Boy! Have I got a deal for you! You see, just recently someone offered me a real big deal if I could just come up with the capital to invest.
Oh, I know what some of you are thinking. “Who me? I don’t have any capital—whatever that is.”
Maybe some of you are mentally adding up your allowance or your paper route money. And I’ll bet there are even some shrewd fellows out there who are thinking, “Ya, sure, but tell us more about this big deal before I get my money out.” Don’t worry, I’ll get to that.
But let’s talk about your capital, first. You can put your money back in your wallets and forget about hitting up Dad for an advance on your allowance. I’m not talking about that kind of capital anyway. I’m talking about investing the resources the Lord gave you when you came to this earth.
I don’t know if you have ever thought about it or not, but you brought with you quite a few assets. You’ve got assets like your family, the ability to love others, time (that’s a big one), talents, your physical body, and the gospel. You’ve been given all these gifts and more. Invest them wisely and they will bring you great returns. The trick is to start as soon as possible. You want to know how?
Let’s take the first one on the list—your family—and combine it with the second—the ability to love—and see what we come up with. Why do you think your mom and dad love you so much? Do you think it’s because you are so good looking? Or because you help so much around the house? Maybe it’s because you contribute so much to the family income or because you keep your bedroom so neat and tidy. Being the mother of teenagers myself, I doubt if it’s any of those. Your mom and dad love you because they have invested a great deal of themselves in you—their time, energy, talents, skills, hopes, dreams, lots of money, and in the case of your mother, her very life.
Most of us have it backwards. We think that we do things for people because we love them. That may be true later on, but in the beginning, we learn to love the people we do things for. Let me try to illustrate that.
For just a minute, take a good look at your mother. Now I’m going to tell you something about her you probably never suspected. That woman, wherever she is, is a person! She has hopes and thoughts, disappointments and joy, memories of the past and dreams of the future just like you do. She enjoyed most of the same things girls do today. She probably went to slumber parties and didn’t sleep. I think she must have sweat over those geometry tests and screamed at the basketball games. I’ll bet she even cried when the team lost, too. And then one day a miracle happened and she stopped being a girl and became your mother. Both of your parents began that day investing in you, day by day, with every feeding, every diaper change, every bedtime story. They invested their love in you every time they spanked you for going out into the busy street or dried your tears when you skinned your knee. They invested their time with every PTA meeting, every merit badge you received. And how about the money they’ve invested in music lessons, food, clothes, bicycles, etc.? They are still investing. What kind of return do they want for their investment? Nothing money can buy. Don’t build them a monument of marble or gold. You are the monument—your life and the way you live it. Make it the best monument possible.
Well, now I think you get the idea of the kind of capital and the kind of investment I’m talking about. Let’s get back to you. How can you invest your ability to love in your brothers and sisters and your friends? You learn to love others by investing in others. Then the opposite must be true. If you invest only in yourself, you love only yourself, and that has to be a pretty shallow investment—the returns are so limited.
You probably know the type. Have you ever tried to carry on a conversation with a girl who wants to talk about herself all the time, or a guy who always has to top your story with a better one? Have you boys ever tried to play basketball with someone who hogs the ball or shoots for a basket every time he gets it no matter where he is on the floor? Have you ever known someone who always pushes to be first in line or get the biggest piece? How about the cool Joe who can’t be bothered to be friendly with someone who isn’t a member of the in-group? I hope the description doesn’t fit you, but if you think it might, take an inventory of yourself and branch out a little bit. Try to be aware of other people and what they might be feeling. Forget about yourself. You’ll be amazed at how much more interesting life can be.
I happen to know a girl who did just that. One night in Mutual Janie heard the announcement that the money for youth conference was due by the end of the month and anyone planning to go should turn it in as soon as possible. Janie didn’t think too much about it because she knew that as a Beehive she wasn’t old enough to go to youth conference anyway, but she overheard a girl from one of her classes at school say, “Naw, I can’t go to that. My dad is out of work right now, and we haven’t got that kind of money.” Janie went home from Mutual that night really upset. It just didn’t seem fair that a nice girl like that should have to miss out. She went to her dad and asked if there was something she could do to help the girl—a girl she knew only by name. She and her dad worked out a plan so that she could earn the money. When she had enough, Janie found a way to slip it into the girl’s school books one day with a note that simply said, “This is for you. Have fun at youth conference.” Can you imagine how much fun Janie had with that? I think she enjoyed it more than if she had gone herself. And you know, it’s a funny thing. That girl never found out where the money came from, but she and Janie somehow became best of friends that year in school. Do you see what had happened? Janie had made an investment in someone outside herself, and the returns were a new friend.
Have you ever watched a four-year-old play Superman? Ours does it all the time. He ties a towel over his shoulders and jumps off the kitchen chair, while at the same time craning his neck around to see if his cape is fluttering behind him. Finding this unsatisfactory, he tries leaping headfirst onto a big stack of pillows. That momentary sail through the air gives him the feeling of Superman, but it just doesn’t last long enough. One time, after several “flying” attempts, he said, “Mother, I can never not touch something.” Now isn’t that a profound statement coming from a four-year-old? You can never not touch something, or someone either. Your personality, that which you do and say, affects others either negatively or positively. What a great influence for good you could be if that effect were always positive.
Let’s go on to another of your assets. How are you investing the time the Lord gave you? When you are young, time seems like an endless commodity. There will always be another day. The years ahead seem numberless. Why, it’s an eternity from one Christmas to the next. What does it matter after all if you spend two or three hours a day lounging in front of the TV or dragging the boulevard? Maybe it’s not that doing those things is so bad as it is that you are cheating yourself out of some other, better things. Let’s say one night you turned off the TV and read a really good book, one that inspired you and left you with some wholesome thoughts and ideas. Let’s get really drastic and say you picked up the scriptures or one of the Church magazines. What if you did that two or three times a week? Do you think you’d be a little better prepared to serve a mission or a little more in tune to receive inspiration from the Lord? We have the freedom to stuff our minds full of whatever we choose, good or bad. But whatever we sow will eventually have to be harvested.
Boys, while we are talking about investing your time wisely, let’s talk about a mission. Some of you are getting closer to the magic age when the bishop could call you in and ask you if you are worthy and ready to serve the Lord. Maybe you’ve asked yourself already, “Do I really want to take 18 months out of my life, set aside my personal ambitions, to serve the Lord?” You won’t be the first to ask that question. There have been promising athletes who have turned down offers to go professional, students who have had to give up much-needed scholarships. Pretty tough choices for a young man, but I never heard of one of them that ever regretted it. They all learned that serving the Lord is never a sacrifice.
I can remember when my older brother had just such a decision to make. He was majoring in art at a university and showing lots of promise. He was just beginning to feel a breakthrough in the development of his talent when the bishop asked him to set it aside and go on a mission. He struggled with the decision for days. Two years away from pursuing the skills he had worked so hard to develop would set him back who knows how much. And he most certainly would have to give up the scholarship he needed to continue school.
As a family and individually, we prayed he would make the right decision. He did. The call was to serve in Sweden, and though he was pleased to be able to serve in the land of his parents’ birth, I’m sure he wondered, even as he entered the mission home, what this would mean to his skill as an artist. He found it strange that he should be the only Swedish missionary in the mission home. (These were the days before the Mission Training Center in Provo.) He traveled to Sweden alone. At the same time his mission president was concerned that he had a new elder coming and had no companion for him. Why hadn’t they sent two? As he picked up my brother at the airport and began the journey by car to the mission home, the discussion turned to the big zone conference being planned. The mission president enthusiastically described how many nonmembers would be touched by the many activities and large impressive illustrations of the Book of Mormon they intended to display, if they could only find someone who could … Suddenly he looked at his new elder with a strange expression. “Elder Rosine, do you have any artistic ability by any chance?” When my brother revealed his background and the struggle it had been for him to cut off his development, the president got tears in his eyes and said simply, “I understand it all now. You are an answer to our prayers.”
Elder Rosine spent the first few months of his mission doing large oil paintings of scenes from the Book of Mormon. His letters home glowed with enthusiasm for the work he was doing, and he humbly admitted that the beautiful paintings he was producing were not his but the Lord’s, for he had never before painted so well.
Perhaps that story can also be applied to your next investment—your talents.
You remember the parable of the talents. The servant who received five talents returned ten and received the praise, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things.” The servant who had received two talents returned four talents, and he received equal praise. However, the Lord chastised the slothful servant that received one talent and did not multiply that which had been given to him (see Matt. 25:14–30). The principle is clear. The Lord likes to see capacity double; he likes to see his servants double their investments.
The Lord has told us that everyone has been blessed with some talents. Yours may or may not be in the performing arts, but all of us have something we can do well. It is a gift, for instance, to be a good listener or to be a wise counselor, to make others feel better about themselves, to be cheerful, to be friendly, to enjoy whatever you are doing. You have a talent all right, and it is your job to find out what it is. Your only handicap is yourself. Try new things; explore new fields. Don’t let the fear of failing keep you from trying out for that school play or the debate team, and don’t let inertia rule your life. It may be safer and easier to duck your head when the call is out for volunteers, but if you want to add a little excitement to your life and learn something about yourself, step forward and give it a whirl. And when you’ve discovered your talents, use them. Use them to strengthen others, use them to build the kingdom of God, use them to strengthen yourself. Go ahead and play the piano in priesthood meeting!
A noble man nearing the end of his rich life of contribution was asked how he could account for his wide acquaintance with and memory of the poets, philosophers, and prophets. He said, “Well, I had to work hard to learn it, and then I just gave it and gave it until it was mine.” Have you discovered that yet? It’s true with love and talents—the more you give away the more you have.
This is also true of your testimony. You may think your testimony right now is pretty small and shaky. Would you like to know for sure that this is the true church? Then take an inventory of what you do believe and invest that, no matter how small it may be, and watch it grow.
Why do 19-year-old boys, unsure of themselves and the gospel, come home in 18 months transformed into self-assured, powerful missionaries? Because they took what they had to offer and invested it for 18 months. They lived the gospel in earnest. They shared it with others over and over again. They studied and then went out in full faith and tested what they had just read. They prayed morning, noon, and night that they might convince others that the gospel is true and in so doing convinced themselves.
You don’t have to be on a mission to do those things. You can take any of the principles of the gospel and work on them until they work for you. Don’t be like the girl I read about in the paper. Her mother promised her $2,000 if she could go for a year without taking one drink of an alcoholic beverage. Her mother wanted her to see that she could enjoy her new life away at college—enjoy friends and social events without participating in the drinking. And she did it! One year later she testified that she had indeed proven to herself that it could be done. But do you know what she did with the money she won? She threw a great big beer bash for all her friends. The liquor flowed freely, and they danced in the streets as they drank. She had learned a principle and then threw it away. Don’t do that. Work on a principle until it is part of you—a habit, like praying every morning or reading the scriptures every night, and then hang onto it and move on to tackle another one. There are people all around you who don’t have the light of the gospel in their lives. Share with them—friends at school, at work, your neighbors, the stranger on the bus. The more you give away, the more you’ll have.
The last investment we need to discuss is your body. We have been given a lot of knowledge concerning the laws of health. Much of what science is discovering now are facts the Lord revealed to Joseph Smith over 100 years ago, and we know them as the Word of Wisdom. You have a lot to accomplish before you die, and you’ll need a strong, healthy body to do it. Don’t abuse it with junk food, drugs, alcohol, late hours, flabby muscles. Invest only the best, most wholesome food. See that you have appropriate rest and plenty of exercise. Keep your body clean in every way, and learn to control it. You decide when it is time to get up in the morning. You decide when it is time to stop eating. You decide when it is time to tell your girl friend or your boyfriend good night. Don’t let your body make decisions for you just because your mind is undecided. Always remember that you were formed in the image of God himself and that the body is eventually going with you as a tabernacle of your spirit into eternity.
Last summer I lay on a beautiful beach in Maui, Hawaii, listlessly making sand castles as I enjoyed the warm sun on my back. I scooped up a wet handful of sand and let it run through my fingers, piling higher and higher until it resembled a castle from a fairy tale. Every time I’d get it built up pretty high, a wave would come along and wash it away and I’d have to start all over again. I didn’t mind, though, because I really hadn’t put any effort into it, nor did I have any kind of goals in mind for its completion. I was just enjoying the feel of the sun and the water and the wet sand between my fingers.
Down the beach a little way, I saw a family with two small boys building a sand castle. They were really sincere and earnest in their endeavor. They had chosen a spot far enough away from the lapping waves to protect their project from destruction. That meant they had to make several trips back to the water with their buckets to get the wet sand and haul it to where they were working. The whole family worked on it. They scooped and hauled, patted and smoothed, planned and designed until they had constructed something they were all proud of. If a big wave had come up and washed it all away, they would have been very disappointed and unhappy. The thought occurred to me how very much those two sand castles were like our lives.
Don’t live your life absentmindedly. If you want to love a person, a family, a church, the Lord, or even your own life—invest in it. If you allow yourself to live only for the moment, seeking only the warmth of the sun and the coolness of the water, with no thought to the future or to your influence on others, the first wave that comes will wash you away and your eternal life will go with it. Your parents’ investment and the Lord’s investment in you will have been in vain. Now is the time to set your life’s goals. Now is the time to firmly set your standards and then hold to them throughout your life. Now is the time to begin investing in that big deal I told you about. Have you guessed what it is? Of course you have. It is nothing less than eternal life. None of us can make it all by ourselves, but if each one of us invests what we have—those gifts we’ve been given—and make them grow, we can pool our capital and, with the help of the Lord, we can each make it. It’s all up to you.