The Greenhouse

Elder Glenn L. Pace


Brigham Young University–Idaho Devotional

October 16, 2007



My objective this afternoon is to increase your resolve to avail yourselves of everything this university has to offer, in order that you will be prepared for that which lies ahead.


While serving as a mission president I would often have a new missionary approach me and ask the question, “How do I regain the spiritual intensity I enjoyed at the MTC?”  Further discussion would reveal he was having a hard time adjusting to the rigors of the work and the daily adversity and rejection he faced.  To help him through this period of his mission I came up with an analogy.


Every spring at our home in Bountiful, Utah, we plant flowers.  We go down to our local garden center and painstakingly pick out the cartons containing the healthiest flowers we can find including many already blooming.    We come home and carefully plant them in the soil, fertilize them, water them, and sit back to watch them grow.  Much to our dismay, after a few days they start to wilt. 


Why does this happen?  These plants had lived their whole life in a greenhouse where conditions were ideal, and suddenly they faced the real-world shock of our flower garden.  We may get a late snowstorm or a heavy rain; dogs run through the flower beds; grandchildren kick their soccer ball into them or pull the whole flower up and proudly present it as a gift to my wife; deer come often to dine on the tender shoots and nip off the buds or pull the whole flower up and spit out the roots.  Last year I trapped and transplanted nine squirrels that delighted in feasting on every new blossom our petunias produced.  Our plants had left the greenhouse where all of the elements were ideal and entered the real world.


However, the miraculous thing is that after a few weeks the plants sank their roots deeper and you would see new and stronger growth emanating from within the plant that could withstand the storms of the real world.


The MTC is a wonderful greenhouse, but the time comes when missionaries must leave and be subjected to the adversities as well as the joys of the real mission field.  It is a delight to watch them grow.  


When I received the assignment to speak here, the university sent me a big packet of free stuff.  In the brochure entitled, Welcome to BYU–Idaho, we read: “Guided by its affiliation with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, BYU–Idaho seeks to develop students who are faithful disciples and capable leaders.  This is done by creating a wholesome, righteous learning community in which students can strengthen their testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and receive a quality education that prepares them for leadership in the home, the Church, the community, and the workplace.”


In other words, this university is a greenhouse.


Again, I encourage you to take advantage of everything offered by this great institution in order that you can face the real world upon graduation and not wilt.


You may be thinking that once you finally graduate you will have reached the end of your troubles.  You are right, but I won’t tell you which end.


If we are not careful, we go through our whole life believing that some upcoming stage of life will bring us ultimate happiness.  “Once I get my driver’s license I’ll be happy; then when I graduate from high school I’ll be happy; when I go on my mission; when I’m released from my mission; when I graduate from college; when I get married; when I have children; when I get that son of mine to go on a mission; when I have grandchildren; etc., etc., etc.”


The truth is, unless you are properly prepared, the challenges of your next stage of life will overshadow the joys associated with it.


What are some of the conditions you will face as you enter the real world?  The whole world seems to be in commotion. Today’s news is filled with accounts of large‑scale famine, civil unrest, wars, and natural disasters.  In 1979 Elder Bruce R. McConkie spoke of the trials and tribulations ahead when he said:


“Great trials lie ahead.  All of the sorrows and perils of the past are but a foretaste of what is yet to be.  And we must prepare ourselves temporally and spiritually.


“Peace has been taken from the earth, the angels of destruction have begun their work, and their swords shall not be sheathed until the Prince of Peace comes to destroy the wicked and usher in the great Millennium.


“It is one of the sad heresies of our time that peace will be gained by weary diplomats as they prepare treaties of compromise, or that the Millennium will be ushered in because men will learn to live in peace and to keep the commandments, or that the predicted plagues and promised desolations of latter days can in some way be avoided” (in Conference Report, Mar.-Apr. 1979, 130-32).


Even more devastating to me, in the long run, is the spiritually destructive hurricane of disobedience to God’s commandments that is engulfing the world. This horrible storm is blowing the moral fiber out of the nations of the earth and leaving the land in moral desolation.  In the midst of this hurricane most people have become so desensitized that they don’t even feel a breeze. 


I believe another challenge you will face is that of increased attacks on the Church and its doctrines.  Certainly we have seen an increase this year.  As society continues to abandon traditional values and churches compromise doctrines and policies to bring them in line with popular public opinion, we will increasingly stand out as being a “peculiar people” (Titus 2:14).   We most likely will find ourselves standing alone on some issues.  We must prepare ourselves for that barrage of public opinion and turn it into a positive opportunity.


I don’t want to be known as a conveyor of doom and gloom, although at this point I would not be found innocent in a court of law. 


While the world is in commotion, the kingdom is intact.


“How long can rolling waters remain impure?  What power shall stay the heavens?  As well might man stretch forth his puny arm to stop the Missouri river in its decreed course, or to turn it up stream, as to hinder the Almighty from pouring down knowledge from heaven upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints” (D&C 121:33).


We are living in the greatest and most exciting part of this dispensation since the Restoration itself.  You will see unbelievable growth in the kingdom.  This university experience will help you maximize your victories as well as mitigate your defeats.


From the mission statement read earlier I would conclude that the role of this university is to prepare you spiritually and intellectually for that which lies ahead in order that you can not only be prepared for “leadership in the home, the Church, the community, and the workplace,” but so you can survive and thrive in the real world.


I would now like to discuss the interplay between the spiritual and intellectual knowledge you will gain at this university.  My hypothesis is that spiritual and intellectual learning and progress are mutually dependent on each other if we are to reach our ultimate potential in both disciplines.  Without spirituality and the ability to obtain revelation, your intellectual powers are limited and, likewise, your spiritual progress is curtailed if you don’t increase and use your intellectual skills.  That’s the beauty of a university such as this, where the importance of both are understood and taught.


As General Authorities we interview prospective teachers for this and other Church schools.  I will usually ask the candidates why they want to teach here.  With few exceptions they will include the unique luxury this university provides to increase the testimonies of the students along with teaching them their respective courses.


As a sophomore at BYU in Provo I took a geology class.  A large part of this class concerned itself with the scientific explanation of this earth’s history, including the theory of evolution.  On the first day of class the teacher went to the blackboard and took us through the Creation as outlined in our ancient and modern scriptures, making a chronological list of events. He spent the whole hour speaking of the Savior and His creations.  He bore a powerful testimony about the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, including our modern scriptures, with special emphasis on the Pearl of Great Price.


I am indebted to this great teacher for expanding my vision about the Creation as recorded in the 4th chapter of Abraham.  For example, in the 18th verse we read:


“And the Gods watched those things which they had ordered until they obeyed.”


You may wish to read and ponder the whole chapter.


On the second day of class the teacher had covered up the blackboard of the previous day and wrote the chronology of the earth’s history according to science, including all the various periods.  He then pulled the board back and displayed the previous day’s teachings beside those of the second day and proceeded to show where there were similarities and differences.   He concluded by telling us that we had not signed up for a religion class but for a science class, and science is what we would be taught.  However, throughout the semester he never shied away from sharing his testimony.


I am indebted to that teacher for showing me that science and religion are not really at odds.  Scientific knowledge is incomplete, and the same could be said about the details of the Lord’s method of creation.  Once all the facts are in, there will be no discrepancies.  Since receiving that perspective 50 years ago, I have marveled at science and not felt threatened by it.


The point of telling this experience is to illustrate how blessed you are to have faculty who are educated in their chosen fields while at the same time having a spiritual perspective.  This gives their teachings richness otherwise not available.  In my example, the knowledge of science magnifies my testimony, and my testimony magnifies my respect and love of science.


The second example I will give to illustrate how intelligence and spirituality are complementary comes from the 1st chapter in the book of Moses.


“And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten” (v. 33).

“And as one earth shall pass away, and the heavens thereof even so shall another come; and there is no end to my works, neither to my words” (v. 38).


What does science tell us about this?  With sophisticated telescopes, we can see into space 15 billion light years.  What is a light year?  One light year is the distance light can travel in one year. How far can light travel in one year?  When I was in school, several light years ago, light traveled at 186,000 miles per second.  Therefore, one light year is 186,000 x 60 seconds x 60 minutes x 24 hours x 365 days.  The product of these numbers is approximately 6 trillion miles.  We, therefore, are able to see out into space at the present time 15 billion x 6 trillion miles.  In case some of you didn’t follow that, it’s big.


At the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC, I read a sign which said something like, “we know the universe is 15 billion light years in size, but it could be much larger.  It may even be infinite.  We just can’t prove it yet.”


We may be looking at the light of a galaxy which has not been in existence for billions of years, or we may be looking at a blank space which has had galaxies in that space for billions of years but their lights have not yet reached us.


In this example, the spiritual and intellectual blend together and help us understand the magnificence of the Savior prior to His condescending to come to this earth in the most humble of circumstances.


Once again I point out how blessed you are to go to a university where the faculty is able to blend intellectual teaching with a spiritual perspective.


One of the most important skills you can pick up as you increase your spirituality and intellectual prowess is the ability to receive personal revelation.  Do you remember my hypothesis, that spiritual and intellectual learning and progress are mutually dependent on each other if we are to reach our potential?


You are probably aware of the great insight the Lord gave us on this hypothesis when He told Oliver Cowdery why he failed in his attempt to translate the Book of Mormon.


“Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.


“But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.


“But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought” (D&C 9:7­­-9).


This doctrine is so simple and straightforward one might feel guilty admitting he has had difficulty in its application.  I will try to define the elusive balance of the intellectual approach versus the spiritual approach by giving examples of two extremes.


On one side of the spectrum is the person within the Church who sees very little need to call upon the Lord because this person is a scholar.  He wants to be independent and free in his thinking and not tied to absolute truths that the gospel tells us do exist.  He may spend his whole life chasing down every intellectual loose end.  All counsel from general or local authorities is taken with a grain of salt because, after all, their knowledge is minimal when compared to that which the scholar has amassed.


The other end of the spectrum is just as dangerous and probably a greater threat to the majority of this audience.  A person on this end of the spectrum thinks like this:  “I know the Church is true and I have received the gift of the Holy Ghost.  I am a temple-worthy member of the Church and, therefore, I have access to the Spirit.”  When faced with a problem he will pray for an answer, and the first thought that comes to his mind is canonized.  I would propose that an idea or solution that comes without appropriate reasoning is nothing more than a hunch or hope.  There are times of instant inspiration, but they are rare and usually involve an emergency.


How many of you young men have had a spiritual witness about whom you are going to marry?  In some cases I would suggest the witness is more of a desire than a manifestation.  If you think you have received that witness, put it to the test.  Ask her to marry you.  If she says yes, you were right.  If she says no, you were wrong.  In either event she is perfectly capable of getting her own revelation on this and other subjects.  Part of doing your homework is to ask her how she feels.


With your indulgence I would like to share a personal experience related to the balance between the intellect and the spirit.  Prior to having this experience I thought I understood the doctrine, but afterwards I had certain knowledge that it is true.  Intellect and spirituality are mutually dependent.


Over 26 years ago I was hired to be the managing director of the Welfare Services Department of the Church.  We were at a critical stage in the history of welfare.  Our charge was to bring the welfare program from the 1930s to the 1980s.  It was time to go through an agonizing reappraisal of the program in light of current world and Church conditions.  The specifics are irrelevant but it will suffice to say I was beside myself with worry and concern. 


After praying for a solution, I had a terrific thought:  “Glenn, you have access to the Quorum of the Twelve and to a member of the First Presidency.  What a resource!”  I canonized that thought.  Consequently, I called for appointments and met one-on-one with these great men.  I poured out my concerns and added my feeling that we were at a stage in the history of the Church where further revelation on the subject was necessary.  Then I sat back with my yellow notepad and Cross pen and waited for pearls of wisdom.


I received one consistent pearl from each of those prophets, seers, and revelators:  “Brother Pace, I commend you for your concern and conscientiousness in finding solutions to these weighty matters.  I, too, have some deep concerns and anxieties and you are absolutely right; we do need additional revelation.  Now, go get it!”


Who, me?  I was an employee of the Church at the time, not a General Authority, but I, along with the well-qualified staff of the welfare department were charged with the responsibility to do our homework and bring forward well-thought-out recommendations to the Brethren which could be confirmed, modified, or rejected in the appropriate forums.  It was our obligation and right to receive inspiration, but it came with agonizingly intense study, research, meditation, and prayer.  We read everything we could find on welfare with the objective of separating principles from programs and policies from doctrine in order that we could come up with sound recommendations.   It was a two-year process.


The points I wish to make are that we must learn how to obtain our own personal revelation and that revelation comes by using all the intellectual and spiritual abilities with which we have been blessed.  The Spirit guides us along the way but will not replace the hard work.  It would have been nice to offer up a prayer to the Lord on the first day of my employment and find the answer on my desk the next morning in the form of a welfare manual.  It would also have made a more spectacular story.  However, for good reason it doesn’t work that way. 


This university greenhouse will help you acquire the intellectual and spiritual skills necessary to receive guidance for your journey into the real world.


Once you leave this university, you will encounter trials and tribulations no matter how well you have prepared.  But just like those new plants in my flower garden and those new missionaries in the real mission field, you will take what you brought with you from this greenhouse and sink your roots deeper and grow into strong “leaders in the home, the Church, the community, and the workplace.”  You will do more than survive.  You will thrive.  


With the spiritual and intellectual skills you have nurtured at this university, you will be prepared to serve others and help them on their journey.  Our salvation depends more on what we do for others than how independent we are.


I am reminded of a great lesson I learned from President Marion G. Romney, a member of the First Presidency at the time.  I was visiting with him about farms, tractors, trucks, canneries, and storehouses.  He listened and then said: “Glenn, don’t lose track of the objective.  The only reason we set up the welfare system in the first place was to help people become self-reliant, because the more self-reliant they are the more they are able to give and serve, and the more they give and serve the more sanctified and purified they become.”


It is in reaching out to others that a true Christlike disposition evolves.  Prior to giving we must be in a position to be able to give.  How can we give if there is nothing there? Food for the hungry cannot come from empty shelves. Money to assist the needy cannot come from an empty purse. Support and understanding cannot come from the emotionally debilitated. Teaching cannot come from the unlearned, and spiritual guidance cannot come from the spiritually weak.


Each one of us has our own bag of rocks we are carrying around.  I learned long ago the best way to lighten my load is to pick out some rocks from someone else’s bag and place them in mine so that person’s burden is lighter.  In the process my bag becomes lighter as well.  I don’t understand the physics but I know it works.


I pray for the Lord to bless you as you take advantage of all the resources available to you in this university in order that you will be properly prepared to fulfill your foreordained assignments on this earth.  May you not only survive these times but thrive in them and help others do the same.


I bear you my witness that He who created worlds without number, under the direction of our Heavenly Father, stands at the head of this Church today and reveals His word through his Prophets, Seers, and Revelators.


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