The Things that matter most


Ed Smith DevotionalDevotional Talk Given at
Brigham Young University-Hawaii

November 2, 2010
Edward D. Smith
David O. Mckay Circle
Presidents' Leadership Council


ALOHA Brothers and Sisters, 

I am honored to be here today.  I also feel overwhelmed by the responsibility.  Thank you President and Sister Wheelwright for this opportunity.  We have had the most wonderful blessing of being associated with BYU­ Hawaii for the past 15 years, though in a minor role.  I love this university! 

You are here because you were interviewed by an ecclesiastical authority and found worthy to attend this university.  You have manifested that you would adhere to the standards of the "honor code."  It is also my belief that you were placed here to bless your people and your country when you return. 

It is said that a speaker can give two kinds of messages: 
1) To tell you something 
2) To motivate you to do something 

Today I will attempt to say something of value.  To invite you to DO something!  I have entitled my remarks "The Things That Matter Most," which includes strengthening our faith and testimony of the Savior, listening to the promptings of the Holy Ghost, and being anxiously engaged in our earthly responsibilities. 

First, when we as church members start to make a list of important things, we must have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and a testimony of Him.  Know that He is God's own son, the only begotten of the Father in the flesh.  In the pre-mortal world, He was a God with the Father.  He created worlds without number.  He condescended to come to earth as a babe.  He was born of a mortal woman, fathered by Elohim.  He learned to live "line upon line,"  "precept upon precept," until he came to His fullness.  He was tempted by Satan in every way; never yielding to Satan's enticing.  He knew and was determined to do His Fathers will and His business.  He taught us how to live, to love one another.  In a way not clear to any of us, in the Garden of Gethsemane He took upon himself the sins of all of us, as well as the sins of all God's sons and daughters in worlds without end.  He atoned for all of us.  He was crucified.  He rose from the dead, was resurrected, and now lives, sits on the right hand of the Father.  This testimony comes by revelation.  If you want this testimony you must PRAY for it and DO the will of the Father.  Unless we have a testimony and faith in the Savior, everything else is meaningless. 

Also, we must learn to recognize and heed the promptings of the Spirit.  All of you have been given the supernal "gift of the Holy Ghost," the greatest gift given to man in this life.  Having this gift doesn't mean much unless we develop "velvet ears."  I love these words by Mary Karr quoted by Elder Neal Maxwell.  "My friend, the Franciscan nun, says we misread the word meek in the Bible verse that blesses them.  To understand the meek, she says, picture a great stallion at full gallop in a meadow, who at his master's voice seizes up to a stunned but instant bolt. So with the strain of holding that great power in check, the muscles along the arched neck keep eddying, and only the velvet ears prick forward, awaiting the next order" {"Who the Meek Are Not"  Atlantic Monthly 289, no 5 (May 2002) 64}.  Elder Maxwell went on to say, 'Do you see a new picture of meekness being at 'full gallop' but with velvet ears.  This is a prescription for all of us in terms of life.'

In addition to developing your faith, testimony of the Savior, and listening to the promptings of the Holy Ghost, I urge you to prepare and live your life in such a way that when you meet face-to-face with the Savior, you will be able to win his gratitude and feel of his love when you report on your earthly responsibilities.  In 1965 President David O. McKay, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, made this statement to a group of brethren in the Department of Church Headquarters.  Perhaps some of you are familiar with these words, he said, "Let me assure you brethren, that someday you will have a personal Priesthood interview with the Savior himself.  If you are interested, I will tell you the order in which he will ask you to account for your earthly responsibilities."  I think most of these also apply to the sisters in the church:

First:  He will request an accountability report about your relationship with your wife.  Have you actively been engaged in making her happy and ensuring that her needs have been met as an individual? 

Second:  He will want an accountability about each of your children individually.  He will not attempt to have this for simply a family stewardship, but will request information about your relationship with each and every child. 

Third:  He will want to know what you personally have done with the talents you were given in the pre­-mortal world. 

Fourth:  He will want a summary of your activity in your church assignments.  He will not be necessarily interested in what assignments you have had, for in His eyes the home teacher and a mission president are probably equals, but He will request a summary of how you have been of service to your fellowmen in your church assignments. 

Fifth:  He will have no interest in how you earned your living, but if you were honest in all your dealings. 

Sixth:  He will ask for accountability on what you have done to contribute in a positive manner to your community, state, country, and the world. 

Now I have thought and prayed about the first two, knowing that I will be addressing mostly single students.  However, I feel impressed to discuss the thoughts on marriage and children as if you were married with children.  I hope you are not too uncomfortable with that! 

Let me give you my credentials on married life.  I have been married for 53 years to two wonderful women.  I was married to my first wife, Maurine, for 43 years and my second wife, Shauna, and I just celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary.  These two women are very, very different.  With my first wife, our roles were very well-defined.  I never messed around in the kitchen, I took out the trash, and I fixed what was broken!  Shauna is different.  She never asks me to do anything that she can do herself and there is very little that she cannot do!  I caught her on the roof recently trying to get rid of the pigeons by swabbing the roof with a Clorox solution. 

I quote from a June 1995 Ensign article by Gary Gray.  This is a wife speaking: "A wife needs someone willing to help her do things she does for everyone else in the family, an uncomplaining, good­-natured helper. This helper should be able to anticipate the needs of the family members.  Be able to put his projects on hold.  A Priesthood holder should find ways to bless his family she should not have to compete with sports or television when trying to communicate with him.  He should simply love her.  He should love her when she is impatient and frustrated after a busy day, or when she burns the dinner or when she is four and a half months pregnant and doubts her ability to meet the needs of another child.

A couple of other thoughts:

  1. She has the right to expect you to be the provider.  I know there are some exceptions to that with a disability, illness, or other situations.  It is your job to learn the "law of financial success!"
  2. Choose a career that you will be good at and in which you will excel.  If you are not good at quantitative things, don't try to be a medical doctor or engineer.  There are so many wonderful opportunities, choose wisely.  Remember, there is nothing  more honorable than a teacher! 
  3. Don't set your goals on money.  The money will come as you are diligent and fair as an employer or employee.
  4. Work is the multiplier.  Nothing takes the place of work.  In every endeavor of life, work is needed.  I love the poem by Longfellow quoted by President Kimball: "The height of great men reached and kept were not obtained by sudden flight, but while their companions slept, were toiling in the night."
  5. SAVE SOME MONEY!  Don't speculate.  Worry about the return OF your money, not the return ON your money!  Capitol has its own rewards.  Save some money! 

You have an obligation to be positive with your family and within yourself.  Elder Orson F. Whitney said this: "The spirit of God is optimistic.  It trusts in God and looks on the bright side of things.  The opposite or pessimistic spirit drags men down away from God, looks on the dark side, murmurs or complains and is slow to yield to obedience.  We should honor the Savior's declaration "Be of good cheer."

Elder Holland said this:  "No misfortune is so bad that whining about won't make it worse."

Recently, I had an occasion to talk with a business acquaintance of mine.  He is a decent man with a testimony of the gospel.  However, he was unhappy; yet, he was living in most respects, the "plan of happiness" as Alma described the plan of salvation.  So what is wrong?    

This man is so worked up over our government, the elected officials, the president, the federal and state bureaucracy, IRS, etc. that he finds himself always frustrated at every turn.  His anger is at the nightly news and every paper he reads.  He hangs every anger and frustration on our leaders for not following the Constitution.  He feels the millennium is around the corner and will be here "any day!"

All these feelings keep him in constant turmoil and agitation.  He sees very little good, sees things his way, and looks for the bad.  Heaven knows when you look for the bad you certainly find it!! 

Is this the way the Savior wants us to live our lives?  I think not.  I am impressed by President Hinckley's words: "I see so many good people everywhere and there is so much of good in them.  The world is good! Wonderful things are happening in the world.  This is the greatest age in the history of the earth.  We have every reason to be optimistic in this world," President Hinckley continued, "Tragedy is around, yes, problems everywhere yes!  Look at Nauvoo.  Look at what they built in seven years and then left.  But what did they do?  Did they lie down and die?  NO!  They went to work!  They moved half way across this continent and turned the soil of the desert and made it blossom as the rose.  On that foundation this church has grown into a great worldwide organization affecting for good the lives of people in more than 140 nations.  You can't, you don't build out pessimism or cynicism.  You look with optimism, work with faith and things happen." "THINGS WILL WORK OUT" may well be President Hinckley's most repeated assurance to family, friends, and associates.  "Keep trying," he would say, "Be believing, Be happy.  Don't get discouraged.  Things will work out."

Can I say just a few words directly to you who may not be married yet?  You have been told who you marry is the most important decision you will ever make.  A decision that will bring you more happiness or more misery than anything else!  Remember this: 

  1. It is your choice.  Elder McConkie said this, "It is up to you NOT the angels in heaven to choose for you."  God gave you a brain so use it!
  2. Don't wait too long.  If you do, you will be looking for Mr. or Mrs. Perfect and he or she does not exist.
  3. Hopefully, you will choose someone who has done something hard.  You see, character does count.  When things don't go well in your marriage, if there is no character it will be easy to run.
  4. Sister Smith added this to my list:  "Choose a spouse who could raise a disabled child if needed."
  5. The best indication of the future is the past!
  6. Most of you know what a "twinkie" is; a soft pastry, beautiful on the outside, but when you take a bite there's nothing but air!  Don't marry a "twinkie"!
  7. Lastly, whether you are married or dating, be kind and gentle to each other.  Express your appreciation and love often. 

I now want to discuss number two on President Mckay's list:  accountability for each child individually.  You will be raising children who, as missionaries, will take the gospel to a world you have never known, a wicked world.  

Some thoughts for your children:

  1. Love them and show it.  I was raised by a step­father who taught me how to work.  He was not unkind to me but never hugged me or showed love.  I loved him but wished I would have been shown some affection.
  2. Give your children your time.  That is what they really want!
  3. As you teach them to work, give them responsibilities.  TRUST THEM!  The best missionaries I served with were the ones whose parents gave them responsibilities.  Some missionaries came to the mission field knowing only how to play video games and one never even knew how to ride a bike.  One of my assistants described his second companion as having an intense interest in science fiction and his head was full of useless information.
  4. Cherish your children for what they are, not what you want them to be. 

Now on to number three on President McKay's list:  what have you done with your talents you were given in the pre-­mortal world?  We were told by prophets that before coming to earth, we lived millions of years in our Father's presence.  We had free agency there.  We made choices.  In so doing, we developed different talents and capacities. Elder McConkie said this about our pre­-earth life:  "The blood of Israel, you and I are endowed with special spiritual talents or gifts that are not earned as far as this life is concerned.  They are talents earned and acquired in the pre­-existence, and at birth into mortality, they are given of God to those he fore­ordained to be his ministers." 

Most of the talents and gifts that were given to us are to bless the whole human family.  How are you doing with this one?  Are you like the parable states, multiplying your talents given to you?  Or are you like the servant who buried his one talent in the earth? 

Let me speak for just a minute on allotment that Alma speaks of in Alma 27.  Alma says 
that we should be content with our allotment.  President Henry D. Moyle made this comment about our allotment, "We unquestionably knew before we elected to come to this earth the conditions under which we would exist, live, and work.  I have a conviction deep down in my heart that we are exactly what we should be each one of us, except as we may have altered that pattern by deviating from the 'laws of God' here in mortality.  I have convinced myself that we all have those particular attributes, characteristics, and abilities which are essential for us to possess in order that we may fulfill the full purpose of our creation here on earth."  

Some refuse to use their talents in God's cause.  Some enormously talented individuals spend their time doing things that do not build the kingdom.  I had a friend, since passed away, a great athlete, good student, served a mission, completed college, married a beautiful worthy girl, and had an incredibly successful business.  Millions of dollars were his and he rose to high civic responsibilities.  He had talent, charisma, and knowledge.  He chose to have little to do with the church, and his poor example affected his wife and his talented children.  What a force for good he could have been, but the world got in his way.  I hope he is doing better in the world of spirits! 

Number four on President McKay's list: "he will want a summary of your activity in your church assignments, including how you were of service to your fellowman."  I love what Elder Boyd K. Packer said, "power in the Priesthood comes from doing your duty in ordinary things  i.e.: attending meetings, accepting assignments, reading the scriptures, and keeping the word of wisdom."  

Want to know how to ALWAYS stay active in the church? 

1.  Pay your tithing.  Very few who do so fall into inactivity. 
2.  Always do what you are asked to do by the Bishop or Branch President. 
3.  Know your calling is from God. 
4.  Read the scriptures and pray.  The scriptures, prayerfully read, over the years will change your life like nothing else. I have a testimony of that. 
5.  Know that ALL roads in the church lead to the Temple. Go there to feel the peace of God. Go there to claim your blessings that the faithful are promised. 
6.  Follow the prophet. 

Number five on President McKay's list: "he will have no interest in how you earned your living, but were you honest in your dealings."  There is so much I could say about honesty, fairness, and avoiding sharp practices.  I will leave that for another day.  When I think of honesty, I think of my friend Oscar Wegner, now deceased.  Let me tell you a story about him: 

When I was with Brother Wegner, I always felt that I was in the presence of an elect man, one the Lord loved.  At his funeral, his son Hart recounted his father's experience:  

During World War II, the Wegner family was living in Breslau, East Germany, actually Silesia, at the time.  They were members of the church.  The Soviet armies were rapidly approaching and Brother Wegner made the decision to leave, which was an inspired decision.  Many members of the church did not leave and they were subsequently destroyed along with their homes.  He was the chief financial officer of a corporation.  The money of the corporation and the food ration cards for its employees stayed behind in the safe when they fled, simply because it was not his to take!  When the very structure of our nation crumbled, it was plain for everyone to see in late January 1945 that Germany would not survive.  My father, (reports his son) made a house payment on the day before we fled, never to return, simply because the payment was due." 

After finally getting to West Germany, having escaped East Germany under the most trying of circumstances, (Hart recounts an incredible tale of escape) he applied for immigration to America. Their names were placed on a long list.  His son further recounts that when their names reached the top and they could have the long awaited immigration visas, his father, at 57 years of age, accepted a call to serve a mission.  His sense of honesty would not allow him to ask for an early release, which he surely would have received.  He had promised to serve the Lord for two years and two years the Lord should have. Oscar Wegner is what I think of when I think of honesty and integrity. Would I do the same?  Would you? 

The last question on President McKay's list: "he will ask what you have done to contribute positively to your community, state and world." 

You and I are children of the covenant.  We have a responsibility to bless all of God's children.  There are many worthwhile organizations doing a great deal of good right here in Oahu.  Today, select an organization that you can volunteer to serve on.  The project may be large or small.  Do something!

This week, you have the "Choose To Give Campaign" right here on campus.  The goal for this campaign is to encourage "student-giving", no matter how large or small the donation.  Why not give towards a scholarship that can help someone just like you?  Give $.10 or give $1.00, it doesn't matter just give.  Learn now to always be in the 'act of giving' of your testimony, time, talents, and treasure.  I promise you blessings will be yours.   

Elder Neal A. Maxwell said, "The submission of one's will is really the only uniquely personal thing we have to place on God's altar.  The many other things we 'give' are actually the things He has already given or loaned to us.  However, when we finally submit ourselves, by letting our individual wills be swallowed up in God's will, we will really be giving something to Him!  It is the only possession which is truly ours to give."  ( Neal A. Maxwell, If Thou Endure It Well, 54)

We have been cautioned:

1. To serve in the spirit of service, no strings attached.  Service is certainly not just another way to proselyte or promote our own interest. 
2. Don't take over.  That is a real fear when Mormons get involved. 
3. Some can help financially, but the truest of our efforts are TIME, TALENTS and EFFORT! 

I have a testimony of this work.  Many years ago, I served on the advisory board for Salvation Army, one of the world's largest providers of social aid to the poor, destitute, and hungry.  I am deeply impressed by the goodness of these wonderful men and women who get their hands dirty rendering service to our Heavenly Father's children.  I respect them for all they do.  It is a selfless service; truly a labor of love. 

Today is election day in the United States.  Are you doing anything to help the candidates that reflect your values?  As many of you are students from other countries, what are you doing to stay abreast with governmental issues in your home country?  Let's all get involved as much as we can.

In closing, thank you for allowing me to be with you this morning on this beautiful campus.  May the Lord bless you and keep you.  This is the Lord's work.  May we be found anxiously engaged by strengthening our faith and testimonies, listening to the promptings of the Holy Ghost, and working on being anxiously engaged in our earthly responsibilities.