Five Smooth Stones of: Faith, Obedience, Service, Prayer, and Holy Ghost
Ricks College Devotional
July 10, 2001
It is a humbling experience to be invited to share the devotional message with you today. My prayer has been that we might be joined by the Holy Spirit, that we might be lifted and directed and edified. When I was first invited to speak today, I surveyed the students in my economics class, asking them what they felt would be a good devotional topic. I appreciate their suggestions, because it gave me an insight as to what situations you are dealing with. The majority suggested that I talk about how to succeed in school and maintain a spiritual balance in life beyond school. Having given that subject some thought and prayer I am prepared to share with you five gospel orientated principles that I believe are essential to your success in completing your education and maintaining a spiritual balance in life beyond school. I will use as my text selected scriptures and personal experiences. I will talk of David and Goliath; of the apostle Paul's invitation to "put on the armor of God," of the Mormon pioneers, and words of our beloved prophets today.
As a young boy I remember attending Sunday School and hearing the story of David and Goliath. I remember sitting on the edge of my seat, looking at the picture depicting David, his arm drawn back, a leather-tonged sling in his hand aimed at the giant Goliath. My teacher told the story in such a way I envisioned myself as David facing Goliath with a stone loaded into my sling. Goliath was a giant, armed with a metal helmet, metal breastplate and metal shin guards. The picture depicted him holding a spear in one hand that was as long as he was tall. David had no such visible armor and he looked minuscule compared to the towering giant. I could imagine the fear that must of been in David's heart, but as I looked at the picture I noted that David did not show fear but determination and courage. I was excited as the story continued of how David whirled the sling and with deadly accuracy let the stone fly finding it's mark in the forehead of the giant. I cheered when my teacher told of how David stood upon Goliath after slaying him and held aloft the sword of the giant, demonstrating the victory.
Today we may not have to face a physical Goliath, but there are definite trials that will challenge us in our pursuit of education, marriage, family and careers. There are situations and decisions that we will face that have dangers in the form of fashions, fads, and social activity of our own day and time. Indeed there are mountains of social and economic behavior that will test and try our testimony and resolve to live the gospel principles. How can we face the challenges of today? What can we learn from the story of David and Goliath that will help us to be successful in our schooling and maintain a spiritual balance in our life after school? Please turn with me to the book of First Samuel, Chapter 17, page 405 in the Old Testament.
The story of David and Goliath has been told and retold for many generations. You will remember the story of how Israel was at war with the Philistines. In the first verses of this chapter we learn that the Philistine army were camped on one hill and the army of Israel, led by King Saul were camped on another hill, with a valley between them (v. 1-3). The Philistines had selected one man, "a champion out of the camp" (v4) named Goliath to represent the entire Philistine army. Goliath was a giant compared to any of the Israelite soldiers. Indeed, he was over nine feet in height and wore a protective coat of mail that weighted over 168 pounds alone! Each day Goliath would call a challenge to the Israelite army to send out a representative, a champion soldier to meet him in the valley and there fight to determine which side would win the war. His challenge was the same each day for forty days and has some relation to our own challenges we face even today. Let's read beginning in verse 8 of chapter 17:"And he stood and cried unto the armies of Israel, and said unto them, Why are ye come out to set your battle in array?...choose you a man for you, and let him come down to me."
"If he be able to fight with me, and kill me, then will we be your servants: but if I prevail against him, and kill him, then shall ye be our servants, and serve us."
"And the Philistine said, I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man that we may fight together."
"And when Saul and all Israel heard those words of the Philistine, they were dismayed, and greatly afraid." (v. 8-11)
The Philistines were a tribe from the Aegean Sea who had settled along the coast of Palestine, bringing with them the roots of the Greek culture. The Greek culture was given to the worship of many different deities or gods and goddesses. The Philistines would of believed that multiple gods watched over them and directed their daily events, and would flock to shrines called oracles to have their future told by the priest or priestesses. Families and individuals tried to please the gods with offerings and ceremonies. The Philistines entered the land of Canaan about the same time as the children of Israel did and were a very sophisticated, highly complex, extremely warlike people. They learned the art of iron smelting from the Hittite's and had the military and economic advantage over the Israelites. (The ancient Greek culture made lasting contributions to our own Western civilization in the form of the arts, government, philosophy, mathematics and athletics all which influence our lives today.) They were a thorn in the side of Israel. The Philistines were at the time of Saul, and may very well represent in our lives today, enemies of God. Goliath stood as a symbol of those things that were against the teachings of God. President Spencer W. Kimball spoke of modern day Goliaths and warned:
"You will meet Goliaths who threaten you. Whether your Goliath is a town bully or is the temptation to steal or to destroy or the temptation to rob or the desire to curse and swear; if your Goliath is the desire to wantonly destroy or the temptation to lust and to sin, or the urge to avoid activity, whatever is your Goliath, he can be slain. But remember, to be the victor, one must follow the path that David followed: 'David behaved himself wisely in all his ways; and the Lord was with him.' (1 Samuel 18:14)" (Spencer W. Kimball, "The Davids and the Goliaths," Ensign, Nov. 1974, 79)
What are your Goliaths? How many Goliaths have you faced in your life? How many times have you heard the words of Goliath "I defy the armies and the God of Israel this day"? Modern day Goliaths may be in the form of a habit, a behavior, or a relationship. Perhaps in our own language you have heard Goliath this way:
- "Hey, it's not a problem. It's only a little beer. A little drink won't hurt you. 'I defy you to prove me wrong. "
- "What will one cigarette hurt?"
- "Come on, you can copy my project and then we can take that road trip this weekend."
- "That movie was so good, it only had a few bad parts, but the rest was great!"
- "To get ahead in school and life you have to climb over someone else. You snooze, you loose."
- "Come on, a little bit of premarital sex hasn't hurt anyone. Every body does it. Get over it!"
- "I was up real late last night, I don't really need to go to church today. I need my sleep, after all, my education is why I'm here at school and I need to be rested for my classes. I can go to church any time."
- "A mission is okay, but I really don't have to serve one to be a good member of the Church. Besides, a mission is so hard, it just isn't worth it."
- "Hey, there's nothing wrong with the pop I drink, my Bishop hasn't said that caffeinated pop is bad for you, just coffee."
The Goliath of David's time stated the conditions of the battle: If he won, the Israelites would become slaves to the Philistines. If the Israelite challenger won, the Philistines would be slaves to the Israelites. Modern day Goliaths issue the same conditions with their challenge, if they win we will slaves to a behavior that will not allow us to return to our Father in Heaven.
A prophet today has told us that we will meet Goliath(s) in our daily activities. That same prophet also told us that we can slay our Goliaths and that we can be the champion. All we have to do is to behave ourselves like David did and the Lord will be with us. Let's read what David did in order to slay the Goliath of the Israelites. We'll jump ahead in the story of David and Goliath to verses 38-40 and then come back to look at the earlier verses. When David was determined to face Goliath he first attempted to arm himself with the modern armaments available to him. He put on the helmet and coat of mail of Saul. Then he strapped the sword of Saul around his waist. But David was not familiar with these protections, nor was he able to move about in them very well. Note his words at the end of verse 39:
"...And David said unto Saul, I cannot go with these; for I have not proved them. And David put them off him."
Instead of using the armor of Saul, David turned to something that was familiar to him and something that he had proved before. Let's read verse 40:
"And he took his staff in his hand and chose him five smooth stones out of the brook, and put them in a shepherd's bag which he had, even in a scrip; and his sling was in his hand: and he drew near to the Philistine."
So armed with a shepherds staff, his sling in his hand, and five smooth stones in his shepherd's bag David went to meet Goliath. We know the result of that meeting. I have often wondered why David picked up five stones. What is significant about the number of five? And why was the author of the book of Samuel prompted to record that those five stones were smooth?
May I suggest to you that those five smooth stones David used to slay his Goliath represent five gospel based principles that we may use to slay our own Goliaths today? May I also suggest that the mention that the five stones were smooth implies that these gospel based principles have been proven and tested on Goliaths of the past and present? These five smooth gospel stones represent personal habits or personal behavior that David possessed by which he was able to defeat Goliath and if we acquire these five smooth gospel stones of behavior we too will conquer our personal Goliaths as President Kimball has promised. Let's look at the five smooth stones of gospel based principles that David used in his defeat of Goliath.
The First Smooth Stone - Faith
The first smooth stone that David picked up may represent the first principle of the gospel, the principle of faith. David demonstrated great faith in God as he took on the giant Goliath. Let's read from verses 33-37:
32: And David said to Saul, Let no man's heart fail because of him; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine.
33 And Saul said to David, Thou art not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him: for thou art but a youth, and he a man of war from his youth.
34. And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father's sheep, and there came a lion and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock;
35. And I went out after him, and smote him, ...
36. Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear:...
37. David said moreover, The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine. And Saul said unto David, Go, and the Lord be with thee.
As a youth David had been taught the principle of faith. He had put his faith in the Lord as he tended and protected his father's sheep. David recognized that it was not by his own power that he had killed the bear and the lion, it was by the power of God. With that faith David met Goliath.
From your youth you have been taught the principle of faith by your parents, your teachers in seminary, Sunday school, primary and your church leaders. You have been taught to believe in God, our Father in Heaven, and in His son Jesus Christ. You have been taught to trust them when you are faced with a Goliath type situation.
Now you are away from your parents and those teachers. As you continue your formal schooling and informal education in society you will be exposed to different ideas and philosophies of life. As a missionary, I had been assigned to a small town in Northeastern Oklahoma. In that town was Northeastern Oklahoma State University, which at that time was nationally known for it's "party school" environment. While tracting one day, my companion and I were invited to give a discussion to a young college coed, who was a freshman from the state of New York. As we began our discussion we were establishing the need for a prophet and apostles in today's society. In the course of the discussion, the young woman said, "Do you think the ten commandments are valid today? Do you think that we need the ten commandments?"My companion and I replied in unison, "Yes, we do believe the ten commandments are valid and needed even more today than at any other time."
To which she replied: "Well, I used to think that too. I was raised by my parents to believe that the ten commandments were valid today and important. But since I have come to college, I have learned that we don't need them any more. Man and the world have become so smart and intelligent that we don't need the commandments. We have doctors and medicines that can cure anything and we have lawyers and judges that settle any dispute or argument or if someone breaks the law. We don't need the ten commandments of the Bible any more."
This young woman was being exposed to the modern Goliath of the late 1960's and early 1970's. She had been converted to the philosophies of the world. She had dropped the smooth stone of faith and had lost her direction in her pursuit of an education, replacing the smooth stone and shield of faith with arrogance, conceit, and egotism. Her Goliath was winning the battle.
While serving a mission in Oklahoma I met Rick. Rick was 16 years old and was searching for the truth. Through a young woman, who was a strong member of the church, Rick began taking the missionary lessons. He believed the message and wanted to be baptized. However, he needed his parents permission, who would not agree to his embracing the gospel, and would not give their permission. He was told that if he did join the Church that he would be evicted from his home and his family would disown him. Rick had a decision to make. Others have had to make the same decision between Church and family, perhaps some of you here today. But Rick's situation was a bit different. Rick was blind, had no eyesight and was totally dependent upon his family. The young woman that had introduced him to the gospel had read the Book of Mormon to him and by exercising his faith and prayer he had gained a testimony of the truthfulness of that book. He picked up the smooth stone of faith, and made the decision to be baptized. His parents were true to their promise and Rick did loose his home and family. But through one miracle after another, Rick was blessed with another home, support and means to progress and grow in the gospel and life. Rick was able to defeat his Goliath by exercising faith.
In another time 2,060 young men left their homes, following a prophet of God in defense of their religion and freedom. These young men had never fought in battle before, yet they carried with them the smooth stone of faith and the shield of faith. You are familiar with these young men known as the "Stripling Warriors of Helaman". When faced with their Goliaths, the Lamanities, and asked if they would fight or not, they valiantly stated:
"... behold our God is with us, and he will not suffer that we should fall; then let us go forth;... yea, they had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them and they rehearsed ... the words of their mothers, saying: We do not doubt our mothers knew it." (Alma 56:46-48)
"Now this was the faith of these of whom I have spoken; they are young, and their minds are firm and they do put their trust in God continually." (Alma 57:27)
These 2,060 young men met their Goliath and through their faith won the battle. They were true to the faith, true to their convictions, true to the faith of their fathers and mothers.
The Second Smooth Stone - Obedience
The second stone that David picked up may be the stone of obedience. Obedience is the first law of the gospel. Through obedience we exercise the principle of faith. David was in the right place at the right time, because he obeyed his father. If David had not obeyed his father, Israel would of been under siege for a longer period of time. Let's read verse 20 of I Samuel 17:
20. And David rose up early in the morning, and left the sheep with a keeper, and took, and went, as Jesse had commanded him; and he came to the trench, as the host was going forth to the fight,...
Obedience to parents is one of the original ten commandments given to Moses. Faith and obedience go together. Without faith there would be no need for obedience and without obedience, faith is dead. Your faith will not grow without obedience. One of my personal Goliaths I have faced needed a combination of faith and obedience to conquer.
After completing my degree at BYU-Provo my wife and I moved to Pullman, Washington to pursue a Ph.D. From the first day in my graduate program at WSU, it was obvious that I was the only LDS among both graduate students and faculty. The habits and life style of my colleagues and instructors were not consistent with mine, which led to a confrontation between myself and one of the faculty members. In my graduate program there was a tradition called the "Friday night seminar", where the graduate students and the faculty met in a social setting to visit and "rub shoulders" with each other. It was a time that the students could get to know the faculty more as individuals and visa versa. The seminar would begin on Friday afternoon, after the last class of the week, around 5 p.m. and was held at a local tavern, or bar where alcoholic drinks were served. All graduate students were expected to attend. I didn't. Of course the obvious reason for not attending was my adherence to the word of wisdom. The not so obvious reason was I had been taught by my parents and leaders to "avoid the appearance of sin" in every way.
After the first month or so, one of the professors approached me and after some light conversation he stated, "Steve, I haven't seen you at the Friday night seminars. Why?"
I explained that I was just getting into the program and that I was struggling with the rigor of the graduate courses, which required me to spend a lot of time at school in studies and classes. Each day of the week usually began about 5 a.m. and ended around 10 or 11 p.m. which didn't allow me to see my family very much. On Friday, I would put down my studies at 5 p.m. and go home and be with my family. The faculty member then suggested, "Well, you know that it's real important that you get to know the faculty and that we get to know you. We are here to help you in your studies and we can help you more if we know more about you, and the best place for us to get to know you is at the Friday night seminars."
I expressed my appreciation to this faculty member for his concern and willingness to help me. Then I explained that because of my religion that I didn't drink alcohol and didn't frequent taverns or bars because of the example it might set for my four young children. His response was quick and sharp, ""Well it's just as important that you do attend. If you don't start attending the seminar on Friday night, you can kiss your Ph.D. degree goodbye. I will make sure you do not get your degree here."
I thanked him for his opinion and told him that he had to do what he felt he had to do, but I had to do what I knew was right. I would not be attending the Friday night seminars. To shortened the story, I did not attend the seminars, and through the intervention of the Lord with one miracle after another, I did complete my degree within four years -- almost 1 to 2 years earlier than most of the graduate students. One graduate student that I had become friends with came into my office after the first year and announced that he was going to have to drop out of the program. I asked him why. He stated that he had become an alcoholic, that he had become a slave to alcohol. He said the problem first started with the social drinking of the Friday night seminars, and then the social drinking turned to more frequent drinking until he could not control it. He was not the first to fall to the Goliath of disobedience.
Elder M. Russell Ballard spoke of the social Goliaths that test our resolve to obey:
"Too many of our young men and women are succumbing to the pressures imposed by a world saturated with evil messages and immoral behavior. Lucifer is waging a vicious war for the souls of young and old alike, and the casualty count is climbing. The standards of the world have shifted like the sands of a windblown desert. That which was once unheard of or unacceptable is now commonplace. The world's perspective has been so dramatically altered that those who choose to adhere to traditional standards of morality are viewed as strange, almost as though they must justify their desire to keep the commandments of God.
"But one thing is certain: the commandments have not changed. Let there be no mistake about that. Right is still right. Wrong is still wrong, no matter how cleverly cloaked in respectability or political correctness." (April Conference 1999)
And in his address on the 6 B's last November President Hinckley has stated:
" We live in a world that is filled with filth and sleaze, a world that reeks of evil. It is all around us. It is on the television screen. It is at the movies. It is in the popular literature. It is on the Internet. You can't afford to watch it, my dear friends. You cannot afford to let that filthy poison touch you. Stay away from it. Avoid it."
" Avoid evil talk....Choose your friends carefully....Be clean. Don't waste your time in destructive entertainment.... Stay away from pornography...Stay away from illicit drugs...Stay morally clean...." (First Presidency Message A Prophet's Counsel and Prayer for Youth, January 2001 The Ensign, 2)
The Third Smooth Stone - ServiceThe third stone that David picked up may well be the smooth stone of Service. Without service the stones of faith and obedience will have no power or strength. Service is the action associated with faith and the implementation of obedience. You will remember the words of Nephi when he said "...I will go and do ..." (1 Nephi 3:7) When David arrived at the army with the food for his brothers, he heard Goliath issue his challenge and watched as the soldiers all shrank from their assigned duty. In verses 26-29 David asked some very pointed questions to the soldiers and of his brothers. Essentially David ask them why they weren't doing their duty, their service to their country and family. In verse 28 his own brother scolds him and says that David is proud and boastful. To which David replies in verse 29 and 32 exhibiting his willingness to serve:
- And David said, What have I now done? Is there not a cause?
- And David said to Saul, Let no man's heart fail because of him; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine.:
It is likely that David had learned to serve the Lord earlier in his life. It is also likely that he had been taught and had read the scriptures available at that time. David was familiar with the story of Joshua assisting Moses in leading the children of Israel out of Egypt and through the wilderness. It was Joshua who had led Israel in to the promised land, even the land the Philistines were now attempting to take from them. David probably read the account of Joshua giving his last address to the children of Israel. Listen for the action words associated with "service" in these verses Joshua 22:5; 24:14-15).
- ... take diligent heed to do the commandment and the law, which Moses the servant of the Lord charged you, to love the Lord your God, and to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and to cleave unto him, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.
- Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in truth...
- ... choose you this day whom ye will serve;.... but as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.
David knew of the gospel principle of service and of serving God. Today, we not only have the scriptures with countless examples of service, we also have the example of our Pioneer ancestors who we honor this month. Day in day out as the pioneers walked the 1,300 miles across the plains, they served each other, as they followed the prophet in faith to build a Zion in the West. As the hymn states:
Service was their watch-cry;
Love, became their guiding star;
Courage, their unfailing beacon,
Radiating near and far.
Ev'ry day some burden lifted,
Ev'ry day some heart to cheer,
Ev'ry day some hope the brighter,
Blessed, honored Pioneer!
(They The Builders of The Nation, Hymns, 36)
The Willie Handcart Company began ascending Rocky Ridge on October 23, 1856, and then onto the rescue wagons at Rock Creek. They were still about 300 miles east of Salt Lake City, on the high plains of Wyoming. This stony hill has a long ascent and rough rocks sticking out of the trail like ridges. This brave pioneer company of Saints had left their homes in Europe with the ultimate goal of reaching Zion in the Great Salt Lake Valley. They had put their faith and trust in the call from the prophet, Brigham Young. They had started late in the season from Europe which made them even later in leaving Florence, Nebraska with their hastily built handcarts. The maximum amount of personal belongings that these handcart saints could bring was a scant 17 pounds per person. Food rations were limited and became short in supply as the company moved across the westward trail. The harshness of the trail, exposure to the elements, scarcity of food and fatigue from over-exertion took it's toll as almost every day one or two or more of the company died. On October 19 a snow storm hit the company, stopping their trek. Now without any food, the entire company would surely perish if they didn't get help. Help was available at Rock Creek, but to reach it the company would have to cross Rocky Ridge.
Their day's journey covered a minimum of 12 miles, much of it uphill. A blizzard was raging, with the wind blowing and 18 inches of snow on the level. Many of the pioneers were wrapped in blankets and quilts to keep warm. The last of the company, including some ox teams loaded with the sick and dying, didn't get in to Rock Creek until the following morning, 27 hours later. Besides the blizzard, and the steep journey up Rocky Ridge, they also had to cross Strawberry Creek, before arriving at the rescue site of Rock Creek.
Archibald McPhail had been assigned the leader of his tent and was put in charge of several single ladies. After they made the difficult journey over Rocky Ridge and into Rock Creek, Archibald noticed that one of his single sisters was missing and went back to look for her. He found her sitting on the other side of Strawberry Creek:
. . . He pleaded with her to come on, but she refused, saying she was going to stay there and die. There was nothing to do but cross the stream and get her. He picked her up and as they crossed the stream the ice broke and he was soaked with icy water to the waist.
By the time he reached camp his clothes were frozen to him and he was taking heavy chills. The air was cold and wet and the men were so weak and hungry they could not go in search of dry wood to make a fire. Without anything warm to eat or drink, he was placed in a cold bed with the covering of a handcart pitched over him for a tent. There was a strong wind blowing which blew it over three times, and they stopped trying to keep it up. He was in high fever, and [his daughter] Henrietta sat by his bed brushing the snow from his face . . .
Archibald rode in the sick wagon from then on until his death at the crossing of Bear River. His daughter, Jane McPhail Peart, tells of his death:
My mother related to me a very touching story about my father's death. She was sitting in the wagon in the night with her sick husband's head on her lap watching him as she knew he could not live. Having a small piece of tallow candle, she prayed that the candle might last until her husband should pass away; her prayer was answered for the light of the candle and the life of her husband went out at the same time. At the time of his death he was just thirty-nine years old.
It's not very often in our own day and age that our service requires the ultimate sacrifice of giving up one's life. However, there are requirements of sacrificing time and perhaps monetary resources. President Hinckley has set an example of great service. In his address to the youth in November 2000 he said:
"You have a tremendous inheritance. You have a great background of noble ancestry. Many of you are descendants of the pioneers, who died by the hundreds and thousands in testimony of the truth of this work. If they were to look down upon you, they would plead with you: "Be true. Be loyal. Be 'true to the faith that our parents have cherished, true to the truth for which martyrs have perished.' " They would say, "Faith of our fathers, holy faith, we will be true to thee till death"... Be loyal to the Church under all circumstances. I make you a promise that the authorities of this Church will never lead you astray. They will lead you in paths of happiness." (First Presidency Message A Prophet's Counsel and Prayer for Youth, January 2001 The Ensign, 2)
The Fourth Smooth Stone - Prayer
The fourth stone that David picked up may represent prayer. As David went to meet Goliath he had a prayer in his heart. Let's read verse 45:Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied.
What a great example of faith, obedience, service and prayer! Every day you and I face different Goliaths, the enemy of God who challenge us and test us. Without the smooth stone of prayer each day, those Goliaths will wear us down and defeat us. I have a strong testimony of prayer and of the power of God through prayer. Listen to what President Hinckley said about the smooth stone of prayer. In addressing the youth in November he gives his last of the six "B's" as:
"... be prayerful. You cannot do it alone.... You know that He is the source of all wisdom. You need His help, and you know that you need His help. You cannot do it alone. You will come to realize that and recognize that more and more as the years pass. So live in good conscience you can speak with the Lord. Get on your knees and thank Him for His goodness to you and express to Him the righteous desires of your hearts. The miracle of it all is that He hears. He responds. He answers - not always as we might wish He would answer, but there is no question in my mind that He answers...." (First Presidency Message A Prophet's Counsel and Prayer for Youth, January 2001 The Ensign, 2)
I learned in my education pursuit that I couldn't do it alone. The first class that I enrolled in my graduate program at WSU was an advanced marketing class. On the first day of class the teacher started out by building a very mathematical econometric model of the demand function. The model was called the Slutksy equation and involved a high level of calculus and lots of Greek notation. At the end of the hour I knew I was in trouble and not prepared for that course, but I stayed in it. The first midterm exam came and consisted of only 5 essay questions, each worth 20 points. I had studied long and hard for that exam and felt confident that I would do well. I started the exam and wrote about a page and a half for each question, feeling that I had covered all of areas required by each question. I handed my exam in, confident that I had passed with flying colors. The next class period the graded exams were returned. The red inked comments on the top of my paper indicated that I had the "flying colors" and also indicated that I had scored a record score. My score and the professor's note at the top of my exam read: "15 pts out of 100 pts. This is the lowest score that I have ever given in all of my 20 years of teaching. What is wrong with you? (1) You are not prepared for this program or (2) You don't want to be here. Come and see me." I was of course shocked and went to see the professor as he had invited me to. I explained to him that I was not prepared for the rigor of the program, to which he said, "You have two options, (1) Get yourself up to speed or (2) Drop out."
I left his office and did a lot of self reflection and evaluation. I realized that in addition to not having the proper academic preparation, I had not really prepared myself through proper prayer. While I had been saying my prayers each day, I hadn't been really praying with the sincerity and intent that the scriptures had suggested. I changed my behavior of prayer and as a result my study habits changed, my understanding increased and I completed that initial course with a "B" grade. I testify that it was with the smooth stones of prayer, faith, obedience, and service that I successfully completed that program.
The Lord promises us in Doctrine & Covenants 10:5:
"Pray always, that you may come off conqueror, yea, that you may conquer Satan, and that you may escape the hands of the servants of Satan that do uphold his work."
The Fifth Smooth Stone -The Gift of the Holy Ghost
The final smooth stone that David picked up was the stone of the Holy Ghost. He not only had faith, was obedient, performed service, and prayed, but he had the Spirit of the Lord with him. Because of his faith, obedience, service, and prayer the Spirit of the Lord was with him. Remember what President Kimball said:
"...to be the victor, one must follow the path that David followed: "David behaved himself wisely in all his ways; and the Lord was with him."
You know as well as I do that the Holy Ghost cannot stay with us and guide us if we are not "behaving" ourselves wisely. In order to have the Holy Ghost we need to behave wisely. The Willie and Martin handcart company were in desperate need of help. The call was issued by Brigham Young to load wagons with supplies and for the strong and able men in Salt Lake City to begin a rescue mission. Some heeded that call immediately, some took their time, one didn't hesitate when he received an unusual call through the Holy Ghost.
Ephriam Hanks records in his diary:
" I was down to Provo on a fishing expedition, and felt impressed to go to Salt Lake, but for what reason I knew not. On my way there, I stopped over night with Gurney Brown at Draper. Being somewhat fatigued after the hard day's journey, I retired to rest early, and as I lay wide awake in my bed, I heard a voice calling me by name then saying: "The handcart people are in trouble, and you are wanted; will you go and help them?" ... Without any hesitation I answered, Yes, I will go. I then turned over to go to sleep, but had slept only a few minutes when the voice called a second time, repeating almost the same words as on the first occasion. My answer was the same as before. This was repeated the third time. I got right out of bed. Gerney, he got my team hooked up and Sister Brown fixed me a bite and some food to carry along. Got to Salt Lake about daylight, and what should happen but I met a messenger from brother Brigham, on his way to fetch me...
" Seems since I was a boy that the Lord has always been wiling to keep in touch with me if I'd keep in touch with Him..."
As he reached Wyoming he
"...ran into the blizzard on South Pass and stayed several nights with Reddick Allred, who was stationed there with flour. The snow was so deep that a team with a wagon could not travel through it very well, so Brother Hanks borrowed 'two animals' from Brother Allred so that he could ride and have a pack horse and travel through the snow to the handcart pioneers. He passed Joseph A. Young and Able Garr headed to Salt Lake to report on the Martin Company and then met the Martin Company as they were leaving Martin's Cove: On the evening of the second day he records:
" ...as I was making my bed, I thought to myself, how nice it would be to have a buffalo robe to lie on, and some fresh meat for supper. I kneeled down and asked the Lord to send me a buffalo. Looking around, imagine my surprise when I beheld a big, fat, buffalo bull within fifty yards of my camp. As soon as I could get my gun I brought him down with the first shot. After eating ...to my hearts content, I went to sleep ....Early the next morning I was on my way again, and soon reached what is known as the Ice Springs Bench. There I happened upon a herd of buffalo, and killed a nice cow. I was impressed to do this, although I did not know why until a few hours later, but the thought occurred to my mind that the hand of the Lord was in it, as it was a rare thing to find buffalo herds around that place at this late part of the season. I skinned and dressed the cow; then cut up part of its meat in long strips and loaded my horses with it. Thereupon I resumed my journey, and traveled on till towards evening. I think the sun was about an hour high in the west when I spied something in the distance that looked like a black streak in the snow. As I got near to it, I perceived it moved; then I was satisfied that this was the long looked for hand-cart company, led by Captain Edward Martin. I reached the ill-fated train just as the immigrants were camping for the night. The sight that met my gaze as I entered their camp can never be erased from my memory. The starved forms and haggard countenances of the poor sufferers, as they moved about slowly, shivering with cold, to prepare their scanty evening meal was enough to touch the stoutest heart. When they saw me coming, they hailed me with joy inexpressible, and when they further beheld the supply of fresh meat I brought into camp, their gratitude knew no bounds. Flocking around me, one would say, 'Oh, please, give me a small piece of meat;' another would exclaim, 'My poor children are starving, do give me a little;' and children with tears in their eyes would call out, 'Give me some, give me some.' At first I tried to wait on them and handed out the meat as they called for it; but finally I told them to help themselves. Five minutes later both my horses had been released of their extra burden--the meat was all gone, and the next few hours found the people in camp busily engaged in cooking and eating it, with thankful hearts.
"A prophecy had been made by one of the brethren that the company should feast on buffalo meat when their provisions might run short; my arrival in their camp, loaded with meat, was the beginning of the fulfillment of that prediction; but only the beginning, as I afterwards shot and killed a number of buffalo for them as we journeyed along." (Remember, Riverton Wyoming Stake)
In our lives we will meet different kinds of Goliaths that will have different types of voices and opinions. Often when a moment of decision comes about we might be confused as to what to do, or what voice to listen to. Friends may suggest and often encourage us in our decisions. Media publications and advertising may inform, textbooks may offer answers but the Spirit of the Lord is the most accurate and constant source of direction. The prophet Jacob of the Book of Mormon says it best:"...the Spirit speaketh the truth and lieth not. Wherefore, it speaketh of things as they really are, and of things as they really will be; wherefore, these things are manifested unto us plainly, for the salvation of our souls...." (Jacob 4:13)
To hear the spirit we must be humble. President Hinckley labeled the need for humility as his fifth "B":
"There is no place for arrogance in our lives. There is no place for conceit. There is no place for egotism. We have a great work to do. We have things to accomplish. We need direction in the pursuit of our education. We need help in choosing an eternal companion.
"The Lord has said, "Be thou humble; and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand, and give thee answer to thy prayers" (D&C 112:10).
What a tremendous promise is given in this statement. If we are without conceit and pride and arrogance, if we are humble and obedient, then the Lord will lead us by the hand and answer our prayers. What greater thing could we ask for? There is nothing to compare with this." (First Presidency Message A Prophet's Counsel and Prayer for Youth, January 2001 The Ensign, 2)
So my young brothers and sisters there you have the five smooth stones that will assist you in successfully defeating you personal Goliaths in life. These stones of faith, obedience, service, prayer, and the Holy Ghost, have been proven, tested and tried. They are smooth stones. Centuries after David met Goliath the apostle Paul spoke of the latter days, our time. He spoke of our society of you and me. He said in one of his epistles to Timothy (1 Tim 4:1-2)
- Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;
- Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron...
And then he explains some of the Goliaths that have conquered many of our day: (2 Tim 3-2-4)
- For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
- Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;...
To combat against the latter day Goliaths that we will face, Paul also suggests a form of armor that may be correlated with the five smooth stones that David used. In his writings to the Ephesians Paul identifies the type of Goliath that we will face today:
"...my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand." (Ephesians 6:10-13)
And then he lists the armor of God:
- Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with the truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;
- And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
- Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewithall ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
- And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
- Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.
Let us arm ourselves with the five smooth stones of faith, obedience, service, prayer and the Holy Ghost. Let us put on the whole armor of God, hefting the shield of faith, having our feet shod with the gospel of service to bring peace to all we meet. Having our loins girded about with truth and the breastplate of obedience in righteous actions, praying always having the helmet of salvation to come off conquer and swinging the sword of the Spirit of God is my prayer.