My beloved brothers and sisters, there is a property of matter, universally displayed in the heavens and in and on the earth, by which things and individuals remain at rest, or in uniform motion unless acted upon by some force that alters the course. We call this property of matter inertia. Inertia is evidenced in various ways: in the things we work with and through; in our personal lives and in our homes; in our relations with our fellowmen, and with our Father in heaven and his Son Jesus Christ; and in the way we do or do not honor or magnify the priesthood and the offices and callings we hold in the Church.
Inertia can work against us or for us depending on our starting point and our attitude. It works against us if we are at rest and are content to remain that way rather than getting into action. Procrastination, which is the practice of putting off, intentionally and habitually, those things that should be done in a timely manner, not only wastes time; but it leaves our lives empty, unfulfilled, and unhappy. Inertia works for us if we are in action and are moving forward and upward in meaningful ways toward all-important goals based on a clear understanding of who we are, where we came from, why we are here, and where we are going.
As we think about these things, perhaps it would be well to remind ourselves that, no matter who we are, we pass through life but once, and whatever record we make is made forever. Time keeps marching on. We live our lives, of course, in the present—one moment at a time. But with each tick of the clock the present becomes the past, and the past cannot be changed. It is also true, however, that with each tick of the clock a part of the future becomes the present. Thus, the key to a successful and happy life is to strive diligently always to make the most of the present—to make the most of each moment as it arrives. If we can just practice the self-discipline necessary to do this, our past can become glorious to behold and our future will be assured.
The greatest loss of power that there is, is the loss that results from the failure of individuals to reach their potential. There are many reasons for this. But if we reduce them to a few common denominators, we can say that some of the more important ones are failure to do adequate realistic planning; lack of desire, commitment, and dedication; failure to use time effectively; and failure to correct one’s mistakes. Let us think for a moment about the 26 letters in our English alphabet. We can repeat them frontwards or backwards, but when we do, they have little meaning because they have not been put together with purpose and direction. But when they are given purposeful direction, the end product is great poetry, prose, heartwarming songs, sacred hymns, scripture, scientific writings, etc. Such results do not come without effort. Ernest Hemingway, a best-seller author, is reported to have said that he found it necessary to rewrite the opening chapters to his books 45 to 50 times before he felt they were ready for public consumption. When he put forth that kind of effort, he was able to produce what many people consider to be easy reading.
As it is in using the letters of the alphabet in writing, so it is in putting things together in our lives; action is all-important, but action alone is not enough. We need the right kind of action, purposeful action—the things we do should add up in meaningful ways and contribute to rich, purposeful living here and bring eternal joy hereafter. The wrong kind of action can destroy.
Many poets, philosophers, and others have written about these things in meaningful ways, but today I should like to put the spotlight on some of the inspired utterances of our beloved Richard L. Evans as given in his “Sunday Morning from Temple Square” presentations:
“The past has its place and is valuable for lessons learned. The present also has its place, and what we cannot change should not needlessly keep us from looking and moving forward. Nothing lost or left behind should keep us from now becoming what we can become, from learning what we now can learn.
“There are new decisions every day, every hour, and reasons to improve and to repent. Whatever we are, wherever we’ve been, each day we have some opportunity to determine direction. …
“Whatever the past or its meaning, or its length, or its losses, or its lessons learned or left unlearned, we go on from where we are—wherever it is—and become what we can become; with work, repentance, improvement; with faith in the future.” (Richard L. Evans, Jr., Richard L. Evans—The Man and the Message, Bookcraft, Inc., 1973, pp. 124–25.)
“Some things we inherit. Some things are passed to us from others. But this doesn’t make of us anything we aren’t. We may enjoy the talents of others, but this doesn’t develop our own. We do not suddenly become what we do not cooperate in becoming. We do not learn well what we are not willing to learn.
“In indifference, some things may remain in our minds, some things may attach themselves to us. But generally what we are, what we do, what we become is because we were willing to put in for what we want to get out.
“Basically we always were. And what we shall be is what we are, plus what we add to it—always and forever. And there would be no better time than now to decide to learn, to do, to develop, to work, to improve, to produce, to increase our competence, to extend ourselves in service.
“‘The darkest day in life,’ said Allen Shawn, ‘is the one in which we expect something for nothing.’ ‘Nothing comes from nothing. Nothing ever could.’” (The Man and the Message, pp. 101–102.)
My brothers and sisters, if we are to make the most of our lives we must have a desire to do so and must work at it. We must recognize that we are spiritual children of our Father in heaven, that we are here on earth to be tested and to prove ourselves. We must heed the counsel given in the New Testament in James, chapter one, verses 22 through 24 as follows:
“But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.
“For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass:
“For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.” [James 1:22–24]
One of the great challenges we face in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints today is that we have too many priesthood holders who are at rest. Because they are, oftentimes their wives and children are not as active in the Church as they could be and should be. I challenge all of you who are in this category to awaken, arise, and advance, so that the blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ can be experienced in your personal lives and in the lives of your loved ones. Do not be content to just go through life and put in your time. Resolve that you will make the most of your life, live the gospel, keep the commandments, and set the proper example before your loved ones and before all with whom you come in contact. Do not shortchange yourselves and others by being too easy with yourselves. There is just too much at stake to take this matter lightly. Those of us who have leadership responsibilities for building the kingdom and for saving the souls of our Father’s children—which is the main objective of all that we do in the Church—should be imaginative and ingenious in seeking ways and means for getting through to the minds and the hearts of those for whom we have responsibility, and for getting them involved in meaningful ways. The key to activity is meaningful involvement. Truly we do learn to do by doing. Seamann A. Knapp, who is considered to be the father of the demonstration method of teaching, once said that a man may doubt what he hears, and possibly what he sees, but he cannot doubt what he does himself. How true that is.
In conclusion let me suggest that each of us conduct a personal interview with ourselves periodically to see how well we are doing. To make this most meaningful we need to have challenging goals for ourselves that require us to stretch ourselves in order to attain them. Let us be truly objective with ourselves as we conduct these personal interviews. Some of the best planning and supervision that any of us can take part in is the planning and supervision that we do for ourselves as we take definite steps to chart a meaningful course in life by establishing goals and methods for reaching them and then checking up on ourselves. In doing so we should let the gospel of Jesus Christ be our guide, and use the measuring sticks that the Lord himself, and his prophets—including our living prophets today—have given for our guidance.
My brothers and sisters, I pay tribute today to President Kimball as a great man and prophet of God, and I pledge my loyalty and full support to him, his counselors, the members of the Quorum of the Twelve, and all the other General Authorities. I know that God lives, and that his Son lives, and I am so grateful to be associated with the other Brethren in helping to build the kingdom here on earth. There is much important work to be done, and every one of us is needed. May we be diligent in keeping the commandments and being faithful Latter-day Saints, I humbly pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.