ricks College.  Simply stated, I want to discuss the doctrinal and spiritual reasons for being a diligent student.

 
  
Faithful and Competent

The following statement by Elder Richard L. Evans, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles from 1953 to 1971, sets the stage for my message today.  

You know, it is a wonderful thing to be faithful, but a much greater thing to be both faithful and competent.  There is no particular virtue in being uninformed, certainly no virtue in ignorance.  When young people can acquire the skills, the techniques, and the knowledge of these times, and along with it have a spiritual commitment and a solid faith and cleanliness of life, there is nothing that you can’t achieve; nothing in righteousness or in reason.  (From an address given to the young people at the Northwest Inland Division Gathered for Zion’s Camp, October 15, 1971)

As students, I fear we may sometimes falsely separate spiritual development and progress (what I will refer to today as faithfulness) from academic discipline and competence (what I will refer to today as diligence).  Some students may even naively believe that irregular class attendance or a lesser level of academic performance is understandable and perhaps even  
excusable because they are conscientious in attending church meetings and stalwart in serving their fellowmen.  

My purpose today is to admonish you to use your academic opportunities to the fullest and to avoid at all costs the academic path of least resistance.  Specifically, I challenge you as a student at Ricks College to be diligent in both your spiritual and academic pursuits or, as Elder Evans said, to be both faithful and competent.  

Please understand that when I use words such as “diligent” and “competent” I am not simply talking about performing well on tests and receiving good grades.  A student can memorize wonderfully and perform well on exams and ultimately know very little or nothing at all. The academic path of least resistance to which I refer can be described in a number of ways.  It is characterized by questions and statements such as these:  

It is also characterized by a student who, during registration last semester, considered taking a rigorous and challenging course that promised both hard work and significant learning.  The student’s response to the demands of the class reveal a real poverty of perspective and is summarized in the following actual comment:  “Are the tests really hard?  I have a 3.9 thus far in my college career, and I will not take any class that might jeopardize my  
cumulative GPA.”  

My dear brothers and sisters, your college experience is not merely a game to be played with the ultimate winner determined by test scores and GPA.  College is not just an experience to endure and “get through” with the false expectation that somehow, someway we will magically be different on the day we graduate.  Rather, a college experience is a period of development in one’s life to be prized and prospered.  Indeed, simply settling for “getting   
through” college is like buying an expensive car that has no engine.  The car may look very good from the outside, but inside the real power is missing.  

Today as I refer to “diligence” and “competence” I am talking about conscientiously and consistently and constantly learning how to learn.  I am talking about preparing your mind for the important and weighty responsibilities that shortly will come to you, and for which you  
must be ready.  


  
Ricks College Mission Statement 

 The mission of Ricks College has four important and interrelated parts:  

1.  Build testimonies of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and encourage living its principles.  

 2.  Provide a quality education for students of diverse interests and abilities.  

 3.  Prepare students for further education and employment, and for their roles as citizens and parents.  

4.  Maintain a wholesome academic, cultural, social and spiritual environment. 

Please note that the first element of the mission statement, building testimonies of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, relates to the faithfulness Elder Evans described.  The second and third elements of the statement, which focus upon providing a quality education and preparing students for future responsibilities, relate to the competence he described.  And the fourth element of the statement relates to the type of environment in which both faithfulness and competence can be cultivated.  

A disciplined and educated mind is a tool for reasoning and inquiring and evaluating and discerning.  These abilities are not merely the requirements described in a course syllabus; rather, they are essential skills for a spiritual, happy, and productive life.  More importantly, the combination of spiritual strength and mental capacity provides the means whereby we can  
act for ourselves rather than be acted upon.  

The men whom we sustain today as prophets, seers, and revelators are marvelous examples of both faithfulness and competence.  Before his call to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Elder Russell M. Nelson was a world renowned heart surgeon.  Elder Dallin H. Oaks was a respected lawyer, judge, and constitutional scholar.  And Elder Richard G. Scott was a highly skilled engineer who played a key role in the development of the nuclear navy. The faith and diligence of these great men helped them become powerful servants and special witnesses of the Lord Jesus Christ.  

In the scriptures, the words faith and diligence are used together in the same verse twelve times.  In 1 Nephi 16:28 we learn that the directional pointers in the Liahona “. . . did work according to the faith and diligence and heed which we did give unto them.”  In 1 Nephi 17:15 we note that Nephi “. . . did strive to keep the commandments of the Lord, and I did exhort my brethren to faithfulness and diligence.”  And in D&C 103:36 we recognize that “. . . All victory and glory is brought to pass unto you through your diligence, faithfulness, and prayers of faith.”  Clearly, the integrated themes of faithfulness and diligence occur over and over in the scriptures.  

Now please turn with me to section four in the Doctrine and Covenants.  I want to draw your attention to verse two:  “Therefore, O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind, and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day.”  

Now, typically we would interpret heart, might, mind, and strength as four separate but interrelated factors that are required in the service of God.  May I suggest an additional interpretation?  Please consider the word “might” as descriptive of the “heart.”  In other words, a mighty heart is required for serving God.   Now also consider that the word “strength” as descriptive of the “mind.”  Therefore, to effectively serve God we also must have a strong mind.   

Perhaps, then, another way of interpreting this verse is as follows:  O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with a mighty heart, and with a strong mind, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day.  
The mighty heart equates to the faithfulness and spiritual strength described by Elder Evans.  And the strong mind equates to competence achieved through intellectual diligence and discipline.  

Let me emphasize once again, as I talk about “diligence” and “competence,” I am not suggesting that one must be a Rhodes Scholar, or a straight A student, or an apostle.  Rather, diligence implies a tenacious persistence about, an engagement in, and a love for the process of learning.  

Brothers and sisters, each of you has a responsibility to yourself to become a diligent student as a means of personal preparation for the challenges and responsibilities that lie ahead.  

You have a responsibility to your family to become a diligent student as an expression of your appreciation for and gratitude to them.  

And most importantly, you have a responsibility to the Savior and His church to become a diligent student because of the covenants you already have made or will yet make— particularly the covenants of sacrifice and consecration.  


   The Principles of Sacrifice and Consecration 

I now want to relate the responsibility that you and I have to be diligent in developing strong minds to the principles of sacrifice and consecration.  Let me briefly describe each of these principles. 

 
  
Sacrifice    

The word sacrifice means “to offer or surrender something valuable or precious.”  The Prophet Joseph Smith provides the most clear and concise explanation of the importance of the law of sacrifice in the Lectures on Faith:  

For a man to lay down his all, his character and reputation, his honor, and applause, his good name among men, his houses, his lands, his brothers and sisters, his wife and children, and even his own life also—counting all things but filth and dross for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ—requires more than mere belief or supposition that he is doing the will of God; but actual knowledge, realizing that, when those sufferings are ended, he will enter into eternal rest, and be a partaker of the glory of God.  

Let us here observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation; for, from the first existence of man, the faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things.  It was through this sacrifice, and this only, that God has ordained that men should enjoy eternal life; and it is through the medium of the sacrifice of all earthly things that men do actually know that they are doing the things that are well pleasing in the sight of God.  (Lectures on Faith, Lecture 6, pg. 57-58) 

Elder Bruce R. McConkie has taught that sacrifice pertains only to mortality.  In the eternal sense, there is really no such thing as sacrifice.  

Sacrifice involves giving up the things of this world because of the promises of blessings to be gained in a better world.  In the eternal perspective there is no sacrifice in giving up all things—even including the laying down of one's life—if eternal life is gained through such a course.  (Mormon Doctrine, pg. 664) 

In summary then, the principle of sacrifice requires us to willingly offer anything and everything that we possess for the sake of the gospel of the Savior—including our character and reputation; our honor and applause; our good name among men; our houses, our lands, and even our families; all things, including our very lives if need be. 

    Our pledge is:  I will give all that I possess, and I am willing to die, if need be, for the gospel of Jesus Christ.  

    Sacrifice is motivated by faith and hope and produces increased commitment and a desire to obey.  

    President Spencer W. Kimball vividly describes how he, as a very young boy, began to learn about the principle of sacrifice.  

When I was a little boy about four years old, my father had gone to work on Monday morning and my mother took my brothers and sisters and myself to  see the bishop.  (You see, my mother had eleven children.)  There were about four or five that were not in school, so Monday morning we started out on the road with two buckets of eggs.  I was like many other little boys, I could ask  many questions, and I said:  "Where are we going, Ma?" and she said, "We are going to the bishop's," and I said, "Why are we going to the bishop's?" "These are tithing eggs," she said.  Then I said, "Ma, what is tithing?"  And then she explained, "Every time we take ten eggs out of the nest, we put one in a special bucket.  The other nine we take to the store to buy clothes and food with and so these eggs in this special bucket keep increasing until we have a bucket full. And then every week we take them to the bishop and he gives us a receipt showing that we have paid our tithing."  

Then, when I was a little bigger boy, I used to put up hay.  I would drive the horses that were hitched to the wagon and tramp the hay down and my older brothers pitched it on the wagon, and when we had gone to the field in the morning, my father would say, "Now, boys, this is the tenth load this morning. This belongs to the Lord.  You go up into the upper part where the hay is the best and get a big load and then take it over to the big barn in which the bishop keeps the Church hay."  In that way I learned how to pay tithing, so it isn't hard for me to obey this law.  (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 341) 

We are all familiar with many other stories about farmers who offered their best grain, best produce, or finest animals to the bishop as their tithing.  And only their best was good enough for the Lord

Tithing is but one application of the principle of sacrifice.  Today, we do not typically pay our tithing with such donations-in-kind.  Rather, we readily use our cash to pay our tithes and offerings.  And most of us would willingly and gladly offer up anything that was required of us, including our snowboards, golf clubs, CD players, and our year’s supply of Ramen noodles.  


   Consecration   

Consecration is related to but different from sacrifice.  The word consecrate means to develop and “dedicate to a sacred purpose.”  Sacrifice is what I will offer, surrender, yield, or give up.  Consecration, on the other hand, is to fully develop and dedicate to a sacred purpose.  

Please listen to the following description of the principle of consecration provided by President Ezra Taft Benson:  “We covenant to live the law of consecration.  This law is that we consecrate our time, talents, strength, property, and money for the upbuilding of the kingdom of God on this earth and the establishment of Zion (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 121).  

As we live the law of consecration, we are willing not only to offer anything and everything we possess for the sake of the gospel, but we also promise to develop and devote our best selves—our time, talents, and strength—to the building of the kingdom of God on the earth.  

Our pledge is:  I will give me and all that I can become, and I will live for the gospel of Jesus Christ.  

The principle of sacrifice is a lesser law preparation for the principle of consecration. Consecration includes and encompasses sacrifice and much more.  We are not only willing to offer up our possessions, but we will become the best we can be and assist however possible in building the kingdom in righteous ways.  

We will not only die for the gospel, but we will develop ourselves and live for the gospel.  

True consecration is motivated by charity and produces an increased desire to serve.  

The best application of the principle of consecration that I can think of, being developed and dedicated to a sacred purpose, is motherhood.  Over the past 24 years I have watched my wife, a very talented, capable, and competent woman, as she has developed and dedicated herself to the holy purposes of our home.  Some would say she has sacrificed or given up much to become the heart of our home and to rear and nurture our children.  She has not given up anything; rather, she has been dedicated and consecrated to a holy purpose.  She has developed herself and applied those skills as God has directed in the most important undertaking of a lifetime, which is the rearing and nurturing of children.  


   Sacrifice and Consecration       

May I suggest, brothers and sisters, that in these latter days much more is required of us as children of the covenant than our money and substance.  As the Church spreads throughout the world in a rapidly changing and complex information age, may I suggest that we must consecrate unto the Lord both a faithful heart and a strong mind—a mind capable of learning and instruction and discipline and receiving revelation.  And only our best is good  
enough for the Lord

In my devotional address last year at the beginning of the fall semester, I indicated that attending Ricks College is both a privilege and a responsibility.  Sacred tithing funds make it possible for you to be here, and the price you pay for tuition and fees is only a small percentage of the actual cost of your educational experience at Ricks.  Literally, the widow’s mite, contributed from faithful Church members around the world, makes it possible for you to  
be here.  

Please turn with me in the Book of Mormon to Omni 1:26.  
 

And now, my beloved brethren, I would that ye should come unto Christ, who is the Holy One of Israel, and partake of his salvation, and the power of his redemption.  Yea, come unto him, and offer your whole souls as an offering unto him, and continue in fasting and praying, and endure to the end; and as the Lord liveth ye will be saved. 

As a student at Ricks College, you have been provided with a stewardship opportunity and responsibility to develop a mighty heart and a strong mind—to become both faithful and competent as Elder Evans described—in preparation for that day when you can offer your whole souls unto Him.  

President Marion G. Romney has taught:  

Can we see how critical self-reliance becomes when looked upon as the prerequisite to service, when we also know service is what Godhood is all about?  Without self-reliance one cannot exercise these innate desires to serve. How can we give if there is nothing there?  Food for the hungry cannot come from empty shelves.  Money to assist the needy cannot come from an empty purse.  Support and understanding cannot come from the emotionally starved.  Teaching cannot come from the unlearned.  And most important of all, spiritual  guidance cannot come from the spiritually weak.  (Conference Report, October 1982, pg. 135) 

My dear young brothers and sisters, what will you and I be prepared to offer unto God? Will you and I offer a mighty heart and strong mind, indeed, our whole soul, unto God? Please consider that during your time at Ricks College you are preparing “here and now” for the consecrated offering you will place upon the altar “there and then.”  

As I began my remarks today, I told you I would talk to you and treat you like who you are.  Indeed you are a special generation.  You live upon the earth at a remarkable and challenging time.  And you must remember that “. . . of him unto whom much is given much is required” (D&C 82:3).  Now is a season of preparation in your life.  Please use your time at Ricks College to become both faithful and competent, to develop a mighty heart and a strong mind.  The scriptural warning directed to slothful servants who must be commanded in all things applies to both spiritual and school work.  As students at Ricks College, we should be anxiously engaged in the process of learning and do many things of our own free will.  

Remember the promise of Elder Evans:  

When young people can acquire the skills, the techniques, and the knowledge of these times, and along with it have a spiritual commitment and a solid faith and cleanliness of life, there is nothing that you can’t achieve; nothing in righteousness or in reason.  (From an address given to the young people at the Northwest Inland Division Gathered for Zion’s Camp, October 15, 1971)

I testify that God lives.  I witness that Jesus is the Christ and the Redeemer of the world.  And I know that the fullness of the gospel was restored to the earth in these latter days through the Prophet Joseph Smith.  Indeed there are living apostles and prophets on the earth today.  The Savior directs the affairs of His church through a living prophet, even Gordon B. Hinckley.  Of these things I testify and declare my witness, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

 

 

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