Improving our Prayers: no more ordering groceries

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin gave a wonderful BYU Devotional ten years ago titled “Improving our Prayers,” in which he gave  suggestions about moving away from trite or vain phrases in prayer to a more powerful and enlivening communication with our Heavenly Father. In it he quoted President Gordon B. Hinckley, who said, “The trouble with most of our prayers is that we give them as if we were picking up the telephone and ordering groceries—we place our order and hang up. We need to meditate, contemplate, think of what we are praying about and for and then speak to the Lord as one man speaketh to another.” [Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley (1997), 469.].

Elder David A. Bednar taught that “all of us can improve the consistency and efficacy of our personal and family prayers,” and that one way to do this is to “ask in faith” (David A. Bednar, “Ask in Faith,” April 2008 General Conference).

The principles in both of these talks deserve greater attention in our lives.

Burnishing more brightly the Savior’s name

As His followers, we cannot do a mean or shoddy or ungracious thing without tarnishing His image. Nor can we do a good and gracious and generous act without burnishing more brightly the symbol of Him whose name we have taken upon ourselves. And so our lives must become a meaningful expression, the symbol of our declaration of our testimony of the Living Christ, the Eternal Son of the Living God.

Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Symbol of Our Faith,” Ensign, April 2005

This is a season to be strong

Now, my brethren and sisters, the time has come for us to stand a little taller, to lift our eyes and stretch our minds to a greater comprehension and understanding of the grand millennial mission of this The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This is a season to be strong. It is a time to move forward without hesitation, knowing well the meaning, the breadth, and the importance of our mission. It is a time to do what is right regardless of the consequences that might follow. It is a time to be found keeping the commandments. It is a season to reach out with kindness and love to those in distress and to those who are wandering in darkness and pain. It is a time to be considerate and good, decent and courteous toward one another in all of our relationships. In other words, to become more Christlike.

We have nothing to fear. God is at the helm. He will overrule for the good of this work. He will shower down blessings upon those who walk in obedience to His commandments. Such has been His promise. Of His ability to keep that promise none of us can doubt.

Gordon B. Hinckley, “This Is the Work of the Master,Ensign, May 1995

What will you take with you when you finally leave BYU?

  I would like to project your thinking forward to a future April or August commencement day, your own graduation day. I should like to ask, at this early day, What will you take with you when you finally leave BYU?

First is intellectual discipline. I hope that while you are here you will develop a degree of mental acuity that finds its expression in a mind that is alert, that is orderly in its processes, that is hungry for more of the kind of thing it has been fed while here….

Be a man or a woman with a mind and a will and a bit of discipline, with a zest for learning that will be cultivated in this institution while you are here and that will be expanded through all the years to come….

Second, I hope you will develop a spirit of fellowship, a social ease, the capacity to mix and mingle with people wherever you meet them, of low caste or high caste, recognizing their strengths and powers and capacities and goodness….

A vibrant personality that comes of the capacity to listen and learn, that comes of the ability to contribute without boring, that comes of a talent for mingling and mixing with people in a constructive way is something very precious, indeed, that can come as a part of your life on this campus. The cultivation of such will keep you from the moral traps that catch so many….

Develop the social ease that gives you the capacity to mingle with others and talk with others in a stimulating and uplifting manner. Social grace is so important a quality–it can be developed on campus and will bless you throughout your life.

Third, when you walk out of this hall, with your diploma in hand, I hope you will take with you an unassailable spiritual strength….How marvelous a thing in the human character is a certain and solid assurance that God our Eternal Father lives. How richly blessed is that young man or woman who knows that he or she can approach the Almighty in quiet and humble prayer. How enriched is the individual who, as he or she goes out into the world, knows that all men and women are sons and daughters of God, each endowed with a divine birthright. How beneficial to come to the realization that, since we are all children of God, we all are brothers and sisters in a very real sense….

None of these things that I have spoken of will be mentioned on the diplomas you carry from this institution on graduation day. But they are all implicit in the purposes and design of this university. If you carry them with you, your lives will be blessed. Your experiences will be challenging, but they will be sweet and enriching, and you will become the means of bringing good to all whose lives you touch.

Things will work out

 “It isn’t as bad as you sometimes think it is. It all works out. Don’t worry. I say that to myself every morning. It will all work out. If you do your best, it will all work out. Put your trust in God, and move forward with faith and confidence in the future. The Lord will not forsake us. He will not forsake us. … If we will put our trust in Him, if we will pray to Him, if we will live worthy of His blessings, He will hear our prayers.”

“Latter-day Counsel: Excerpts from Addresses of President Gordon B. Hinckley,” Ensign, Oct. 2000, 73.

Walk the high, lonely road; don't drop the ball

In an address to BYU students in November 1998, President Gordon B. Hinckley told students to rise to the high ground of excellence, and said, “Don’t muff the ball. Be excellent.” This week, I saw a connection to that idea as I was listening to his 2004 address to the young women of the Church, in which he also talks about not dropping the ball and invites them to walk the high, if sometimes lonely, road. Given his recent death, I find his comments urging them forward, knowing that many will depend upon them, particularly poignant.

Many years ago I told a story in conference that I think I will repeat. It is a story about a baseball player. I realize that some of you in various parts of the world do not know much about baseball. You do not even care about it. But this story brings with it a tremendous lesson.

The event occurred in 1912. The World Series was being played, and this was the final game to determine the winner of the series. The score was 2-1 in favor of the New York Giants, who were in the field. The Boston Red Sox were at bat. The man at bat knocked a high, arching fly. Two New York players ran for it. Fred Snodgrass in center field signaled to his associate that he would take it. He came squarely under the ball, which fell into his glove. But he did not hold it there. The ball went right through his grasp and fell to the ground. A howl went up in the stands. The fans could not believe that Snodgrass had dropped the ball. He had caught hundreds of fly balls before. But now, at this most crucial moment, he had failed to hold the ball, and the Red Sox went on to win the world championship.
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Who is it that we really honor?

Below are several comments from Church and educational leaders that directly or indirectly relate to the Honor Code. I appreciate they way they expand my thinking about the relationship between dress and conduct and the process of learning in spaces that are dedicated to God.

1. Dressing for “Brain Work”

Elder Charles Didier made these comments in his devotional address on 21 September 2004:

What about our clothing and our physical appearance on this campus or in other circumstances? Does it matter, or does it make a difference in your behavior and influence your environment if you wear baggy or immodest clothes or tattered jeans? Does what I read in the Honor Code about modesty really apply to you? “Modesty and cleanliness are important values that reflect personal dignity and integrity, through which students, staff, and faculty represent the principles and standards of the Church” (Dress and Grooming Standards, BYU Honor Code).

I cannot resist quoting from one of your professors, S. Neil Rasband, stating that what you wear affects the educational environment:

What about torn or tattered jeans? They simply suggest that someone is unable to distinguish between being engaged with intellectual challenges and working on the welfare farm. They’re dressed for barn work, not for brain work. . . .
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