This is an amazing environment and I believe you know it. I love being a small part of your lives, especially today. I speak to you this afternoon from experience. Experience that comes from the years attending college here and other universities, from wondering about what comes next, from marriage to a angel, from Church callings, from moments of service to others, from children, from living life, and from knowing there is so much to live for. Most important, experience that comes from knowing that I know I know.
Growing with five children (4 daughters and one son) through their infancy and early years, into their teens and now in their married lives, with children of their own, has had a common theme. Simply stated: learn and live expectations, not demands. This puts free agency where it belongs, in our mind and heart. For example, as Michael, our only son, was considering a mission, it was not demanded, but it was expected of him. We lived and taught him the counsel offered by a prophet of God, Ezra Taft Benson, when he stated: “Missionary service is expected from all young men….”1
Here is a prophet, citing the expectations for young men. That school of thought was a part of Michael’s home life as he grew in the priesthood. If you ever have a chance to meet him, ask him what the Texas Houston East mission did for him and for those he taught. Great blessings come from meeting expectations of the Lord.
While the expectation was always present, there were also far reaching implications. There may be extenuating circumstances where missionary service is not possible for some young men. Those circumstances need to be examined and careful consideration given before missionary service is discarded. Missionary work saves souls and provides invitation to the world to come unto Christ.
That also includes the missionary. Many a missionary will testify of the tremendous personal maturity and growth that occurs while in the service of their fellow man. But it goes much further than the individual. Elder Robert D Hales described effects on the future generations of a missionary with this insight: “Make certain that the great example of missionary service is a heritage you will leave your posterity.”2
Indeed living to expectations carries impacts on generations unseen. Or, consider marriage in the house of the Lord: the temple. The expectation in our home, because of what Sister Mendenhall and I knew, was for all our children––through all of their growing up antics––to never lose sight of a covenant union for eternity. That was accompanied with a need for decisions and choices that would not put worthiness to qualify for a temple recommend ever in jeopardy. Now, a celestial marriage in everyday mortality is their job. That blissful dream requires building trust and a relationship and confidence in one another and large amounts of patience and, yes, there are expectations.
There are expectations in all we do in the gospel and in life itself. But none of those expectations are beyond us or our capabilities. Recall for a moment as Ammon and his companions were preaching the gospel to the Lamanites, they encountered many difficulties and setbacks. Listen to Ammon’s missionary journal in the 26th chapter of Alma: “Now when our hearts were depressed, and we were about to turn back, behold, the Lord comforted us, and said: bear with patience thine afflictions, and I will give unto you success” (Alma 26:27).
From this perspective, the principles of the gospel and the ever-present blessings are taught and exemplified. From experiences of learning and living expectations, confidence in the promises and blessings of a loving Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ grow strong and become a foundation in all decisions and actions.
As parents we felt we were doing the right thing, in the right way, teaching these things to our children. By no means were we perfect parents. There were ups and downs, tests of patience, and questions about our expectations and even the expectations of gospel principles. But we pressed on. The impact? Let me share with you a card I received one Fathers Day. I keep it to remind me of many things. It reads:
“Dad, I know I was difficult, challenging, and a real pain growing up. But on Father’s Day I just wanted you to know… Let’s face it; you were no cakewalk either. Let’s just call it even. Love, Mike.”
I love my son.
We parented as we believed. Confidence in expectations we learned from our parents has been passed on to our children, expecting them to see what we saw, to know what we know. Expectations that great blessings would be theirs if––and most all of you have heard these––if they would:
Say their prayers
Read their scriptures
Go to church
Follow the prophets
Keep the commandments
Be home by midnight (I threw that in for Sister Mendenhall’s sake.)
All true and known by all of us. All expectations on the pathway to strength and confidence in gospel principles, promises, and blessings. Expectations are present for each of us, everyday, in all we do in this probationary time. And yet there seems to be a void in our confidence that causes us to hesitate in accepting all that is offered to us, and all that is promised to us by a loving Heavenly Father.
I speak of accepting a direct invitation from the Lord to step up in our purpose of all we do here on this earth. That invitation is: Increase our personal confidence in what the Lord expects of us and receive those rich blessings of gospel promises. As a young man in the Aaronic Priesthood there were two Church-produced videos that greatly influenced me: Johnny Lingo and The Windows of Heaven. I watched these many, many times over the years. As this is not a topic on dating today, I’ll leave the teachings on respect for the daughters of God until another day. So Johnny and Mahonna Lingo will have to wait.
Let me introduce you to a moment in the film The Windows of Heaven. If you have not viewed it––old as it is––it is a marvelous lesson on tithes and offerings. I remember the main storyline, but the real influence in my life came from the expectation the Lord revealed through the Old Testament prophet, Malachi: “…prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of Hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it” (Malachi 3:10, emphasis added).
While Malachi was teaching of tithes and offerings, for me as a young man the words “…prove me now herewith…” and “…open you the windows of heaven, and pour out a blessing that there shall not be room enough…” to receive the blessings, became embedded deep in my mind and my heart. And even as I experienced my own growing up antics, I did not lose sight of the significance this personal invitation offered to me. If it was given for the principle of tithing, what stopped it from being applicable to all promises offered from my Heavenly Father?
Prove Him herewith. Do we believe Him in all we face or just in the easy parts, the simple times, or the contented life? Remember Lehi and his family? They found the effects of accepting this invitation with the liahona. Their confidence increased when they put the principle of faith and direction into action. When they hem hawed, direction was lost and so were they (1 Nephi 16:28-29). Or the brother of Jared. He found the promise fulfilled as he described how the barges were built and how light was provided for the inside of the ships. And the windows of heaven were definitely opened to him (Ether 3:12-13).
Recall Moses and the Israelites. They experienced the fruition of that invitation when coming to the shores of the Red Sea as they were fleeing the armies of the Pharaoh. Exodus 14 records: “Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord…. And Israel saw that great work which the Lord did upon the Egyptians” (Exodus 14:13, 31).
Closer to home, Diego Fernando Zapata, a valiant young man from Colombia, who, just this past December, reached a milestone of a one-year anniversary of being baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints––the only member in his family, anxious to prove the Lord herewith. He attends BYU-Idaho. While here, he submits missionary papers and is called to labor in Argentina.
At home in Colombia, he lives four hours from the temple in Bogota. So he accepts the invitation from the Lord and proved Him herewith as he worked through efforts to attend the temple before leaving the United States. He received his own endowment, completed temple work for his grandparents, and attended endowment sessions in three different temples, all in the space of four days prior to returning to Colombia to prepare for two years of missionary service.
Diego is well on the path of accepting, with confidence, the invitation and promised blessings of the oath and covenant of the priesthood. Listen for the expectations and confidence in Doctrine and Covenants 84: “For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and the magnifying their calling…all that my Father hath shall be given unto him…” (Doctrine and Covenants 84:38).
Expectations, brethren? Yes. Faithful and magnifying. Sisters, through the priesthood, all the Father hath is yours. The windows of heaven can be opened. Recall the young Prophet Joseph Smith. He reads the words written by James recorded in the New Testament: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5). Here was a young 14-year-old boy prepared and confident to respond to that very same invitation that Malachi expressed. And the windows of heaven were literally opened to him and the blessings for mankind were more than there is room to receive.
I walked the same roads and towns in the Palmyra area as a young missionary. I taught the powerful principles of the Atonement that had been restored through this prophet. I watched lives changed. I witnessed the windows of heaven open up to many who accepted the fullness of the restored gospel in their lives. All as a result of a young 14-year-old boy willing to step forward with confidence in what was expected and was promised. I speak with full conviction that you too can feel the power of the Atonement in your life.
I extend the strongest sense of urgency to begin your own journey of finding confidence in what the Lord revealed through Malachi. Prove Him herewith. Today. Now. Elder Dallin H. Oaks explained the importance of this when he stated:
“The Apostle Paul taught that the Lord’s teachings and teachers were given that we may all attain ‘the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ’ (Eph. 4:13). This process requires far more than acquiring knowledge. It is not even enough for us to be convinced of the gospel; we must act and think so that we are converted by it. In contrast to the institutions of the world, which teach us to know something, the gospel of Jesus Christ challenges us to become something.
“It is not enough for anyone just to go through the motions. The commandments, ordinances, and covenants of the gospel are not a list of deposits required to be made in some heavenly account. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a plan that shows us how to become what our Heavenly Father desires us to become.”3
All that you are learning and have learned in these, your formative years and beyond, all the principles you taught in the mission field, all the facts you are absorbing in your classes here, all the discussions you have in family home evening, are not enough. We do not have the time or the luxury to merely go through the motions. The time is now to gain confidene, to actually “Prove me herewith, saith the Lord of Hosts.”
In 1859, a French tightrope walker and acrobat by the name of Jean François Gravelet, known professionally as the Great Blondin, awed large crowds of people with aerial acrobatics as he crossed on a high wire that great gorge that makes Niagara Falls. One instance he walked half way and stopped, placed a chair on the wire, and read a book. Another crossing found him balanced on the wire as he cooked an egg. But perhaps the most widely known of his exploits involved a wheelbarrow to be pushed across the great divide on the high wire.
As he began his trek, he stopped, turned to the crowd, and asked, “Do you believe I can do this?” “Yes,” was the overwhelming response. “We have watched you do many things and we know you can do this.” Blondin asked again, “You really believe I can do this?” “Oh yes,” came the confident responses from the safety of the cliff side. Blondin locked eyes with one man in particular and asked, “You sir, do you believe I can do this?” The man responded, “Yes, I do. I have watched you before do many amazing things.” To that, Blondin looked him in the eye and said to the man, “Get in the wheelbarrow.”
We are very much like that man, who, by the way, as the story goes, did not get in the wheelbarrow. We have seen great things, we know great things, but then when it is time to respond to “prove me now herewith” we stammer and back up like the man and the wheelbarrow. We seem to be strong to profess confidence but slow to prove it herewith.
May I suggest three very important “wheelbarrows” that, for some reason, we hesitate to climb into. Wheelbarrows that seem to hold us back from being quite ready to climb into the wheelbarrow of confidence in the Lord.
First Wheelbarrow: The Simple Wheelbarrow
What are your plans today and even tomorrow? Have we caused our lives to become so complex that we lose sight of the greatness that is in front of us? The 133rd section of the Doctrine and Covenants gives this direction: “…that men might be made partakers of the glories which were to be revealed, the Lord sent forth the fullness of the his gospel, his everlasting covenant, reasoning in plainness and in simplicity…To prepare the weak for those things which are coming on the earth…” (Doctrine and Covenants 133:57-58).
When Nephi was called upon by the Lord to build a ship to carry his family across the great waters, his brothers mocked him and belittled him. They chided him, telling him he was a fool. He had never built a ship. They didn’t help because they didn’t believe in his acceptance of a divine call to build this ship. But Nephi did believe and began preparations to build it.
Nephi patiently explained to his brothers the great things that had occurred with their fathers and Moses as they escaped the armies of the Pharaoh. Nephi recounted to his brothers regarding fiery flying serpents sent among their fathers when they entered into a time of disbelief. In order to be saved after being bitten and poisoned by the bites, Nephi wrote, explaining: “...the labor which they had to perform was to look; and because of the simpleness of the way, or the easiness of it, there were many who perished” (1 Nephi 17:41).
Just like those forefathers of Nephi, the simplest of expectations escape us. It was not a simple thing for Nephi to build a ship, but his confidence in what the Lord asked him to do was based on obedience to basic commandments. Brothers and sisters, plan for the future, but look for today. Those simple expectations of say your prayers, read your scriptures, go to church, follow the prophets, and keep the commandments, and, yes, be home by midnight or let’s say “curfew,” are actually very simple if we have confidence in the promises given us and look at what we are doing in our daily lives.
Second Wheelbarrow: The Wheelbarrow of Doing and Understanding
I was in a Coordinating Council meeting last month and Elder Robert E. Chambers of the Seventy was teaching an important principle of Church administration. He cited a portion of a verse from the hymn “Come, Come Ye Saints”:
‘Tis better far for us to strive,
Our useless cares from us to drive.
Elder Chambers stated, “The more engaged we are, the less time we have for useless cares.” Let me repeat that: “The more engaged we are, the less time we have for useless cares.”
Unfortunately, useless cares are a part of our everyday life. Imagine if a list of useless cares were compiled, the list would be most interesting. And yet those useless cares creep in and occupy a majority of our day, week, month, even lives. It creeps into our relationships. Of course, there will be times when a useless care to one person is a priority to another. Take stock every day. What is important to me? What is important to those I associate with? How do we know? Where to begin? Consider the wisdom and teaching of President Henry B Eyring:
“You can gain confidence that God keeps his promises by trying them. That’s why I so appreciate those commandments to which God has attached an explicit promise. I see those commandments as school masters. And I try to put them high on my list of things to do, because I know their value for changing my heart and building my power to invest my time.”4
A list of important things to do? Not a list maker or keeper? Get in the wheelbarrow. Have confidence in those who have gone before you. This purpose of identifying important things is explained by the Chinese philosopher and reformer, Confucius:
I hear and I forget.
I see and I remember.
I do and I understand.
You are the one to decide what useless cares are. You know, no excuses, you know! Act now. That one thing right now that would strengthen your confidence in the Lord’s promises––put it in place of one of your useless cares. Do and understand!
Third Wheelbarrow: The Wheelbarrow in the World
Preparing you to be an influence in the world in a profession you choose is a major reason you are here. You learn from those who know their way, who are professionals in your field of study. You are being prepared to take the world by storm. But this oft repeated teaching of Jesus Christ as recorded by the apostle John is never far from the lesson plans presented here at BYU-Idaho:
“And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are one.
“I pray not that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from evil” (John 17:11-15).
This should not––no, cannot––be forgotten in your studies, your internships , your everyday lives, even in home evenings at BYU-Idaho. As the president of a Young Single Adult stake, it saddens me to hear members of the Church here on this great campus make a statement such as, “It will be good to get home where I can act or do what I want.” We can meet expectations to prove herewith now, here in this environment. Restrictions? No. Consider it a wheelbarrow. A personal commitment to a personal expectation; even personal honor.
Standards are set. They do not change depending what part of the United States or the world we are in. Boyd K. Packer, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stated: “However out of step we may seem, however much the standards are belittled, however much others yield, we will not yield, we cannot yield.”5
I counsel you: do no get in the wheelbarrow of the world. Jump into the world in the world. Do what you have worked so hard to do. Take it by storm, but never forget President Packer’s statement. So many wheelbarrows, so little time today:
The Simple Wheelbarrow
The Doing and Understanding Wheelbarrow
The Wheelbarrow in the World
I hope now you can relate, as I did in my youth, that “…prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of Hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it” is the invitation if we will accept it. Understanding why and what is expected is an integral part of that invitation. I close with President James E. Faust teaching us:
“If you are willing to pay the price for success, good things, even great things, can happen to you, even beyond your fondest dreams and expectations! Often we do not have even a glimpse of our potential for happiness and accomplishment in this life and in eternity Many of us do not have a full awareness of what we really know. Even though we have been taught the gospel, we may not be fully aware of what the Lord has put in our ‘inward parts’ and written in our hearts.…you are heirs to great promises.”6
Will you accept the Lord’s expectations with courage and confidence? Will you accept the invitation to prove Him herewith and open the windows of heaven in your life? It is my hope, deep in my heart, that you do.
1 Ezra Taft Benson, “Joseph Smith, Prophet to Our Generation,” Ensign, July 2001, 61
2 Robert D. Hales, “Couple Missionaries: A Time to Serve,” Ensign, July 2001, 28-31
3 Dallin H. Oaks, “The Challenge to Become,” Ensign, Nov. 2000, 32
4 Henry B. Eyring, “Child of Promise,” New Era, Aug. 1993, 4
5 Boyd K. Packer, “The Standard of Truth Has Been Erected,” Ensign, Nov. 2003, 24
6 James E. Faust, “It Can’t Happen to Me,” Liahona, Jul. 2002, 51–54