It’s November, and you are nearing the completion of another semester. I am making the assumption that you are here with a purpose. I hope that one of your goals is to get a good education. However, I realize that individually you may have different objectives in mind. When I was a student at BYU, having been called into a bishopric of a singles ward, I was interviewing a young freshman sister about a possible call. During the course of our interview, I asked her why she was at BYU, thinking about her major. Her response surprised me, “Well, I’m here to marry a General Authority.” I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I thought they were all taken.
I believe her desire was sincere and certainly worthy. What she didn’t realize was that she needed to find a young man compatible in personality and goals, who held the priesthood and who was honorable and faithful, with a strong testimony, and then help him become someone who was qualified to be a General Authority. It is not necessary, however, to be a General Authority to qualify for the blessings and experiences General Authorities have. God would have all men be able to speak in the name of God the Lord.1
I know something about what you are and will face. We live in perilous times. It can be unsettling when hoped for outcomes aren’t realized and things seem to be falling apart all around us. Peace and safety comes when we are well anchored to the eternal bedrock of the gospel. Our responsibility on earth is to qualify for exaltation by completing our divinely appointed responsibilities. This is an individual work and a responsibility. In the scriptures we read:
Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection.
And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come.
There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—
And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.2
Gaining an education and qualifying for exaltation will be of eternal value to you. Completing your divinely appointed responsibilities will provide you with the needed credentials for exaltation.
My first job out of college was working for The Boeing Company. Boeing, as you know, makes airplanes. During the course of my employment, I learned that to make airplanes that were safe, Boeing had specifications for every part. The parts had to be qualified as meeting all standards including the shape, size and material and the tolerances. Each part had to be certified as meeting those standards. If a part met the standards, it would be placed in inventory to building an airplane. If it didn’t meet the standards, the part would be rejected and returned to the supplier. Suppliers of parts were very careful to understand all of the requirements including the tolerances.
Would you willingly ride in an airplane with substandard parts? Of course not! You would want the parts to exceed the standard. But some people appear to be willing to embrace substandard behavior in their lives. Only by knowing, understanding and living the doctrine of Christ can an individual adopt the behavior needed to qualify him for exaltation.
Today I would like to talk to you about standards and tolerances that affect each of our lives. I think you know what a standard is. Tolerance is a word that is heard frequently in society today, usually it is in the context of being tolerant or accepting of other people’s cultures or behavior. Sometimes it is used by people wanting acceptance to do something they want without consideration of its impact on society or others. My purpose is not to talk about that definition, but to focus on the engineering definition of the word tolerance and its application on us.
Tolerance is used to define acceptable limits from a defined standard. In manufacturing a part, the tolerance might be specified to be five inches long, plus or minus a thousandth of an inch. Another part might be defined to be made of a certain material that was ninety-nine point nine percent pure, like gold bars. As you move forward with your goals of education, marriage, employment, life, and working out your salvations, there are standards with tolerances you must meet.
Standards for salvation are called commandments given by our Father in Heaven. These standards apply to all parts of our lives and at all times. They are not selectively applied at a certain time or in a certain situation. These define the standard required to qualify for exaltation. There is a judgment, which, in a sense, is like the certification process for a part. Just as there are qualifying tests for aircraft parts, our Father in Heaven has a judgment to determine if we will be certified. It is to our advantage to know and meet the standards within the tolerance the Lord has set.
As I speak on this subject, I would do so in the context of recent talks given by members of the Quorum of the Twelve. One talk was given by Elder M. Russell Ballard on January 30, 2010 at BYU-Idaho. At that time, he spoke on the subject of signs of the times. After spending time talking about various signs of the times and their fulfillment or the nearness of the fulfillment of those signs, he said, “I want to try to pull this together, not to frighten you but to wake you up.”3 He then challenged the students to be prepared by having strong testimonies.
The other talks were given by Elder Dallin H. Oaks in the April and October general conferences of 2004. The title of the April talk was “Preparation for the Second Coming” and the title of the second was “That Ye May Not Be Deceived.” In both talks, Elder Oaks related the story of the ten virgins.
You will remember the ten virgins were invited to the wedding feast. When the Bridegroom arrived, five had the oil and were able to enter. The other five came late and could not enter the feast.
After relating the parable Elder Oaks said:
The arithmetic of this parable is chilling. The ten virgins obviously represent members of Christ’s Church, for all were invited to the wedding feast and all knew what was required to be admitted when the bridegroom came. But only half were ready when he came.4
The five virgins met the standards and so must we.
God created us in his own image. The plan for us on this earth is to obtain a body, have experience, receive ordinances and endure to the end. There are standards that have been established and parameters set which we need to live to qualify for exaltation. He has promised that we can be exalted, but He has also said, “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when you do not what I say, ye have no promise.5
In my experience working at Boeing, I learned of the importance of parts meeting the standards to become certified. All of us would be reluctant to ride in an airplane made of parts that did not meet the standards. Before I started working at Boeing, they had built what was then the largest building in the world. It was made to manufacture the 747 aircraft. The building was massive and sat on ninety-eight plus acres and has enough room inside to hold seventy-four football fields or nine hundred eleven basketball courts. It was around a half-mile long and nearly that wide. You could fit fifteen of the big U.S. Navy aircraft carriers inside the building and still have room to spare. The doors to the building are the size of a football field, and there are six of them.
If the specifications for this building required a tolerance of plus or minus one/thirty-second of an inch, and a contractor measured long for each inch of the building’s length, the building would be over eighty feet longer than specified. If he measured short for each inch of the length of the building, it would be about eighty feet shorter than the specified length. Either way, there would be a problem. Even if each measurement was just barely within tolerance, the accumulated affect over a long distance can create significant errors. In the specifications for airplane parts, the tolerances are even tighter than for a building.
God’s Plan and Standard
In God’s plan of salvation, we are the ones who are being molded, shaped and polished to become like Him. It is something each of us has to do individually.
“For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”6
He has established what we must do and the standards that we must meet. Something quite remarkable is that He gives us the moral agency of deciding whether or not we choose to accept and meet those standards. However, there are consequences of our decisions. While He gave us agency, He does not give us the authority to change the standards or the consequences of our decisions.
Because there are standards and we have agency to choose there is a final judgment, at which time each of us will be reviewed to see if we meet the standards. In other words to see if we have lived within the standards and tolerances He defined. We will either meet or not meet the standards that have been set. His judgment will be final. While there is a doctrine of repentance that allows us to correct or fix defects, it is better to focus on meeting God’s standards rather than planning to just invoke the principle of repentance before the judgment. I learned this lesson of meeting standards as a teenager.
As a teenager I spent my summers working on my grandfather’s ranch in Wyoming. It was a sheep and cattle ranch of more than two thousand acres plus additional rangeland. The ranch operation required a lot of equipment. Since the closest repair center was a long way away through part of the Wyoming Bad Lands my grandfather taught us to carefully maintain the equipment and inspect everything before we left the ranch house. If we had a breakdown, it was usually miles from the ranch house and that meant a long walk. It didn’t take long for me to learn the law of consequences. It was always better to avoid the problems than have a long walk. The same is true with the commandments of our Heavenly Father. He can tell the difference between someone who is striving to become like Him7 and an individual who is pushing the edges but trying to stay just inside the acceptable limits.
Examples of God’s Standards
Here are a few examples of God-given standards. One example is the Ten Commandments given to Moses and the Israelites he led out of bondage. The Ten Commandments have become known as the lesser or temporal law. The Lord also taught the standard would be heightened at His coming, which has occurred.
This commandment says we are to become not just do. The Savior said, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”8 In the Book of Mormon He asked, “Therefore, what manner of men ought ye to be?” Then answering the question He said, “Verily I say unto you, even as I am.”9
The next commandment is about tolerances. Christ taught, “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it."10 This illustrates that the standard is set and the tolerances given are narrow, not broad.
The name of Christ is the only one name whereby we can qualify for exaltation. He said:
And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God. And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end. Amen.11
I have already mentioned the parable of the ten virgins used by Elder Oaks in his conference talks. This scripture illustrates both the judgment and a requirement to have the Holy Ghost as our guide so that we are not deceived as we move through our life.
“The Family: A Proclamation to the World” is a more recent scripture given by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve. It singles out standards and tolerances on issues prominent in today’s society. They include the importance of temple marriage and families, the eternal nature of gender, and the importance of caring for and treating our spouses and children with love and tenderness according to our Father’s commandments.
We will do better by knowing, understanding and acting to meet the standards.
There are those, if they could, in the world today who are striving to dismiss or change the standards established by God. This is not a new phenomenon.
“Wo unto them that call evil good, and good evil, that put darkness for light, and light for darkness, that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”12
We must not be deceived or give heed to those who would attempt to convince us that the standards have changed. They have no authority to change those standards. Only the designer, Heavenly Father, can change the specifications.
All of us easily recognize how ridiculous it would be for a Boeing supplier to listen to some unrelated individual who promoted making changes to the specifications or tolerances of a part. None of us would want to ride in an airplane manufactured with such a part. Parts that do not meet the Boeing specifications are rejected.
No one would accuse Boeing of being unthoughtful or intolerant when such parts are rejected. Boeing would not and could not jeopardize all of the passengers who may fly in their airplanes. They would not allow themselves to be intimidated or bullied into accepting parts that cannot be certified. To do so would jeopardize their business and the lives of their customers.
The same is true with God’s laws and commandments. His standards are fixed, and no one else can change them. Some individuals who think they can, will be greatly surprised in the final judgment.
God is the Designer
Our Heavenly Father is the designer of the plan of salvation. He has put in place all that is needed for us to qualify to return to His presence. The standards are set and are known and are easily available to each of us.
He has told us that all of us are capable of meeting the standards. This scripture is evidence of this. From the Word of Wisdom we read, “Given for a principle with promise, adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all saints, who are or can be called saints.”13
We will not be tested beyond our capacity. The Savior teaches an individual “may not be tempted above that which he is able to bear.”14
You have the power.
“For the power is in [you], wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.”15
You can know and have the capacity to qualify for exaltation.
How to live the Standards
We find the standards by attending church and studying and acting on the doctrines in the scriptures and in the words of our modern prophets contained in Church publications.
The greatest source of guidance is the promptings that come from the Holy Ghost who will teach us all things that we must know.16 With the Spirit, we can know right and wrong. He will guide us and help us throughout our lives. We can feel in our hearts and have thoughts come into our minds that can give comfort and guidance. This is true even for children.
“Search these commandments, for they are true and faithful, and the prophecies and promises which are in them shall all be fulfilled.”17
God has promised that He will help us as we meet His standards.
No one would willingly ride in an airplane with substandard parts. Nor should you accept or practice substandard behavior. Only by knowing, understanding and living the doctrine of Christ can an individual qualify for exaltation.