Give the Lord equal time

Some years ago one of my missionaries came to see me. He said: “President, I am losing my testimony. I have some questions that no one will answer for me. My bishop and stake president just told me to forget them, and they had no answers.”

I asked for his questions in writing and then suggested he come to see me in 10 days, and I would answer every one of his questions.

As he was leaving my office, I was prompted to ask him, “Elder, how long has it been since you have read from the scriptures?”

He acknowledged that it had been a long time.

I said: “You have given me an assignment; it’s only fair that I give you one. You read at least one hour from the scriptures each day until you come back for your answers.”

He agreed to do this.

When he came back, I was ready. He said: “President, I don’t need the answers. I know the Book of Mormon is true. I know Joseph Smith is a prophet. I’m OK now.”

I replied: “You will get your answers anyway. I worked hard on them!” All of this anti-Mormon stuff was what we were dealing with.

After our discussion I asked him, “Elder, what have you learned from all of this?”

And he gave me a very significant response: “I’ve learned to give the Lord equal time!”

M. Russell Ballard, “Follow the Doctrine and Gospel of Christ,” CES Fireside for Young Adults, November 7, 2010, Brigham Young University

Your personal conscience always warns you as a friend

May I provide a simple formula by which you can measure the choices which confront you. It’s easy to remember: “You can’t be right by doing wrong; you can’t be wrong by doing right.” Your personal conscience always warns you as a friend before it punishes you as a judge.

Thomas S. Monson, “Pathways to Perfection,” April 2002 General Conference

How evil takes root

“Evil takes root when one man begins to think he is superior to another.”
Joseph Brodsky

“Above all, try to avoid telling stories about the unjust treatment you received at [others’] hands; avoid it no matter how receptive your audience may be. Tales of this sort extend the existence of your antagonists.”
Joseph Brodsky

from Joseph Brodsky: Conversations, by Joseph Brodsky, Cynthia L. Haven, pg. xii

We are in favor of correctly focused zeal

We are in favor of correctly focused zeal. We admire courageous leaders and those who are willing to sacrifice or stand for what they know is right. The scriptures are replete with references to zeal, and the word is often attached to Deity. Without zeal and other associated virtues in courageous leaders and followers of previous days, we would not have this nation or this university, the gospel would not have been restored, and many other events of extreme importance would not have happened.

Likewise, we abhor slothful behavior and thinking, which are antithetical to righteous and appropriate zeal. The Book of Mormon prophet Jacob described the failings of those he knew about who missed “the mark” or appropriate target of concern (Jacob 4:14).

Thus we must be careful that we do not overdo or underdo any of the important things that demand and deserve our attention.

Cecil O. Samuelson, “Appropriate Zeal,” BYU devotional address, 7 September 2010

Exchange you cap and gown for a robe and crown

Today we recognize your very significant achievements. We are happy for you and with you. We place robes on your shoulders and mortar boards, tassels, and other marks of honor upon your head and about your neck. At the same time, my plea to you is not to let this achievement or any other success or failure blind you to your central purpose on earth: to learn to do whatsoever the Lord your God may command. You and I achieved success in the moral test of our premortal first estate. It was a limited but crucial test that opened the way for our current and broader test—one that takes place in a physical body, in a fallen world, and outside God’s personal presence. Whatever time and experiences your particular moral test may entail, success will mean glory (that is, light and truth) “added upon [your] heads for ever and ever.” Without diminishing this day, I urge you to keep your eye on the prize. Let your cap and gown point you to the infinitely greater robe and crown that await you in God’s celestial realm.

D. Todd Christofferson, “Our Moral Test,” BYU Commencement address, 22 April 2010

Praying to the Lord for as long as the occasion requires

Some things are best prayed about in private, where time and confidentiality are not considerations. Prayer in solitude is rich and profitable. Praying alone helps us to shed shame or pretense, any lingering deceit; it helps us open our hearts and be totally honest and honorable in expressing all of our hopes and attitudes.

I have long been impressed about the need for privacy in our personal prayers. The Savior at times found it necessary to slip away into the mountains or desert to pray. Similarly, the Apostle Paul turned to the desert and solitude after his great call. Enos found himself in solitary places to commune with God. Joseph Smith found his privacy in the grove with only birds and trees and God to listen to his prayer. Observe some keys in his story: “So, in accordance with this, my determination to ask of God, I retired to the woods to make the attempt. … It was the first time in my life that I had made such an attempt, for amidst all my anxieties I had never as yet made the attempt to pray vocally.” (Joseph Smith—History 1:14; italics added.)

We, too, ought to find, where possible, a room, a corner, a closet, a place where we can “retire” to “pray vocally” in secret. We recall the many times the Lord instructs us to pray vocally: “And again, I command thee that thou shalt pray vocally as well as in thy heart; yea, before the world as well as in secret, in public as well as in private.” (D&C 19:28.)

If in these special moments of prayer we hold back from the Lord, it may mean that some blessings may be withheld from us. After all, we pray as petitioners before an all-wise Heavenly Father, so why should we ever think to hold back feelings or thoughts which bear upon our needs and our blessings?

In our prayers, there must be no glossing over, no hypocrisy, since there can here be no deception. The Lord knows our true condition. Do we tell the Lord how good we are, or how weak? We stand naked before him. Do we offer our supplications in modesty, sincerity, and with a “broken heart and a contrite spirit,” or like the Pharisee who prided himself on how well he adhered to the law of Moses? [See Ether 4:15Luke 18:11–12.] Do we offer a few trite words and worn-out phrases, or do we talk intimately to the Lord for as long as the occasion requires? Do we pray occasionally when we should be praying regularly, often, constantly?

Prayer is such a privilege—not only to speak to our Father in Heaven, but also to receive love and inspiration from him. At the end of our prayers, we need to do some intense listening—even for several minutes. We have prayed for counsel and help. Now we must “be still, and know that [he is] God.” (Ps. 46:10.)

Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball. Chapter 5: Prayer, the Passport to Spiritual Power

Over saturated by media: “afraid to confront the blankness of their own minds”

Too dull to think, people might read: too tired to read, they might look at the moving pictures: unable to visit the picture theatre they might turn on the radio: in any case, they might avoid the call to action: surrogate lovers, surrogate heroes and heroines, surrogate wealth filled their debilitated and impoverished lives and carried the perfume of unreality into their dwellings. And as the machine itself became, as it were, more active and human, reproducing the organic properties of eye and ear, the human beings who employed the machine as a mode of escape have tended to become more passive and mechanical. Unsure of their own voices, unable to hold a tune, they carry a phonograph or a radio set with them even on a picnic: afraid to be alone with their own thoughts, afraid to confront the blankness and inertia of their own minds, they turn on the radio and eat and talk and sleep to the accompaniment of a continuous stimulus from the outside world: now a band, now a bit of propaganda, now a piece of public gossip called news.

Mumford, L. (1934). Technics and Civilization. New York: Harcourt Brace, pp. 315-316.