Have Ye Inquired of the Lord?
Gary B. Porter
Brigham Young University–Idaho Devotional
February 13, 2007
It is a pleasure for my wife, Debbie, and me to be with you today in this devotional. Our family feels a unique connection with BYU–Idaho. Debbie and our daughter Natalie both graduated from this great institution when it was known as Ricks College. Our son Daniel also attended Ricks before serving his mission. And today, our second son Jonathan is in his sophomore year here and is having a wonderful experience. So President Clark, faculty, and students, please accept a sincere “thank you” from the Porter family!
A Season of Decisions
You’ve heard Elder Bednar speak of inspired questions. I’ve entitled my remarks today what I believe is an inspired question given by the prophet Nephi to his brothers when he asked them, “have ye inquired of the Lord?” As I look into this audience today, and recognize the station of life you are in, there’s no doubt that many of you are in a season of decisions in your life. The decade you pass through from the time you graduate from high school until you find yourselves well into family life, contains a number of decisions that are life-changing and will have an eternal impact upon you. Some of you are probably trying to figure out what to major in and what your education will prepare you for in terms of a vocation. Others are trying to decide when to submit papers for a fulltime mission. Some of you, given that tomorrow is Valentines Day, may be considering, “hmm…I wonder if he or she is really the right one?” Others who have already found the right one may be making the decision about starting their families, or similar kinds of decisions that will have a long-lasting effect on where you will end up in this life.
In pondering what to speak to you about today, I thought it might be profitable to share a few personal experiences that illustrate how interested the Lord is in each one of us and what we do with our lives. I bear you my witness that our loving Heavenly Father is literally our Father in Heaven. He knows us, he knows us by name, he loves us, he’s concerned about us, and he has given us the gift of His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, who has taken upon Him our sins and shortcomings, and who is eager to help us in times of trials and uncertainty. He is anxious to give us answers to our prayers, and he’s anxious to help us in this decision-making period of our lives that I refer to as a “season of decisions.” The Savior said, “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt.11:28) What an invitation from a loving Savior, our elder brother. He also said, “Wherefore be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you.” (D&C 68:6) If there ever was a time in life that you need guidance from the Lord, it is now, in this “season of decisions” in your life.
Have Ye Inquired of the Lord?
You will recall that when Lehi had the wonderful dream of the Tree of Life, and he came back and shared that experience with his children. Nephi had a burning desire to have a similar experience in terms of understanding what is was that his father saw. So in the spirit of faith and humility, Nephi inquired of the Lord and received a remarkable interpretation of Lehi’s dream. The Lord said: “And blessed art thou, Nephi, because thou believest in the Son of the most high God; wherefore thou shalt behold the things which thou has desired.” (1 Nephi 11:6)
Later, when Nephi was explaining what he had experienced to his brothers Laman and Lemuel, they replied, “Behold, we cannot understand the words which our father hath spoken.” To this faithless and rather weak response, Nephi asked an inspired question: “Have ye inquired of the Lord?” (1 Nephi 15:7-8)
As you go through this season of decisions in your life, I echo Nephi’s gentle reminder: “Have ye inquired of the Lord?”
Our Prayers Are Often Answered through Others
I’d like to share a few examples today of how the Lord answers your prayers and inquires. Oftentimes, the Lord answers our prayers through other people. And he does so in many different ways. He often uses others to accomplish his will, or to answer our fervent prayers. I learned this very clearly as a young sailor serving in the United States Navy.
During the Vietnam War, I was sent overseas to serve on the U.S.S. Enterprise, a nuclear aircraft carrier operating in the Tonkin Gulf, off the shores of North Vietnam. I was flown over to the Philippines to catch the ship that was, at that time, tied up at Layette Pier in Subic Bay in the Philippines where it was undergoing supply replenishment. I boarded the ship on Saturday afternoon, stowed my gear, and then reported to the officer on deck to see what I was to do. Given that it was Saturday afternoon, he just looked at me and said “well, why don’t you go ashore, spend the weekend, and report for duty on Monday.”
Early the next morning, since it was Sunday, I set out to see if I could find the Church. I wanted to attend my Sunday meetings. I walked off the ship not having an idea where I should go, but knowing that I needed to find a connection with the Church. And so, not knowing particularly what to do, I crawled up on a pier post and thought I would sit and observe and see if I could see something that might help me. I offered another silent prayer to the Lord. As an Idaho farm boy who found himself halfway around the world, I needed a spiritual lifeline, and I knew the best one was prayer. I prayed that I could somehow find a connection with the Church. I thought of my faithful parents, who I knew would be praying in my behalf. That thought gave me comfort, and a peace settled over me and I knew that things would be alright.
I had not been on the pier post very long, when all at once I saw a couple of sailors walking down the pier carrying a long plastic sack with two rows of little plastic cups in it. You can imagine my excitement! And I had this thought, “I wonder if other religions use sacrament cups like that.” The thought quickly came into my mind to follow those men and listen to their conversation. If they did not use profanity (which many sailors were prone to use), then there was a good chance they would be members of the Church. Immediately I jumped down off that post and quickly caught up with the two men, and listened to what they were saying. When I was satisfied they could be Church members, I approached them with this greeting, at the same time extending my hand to shake theirs: “Brethren, where are you going with those sacrament cups?” You should have seen the look on their faces! They lit up with excitement to discover another member of the Church. Greetings were exchanged, an invitation was extended, and off to Sunday meetings we went. I have often reflected on that experience. It was a miracle to me and an immediate answer to prayer. As I inquired of the Lord, He sent two faithful elders to help me that Sunday morning far away in the Philippine Islands.
Answers Come Through Inspired Bishops
The Lord also answers our prayers through inspired bishops. Upon my discharge from the Navy, I attended Brigham Young University-Provo. By now I was approaching my twenty-third year and was just beginning college. You can imagine what happens to men who are 23 plus. There’s just a little bit of pressure to find someone and get married. Can you imagine that? I hope you young men are listening out there…tomorrow is Valentine’s Day you know. Being aware of my responsibility to get married, I had another deep-down desire in my heart to serve a full-time mission. The pressure to get married increased as time went on and I secretly began to wonder if I would ever have the privilege of serving a mission.
The school year finally came to a conclusion and I returned to Idaho to farm with my Dad one last summer before attending graduate school year-round. I had the wonderful experience of attending my home ward. As I walked into the ward Bishop Archibald, a wonderful bishop whom I hadn’t seen in a long time, invited me in for an appointment. We visited about my experiences in the Navy and at BYU, and eventually the conversation came around to the subject of a mission and he asked me this question: “Have you ever thought about serving a mission?” I was so grateful for an inspired bishop. I said to him “Bishop, I have thought about serving a mission. And I’ve also had a lot of counsel from priesthood leaders to get married. By now I’m twenty three plus years old, and I’ve thought about both. What do you think I should do?” And he, knowing of the importance of both those things, thought for a minute. He leaned back in his chair, and as inspired bishops do, he offered this counsel, “Why don’t we read your patriarchal blessing and see what it says?” The following Sunday was fast Sunday, and he said “I’ll tell you what. I’ll drive out to the farm. Why don’t you and I fast and pray and we’ll decide after we read your blessing.” So the following Sunday came and he drove out to the farm. He and I sat down in the living room and read that wonderful patriarchal blessing. As we concluded reading the blessing, he simply looked at me and said, “The Lord wants you to serve a mission.” Each of us felt the spirit of that patriarchal blessing and knew what should happen.
As soon as the harvest was over and the plowing was finished that fall, I found myself in the Salt Lake Mission Home with a call to serve in the Michigan Lansing Mission. I was thrilled to be able to serve a mission. I think back on that experience and have to tell you that, to this day, I have wonderful feelings of gratitude for Bishop Archibald and his humility and his faith.
Later, I had a powerful reaffirmation of that inspired decision. While serving in the mission field, in April 1974, in a general conference broadcast in a stake center in Michigan, I heard President Spencer W. Kimball make this historic declaration: “Certainly every male member of the Church should fill a mission.” Can you imagine, sitting there, hearing that from a prophet of God? What a reaffirmation of the inspired direction of a good bishop. And, I might add, of a wonderful patriarch who knew what the Lord had in mind for me. So I bear my witness that the Lord answers prayers through inspired bishops.
Guidance Comes through Inspired Patriarchs
Let me tell you a little bit more about what comes through inspired patriarchs. One of the most powerful ways the Lord conveys his will to you and to me is through a patriarchal blessing. The Lord crafts those blessings personally for each one of us. I’ll tell you something a little bit humorous about my patriarchal blessing in that respect, given that tomorrow is Valentine’s Day.
I took a date one time to general conference in Salt Lake while I was attending BYU. In between conference sessions, we ran into our stake patriarch, Brother Delbert V. Groberg from Idaho Falls. (Incidentally, the “V” in his middle name stands for Valentine). Well, I introduced my date to him and we chatted for a few minutes and then went on to conference and that’s the last I thought of it. A few weeks passed and I was talking to my dad, and he said “I understand that you ran into Brother Groberg down at conference.” I said “Yeah, I did. How do you know that?” And he said, “well, I just happened to bump into him” (They were in the same ward). And they got to talking and I said “Well, what did he say Dad?” And my dad just simply said, “She’s not the one!” You can imagine how I felt when Dad related that experience to me! I recalled the portion of my patriarchal blessing that spoke of marriage and family, and I began to wonder if Brother Groberg had seen a vision of my future wife! I really didn’t know what he saw or felt, but I was impressed that he cared enough about me to offer guidance, and I respected him enough to follow it.
Receiving Counsel from the Lord’s Anointed
Another way we receive direction from the Lord as we inquire of him is through the Lord’s anointed. The Lord’s anointed are represented by many positions. For you, the Lord’s anointed sits here as the president of this wonderful institution. We also have the Lord’s anointed here in Elder Hammond and these wonderful stake presidents. And you have good bishops, and you have elder’s quorum presidents, and you have Relief Society leaders. The Lord’s anointed I’m going to speak of are the prophets and apostles.
On Valentines Day, February 14, 1978, I was finishing up my senior year at BYU (still unmarried) and was sitting in a devotional. President Gordon B. Hinckley (then Elder Hinckley) was the devotional speaker. I had been dating a girl and it was getting serious. I was beginning to become uncomfortable with the relationship but could not pinpoint the reason. I struggled with my feelings and continued to pray for guidance. (I’ll have to admit that I thought about taking her to Idaho Falls and introducing her to Brother Groberg to quickly resolve the uncertainty!)
During that Valentine’s Day devotional, Elder Hinckley told of his boyhood friend who met a girl and fell in love with her. President Hinckley described him this way: “He was a boy from a country town, plain in appearance, without money or apparent promise. He had grown up on a farm, and if he had any quality that was attractive it was the capacity to work.” At that moment something powerful happened to me. As I listened to President Hinckley, I was impressed that my future wife was not at BYU Provo, but instead she was in Idaho. And in my mind’s eye, I could see that she would be of a similar spiritual and cultural background and have “farm roots” like me. As I had those thoughts, and they came quickly, a spirit of peace began to settle over me and I walked out of that devotional knowing eventually all would be well.
A couple of months later I finished school and returned home for one more farming season before going on to graduate school. I was busily engaged in farming when unbeknownst to be, a beautiful blonde returned from serving in the London South Mission. And I received a phone call from my good sister-in-law Janice. And she said “Guess who I saw today? Debbie Cox!” and I asked how she was doing and she said “Well, she just returned from her mission, and she is wonderful. And by the way, you have a date with her tonight at 8:00.” You know, some young men need a little more help than others. I knew how to work but I was a little slow on the uptake on some things, but I was really excited about this!
She had graduated from the same high school as I (albeit 5 years behind me), graduated from Ricks College, gone to Provo and worked for a season, and subsequently served an honorable mission. It was a wonderful thing. We went on our first date, and what a great thing it was to have someone who had a strong testimony of the gospel, who was so articulate and free in expressing her feelings about the Lord and spiritual things, who had grown up on a farm just three miles from me, had everything in common, and I began to be excited for the future. We began to date, and little by little the excitement and hope for the future grew. Our courtship was enjoyable and meshed into our everyday lives quite naturally. Changing irrigation pipes or whatever is was!
Probably the clincher was one day I was combining grain, and it was after evening dinner and we were out in the field trying to get as much done as we could before the dew set on. And as the sun was starting to go down, I saw these two little headlights bouncing across the bottom of the field, and I wondered who that might be. And dad was in the truck at the other end of the field, and I knew it wasn’t the truck, so as I approached the bottom of the field, I saw this little Datsun B-210 car. And you’re probably too young to know what a B-210 Datsun is, but some of you older people might remember those little orange Datsuns. And low and behold, as I got to the end of the field, out pops this pretty little blonde with a homemade milkshake. She came up sat in the cab with me in the combine and we went a few rounds as I drank that milkshake. Later, I said to my dad, “Man, that was great for Debbie to bring me that milkshake.” And Dad said, “Any girl that will drive out into the grain field to bring somebody a milkshake, is worth paying attention to.” So girls, if you need a formula…
In a fairly short time I came to know that she was the one I had been searching for. And what a blessing it’s been to have an eternal companion so faithful and so marvelous, and so uniquely suited for me. She is absolutely the best thing that’s ever happened to me. And as you look at our children, all the good that they represent I attribute to Debbie and her influence.
As we got to the point where our dating was serious, all those feelings of concern and worry that I had in that earlier experience weren’t there. These feelings were different. They were happy, and they were optimistic, and they were full of hope. I had the wonderful privilege of proposing to her in front of the Idaho Falls temple, and later taking her to the Idaho Falls temple where we were married by none other than Brother Groberg who by then had been called as the temple president. Can you imagine how I felt to take her up and let her be interviewed by President Groberg? She passed with flying colors, by the way! It was nice to have him look me in the eye, and with that beautiful, humble, sweet spirit that he had just smile and say this is wonderful. And I just moved forward with confidence knowing that I loved her, the Lord loved her, and President Groberg would love her!
Why do I share this story? Because we have such a privilege of having the Lord’s anointed speak to us. We have prophets and apostles who walk the earth and who are able to reach us with their messages of truth and inspiration. Elder Hinckley’s inspired instruction during that BYU devotional had a profound effect on my life in every single way that I can think of that’s meaningful. The Lord’s anointed speak the mind and the will of the Lord. The Lord has said: “What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or the voice of my servants it is the same.” (D&C 1:38)
We Must Be Worthy to Receive Revelation
Now, if we want to receive revelation we need to be worthy of it. If we want to receive inspiration from the Lord we must exercise faith in Jesus Christ and strive for personal purity in our lives. Laman and Lemuel could not receive the same vision as Nephi because their hearts were hardened. They had received visitations from angels, but still were hardened in their hearts. Nephi counseled them: “Do ye not remember the things which the Lord hath said?—if ye will not harden your hearts, and ask me in faith, believing that ye shall receive, with diligence in keeping the commandments, surely these things shall be made known unto you.” (1 Nephi 15:11)
How do you know if you measure up to the standards of personal worthiness? I hope you are paying your tithes and offerings, living the Word of Wisdom, and keeping yourself morally clean. One of the greatest ways of measuring ourselves is by the standards of admission into the temples of the Lord. These standards are clear. With the keeping of the covenants associated with the temple, we qualify to receive guidance and personal revelation from the Lord. And for those who have been endowed and are able to attend the temple, the Lord has promised: “I will manifest myself to my people in mercy in this house.” (D&C 110:7) And as this beautiful temple on the hill is completed in the forthcoming months, I hope each of you will prepare to enter it. Whether you go for baptisms for the dead, for endowments, or hopefully for marriage for time and eternity it will be a wonderful blessing in your life.
We Receive Truth by Studying and Pondering the Scriptures
We can also receive revelation from the Lord as we inquire through studying and pondering the scriptures. I hope you are studying your scriptures every day and “inquiring of the Lord” so you might understand the words He has for you in them. The Lord has promised that if you study, ponder and pray, you will receive guidance. Moroni counseled us to ponder over what we read. (Moroni 10:3) He said if we do, we will have the gift of the Holy Ghost to bless us. If each of us will make an effort to study the scriptures every day, and build that practice in our lives, we will be building spiritual strength and purity. We will be more receptive to truth and it will carry over into secular studies here at the University. The Spirit bears witness of truth. The Lord has promised: “And by the power of the Holy Ghost you may know the truth of all things.” (Moroni 10:5) And I think “all things” has to do with “all” things past, present, and the future; secular or spiritual. If you’ll get the Spirit, whether truth comes from the scriptures, Church leaders, or your college classes, the Holy Ghost will help you recognize and understand it.
President Hinckley has counseled us to establish a time for study and prayer each day. I heard him tell of a man in the Orient in a busy city who used to go each morning into a little park adjacent to his home. He would walk down to and along a little stream until he reached a foot bridge. There he would find a secluded spot under the bridge, read his scriptures, and have his private prayer. If viewed by others while he was praying, it merely looked as though he was casting his eyes into the stream in a spirit of contemplation. There in the quiet peace of those surroundings, he came close to God. We would each do well to find our own place of meditation and prayer where we can listen for inspiration and receive spiritual guidance.
A great example of pondering upon the scriptures comes from President Joseph F. Smith. He received a powerful revelation concerning the redemption of the dead. He said: “On the third of October in the year nineteen hundred and eighteen, I sat in my room pondering over the scriptures; As I pondered over these things which are written, the eyes of my understanding were opened, and the Spirit of the Lord rested upon me, and I saw the hosts of the dead, both small and great.” (D&C 138:1, 2, and 11) The Lord then proceeded to show the Prophet Joseph F. Smith how gloriously the redemptive work was rolling forward on the other side of the veil. And what a great blessing it was for those spirits who had departed from this earth. President Smith received this vision during October general conference and the following day, October 4th, he shared his vision in his opening remarks of conference. This enlightening doctrine is now available to us in section 138 of the Doctrine and Covenants.
Let me share a more recent example of the value of pondering. President Hinckley was in the Mexican colonies visiting the Saints. While riding back from those colonies, he was pondering how far away the temples were from the people. He thought how wonderful it would be for the Saints if we could take the temples to them, rather than having them traveling so far to get to a temple. Into his mind came the idea of a small temple design that was less costly and simpler than traditional temples. President Hinckley took out a small piece of paper, and sketched out what he saw in his mind’s eye; what we now refer to as the “small temple design.”
He returned home to Salt Lake City and subsequently challenged the Presiding Bishopric to set about aggressively building more temples following this small design. In one meeting he quipped: “I would like to see 100 temples operating before I die.” Well, that meant the Presiding Bishopric had to build a lot of temples, because we only had about half that many at the time. The Presiding Bishopric responded by vigorously ramping up the work and, in a relatively few short years, they hired more professionals, divided the department, went vigorously to work building these temples. They met and actually exceeded the prophet’s challenge. President Hinckley’s goal of 100 operating temples before the year 2000 was surpassed. Today, the work continues under the direction of an inspired temple-building prophet of the Lord. We now have 124 operating temples in the world.
Have the Courage to Go to the Edge of the Light
Let me just share one other story and we’ll conclude. Sometimes you need to go to the edge of the light. The Lord will test your faith. The Lord gives us knowledge and inspiration line upon line. We must hearken, or act upon what He says to demonstrate our faith. He said, “I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom: for unto him that receiveth I will give more” (2 Nephi 28:30)
One of the marvelous things about President Hinckley and the General Authorities I’m acquainted with is their great courage to step forward into unchartered paths. They’re courageous leaders because they know how to move forward in faith. They can see to a point, and then they must move forward.
President David O. McKay told a story about a train engineer. He said:
“The engineer pulled his train into a station one dark night. A timid passenger inquired of the engineer if he was frightened to pull his train out in the dark with 400 or 500 passengers’ lives at stake. The engineer said, pointing up to the bright headlight, ‘I want to tell you one thing: when I pull out of this station I won’t be running in darkness one foot of the way. You see that light a thousand yards ahead? I run my engine just to the edge of the light, and when I get there it will still be on a thousand yards ahead.’
Having said that, President McKay added: ‘I want to tell you something. Through all this dark night of uncertainty, I want to tell you that this Welfare Program will not be running in the dark one foot of the way. You remember it. We can only see the next October as the first circle of light. We have told you what to do six months from now. By the time we get there the light will be on ahead of us, but every step of the way that light will be there. . . .’ ” (“Preparation for Tomorrow,” Bishop Victor L. Brown, Ensign November 1982)
My brothers and sisters, each of us needs to demonstrate to the Lord that we’re willing to move to the edge of the light. We need to exercise our faith and our courage to listen to what the Lord says and move forward. Again, I ask you this inspired question, “have ye inquired of the Lord?” In all of your comings and goings in this season of your life, I pray that you will remind yourself frequently to inquire of the Lord that he might bless you in every way: in your studies, in your social life, in you Church calling, in your personal growth and development, and in the deepening of your spiritual roots that you might have a great love and commitment to follow the Savior, to listen to the promptings of the Holy Ghost.
My counsel to you would be to keep your eye on the Lord’s anointed, read your patriarchal blessing, have your personal prayer, study your scriptures, and associate yourselves with wonderful people who will build you and strengthen you.
I pray the Lord to bless you. I bear you my witness this is the Lord’s church. It is absolutely His church. He leads it through living prophets and apostles. They are the Lord’s anointed. The Book of Mormon is true. In it, you will receive a second witness of the Savior in addition to that which is written in the Bible. The prophet Joseph is a true prophet, and the fruits of the restoration of the gospel are all around us today, including the beautiful house upon the hill, the Lord’s house. I pray the Lord to bless each of you. It is wonderful to be with you. And I pray that you might inquire of the Lord and receive His direction in your lives.
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.