Bringing about change is like straightening teeth—the process is one of slow, steady pressure. It can’t be done with a hammer!
Santa Monica, California
Some time back I heard a story of one of our Mormon girls who married and went east to live. When her neighbors found that she was a member of the Mormon church, they all wanted to know what the Mormons believed. She wrote to the editor of the question and answer page of the Deseret News and said: “Please write and tell me what we believe. I know that the first two principles are that you should not use tea or coffee or play cards.”
I cannot quite imagine how anyone could expect to convert a neighbor or a friend to the truth of the gospel if that were all that we stand for. We have to have something more than that to offer if we expect to convert people.
The Lord said to the Prophet Joseph, “It becometh every man who hath been warned to warn his neighbor” (D&C 88:81). Every Latter-day Saint ought to aspire to be able to give a reason for the hope that is in him, just like the Apostle Peter has indicated, so that we can intelligently tell why we are members of the Church and not just that we do not use tea or coffee or play cards.
Elderof the Council of the Twelve
I knew a mother who in her younger years began smoking. It finally gained such a control over her that it was a habit she had great difficulty breaking. She said to her beautiful young daughter: “Look at me and make up your mind to never let a vicious thing like this little cigarette make you a slave to it. I would give anything to quit. I just haven’t got what it takes. Profit from my example.”
The daughter did. She became an active member in the Church, doing everything that she knew was right and good. She loved her mother, yet pitied her, as no doubt the mother did herself.
Parents are often anxious to tell their children of their own experiences, temptations, and successes and failures. Sometimes a parent who has failed in a specific area can be instrumental in turning his child to a better way.
One of the greatest blessings given to man is the ability to talk one with another, to understand, to reason together, to exchange confidences, to share sorrows or problems, to rejoice each for the other. Words make it possible.
If you have read E. B. White’s book, Charlotte’s Web, perhaps you remember Wilber, the county-famous pig, who was destined, as all pigs are, for breakfast bacon and pineapple-baked ham Until his friends used words to save him. The rat brought pieces of newsprint to Charlotte, the spider, who wove words she read from the paper into the web she spun across the doorway of the barn. Encouraged by the ducks, and chickens, and lambs, Wilber managed to look radiant, humble, or divine, as Charlotte announced in her web.
If a beautifully spun banner above our heads announced how we were to act for a day or a week or a year, what would it do for us? If we could carry with us and emulate the word valiant for a day or two, would we be more valiant in keeping the commandments as we know we should? In section 76 of the Doctrine and Covenants it says of those who do not attain the celestial kingdom “These are they who are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus.” (D&C 76:79.) If we were valiant in our testimonies for one week, what manner of people would we be? Or take the word believing—to be wholly believing for one day; how many little miracles would happen? To give oneself wholeheartedly to being, for one day, charitable, compassionate, tolerant—could we? What a beautiful world it would be if we could be nonjudgmental, or joyous, or perhaps patient! Just for a day, a week, a month … and hope that the word would become such a part of us it would last for always.
Words can work wonders—especially if we let the Word, who was in the beginning, who was made flesh and dwelt among men, and His lifegiving words, be the light of all we do and are.
I had a friend who had a problem, and I mean a real problem.
Well, I decided I would help. Patiently, diligently, in an attempt to smoothe the wrinkled fabric of my friend’s existence, I pressed.
Somehow, when I pulled and straightened here, there was a wrinkle there.
As I caught a whiff of burnt cloth, I thought, “Cheap material,” but I couldn’t deny my reflection in the convex hull of the iron of my good intentions. Distorted, maybe, but all too visible was my own overheated soleplate.
We dedicate temples. We dedicate tabernacles. We dedicate chapels, seminary buildings, and institutes of religion.
But we, as children of our Heavenly Father, are more precious in the sight of God than any building. Therefore, why shouldn’t we dedicate the tabernacle of our spirits to God?
The word dedicate as defined in dictionaries means to set apart for a religious purpose; to devote to something sacred; to set apart for a special purpose, and to devote to some special work. All these meanings could have relevance to a human life.
The dedication of my life to the Lord does not mean I am to hide away someplace in a desert area or a cave or a monastery. But it means that in high school and in college I must develop my gifts and talents to a maximum. Then, after I have received my training, I can appropriately ask the Lord to direct where I should go to seek employment. I can seek to dedicate my life, abilities, even my vocation to doing something of value—something that would be of worth to my fellowmen. In whatever situation I might be, the Lord can use me. But to be dedicated then, I should be dedicated now.
Am I really “set apart for a religious purpose”?
Perhaps the most valuable lesson and certainly the first lesson to be learned from Luke’s writings (which he meticulously details for us) is Jesus’ preparation for his relatively brief ministry. Jesus apparently spent at least 18 years between the time of his announcement in the temple (age 12) that he knew his life’s mission and the time he actually embarked on that great mission (age 30). Even during his three-year mission, he repeatedly and deliberately set aside hours of solitude in which he prayed to his Heavenly Father and rejuvenated his spirit. “And when it was day, he departed and went into a desert place,” (Luke 4:42) the record says; and not only to the desert, but also to the wilderness and the mountains: “And he withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed” (Luke 5:16), and “he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God” (Luke 6:12).
The best and easiest preparation for a mission is the early preparation. Start young to build the ideals and finances. I’ve had a mission savings account since I was baptized. My parents always encouraged me to go on a mission. They taught me and read me the scriptures.
President Joseph Fielding Smith was a great scripturalist—one of the greatest, I’m sure, that our church has ever known. I read that he had read the standard works dozens of times. If a prophet needs to read them that many times, how much more should we? It started me thinking: When I am at the judgment bar, great prophets such as Moses, Moroni, Nephi, and many others may ask me, “Did you read the words I wrote for you? Did you read the things God wanted you to know?” How will I feel if I have to look down and murmur, “I didn’t have time.” I want to be able to say, “Yes, I have read them all!” So now I have read the Book of Mormon and am starting on the Doctrine and Covenants. I think I must have imagined it to still be written in Reformed Egyptian or something, but it is easy to understand and really is interesting.
Salt Lake City, Utah