Today I am so happy to be here with my husband Steve. He is my best friend. He is amazing. I want you to know that when we got engaged he pinned me with his Future Farmers of America pin. I never wore it because it was the head of a cow! But I have kept it all these years—43 to be exact. When we married, we were both in school at BYU. Steve had recently returned from his mission. We both had part-time jobs and very little money. Neither of us had any idea what the future would hold. I recall one sacred evening just before we were married when we shared our patriarchal blessings. Neither of us knew that my blessings would also become Steve’s and that Steve’s blessings would in turn become mine. When we married we doubled our blessings! We didn’t have it all figured out, but we grew together as we struggled and faced challenges together and went through transitions together. It has been a great journey and I wouldn’t trade one minute of it.
We often debate this question in our family as we are traveling to run a marathon. What is the best part—running the marathon and crossing the finish line or preparing to run a marathon? Each of our family members has strong opinions about that, but for me, the preparation is the best part. I love it! I love the discipline it takes to wake up every morning and to put in the time and the miles that will help my body respond to the stresses of an actual marathon. It takes desire, planning, discipline and action. It’s like life in so many respects—making a plan, strict training, hills, a set path, beautiful vistas, training partners, long lonely miles, people cheering, falling and getting back up, injuries, aid stations, and of course a finish line. A marathon is one thing that you cannot do virtually! You must act and be in the arena.
One of my top 10 favorite quotes was given by former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt. This quote has motivated and inspired me many times as I have wondered if what I am doing is worth it. President Roosevelt said:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”1
So today, I say to each of you—move out of your comfort zones. Dare great things! These are your days. This is the time that has been anticipated throughout eternity. You have been reserved to be here on the earth now. You were prepared and uniquely tutored for your destiny now. You are not ordinary. Your gifts and talents, and your preparation now will help you to accomplish your divine mission—and each of us has one. Each of you came to the earth with gifts to help you accomplish your part. Again, your patriarchal blessing contains guidance to help you remember who you are and the grand work in which you will play a unique and important part. It also enumerates some of your gifts.2 And we know from scripture that each of us has come with at least one gift. So find out what that is and multiply your gifts. You can do that! We again are instructed in scripture to “seek” and even “covet earnestly the best gifts"3 so that we can assist in building the kingdom here on the earth. Again, you are not ordinary and these are your days!
Yours are to be glorious days! They will not be easy. There will be trials and tribulations in abundance but the Lord has said, “And the saints also shall hardly escape; nevertheless, I, the Lord, am with them.”4 Your lives of preparation, righteousness, courage and purity will change the world! Your influence will be felt in the future, but also right now, in the present. You are influencing the older generation right now.
Recently, I was with four women from Idaho. They expressed their gratitude for the righteous young women whose influence strengthens their testimonies. They wept when they told me how much they are learning from watching you. You see, we are not immune to influence from you. You inspire us! Your light gives us hope and confidence in the future. Elder Neal A. Maxwell said it best, “We not only regard you as the seedbearers of a celestial culture to come, but our own journey can be hastened by your pressing forward.”5
You will recall from your reading of the Book of Mormon that an emerging generation of youth “became for themselves” and discounted the teachings and examples of their righteous parents. Many “were led away.” And then the scripture relates and emphasizes our need for each other and for the strength we receive from each other. It says, “the Lamanites…began to decrease as to their faith and righteousness, because of the wickedness of the rising generation.”6 Elder Maxwell observed, “Lowering standards in the rising generations can create an undertow that affects all ages.”7 So I repeat, dare great things!
What do I mean and what will this require of each of you—of each of us? It will require that we: 1) dream big, 2) move out of our comfort zones, and 3) go forward with full confidence relying on the strength of the Lord.
First, dream big—What seems impossible is often possible! Believe in yourselves. Believe in not only who and what you are now, but in what you have the power to become. You are gathered here in this university and this valley sheltered from the world. Sitting on a hill is the temple. This is not by chance. Elder Bednar has referred to a university adjacent to a temple as a “Disciple Preparation Center.” He said,
“Let me suggest that in Rexburg, Idaho, we are in the process of creating not a missionary training center (MTC), but a Disciple Preparation Center—a DPC. In this special and sacred and set apart place, you and I have access to unparalleled spiritual resources that can assist us in developing and deepening our devotion as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. That is the primary and most important reason for the existence of Brigham Young University-Idaho and for its sponsorship by and affiliation with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”8
So take every opportunity you can to draw strength and inspiration by attending the temple and seek learning not only by study, but also by faith. Work hard to achieve your dreams. Don’t let discouragement or mistakes delay you. Move outside your comfort zones. Push yourselves. Expect more. You can move beyond the limitations set by ordinary men. Don’t let the low standards and expectations of the world and others cause you to aim beneath your nobility and ability—dream big!
Every year in Australia, an endurance race that goes from Sydney to Melbourne is held. This race is 543.7 miles long and takes world class athletes five full days to complete. It is known as the world’s most grueling ultra-marathon. And the athletes who enter are mostly young, less than 30 years of age, highly trained and sponsored by large companies.
Let me share with you the story of a very unlikely competitor named Cliff Young, who at 61 years of age showed up at the start of this race wearing his overalls and work boots. Everyone assumed he was a spectator, but when he picked up his number and joined the other competitors, everyone was shocked. When he was interviewed by the press, they told him in effect that he was crazy to attempt this and that he should not even start the race. They told him there was no way he could ever finish. To which Cliff replied: “Yes I can. See, I grew up on a farm where we couldn't afford horses or tractors, and the whole time I was growing up, whenever the storms would roll in, I'd have to go out and round up the sheep. We had 2,000 sheep on 2,000 acres. Sometimes I would have to run those sheep for two or three days. It took a long time, but I'd always catch them. I believe I can run this race.”9
The professionals who had run this race knew what it took and they had calculated that in order to finish in five days, a person had to run for 18 hours straight and then sleep for six hours. Everyone knew this fact. Everyone that is, except for Cliff Young!
When the race started, Cliff was left in the dust. He wasn’t flashy, he wasn’t sponsored, and he wasn’t fast. In fact he didn’t even run properly—he shuffled! So on the second day of the race, Cliff was forgotten. But to everyone’s surprise, he was still in the race. He had jogged all night long! And not only that, but he had determined to run for the next five days straight to the finish line without sleeping at all. No one believed that this could be done—no one that is, except Cliff.
“Cliff kept running. Each night he came a little closer to the leading pack. By the final night, he had surpassed all of the young, world-class athletes. He was the first competitor to cross the finish line and he set a new course record…Today, the ‘Young-shuffle’ has been adopted by ultra-marathon runners because it is considered more energy-efficient. At least three champions of the Sydney to Melbourne race have used the shuffle to win the race. Furthermore, during the Sydney to Melbourne race now, modern competitors do not sleep. Winning the race requires runners to go all night as well as all day, just like Cliff Young.”10
What does this story teach us? It isn’t that we shouldn’t sleep; rather, it teaches us that we can change the world! We can do hard things. We can endure. We must prepare and all our life is preparation. Believe in yourself! Don’t give up. Endure! You have the power to achieve anything you set your mind to. There are many lessons and each is custom fit to you. What I know and have learned is that anything worth doing is not easy and that we can do anything that is not easy if we believe. Now you may not be contemplating a marathon or an ultra-marathon, but you may be in the middle of a challenge that looks like one. You may feel opposed on every side. You may wonder if you really can continue to push forward with a perfect brightness of hope. So as Paul taught the Hebrews, today I repeat the same words to each of you—“Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward.”11 Go forward with faith knowing if you do your part, the Lord will always do His.
Second, we must be willing to move out of our comfort zones. We must be willing to change, to make transitions, to repent. It is an interesting thing that as human beings, we seek comfort zones. But, from everything I read in the scriptures, I don’t think the Lord likes us to be in a comfort zone. He repeatedly takes his choicest servants out of their comfort zones and challenges them by their circumstances, their trials, and their opportunities to become more and to do more. Has anyone gotten into a comfort zone yet in these beginning weeks at BYU-Idaho? Perhaps not, but today I believe one of the reasons I was asked to speak is because I think I have the hanging out/dating thing figured out! Now, what I am about to say may take some of you out of a comfort zone. You see, I have been studying this issue for a lot of years. My husband was the bishop of a singles ward and I studied it there. I have been all over the world and talked to thousands of young women and they have expressed their dismay and discouragement about the whole thing. I am the mother of five sons. So I know both angles. I know the ins and the outs of dating and while I didn’t do much hanging out because my mother wouldn’t let me, I did enough to understand what takes place in that arena.
Now for my discovery about dating—nothing has changed really. And it’s precisely because you haven’t changed. You see the principle is that the structure is perfectly designed to get the results it gets. Let me illustrate this principle. Take this potato peeler—which you have to be familiar with here in Rexburg! See how it works. It is perfectly designed to get these results! Even this little point is designed perfectly to remove the eyes of the potatoes and look at these results. So in order to get results or dates here on this campus or any campus or anywhere there are young single adults, you have to redesign the structure for the intended results. And of course that means you must determine, and I mean seriously determine just what results you really want—really! So instead of talking to you about marriage and family, I am going to start on a more elementary level. Let’s just focus on getting dates. Dates for the purpose, of course, of finding an eternal companion, but let’s do first things first! Because you certainly can’t marry, and become parents of a beautiful family, unless you actually go on a date (probably a lot of dates). So let’s start there. I am going to suggest a structure change.
Young women—stop hanging out. Stop competing with each other in a group for the attention of the available men in the room. Make yourself scarce. The boys won’t notice for a while and they’ll keep hanging out and then all of a sudden they’ll say—“Hey where are the girls?” Then they will huddle and brainstorm about whom to text to come and join them. When the text comes, don’t go join them—just text back: “Busy tonight.”
Then wait till they call you and personally ask you to go on a date with them. Not to hang out or congregate with a lot of others, just the two of you and perhaps one other couple—on a date. According to Elder Dallin H. Oaks, this is what this means, “Hanging out consists of numbers of young men and young women joining together in some group activity. It is very different from dating…Dating is pairing off to experience the kind of one-on-one association and temporary commitment that can lead to marriage in some rare and treasured cases.”12 So young men, make an investment with your wallets, in your future. Seriously begin your search for an eternal companion. You are so valiant and good that I know the Lord will enlighten you just like he did the Brother of Jared when he moved him out of his comfort zone on the beach (see Ether 2:14). And, don’t look for perfection. Perfection is a journey—my husband is still working on me about that! But instead look for purity. We can’t be perfect right now, but we can all be perfectly pure.
Many of you have heard me talk about the need for a return to virtue. I truly feel that a return to virtue, meaning chastity and moral purity, would change our society and I also feel that you must be the ones to lead that return. Isn’t it rather amazing that in a world that insists on purity in the air and environment, and in our food, that we do not insist on moral purity which lies at the very foundation of every successful and powerful society? By the word return, I am not saying that all have made mistakes and need to return, but I am saying that it is possible to return, to repent to change because of the Savior’s Atonement. The Savior himself uses this word a lot when he speaks to us, His sons and daughters. Returning is repentance and repentance is progress. It is a gift that was given to us by the Savior in Gethsemane. It is a gift from a loving Heavenly Father who so loved the world that he sent His only begotten Son. He made it possible for each of us to repent, to return, to change and to become like Him. In order to do this, we must also be willing to move out of our comfort zones—to change. And that change can happen today.
Last, we must go forward with full confidence. Did you know that the word confidence is derived from the Latin words “con” and “fideo” which means with faith. Confidence requires faith and purity. That is why Peter admonishes all to “add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge.”13 The Lord also instructs us to “let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly” and promised that “then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God…. [and] the Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion.”14
Several years ago, my husband and I were in Nauvoo. I love going there. I love getting up early in the morning and running those streets in silence and thinking and pondering about what it must have been like to be in Nauvoo at a time when the Church was young. I am always touched as I run down or walk down Parley’s Street and read the quotes from some of the pioneers’ journals that are now inscribed on plaques and placed along that street. The one that always touches me the most is a journal entry from Bathsheba Smith. She wrote, “[I swept] up the floor, and set the broom in its accustomed place behind the door.” In other words, she left that beautiful home knowing that she'd never come back to it again, but she still left it beautiful. And then she wrote, “I gently closed the door and faced an unknown future.” So many of those men and women did that. These were cultured, refined men and women gave up everything because they knew the gospel was true.
My husband had a lot of relatives that were in Nauvoo at that time. One of them was Zina Huntington who later became one of the general presidents of the Relief Society. She lived in upstate New York when the missionaries visited their home and left one copy of the Book of Mormon for the family to read. As a young woman, Zina held that book in her hands and said, “This is the truth, truth, truth.”15 She was converted to the gospel before she ever opened the book. She knew by the Spirit that the Book of Mormon was a true record and she made the transition from living in a beautiful two-story rock home on a farm in upstate New York, to going with the saints to Kirtland, Missouri, Nauvoo, and later traveling west. She had the confidence to leave her comfort zone, so to speak, because of her faith and testimony. As I go down Parley's Street and read those inscriptions, I weep because I feel the spirit of those men and women. I feel the sacrifices they made for us so we can be where we are now.
Zina Huntington married and while living in Nauvoo she was expecting a baby. It was in that condition that she left her home, crossed the Mississippi River, got just a little further West and had the baby on the banks of a river. The river was named Chariton. So the baby was named Chariton. I think about those kinds of things, and then I think about what we've been asked to do. And I think, “Oh, what we're doing is easy compared to them.” But you know what? It's not. What we're doing now is pivotal and it's not easy. And it's not going to be easier. In fact, I think it may get harder for us. And I think that we are going to have to be very strong and firm, we're going to have to be like Zina and know—“It's the truth, truth, truth.” So as we think about making transitions and moving out of our comfort zones, think about those men and women. How did they do it? What helped them make the transition? I believe it's all about having a testimony of Jesus Christ. And that if you have a testimony of Jesus Christ, and His restored Gospel, you will be able to make any of life's transitions. They had a testimony, and they had a temple. They had covenants – so they had a focus and they knew exactly where they were headed. Nothing else really mattered.
I’d like to share with you my testimony that when you make a transition, you are never alone. You are never alone. Our Heavenly Father knows exactly where you are and He will be with you. As you make some transitions, and they're difficult, you can pray to Him. He will even send His angels to be with you. I testify of that. I know that's true, because He has done that for me. I know many of you here know that is true too because He has done that for you. He will “lead [you] by the hand, and give [you] answers to your prayers”16 as you make wise transitions. You will not do any of it alone as you exercise your faith in Jesus Christ and you pray to Him; He will be with you. As you purify your life you can, in effect, reach out and take His hand, He will lead you to a place better than you can comprehend. As you bravely face transitions you will grow. I have a saying on my message board at home. It reads: “We must be willing to give up the life we have planned in order to have the life that is waiting for us.”17
We can go forward in the strength of the Lord will full confidence in His promises to us. Perhaps there is a pattern in the words Joseph Smith himself shares with us. He related his concerns on what happened after he had had one of the supreme spiritual experiences of all time. He said,
“During the space of time which intervened between the time I had the vision and the year eighteen hundred and twenty-three—having been forbidden to join any of the religious sects of the day, and being of very tender years, and [being] persecuted by those who ought to have been my friends. . . .I was left to all kinds of temptations; and, mingling with all kinds of society, I frequently fell into many foolish errors, and displayed the weakness of youth, and the foibles of human nature; which, I am sorry to say, led me into divers temptations, offensive in the sight of God.”
Then he confessed:
“I was guilty of levity, and sometimes associated with jovial company . . . not consistent with that character which ought to be maintained by one who was called of God as I had been.”18
He understood his identity! He knew his life was not consistent but most importantly, he knew what to do about it. He had faith that he would receive an answer. He relates: “I betook myself to prayer and supplication to Almighty God for forgiveness of all my sins and follies, and also for a manifestation to me, that I might know of my state and standing before him; for I had full confidence in obtaining a divine manifestation, as I previously had one.”19 As you dare to do great things, as you move out of your comfort zones and as you go forward with full confidence and trust in the Lord, your future will unfold before you. You will accomplish many seemingly impossible things and you will change the world!
I would like to close by sharing with you a memory of some young women in Africa when I last visited there. I asked to visit with some young women prior to training their leaders. The group of young women arrived at the church promptly at nine in the morning. I found out that the young women had gotten up, some of them at four o’clock in the morning, to go to the river and bath and get the water that was necessary for their mothers to do the cooking. And then they walked the distance that it took for them to get to the church by nine o'clock. They were radiant and beautiful when they arrived carrying their scriptures on their heads, in beautiful African dress, bare-footed, and with dust all over their legs. At the end of our time together I asked them to tell me what their typical day was like. They told me every morning they get up, go to the river to bath, and then carry a bucket of water home to the village where they make this mixture called gari which everyone eats either on a leaf or in a coconut. They just eat it with their fingers. The mothers usually make the gari in a pot, over a fire, out in the front of their little hut. After their trip to the river and their simple morning meal, the young women walk to seminary. In the middle of the visit I said, “You have told me what it's like to be a young woman in Africa. Now tell me, do you have many challenges?” They had been very talkative but suddenly the room became silent. They just sat there and so I tried to encourage them by saying, “Now you could tell me, I promise I won’t tell the Prophet.” They giggled but they still didn't say anything. Finally one young woman, her name was Vivian, stood regally in the back of the room and said in her beautiful British accent: “Sister Dalton, it is true. We young women here in Africa, we have many challenges but Sister Dalton, we have the gospel of Jesus Christ!”
That morning in far away Africa, I was tutored by a young African girl who was willing to dare to do great things, dream big, move out of her comfort zone and go forward with full confidence relying on the strength of the Lord. We not only have the gospel of Jesus Christ, we have Jesus Christ. He lives! He loves you. The infinite power of His atonement will strengthen and enable you and He will lead you by the hand.
I testify that these are your days. The preparation you are making now in this Disciple Preparation Center will help you accomplish things you never dreamed of. You will witness, and be a part of, miracles in these latter days.
“Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? . . . He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. . . But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”20 I so testify, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
1 Theodore Roosevelt, Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910
2 Doctrine & Covenants 46:11
3 1 Corinthians 12:31
4 Doctrine & Covenants 63:34
5 Neal A. Maxwell, Wherefore, Ye Must Press Forward, 84
6 3 Nephi 1:29-30
7 Neal A. Maxwell, Wherefore, Ye Must Press Forward, 84
8 David A. Bednar, “Brigham Young University–Idaho: A Disciple Preparation Center (DPC),” August 31, 2004
9 Quoted from http://www.elitefeet.com/the-legend-of-cliff-young
10 Quoted from http://www.elitefeet.com/the-legend-of-cliff-young
11 Hebrews 10:35
12 Dallin H. Oaks, “Dating versus Hanging Out,” Ensign, June 2006