White Bar


Michael M. Packer


Brigham Young University-Idaho Devotional

October 28, 2014



Making Your Escape From the Great and Spacious Building

Michael G. Clark

Faculty, Department of Buisness Managment


My dear young friends, I never imagined that I would be called upon to speak in devotional and am very humbled by this sacred privilege and responsibility. I pray for the Spirit to be with you and with me as I share some thoughts and the feelings of my heart.


In a 2007 BYU devotional address entitled, “Lehi’s Dream and You,” President Boyd K. Packer stated, "Largely because of television, instead of looking over into that spacious building, we are, in effect, living inside of it. That is your fate in this generation. You are living in that great and spacious building." 1 Taking a page out of President Packer’s talk, I’ve decided to call my address, “Making Your Escape from the Great and Spacious Building.”


President Packer’s quote has special significance to me because I am a recovering TV addict. I am not proud of this condition as it has had far reaching ramifications in my life. I developed this condition during my teenage years and it severely hindered my intellectual, physical, spiritual, and social development.2 For example, as a freshman in high school I got an “A” in Algebra. As a sophomore I got a B in Geometry. Then a B- in Algebra 2 as a junior. As a senior I limped across the finish line with a C in Trigonometry. Yes, my intellectual development suffered during this time and I likewise experienced similar declines in the rate of my physical, spiritual, and social development.


Fortunately, through a series of divinely orchestrated events I was blessed with a desire to take ownership of this problem. How I got there was much less important than what I was going to do about it. Just a few months before heading out on my mission, I came to ask myself, “How has watching countless reruns of Gilligan’s Island, Star Trek and the Bugs Bunny–Road Runner Hour made me a better person? How was I better off for watching TV sporting events, especially NFL games on the Sabbath?” I was stumped. I could not come up with a single meaningful answer to these very important questions.


At this point it became clear that I was wasting too much precious time on programs of no lasting value. I was idling away my time when I needed to be “up and doing,”3 growing and serving and increasing my ability to perform the important work that lay before me. In summary, I needed to become a better disciple of Jesus Christ. So in keeping with the words of our Savior—“if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out”4—and believing that moderation would not work for me in this situation, I made the decision to stop watching TV, “cold turkey.”


Now to be perfectly clear, I am not suggesting that watching television in and of itself constitutes a sin. Of course there are many good uses of this marvelous invention. However, I had lost control in this area of my life and therefore needed to take a bold and decisive course of action to solve this problem. In essence, I began to live by the following counsel that Elder D. Todd Christofferson gave at a BYU-Idaho devotional in January of 2009.


“You and I can put Christ at the center of our lives and become one with Him as He is one with the Father (see John 17:20-23). We could begin by stripping everything out of our lives and then putting it back together in priority order with the Savior at the center. We would first put in place the things that make it possible always to remember Him…. In this way the essential will not be crowded out of our lives by the merely good, and things of lesser value will take a lower priority or fall away altogether.”5


As I filled my time with more wholesome and productive activities—beginning with feasting on the word of God—I instantly became more optimistic, more curious, more creative, more able to think independently, more aware and thoughtful of others. I left on my mission during this period of reawakening and did my best to love and serve others and was richly blessed in the process. The momentum continued after my mission. I was more agreeable and helpful at home, more effective in my church service, my grades dramatically improved and, more importantly, I was blessed to find my eternal companion in a most unlikely and miraculous fashion. Turning off the TV as a young single adult was a defining moment in my life and the blessings of this decision have continued for more than 30 years.


The temple of television is, you see

What the great and spacious building was for me.

Where my spirit was covered with worldly grime,

Where I learned to envy and squander my time.

But then a few questions came and broke the spell,

A clarion call from a liberty bell!


How was I better for the shows I had seen?

How was the spirit brighter, the mind more keen?

There was no real answer that I could give

To this simple, piercing interrogative.


In an instant I changed, new things came to view,

Living, loving, serving, so much good to do.

Instead of watching I got up and I moved!

The result of this? My performance improved!

Our glorious Savior enabled escape


From the floating realm over hell’s open gape.

Now this great, spacious building, described as “strange,”

For each and every person, its form will change.

What is it for you, what mocking do you hear?

No matter its form, the solutions are clear.


Hold fast to the rod, to mocking give no heed,

God will make you mighty in word and in deed.

Many lives you will bless, fill with charity.

Precious fruit will be yours for eternity.6


So now I ask, what are your individually tailored temptations that emanate from this great and spacious building? What is pulling you into or keeping you there? How good is your grip on the iron rod? If you are partaking of the precious fruit how well are you dealing with the fingers of scorn that are pointed in your direction? Very simply, we might ask, where do we currently find ourselves in Lehi’s dream? If, as President Packer suggested, you find yourself in that great and spacious building to one degree or another, you may want to develop an escape plan. Such an escape plan must be individual; however, I would like to suggest a few common components that might be included in many of our plans. These are Sabbath observance, listening to worthy music, making wise use of technology, and feasting on the word of God.


Sabbath Observance

In January of 1985, when I was employed as a part-time teacher in the Provo Missionary Training Center, I attended a small meeting for the teachers in our MTC zone. At the start of this meeting one of the teachers gave a spiritual thought. He was older than most of us, a graduate student, and married with a few small children. He shared with us the details of his struggle to raise his personal bar of righteousness as it pertained to Sabbath observance.


He spoke of his love of televised sports and of his habit of watching Sunday football games. With great emotion he told of how this habit had been highly detrimental to the spirit in his home; how he had let down his wife and toddler children who would rather have his undivided attention on this sacred day. He then lit up and told of how he had quit watching Sunday games three months earlier and of the great peace and joy he and his family had experienced in the ensuing months as he instead used the time in more uplifting activities—like reading to his children, playing appropriate games and going on walks together as a family, working on his church calling, and discussing goals and making plans with his wife. Then, likening his experience to a course in school, he said that his “final exam” was being held during the coming weekend—on Super Bowl Sunday—and how he was looking forward to passing this test with flying colors. Key to his success was a change in attitude, where he and his wife focused on engaging in the countless appropriate “DO’s” of Sabbath observance rather than pining for a few worldly “DON’Ts.” Through this experience he learned that keeping the Sabbath holy was not a burden, but a blessing, for truly, “The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.”7


In section 59 of the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord gives us a simple and effective blueprint for escaping the worldliness of the great and spacious building, “And that thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day.”8


Moreover, as we “rest from [our] labors…pay [our] devotions…and offer [our] oblations and [our] sacraments unto the Most High,” He will bless us with joy and with the good things of the earth, resulting in strengthened bodies and enlivened souls.9 Isaiah provides a second witness to the great spiritual and temporal blessings that come from keeping the Sabbath holy:10


“If thou turn away…from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, …and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure…


“Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places11 of the earth.”12


When we partake of the sacrament worthily as part of our Sabbath observance, we renew our covenants to “always remember [Jesus] and keep his commandments” so that we will “always have his spirit to be with [us].”13 This vital practice will help us know what we must individually do to find ourselves under the tree of life where we can bask in the love of God and happily feast on the fruit that is “most sweet” and “desirable above all other fruit.”14


If I might be so bold, I would invite you to prove the Lord in this matter. If you seek more love and harmony in your home or apartment, if you want to be “more used”15 and effective in building the kingdom,16 if you need additional confidence to step outside of your comfort zone and overcome daunting challenges, then raise the level of your Sabbath observance. I know that great spiritual and temporal blessings will flow.


Worthy Music

A few years ago an international student approached an instructor I know and asked for recommendations on music he could listen to. This instructor was very fond of the “music of the masters,” as President Gordon B. Hinckley called it, the great classical works “that [have] lived through the centuries, the music that has lifted people.”17 Perhaps this student was prompted to make a change in this area of his life after hearing these words from President Thomas S. Monson at the April 2010 Priesthood Session of General Conference:


“Music can help you draw closer to your Heavenly Father. It can be used to educate, edify, inspire, and unite. However, music can, by its tempo, beat, intensity, and lyrics, dull your spiritual sensitivity. You cannot afford to fill your minds with unworthy music.”18


In response to this student’s request, the instructor suggested an easy entry point into the expansive world of musical variety and beauty to which President Hinckley referred: namely, Water Music, by George Frideric Handel, the legendary master who also wrote the Hallelujah Chorus under the inspiration of the Almighty. A week or so later this student, quite troubled, came to the instructor and said, “When I listen to the music you recommended, my roommates make fun of me.” The instructor asked, “What did you think of the music?” “Well, I really liked it,” he said. “It was energizing and uplifting.” The instructor then told him, “If you feel energized and edified by this music, then give no heed to what your roommates say or think.”


This episode highlights a couple of realities of escaping the great and spacious building and partaking of the fruit. First, we will be mocked. We don’t seek to be mocked, but we must recognize that it will surely come, in one form or another. Next, President Packer tells us, “All of the mocking does not come from outside of the Church.”19 This is a much more painful reality, as this international student found out. Living in a predominantly LDS community for the first time, he assumed his roommates would support him in his efforts to seek out that which is “virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy,” but instead they mocked him. Fortunately, when such mocking occurs we can look to the Savior as did these Saints from Nephite history.


“And in the fifty and first year of the reign of the judges there was peace also, save it were the pride which began to enter into the church—not into the church of God, but into the hearts of the people who professed to belong to the church of God—


“And they were lifted up in pride, even to the persecution of many of their brethren. Now this was a great evil, which did cause the more humble part of the people to suffer great persecutions, and to wade through much affliction.


“Nevertheless they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation.”20


When we “are not of the world,”21 when we are meek, humble and faithful, then we can take comfort in knowing that the Savior prayed for us.22 When we receive of His divine love, represented by the tree of life,23 then the mocking won’t matter to us and “[our] garments shall be made clean.”24


Wise Use of Technology

One way that the adversary tempts us to stay in the great and spacious building is through the misuse of technology. In my youth it was primarily with television, but now we are faced with the challenge of properly using a greater variety of much more alluring technical wonders.


In recent years as I have pondered why video games are so captivating, I have come to realize that it is because they often resonate with and provide fascinating outlets for vital God-given instincts. They often tap into our godly instincts to (1) choose the right, (2) overcome challenges, and (3) progress eternally.


I believe that each of us has a fixation with good versus evil that reaches far back into our premortal experience when we chose good and rejected evil during the Grand Council. Lucifer’s rebellion precipitated the war in heaven where we fought alongside Michael. That war rages to this day, where in mortality we are enlisted in battles of self-control and service as we advance the cause of righteousness. Many video games put participants into a virtual war environment and these likewise tap into our God-given instinct to choose “good” and triumph over “evil.”


Next, we like to overcome challenges. In mortality we learn that “opposition in all things”25 is designed into our experience so that we will find joy and satisfaction from the success of our labors, be they physical or of the mind.26 Video games also provide many opportunities to overcome challenges. We find satisfaction from beating the competition or from completing a difficult level in a game.


Finally, we like to progress. It is part of our eternal DNA. As we access the redeeming and enabling power of the atonement we grow in our discipleship, receive grace for grace and eventually qualify for and “receive of [the Father’s] fullness.”27 We are His children and want to become like Him28 and live forever in the family unit with eternal increase. We are promised that if we are faithful, we will be made “ruler over many things.”29 As our gaming successes mount we are rewarded with more points, new powers, and expanding dominions. We progress through levels until we receive all that a game has to offer.


While a video game here and there may help “loosen your bow,” so to speak, and facilitate a measure of social interaction, these occasional and minimal benefits carry the risk of trapping individuals in a counterfeit pattern of exercising God-given instincts in a way that has little or no lasting value; where participants are “ever progressing, but never coming closer to their true potential” as sons and daughters of God. Not surprisingly, those who struggle to perform well and progress in real pursuits of enduring value—like obtaining an education or dating and finding their eternal companion—are particularly vulnerable to falling into this all-consuming video game trap and spending countless hours in pursuit of counterfeit success.


Happily, I know several individuals who have broken free of this trap. One young man in particular abandoned the excitement and pseudo safety of his virtual worlds, squared his shoulders and faced real challenges head on. He trusted in the Lord and His counsels and was thereby strengthened with additional peace of mind and confidence to take the inevitable ups and downs of life in stride. As a result of his efforts, over time he was blessed to achieve his demanding educational goals, find his eternal companion, and see his career grow and blossom in miraculous ways.


We also know that counterfeits abound in the world of social media. Earlier this month, at the Priesthood Session of General Conference, Elder Quinten L. Cook explained this phenomenon by paraphrasing thought leader, Arthur C. Brooks, saying we broadcast “the smiling details of our lives but not the hard times at school or work” and then consume the “fake lives” of our social media friends.30 Elder Cook encouraged the brethren to follow Elder David A. Bednar’s counsel to be “authentic” in our use of social media. Indeed, we have a scriptural responsibility with our use of social media, as Elder Bednar said, “to sweep the earth with messages filled with righteousness and truth—messages that are authentic, edifying, and praiseworthy—and literally to sweep the earth as with a flood.”31


President Ezra Taft Benson, with his prophetic insight and vision, was no stranger to the blessings and pitfalls of technology. Even though technologies have dramatically advanced since his time, the principles embodied in this sobering assessment, given in 1971, still apply.

“The magnetism of TV and radio is in the accessibility of their mediocrity. Lovely is not an adjective to describe most of their products. The inventors of these wonders were inspired by the Lord. But once their good works were introduced to the world, the powers of darkness began to employ them for our destruction. In each medium—the phonograph, motion pictures, radio, and television—the evolution of decline from the inventor’s intentions can be easily traced.”32


Yes, the same technologies can be used to build or to destroy. Notwithstanding the many technology-enabled dangers, I have high hopes that you, current and future parents in Zion, will make wise decisions regarding the many useful inventions of our time. Heavenly Father knows you are capable of using these wonders primarily as tools and not toys; tools that help you learn, make you more organized and more effective with your time and in your service; tools to help you share the gospel, connect with ancestors, and encourage others as they face life’s challenges.


Feasting on the Word of God

Of course, we know that the adversary’s counterfeits also exist outside the world of technology. Fortunately, the word of God, found in the scriptures and in the teachings of our latter-day prophets and apostles, provide great insights that expose these counterfeits. For example, those in the great and spacious building tell us they are happy, but Alma states, “wickedness never was happiness.”33 The worldly wise tell us that we should follow their example if we want to succeed, for “every man prosper[s] according to his genius.”34 However, Jacob tells us that worldly “wisdom is foolishness,” that its purveyors will perish, and that “to be learned is good [only if we] hearken unto the counsels of God.”35 The mocking voices tell us they are free to do as they will and that we should join them; that there is no right or wrong or long-term consequences to our actions because “when a man is dead, that [is] the end thereof.”36 But Lehi makes it clear that our primary options are “to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil.” Using our agency37 to seek and obtain the fruit of the tree of life will make us truly happy and free while lingering in that building will enslave us and ultimately bring sadness and regret, “for [the devil] seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.”38


When we “feast upon the words of Christ…[they] will tell [us] all things what [we] should do”39 in order to “Go…out from Babylon”40 or, in other words, the great and spacious building. I testify that the iron rod, the word of God, “which is quick and powerful, sharper than a two-edged sword” will “[divide] asunder”41 the “mist of darkness”42 and keep us on the path that will “point to [us] a straight course to eternal bliss.”43


Let Us Be an Independent Covenant People

Brothers and sisters, today we have considered our standing in Lehi’s dream and discussed just a few of the many ways in which we are tempted to sit back and relax in that great and spacious building and learn to become more like the world and less like the independent and distinct covenant people the Lord intends us to be—a steadfast and immovable “peculiar people”44 safely basking in the love of God as we journey toward eternal life and exaltation.


Now this great, spacious building, described as “strange,”

For each and every person, its form will change.

What is it for you, what mocking do you hear?

No matter its form, the solutions are clear.

Hold fast to the rod, to mocking give no heed,

God will make you mighty in word and in deed.

Many lives you will bless, fill with charity.

Precious fruit will be yours for eternity.


May this be so, I pray, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


1 Boyd K. Packer, “Lehi’s Dream and You,” BYU Devotional Address, January 16, 2007.

2 See Luke 2:52.

3 Alma 60:24.

4 Matthew 5:29.

5 D. Todd Christofferson, “Always Remember Him,” BYU-Idaho Devotional Address, January 27, 2009.

6 Michael G. Clark, “The Temple of Television,” 2014.

7 Mark 2:27.

8 Doctrine and Covenants 59:9.

9 Doctrine and Covenants 59:10-19.

10 Leviticus 26:2-13 also provides an impressive list of spiritual and temporal blessings that come from keeping the Sabbath holy and obedience to other commandments.

11 The term “high places” in this verse has a cross reference to Deuteronomy 32:13 (7-14), where the Lord makes it clear that this refers to temporal blessings.

12 Isaiah 58:13-14.

13 Doctrine and Covenants 20:77.

14 1 Nephi 8:11-12.

15 “More Holiness Give Me,” Hymns of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 131.

16 In the October 1997 General Conference, President Gordon B. Hinckley shared some thoughts on the Sabbath that are particularly relevant to us as a university community, as graduates who will branch out across the globe, and as a body of Saints in the Lord’s true Church. “As we move forward into a wonderful future, there are what some may regard as the lesser commandments but which are also of such tremendous importance….I mention the Sabbath day. The Sabbath of the Lord is becoming the play day of the people. It is a day of golf and football on television, of buying and selling in our stores and markets. Are we moving to mainstream America as some observers believe? In this I fear we are….

Our strength for the future, our resolution to grow the Church across the world, will be weakened if we violate the will of the Lord in this important matter. He has so very clearly spoken anciently and again in modern revelation. We cannot disregard with impunity that which He has said.

17 The Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, pp. 395-6.

18 Thomas S. Monson, “Preparation Brings Blessings,” April 2010 General Conference, Priesthood Session.

19 Boyd K. Packer, “Lehi’s Dream and You,” BYU Devotional Address, January 16, 2007.

20 Helaman 3:33-35.

21 John 17:16.

22 John 17:20.

23 1 Nephi 11:25.

24 See Ether 12:26, 37 and John 17.

25 2 Nephi 2:11.

26  Though challenging, we find joy from eating our bread in “the sweat of our face” (Genesis 3:17-19).

27 Doctrine and Covenants 93:19-20.

28 Matthew 5:48.

29 Matthew 25:21.

30 See Quinten L. Cook, “Choose Wisely,” October 2014 General Conference, Priesthood Session.

31 David A. Bednar, “To Sweep the Earth as with a Flood,” BYU Education Week address, Provo, Utah, August 19, 2014.

32 Ezra Taft Benson, “Satan’s Thrust—Youth,” Ensign, December 1971.

33 Alma 41:10.

34 Alma 30:17.

35 2 Nephi 9:28-29.

36 Alma 30:18.

37 In the October 2010 General Conference Elder Robert D. Hales explained that Jesus, “by His perfect life,…taught us that when we choose to do the will of our Heavenly Father, our agency is preserved, our opportunities increase, and we progress.”

38 2 Nephi 2:27.

39 2 Nephi 32:3.

40 D&C 133:5.

41 D&C 6:2.

42 1 Nephi 8:23.

43 Alma 37:44

44 1 Peter 2:9.