Settling for too little

The sin that will cleave to all the posterity of Adam and Eve is, that they have not done as well as they knew how.

Brigham Young
Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe (1954), 89.


The biggest human temptation is … to settle for too little.

Thomas Merton, as quoted in Forbes (4 August 1980)

Putting this life in perspective

We talk about our trials and troubles here in this life: but suppose that you could see yourselves thousands and millions of years after you have proved faithful to your religion during the few short years in this time, and have obtained eternal salvation and a crown of glory in the presence of God; then look back upon your lives here, and see the losses, crosses, and disappointments, the sorrows . . . , you would be constrained to exclaim, “But what of all that? Those things were but for a moment, and we are now here.”

Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 7:275

Fit to be written upon by the pen of revelation


“All I have to do is … keep my spirit, feelings and conscience like a sheet of blank paper, and let the spirit and power of God write upon it what he pleases. When he writes, I will read; but if I read before he writes, I am very likely to be wrong.”
Deseret News Weekly, 19 Apr. 1871, 125

“It was asked me by a gentleman how I guided the people by revelation. I teach them to live so that the Spirit of revelation may make plain to them their duty day by day that they are able to guide themselves. To get this revelation it is necessary that the people live so that their spirits are as pure and clean as a piece of blank paper that lies on the desk before the inditer, ready to receive any mark the writer may make upon it. When you see the Latter-day Saints greedy, and coveteous of the things of this world, do you think their minds are in a fit condition to be written upon by the pen of revelation? When people will live so that the Spirit of revelation will be with them day by day, they are then in the path of their duty; if they do not live according to this rule, they live beneath their duty and privileges. I hope and pray that we may all live up to our privileges.”

Brigham Young, “Discourses of Brigham Young”, pg. 41. (or Journal of Discourses, 11:240)

Everything that is unholy will perish

Can error live? No, it is the very plant of destruction, it destroys itself; it withers, it fades, it falls and decays and returns to its native element. Every untruth, all error, everything that is unholy, unlike God, will, in its time, perish.

Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 14:93.

The Devil delights in the work of destruction—to burn and lay waste and destroy the whole earth. He delights to convulse and throw into confusion the affairs of men, politically, religiously and morally, introducing war with its long train of dreadful consequences. It is evil which causeth all these miseries and all deformity to come upon the inhabitants of the earth. But that which is of God is pure, lovely, holy and full of all excellency and truth, no matter where it is found, in hell, in heaven, upon the earth, or in the planets.

Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 11:240.

Every providence and dispensation of God to his earthly children tends directly to life and salvation, while the influences and powers exerted by the enemy upon mankind and every suggestion of our corrupt natures tends to death.

Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 10:221.

Righteous in the dark

We never know who might be watching us, or needing us at a time when they may feel left alone, in a test of their faithfulness and obedience.

Once when President Brigham Young was asked why we are sometimes left alone and often sad, his response was that man has to learn to “act as an independent being…to see what he will do…and try his independency—to be righteous in the dark.” That becomes easier to do when we see the “gospel glow…radiating from . . . illuminated individuals (Neal A. Maxwell)”.

James E. Faust, Ensign, November 2005, p. 21. Brigham Young’s quote comes from his Office Journal, Jan. 28, 1857.

Understanding the whole requires knowing opposites

Brigham Young said it so succinctly: “What can you know, except by its opposite?” He said it in context of a discourse on death and resurrection, a topic that hit home yesterday as I attended and spoke briefly at the funeral of Joycelyn Wimmer and learned of the death of Keith Black, my friend and neighbor whom I home teach with my son. Here is the full paragraph from which Brigham Young’s quote is drawn:

What can you know, except by its opposite? Who could number the days, if there were no nights to divide the day from the night? Angels could not enjoy the blessings of light eternal, were there no darkness. All that are exalted and all that will be exalted will be exalted upon this principle. If I do not taste the pangs of death in my mortal body, I never shall know the enjoyment of eternal life. If I do not know pain, I cannot enjoy ease. If I am not acquainted with the dark, the gloomy, the sorrowful, I cannot enjoy the light, the joyous, the felicitous that are ordained for man. No person, either in heaven or upon earth, can enjoy and understand these things upon any other principle. (Journal of Discourses, 8:28)

My uncle’s brother, Leland Wimmer, spoke at Joyceln’s funeral. He shared a quote from President Gordon B. Hinckley that I had not heard before:

What a wonderful thing is death, really, when all is said and done. It is the great reliever. It is a majestic, quiet passing on from this life to another life, a better life. I’m satisfied of that. We go to a place where we will not suffer as we have suffered here, but where we will continue to grow, accumulating knowledge and developing and being useful under the plan of the Almighty made possible through the Atonement of the Son of God (funeral services for Robert G. Wade, Salt Lake City, Utah, 3 Jan. 1996; see Ensign, October 1996, p. 73).

Brother Wimmer also shared a Thorton Wilder quote that I liked: “There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning” (from Wilder’s 1928 Pulitzer Prize-winning book The Bridge of San Luis Rey, p. 107).

On the idea of opposites being important, Wilder said it this way: “When God loves a creature he wants the creature to know the highest happiness and the deepest misery. He wants him to know all that being alive can bring. That is his best gift. There is no happiness save in understanding the whole.”

The scriptures teach that God’s “best gift” is eternal life, and Brigham Young was right: no person can enjoy and understand eternal life unless they taste opposition. As in all things, Christ is our example. He “ascended up on high, as also he descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth.” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:6)