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W. Douglas Shumway

 

Brigham Young University-Idaho Devotional

July 9, 2013

  

 

Keeping Covenants and a Proper Perspective

W. Douglas Shumway

Former Member, Second Quorum of the Seventy


 

It is an honor to be with you this afternoon. I pray the Lord’s most choice blessings upon you, your families and your loved ones. You are a fortunate and blessed group.

 

As Sister Shumway and I completed our service in Bolivia, Sister Shumway thought it would be a nice gesture to take Florentina, a mission home employee, along with her five-year-old daughter and another young friend, Aurora, to McDonalds. The young girls had a good time: happy meals, ice cream, and play land. Upon departing, Aurora took the hand of Sister Shumway, looked into her eyes, and said, “Oh Sister Shumway, thank you so much for taking us to McDonalds. I never thought I would have the chance to eat here.” Kind of puts the abundance so many of us have in perspective, doesn’t it?

 

President Monson spoke of:

[B]oth abundance and lack of abundance existing simultaneously in our lives, as parallel realities. It is always our conscious choice which secret garden we will tend… when we choose not to focus on what is missing from our lives but are grateful for the abundance that is present—love, health, family, friends, work, the joys of nature, and personal pursuits that bring us happiness—the wasteland of illusion falls away and we experience heaven on earth.1

 

President Monson cites Emily, of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, as she laments, “Do… human beings ever realize life while they live it—every, every minute?” 2

 

It is difficult in this over-scheduled and complex world to keep a proper perspective of how we spend our time and what matters most.

To this end, Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught, “Someday, when we look back on mortality, we will see that so many of the things that seemed to matter so much at the moment, will be seen not to have mattered at all. And the eternal things will be seen to have mattered even more than the most faithful of the Saints imagined.”3

 

Take care to set your heart on the things that matter most, rather than those of little or no importance. Some struggle to reach the top of the ladder only to find that it is leaning against the wrong wall. We live in a world set on a course we must not follow. Keep the Lord at the forefront of your life. Doing so will ensure you are on course. If a change in how you spend your precious mortal time is needed, today is a good time to start. “The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago, the next best time is today.”4

 

In making this mortal journey, our covenants play a central role in reminding us of our course, in changing us, and motivating us in our quest for eternal life.

 

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a Church of covenants. Through sacrifice and obedience to our covenants we gain a proper perspective that brings promised blessings, including that of being accepted of the Lord. 5

 

The highest of our covenants are made in the temple. “A temple is literally a house of the Lord… a place where the Lord may come, it is the most holy place of worship on the earth. Only the home can compare with the temple in sacredness.”6

 

My hope is that as students of Brigham Young University-Idaho, each of you will keep covenants to be worthy of a temple recommend.

A friend told of a time when, as a young mother, her five-year-old daughter inquired, “Mom, who shall I marry?”

 

Although somewhat puzzled by the question coming from such a young child, she thought for a moment and responded, “I believe David is a good boy.”

 “Mom,” questioned the small girl, “Does he know the way to the temple?”

 

 As years passed David did not know the way to the temple and the righteous daughter married a young man who did know the way. She was sealed in the temple, and now continues to keep her precious covenants and eternal perspective. Covenant with the Lord now that you will marry one who knows the way to the temple. And within marriage, covenant together that you will always remember the way to the temple.

 

Section 109 of the Doctrine and Covenants is the dedicatory prayer of the Kirtland, Ohio Temple. According to the Prophet Joseph’s written statement, this prayer was given to him by revelation.

 

In verse 8 we are counseled: “Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing, and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God.”7 In this verse we are instructed to establish seven basic fundamentals—fundamentals that provide the foundation necessary to keep promised covenants and be worthy of promised blessings. These fundamentals are a model, an inspiration, a blueprint—for our homes, our families, our lives.

 

First, establish a house of prayer.

The prophet Enos tells of the wrestle he had before God prior to receiving a remission of his sins. “My soul hungered,” he declares, “and I kneeled down before my Maker, and I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul…”8

You and I cannot attain Enos-like faith without experiencing our own wrestle before God in prayer. Let me assure you, the reward of that wrestle is worth the effort.

 

A treasured friend of mine served his mission in Philadelphia. One day as his companion and he were walking down the street of this large city, they heard the voice of a girl crying to them, “Missionaries, missionaries come quickly, come quickly. My mother is very ill.” The voice was that of a young nine-year-old who had recently joined the church along with her mother. The missionaries gave a priesthood blessing and left. Upon returning the following morning the missionaries discovered that the mother was better. Inquiring of the young girl how she knew they would be near her home when so desperately needed, she responded, “When my mom became so ill, I went to my bedroom, I knelt by my bed and I prayed that Heavenly Father would send the missionaries. Then I went to the door and waited.” The Savior promises, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock…”9

 

As you establish a house of prayer and “council with the Lord in all [your] doings,”10 the Savior enters your lives and gives aid.

 

Second, establish a house of fasting.

In the Old Testament we learn of generous offerings of the faithful Israelites. When the King of Judah questioned Azariah, the chief priest, regarding the abundance he observed, Azariah responded, “Since the people began to bring the offerings into the house of the Lord, we have had enough to eat, and have left plenty: for the Lord hath blessed his people; and that which is left is this great store.”11

 

I recall a sweet expression of gratitude spoken by a young girl in Trinidad, Bolivia. As I stood to give the concluding remarks at a member district conference, I noticed her in a wheel chair at the back of the chapel. Her name was America Gil. We became friends. She needed expensive surgery to repair damage to her back caused by a childhood disease. She always wore a smile, ever spoke a kind word, and never uttered a complaint. Her family had not the necessary funds to cover needed medical costs. Use of fast offering funds was requested. Approval was given, surgery performed, and thankfulness expressed as she pulled me close to her hospital bed and whispered in my ear, “Please tell the members of the Church thank you for their generous fast offerings, allowing me to have this operation and opportunity to walk again.”

 

Today, I say thank you, my dear friends of BYU-Idaho, for your generous fast offerings. I reaffirm Azariah’s declaration that as you are generous with your offerings, you will be blessed.

 

Third, establish a house of faith.

Faith is principle of action.

 

A few years ago, I was on assignment with President Dieter F. Uchtdorf. He was at that time a member of the Presidency of the Seventy. Being from Germany, he mentioned to me he felt he was on foreign assignment in the United States. He expressed how he looked forward to the day when he would be able to return to his home and family in Germany. Subsequently, of course, he was called into the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and later into the First Presidency, never again to reside in his beloved home. President Uchtdorf’s covenants meant more to him than his beloved homeland. So upon his call to the First Presidency, he left his home in Germany to “wear out”12 the rest of his life in the service of God.

 

As you keep covenants, fulfill callings, and genuinely seek faith in your own house, the great reward of the Savior’s divine gift of redemption can be yours.

 

Fourth, establish a house of learning

I am acquainted with a couple from Central America. As members of a different faith, they were concerned when their young son passed away without being baptized. They consulted their minister and were told that the baby would go to limbo. “Where is limbo?” they inquired. The response was that it is believed to be a place of darkness, despair, and hopelessness.

 

Soon after, this couple joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They learned of eternal families and that their son was not in limbo but that he was saved and could be theirs forever. They learned of and were sealed in the temple, receiving great hope, with joy replacing despair. My dear young brothers and sisters, of all the things you can spend time learning, make certain to never stop learning of the Savior and His Gospel.

 

Fifth, establish a house of glory.

In the scriptures, glory denotes a manifestation of God’s presence.13 The temple is a manifestation of God’s presence on earth.14

On one occasion Sister Shumway and I were at the beautiful temple of Cochabamba, Bolivia. Elder and Sister Dallas Jones, from Silver City, New Mexico were the managers of the temple patron housing. A young family had traveled numerous hours to be in the temple. Shortly after showing the family to their room, Brother Jones returned to see how they were. The father was boiling some water.

 

“Are you preparing some soup?” Brother Jones asked.

 

“No,” was the response. “We have spent all of our money on transportation and lodging and have none left for food, and we thought hot water would be more nourishing for the children than cold water.”

 

 Brother and Sister Jones quickly prepared tuna sandwiches. The family was fed, they rested through the night, and the next morning entered into a house of glory where covenants were made and blessings promised through continued faithfulness. Eternal glory is not found in the food we eat, the clothing we wear, or the car we drive. Eternal glory is found in honoring our temple covenants and readily submitting the will of our Father in Heaven. Covenant with the Lord now that you will always remember the way to the temple, that you may feel the manifestation of God’s presence and glory.

 

Sixth, establish a house of order

“Thanks be to thy name, O Lord God of Israel,” prayed Joseph Smith, “who keepest covenant and showest mercy unto thy servants who walk uprightly before thee…”15 As we walk uprightly before our Father in Heaven, striving to keep covenants, and making changes as necessary, order will come to our lives.

 

In the thirty-sixth chapter of Alma we learn the seven steps to repentance.

  1. In verse 13: “Yea I did remember all my sins…”
  2. In verse 17: “I was… racked with torment… by the memory of my many sins, behold I remembered… to have heard my father prophesy (of) the coming of one Jesus Christ… to atone for the sins of the world.”
  3. Verse 18: “I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness.”
  4. Verse 19: “Behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more.”
  5. Verse 20: “Oh, what joy… what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!”
  6. Verse 23: “I… did manifest unto the people that I had been born of God.”
  7. And in verse 24: “Yea, and from that time even until now, I have labored without ceasing, that I might bring souls unto repentance… that they might also… be filled with the Holy Ghost.”16

 

The power of God is found in His attributes—the only power that Satan has is the power you give him. Satan is happy only when you are disobedient, but he cannot lock you up. You have a key—a key inside you—the key of repentance. How do you know if you are making a mistake? Part of your covenant promises and blessings is that the Holy Ghost will tell you. You must stay worthy. There will be trials. You must know beforehand what your response will be. As you walk uprightly before God, striving to keep covenants, and making changes—repenting—as necessary, order will come.

 

Seventh, establish a house of God

The Lord affirms, “… whatsoever you seal on earth shall be sealed in heaven; and… it shall be eternally bound in the heavens.”17 The sealing power given by God to man, performed only in His House, is a supreme gift from our Father in Heaven.

 

My great-great-grandfather, Charles Shumway, was a friend of Brigham Young. At Winter Quarters after leaving Nauvoo in the winter of 1846, President Young came to Charles and requested that he be a guide and go ahead of the company. Charles explained to the prophet that his wife had died the night prior and he did not expect his youngest daughter to live through the next day.

 

President Young responded to Charles, “Have you made temple covenants and been sealed to your family?”

 

“Yes,” came the reply.

 

“Then what else matters?” asked President Young. “I’ll await your answer in the morning.”

 

Charles went, leaving behind his ten your old daughter Mary, with her baby sister dying in her arms.

 

Because of a house of God, temple ordinances, and this sealing authority, I affirm to you that families can be eternal and that nothing matters more than keeping our covenants and a proper perspective.     

 

No one will make it through life without challenges. There will be setbacks, roadblocks, and some sorrow. When you face these challenges, remember your covenants. Turn to your covenants. The covenants you have and will make with the Lord will be to you a guide, a protection, and will give courage and aid in keeping the right perspective as challenges arise.

 

I sat one day some fifty years ago, as a young missionary, in the Montevideo, Uruguay mission home, being taught by our mission President, J. Thomas Fyans. He spoke of failure and of success, of Babe Ruth and baseball. I recorded the account as best I remembered it.

 

It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon. Thirty-five-thousand fans packed Shibe Park. Lefty (Bob) Grove, one of the greatest left-handed pitchers of all times, had just struck out Babe Ruth on three consecutive pitched balls for the second successive time. Babe went back to the dugout, tipped his hat politely, drank some water, smiled, and sat down.

 

Now, the situation was critical. It was near the end of the game, the bottom of the ninth. The Yankees were up to bat and the bases were loaded. Two men were out for the Yankees and the score was three to one in favor of the Athletics, the opposing team.

 

The excitement was tremendous.

 

“Strike ‘im out again,” pleaded the fans, as Babe Ruth approached home plate for one final turn at bat. Grove strutted around the pitcher’s mound. It was clear that he intended to do just that. He threw the first ball. It was a foul.

 

“Striiiiirike one!” roared the umpire.

 

Babe got ready for the second pitch. It was too fast. He swung and missed. He swung so hard that he fell to the ground. The crowd was going mad. They loved it. Ruth finally regained his feet, brushed off his trousers, dried his hands, and got set for the next pitch.

 

Grove delivered the pitch so fast that not a single fan could see it.

 

Babe swung.

 

It took the crowd a minute to realize what had happened. The ball was never coming back. Ruth had just knocked the longest home run of his career and one, which of course, won the game for the Yankees.

 

Following the game, a reporter asked Ruth, “How did you feel after you had missed the ball twice?” Babe replied, “I began to feel sorry for the pitcher, because the law of averages was against him.” The reporter persisted, “Didn’t you think you were going to fail after those first and second strikes?”

 

Babe stopped, looked the reporter squarely in the eye—and said: “Those strikes were not a failure—they were effort toward success!”

 

In your own life, though the way may seem difficult, the job complicated or the task unattainable, you can overcome. Success is possible, even probable, as you remain steadfast in your beliefs, true to your covenants, and worthy of a temple recommend.

 

This is the Church of Jesus Christ. He is our King and we are his servants. To give of our time, talent and effort for this great cause is precious little in return for what He did for us. We are never the same after we understand what our Savior, Jesus Christ, did for us in Gethsemane.

 

I leave with you my witness of his divinity and my certainty that our Savior is a resurrected, glorified, living being. I so testify. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

 

1 Thomas S. Monson, “Finding Joy in the Journey,” Ensign, Nov. 2008, 86

2 Id.

3 Neal A. Maxwell, Even As I Am, 1982, 104

4 Chinese Proverb

5 D&C 97:8

6 Bible Dictionary, 780-81

7 D&C 109:8

8 Enos 1:2,4

9 revelation 3:20

10 Alma 37: 37

11 2 Chronicles 31:10

12 D&C 123:13

13 See Bible Dictionary, 681

14 See D&C 97:16

15 D&C 109:1

16 Alma 36:13-24

17 D&C 132:46