MOTHERS= WEEKEND WELCOME
Brigham Young University-Idaho
March 21, 2003
President David A. Bednar
Brothers and sisters, welcome. We are delighted that you are here. I especially love this occasion each year on our campus because young men, who think they are so big and so tough, sit with their moms and put their heads on her shoulder during an event like this. Though you think you are big and tough, you are just a little boy when you are with your mom. And to observe daughters with their mothers having fun together is truly delightful. It is a joy to watch those interactions, and we appreciate the opportunity to meet you.
I invite all of you to now help create a very large classroom. If you have your scriptures with you, please get them out. While you are opening your scriptures, you also might want to find a scrap of paper and a pen or a pencilCcertainly not to jot down anything I will say, but to write down the impressions that will come to your mind and to your heart as they are placed there by the Holy Ghost. Please help me and everyone in attendance by inviting the Holy Ghost to be here as we learn together.
Before I specifically address the theme of No Ordinary Cause, I would like to make an observation related to the troubling times in which we live. To do so, I want to use a statement by Brigham Young: AIt was revealed to me in the commencement of the Church, that the Church would spread, prosper, grow, and extend, and that in proportion to the spread of the gospel among the nations of the world so would the power of Satan rise@ (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 72).
The very clouds of darkness we see in the world and the increase in evil are powerful witnesses of the spreading, the growing, and the prospering of the kingdom of God in all the world. Juxtapositioned against the dark is the light. AThe morning breaks, the shadows flee; Lo, Zion=s standard is unfurled!@ (Hymns, No. 1). So, indeed, these are troubling and perplexing times. But the disciples of the Savior will Astand in holy places, and [will] not be moved (D&C 45:32). I hope we will always remember that gospel perspective as we watch events unfold around the world.
Last Saturday Sister Bednar and I were in Salt Lake City to attend a President=s Club Banquet. Friends of BYU-Idaho who financially and in other ways support the university are invited to attend this activity. The banquet is held at the top of the Church Office Building, and we were blessed to have President and Sister Hinckley attend with us this year. I want to share several things that we talked about with President and Sister Hinckley. I want to begin with Sister Hinckley.
As the dinner began, Sister Bednar helped Sister Hinckley get her plate of food. Then, as we were seated at the table, I asked President Hinckley, ABased on your travels throughout the world, if you could have any dessert from any place in the world, what would you have?@ I had not even finished saying the word have when Sister Hinckley said, AMe!@
What I am about to describe is one of the sweetest and most tender things I have ever seen in my relationship with Sister BednarCand, as of yesterday, we have been married for 28 years. Following the banquet, we went to the tabernacle to watch an oratorio performed by the BYU-Idaho orchestra and choirs. We climbed into a golf cart near the Church Office Building and drove through the tunnels to the tabernacle. As you arrive in the basement of the tabernacle, there is a very small elevator that takes you up to the main floor. Barely three or four people can squeeze into that elevator at one time. President and Sister Hinckley walked into the elevator; then President Hinckley said, ACome on, David and Susan. Come with us.@ So the four of us squeezed into the elevator; we were very, very close to each other. Susan was next to Sister Hinckley, and I was next to President Hinckley. Sister Hinckley reached over, took both of Susan=s hands, and said, AI really like you a lot.@ Susan responded and said, AWell Sister Hinckley, I like you a lot back.@ It was such a tender thing to see the prophet=s wife and my wife reciprocate such love for one another.
The reason I share that episode is because I think it is expressive of what so many of you feel about Sister Bednar. She has an uncanny ability to connect with sistersCto share episodes and simple, ordinary things that warm and touch the hearts of sisters. We are delighted to be able to reverence womanhood and pay tribute especially to mothers on this weekend. I pay particular tribute to my wife. I really like her a lot too.
Back to my story. During the course of the evening, I turned to President Hinckley and said, APresident Hinckley, this coming week we will be celebrating Mothers= Weekend at BYU‑Idaho. Sister Bednar and I will be speaking. We are focusing on a theme from an address you gave in the late 1980s.@ I indicated the theme was No Ordinary Cause and said, APresident Hinckley, is there a particular message you would have me deliver to those who will be in attendance?@ He did not hesitate. He said, AYes.@ This was his message: ATell them to love the gospel, to love one another, and to have respect for their parentsCand for their mothers in particular.@
Sister Bednar has already indicated the context of this year=s theme. I want to repeat it. This is the teaching from President Hinckley in 1989:
I need not remind you that this cause in which we are engaged is not an ordinary cause. It is the cause of Christ. It is the kingdom of God our Eternal Father. It is the building of Zion on the earth, the fulfillment of prophesy given of old and of the vision revealed in this dispensation. (An Ensign to the Nations, October 1989)
As I have reflected on the statement Ano ordinary cause,@ I have considered both the word ordinary and the word cause. The word ordinary suggests average, common, customary, plain, standard, or usual. The word cause relates to a reason, a motive, a belief, a purpose, mission, or undertaking. Thus the cause of Christ and the building of His kingdom on the earth in this day are not average undertakings. The cause of Christ is not common. It is not a customary belief, purpose, or undertaking. Why? Why is this not an ordinary cause?
First, because the author and sponsor of this cause is the Savior of the world.
Second, because the scope and the reach of this cause and this undertaking are expansive and extensive. I do not want to go through a long laundry list, but please consider that the gospel is established in more than 140 nations around the earth. Consider the sheer logistics of moving 30,000 missionaries every year. How would you like to be in charge of arranging airline tickets for missionaries going to the field and the missionaries returning home? Think of the reach and the scope of communication capabilities in the kingdom of GodCtelevision, radio, Internet, satellite. If you consider the magnitude, the reach, and the scope of what takes place in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, truly, this is no ordinary cause. It is not paralleled by any other organization on the earth. Most importantly, it is not an ordinary cause because of its importance in and to the world and the impact it has in the lives of individuals.
I want to refer to an exchange the Prophet Joseph Smith had with President Martin Van Buren. The Prophet Joseph went to Washington seeking redress for the wrongs perpetrated against the members of the Church. When asked by President Van Buren how Mormonism differed from other religions of the day, the Prophet Joseph is reported to have said the following: A>We [differ] in mode of baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands.= All other considerations, the Prophet said, are >contained in the gift of the Holy Ghost=@ (History of the Church, 4:42).
The Prophet=s statement suggests that the distinctive characteristic of the Lord=s people, and this would be so in all generations of time, has been the companionship of the Holy Ghost and the attendant manifestations of the gifts of the Spirit. In large measure, it is the testifying power, the confirming witness, and the spiritual gifts associated with the Holy Ghost that make this no ordinary cause. Let me repeat those three elements: the testifying power, the confirming witness, and the spiritual gifts associated with the Holy Ghost. Brigham Young said the following:
Our faith is concentrated in the Son of God, and through him in the Father; and the Holy Ghost is their minister to bring truths to our remembrance, to reveal new truths to us, and teach, guide, and direct the course of every mind until we become perfected and prepared to go home, where we can see and converse with our Father in Heaven. (Brigham Young, November 29, 1857, Journal of Discourses, 6:98)
I invite you to turn with me to 2 Nephi 26:12-13. This scripture highlights the central role of the Holy Ghost and the testifying power and the confirming witness that can come only from the Holy Ghost. Have you ever been reading the scriptures only to find new things have been inserted since you read them the last time? Well, as I read these verses recently, I found a phrase that I have never before seen. Beginning with verse 12:
And as I spake concerning the convincing of the Jews, that Jesus is the very Christ, it must needs be that the Gentiles be convinced also that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God;
And that he manifesteth himself unto all those who believe in him, by the power of the Holy Ghost; yea, unto every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, working mighty miracles, signs, and wonders, among the children of men according to their faith. (Emphasis added.)
Central in that responsibility of convincing both Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the ChristCthose of every nation, kindred, tongue, and peopleCis the testifying power and the confirming witness of the Holy Ghost.
Please turn with me in the Book of Mormon to Mormon 9:7-9. Again, I keep coming back to the theme No Ordinary Cause. Why is this no ordinary cause? One of the primary answers to that question is the Holy GhostCthe testifying power, the confirming witness, the spiritual gifts associated with the Holy Ghost.
And again I speak unto you who deny the revelations of God, and say that they are done away, that there are no revelations, nor prophecies, nor gifts, nor healing, nor speaking with tongues, and the interpretation of tongues;
Behold I say unto you, he that denieth these things knoweth not the gospel of Christ; yea, he has not read the scriptures; if so, he does not understand them.
For do we not read that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and in him there is no variableness neither shadow of changing?
So, what is it that makes this no ordinary cause? Many things. But one of the primary reasons is the Holy Ghost and the gifts of the Spirit.
I would like to suggest a perspective and perhaps teach a principle. I want to draw our attention to the sacrament prayers. Please turn with me in your Doctrine and Covenants to section 20. We will begin reading in verse 77:
O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this bread to the souls of all those who partake of it, that they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son, and witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, . . .
It is important to note that we do not covenant to take upon us the name of Christ; rather, we covenant that we are willing to take upon us the name of Christ. This statement has many important implicationsCone of which is that we commit and covenant to go to the house of the Lord and, through receiving the ordinances of the temple, continue the process of taking upon ourselves the name of Christ. Elder Dallin Oaks has indicated that a willingness to take upon ourselves the name of Christ means that in His name and by His authority we do His work. So that is one of the key elements of the covenant into which we enter at the time of baptism.
Another key element of the covenant is that of remembering: A. . . always remember him . . . .@ And finally, we pledge to A. . . keep his commandments which he has given . . . .@
Thus, in this sacred covenant, we pledge that we will (1) walk and work in His name by property authority, (2) remember Him, and (3) obey His commandments. As we do those three things, then comes this promise: A. . . that they may always have his Spirit to be with them@ (emphasis added).
So we highlight four key elements: work, remember, obey, and the promise that if we are diligent in pursuing those three objectives, then we may always have his Spirit to be with us. Now, let us compare that to the blessing on the water. This is verse 79:
O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this water to the souls of all those who drink of it, that they may do it in remembrance of the blood of thy Son, which was shed for them; that they may witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they do always remember him, that they may have his Spirit to be with them. Amen.
The prayer on the water highlights remembering, and there is no promise of always having His spirit to be with us. Remembering is important, but it is not enough. If we would qualify for the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, which makes this no ordinary cause, then it requires work and remembering and obeying.
Here is the perspective, the principle, I want you to think about: Given the promise that we can always have his Spirit to be with us, why do we only talk about recognizing and responding to the Holy Ghost when it prompts us? Obviously, we are not perfect; obviously, the Spirit will come and go. But the Spirit ought to be with us more than it is absent. But do we not typically, in our Sunday School and Relief Society and priesthood classes and seminary, always talk about recognizing the Holy Ghost when it comes? I think we have the perspective backwards. The question should be: What are the events, the circumstances, the conditions when we recognize the Spirit leaving? It should not be the case that we Agear up@ and become spiritually supercharged in order to recognize the Holy Ghost on the Arare@ occasions when it comes. If we are working, if we are remembering, if we are obeying, then the Spirit ought to be with us more than it would not be with us. So my question is, why do we primarily focus on when it comes instead of when it leaves? If we take the perspective of recognizing the Spirit when it leaves and not just when it comes, then we have, in literal fact, a Liahona to guide our day-to-day lives.
Please listen to the characteristics of the Liahona as described in Alma 37:38-40:
And now, my son, I have somewhat to say concerning the thing which our fathers call a ball, or directorCor our fathers called it Liahona, which is, being interpreted, a compass; and the Lord prepared it.
And behold, there cannot any man work after the manner of so curious a workmanship. And behold, it was prepared to show unto our fathers the course which they should travel in the wilderness.
And it did work for them according to their faith in God; therefore, if they had faith to believe that God could cause that those spindles should point the way they should go, behold, it was done; therefore they had this miracle, and also many other miracles wrought by the power of God, day by day.
What would our lives be like, brothers and sisters, if we saw something, if we read something, if we heard something, and we felt the Holy Ghost depart and then we just quit doing whatever it was that caused the Spirit to withdraw? What if we did not look at it, did not listen to it? The Holy Ghost would come back. What does it say about us if we go to a form of entertainment where there is inappropriate language or things that we should not see and the Holy Ghost leaves, and you and I say, AOh, it was not that bad of movieCjust a few swear words. It was not that bad.@ Well, the Holy Ghost thought it was pretty bad and left! And you and I ought to have a Liahona that would say, AI know when the Holy Ghost left. I did not like that, so I ought to quit doing whatever it was that caused the Holy Ghost to leave.@
That is what makes this no ordinary cause. I hope we do not treat this supernal gift as just an ordinary gift.
In Alma 37:41-42 we read:
Nevertheless, because those miracles were worked by small means it did show unto them marvelous works. They were slothful, and forgot to exercise their faith and diligence and then those marvelous works ceased, and they did not progress in their journey;
Therefore, they tarried in the wilderness, or did not travel a direct course, and were afflicted with hunger and thirst, because of their transgressions.
Brothers and sisters, I would simply suggest that we ought to focus at least as much on the Holy Ghost leaving as we do on recognizing when it comes. That helps us in the process of working and remembering and obeying such that we may always have His Spirit to be with us.
Now, just a couple of considerations. First, the Holy Ghost has a distinctive pattern by which he works; it is called Aline upon line, precept upon precept@ (2 Nephi 28:30). Rarely does the Holy Ghost provide answers all at once. Answers generally come in small packets over an extended period of time. Sister Bednar and I meet with 150 to 200 students almost every Monday night for home evening. The question we are asked most frequently is, AHow can we recognize the difference between the Holy Ghost telling me what I need to know and me telling me what I want to know?@ There is a fundamental obstacle that we often put in our own way in trying to understand the answer to that question. And that obstacle is the expectation that we get one big answer all at once. But throughout the scriptures, throughout the Restoration, we see evidence of how help from heaven comes Aline upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little@ (2 Nephi 28:30).
For the last three years we have been trying to create Brigham Young University-Idaho. President Hinckley announced the change and then said, APresident Bednar, you and your team get to work.@ There was no overarching plan. The transition was not strategically designed before the announcement was made. Prophets announce, then you get to do it. The transition has come Aline upon line, precept upon precept.@ And everyone on this campus who has been involved in the transition, as we step back and look at what has come over time in this incremental way, finds it to be a thing of awe and wonder. It did not come all at once.
If our expectation is that we offer a prayer and will have an answer before we get up from our knees, we likely will be disappointed. Answers come Aline upon line, precept upon precept@ as we move in a direction that is in accordance with gospel principles and with what we feel is right.
Consideration number two: There is a very important relationship between keeping confidences and receiving revelation from the Holy Ghost. Brigham Young taught the following:
Should you receive a vision of revelation from the Almighty, one that the Lord gave you concerning yourselves or this people, but which you are not to reveal on account of you not being the proper person or because you ought not to be known by the people at present, you should shut it up and seal it as closed and lock it as tight as heaven is to you and make it as secret as the grave. The Lord has no confidence in those who reveal secrets for he cannot safely reveal Himself to such persons. (Journal of Discourses, 4:288, emphasis added)
I have heard the Brethren indicate that we would have more spritual experiences if we did not talk so casually about the ones we have.
President Boyd K. Packer has taught:
I have come to believe also that it is not wise to continually talk of unusual spiritual experiences. They are to be guarded with care and shared only when the Spirit itself prompts us to use them to the blessing of others.
I am ever mindful of Alma=s words:
AIt is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the head and diligence which they give unto Him@ (Alma 12:9).
I heard President Romney once counsel mission presidents and their wives in Geneva. AI do not tell all I know. I have never told my wife all I know, for I found out that if I talked too lightly of sacred things, thereafter the Lord would not trust me.@
We are, I believe, to keep these things and ponder them in our hearts, as Luke said Mary did of the supernal events that surrounded the birth of Jesus. (That All May Be Edified, AThe Candle of the Lord,@ p. 337)
I would simply recommend, brothers and sisters, that we consider the guideline taught by both Brigham Young and President Packer as it relates to the role of the Holy Ghost in our livesCand in this cause, which is anything but ordinary.
Consideration number three: The many gifts of the Spirit are available to each of us as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day SaintsChaving been baptized by proper authority and then, by the laying on of hands, having received the gift of the Holy Ghost. Sometimes we think, AThose gifts apply to the bishop or to the Relief Society president. Obviously, such gifts are available to the Apostles. But those gifts do not apply to me.@ I would simply suggest that no office or formal position is a prerequisite to the gifts of the Spirit. The most ordinary, simple, common member of the Church, without visible or highly responsible position, can and should enjoy the gift of discernment, the gift of judgement, the gift of wisdom, the gift of knowledge. I have frequently said to the students on this campus, AWhy do we think that the gift of tongues only operates after you receive a mission call and you must learn to speak Spanish, or Finnish, or German?@ Would the gift of tongues not operate for a freshman student taking an introductory Spanish class? Absolutely. And would such a young man or young woman then not be better prepared to enter the Missionary Training Center having already experienced the gift of tongues while struggling as a freshman student? Absolutely. The gifts of the Spirit are available to all of us.
Brigham Young taught:
There is no doubt, if a person lives according to the revelations given to God=s people, he may have the Spirit of the Lord to signify to him his will, and to guide and to direct him in the discharge of his duties, in his temporal as well as his spiritual exercises. I am satisfied, however, that in this respect, we live far beneath our privileges. (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 32-33)
Indeed, the gifts of the Spirit are available to all of us.
The Prophet Joseph issued a warning as it relates to spiritual gifts: ANothing is a greater injury to the children of men than to be under the influence of a false spirit when they think they have the Spirit of God@ (History of the Church, Vol. 4, Ch. 33, p. 573). I will not elaborate on that concluding phrase from Joseph Smith. I would, however, invite all of us to simply ponder it: ANothing is a greater injury to the children of men than to be under the influence of a false spirit when they think they have the Spirit of God.@
President George Q. Cannon taught:
It requires the utmost care upon the part of the people who have received the Spirit of the Lord by the laying on of hands to distinguish between the voice of that Spirit and the voice of their own hearts or other spirits which may take possession of them. Experience and watchfulness will enable the Saint to recognize the voice of the Holy Spirit. It is a still, small voice in the hearts of the children of men. It is not boisterous, loud or aggressive, and if those who receive it carefully watch its suggestions it will develop more and more within them, and it will become an unfailing source of revelation. But the necessity always remains of exercising care in distinguishing its voice from the voice of other influences in the heart. (Gospel Truth, 1:182)
Brothers and sisters, the Holy Ghost is available to all of us. Its influence is not typically overwhelming; it is not dramatic. I visited briefly yesterday with one of the employees in the Executive Office about seemingly ordinary episodes that have occurred during the course of the transition on our campus. There have been times when I have said, AWe need to get in touch with this person.@ The person then walked into the room, and we asked, AHow did you know that we needed to visit with you?@ The answer was, AI didn=t know. I=m just over here on business.@ Many would say such an event was a coincidence. It was not a coincidence. I can think of instances when I have been seated in my office and I just had a feeling that I needed to be out and about. So I walked across campus and ended up saying hello to a faculty member who asked, ADid you get my message that I needed to visit with you?@ And I answered, AI do not know anything about a message from you.@ How do you happen to get to the right place at the right time for somebody who needs you and you had no idea the need existed? Certainly, this is no ordinary cause.
One final episode, and then I will conclude.
Just a few weeks ago on a Friday night as I was preparing for a stake conference assignment, I felt unsettled. I could not explain it; I could not define it. I just did not feel settled. I said to Susan, AI am going to drive to Salt Lake City tomorrow to catch my flight instead of departing from Idaho Falls.@ It made no sense to do this. We watched the news and learned there was a forecast for thick fog Saturday morning. So I said to Sue, AI guess the fog is going to be a problem.@ The next morning as I was driving through Idaho Falls on my way to Salt Lake City at 6 o=clock, there was no fog. I thought to myself, AMaybe I should go home and catch my 9:30 flight as I had plannedCbecause there is no fog.@ But I just kept driving. I arrived at the Salt Lake City airport and went through all of the hassle incident to having not taken the initial flight on my itinerary. Everything was resolved, and I went to board my flight. As I was walking to the gate, I looked at the screens with the information about the departing and arriving flights. The flight that was scheduled to depart Idaho Falls at 9:30 (on which I had originally been scheduled) would not arrive until 11:10 a.m. My flight out of Salt Lake City was scheduled to leave at 11:10 a.m. If I had gone back home earlier that morning and taken the 9:30 flight, I never would have made it to my stake conference assignment.
This is no ordinary cause. That episode says absolutely nothing about Dave Bednar; it says everything about this cause. When we are on the Lord=s errand, we will get where we need to be. You might think, AOf course, those things happen to somebody with the responsibility of a Seventy.@ But they happen to all of us every dayCif we have eyes to see and ears to hear.
Brothers and sisters, this is no ordinary causeCnothing common, nothing average. It is the cause of Christ. I testify that the Savior lives. I know He lives. This is His cause. He directs it in all the earth. It will never fail. It will continue to grow and prosper and spread. I so witness and testify in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.