92949_000_012What if they had quit when the going got tough, leaving the foundation unfinished?
I can’t remember the exact day I decided to quit BYU. But I do remember definitely deciding to quit. I was in the testing center and had just been handed a departmental test that didn’t resemble in the least the class notes I had spent the previous three days studying. I entered the main room, took my usual seat by the western wall—I call it the wailing wall—and began.
Four hours later I looked down at my half-empty answer sheet and, with a sigh, began randomly filling in the leftover circles.
I then joined the rest of the outpatients in the recovery room, where the computer printout of my mistakes diagnosed my condition as being far from healthy.
Once outside the testing center and in my car, I realized I was not having fun. School and learning were not turning out to be the soul-exhilarating, mind-stimulating, and heart-vibrating experience I was promised in my freshman orientation pamphlets.
“It’s not worth it!” I told my wife that night. “I’m just sick of all of it. I’m quitting.” I thought my wife would be thrilled at the announcement and release me with a vote of thanks. After all, life would be easier for her without having to pay my tuition and books.
Instead, Debi asked, “Did you attend the devotional this week?” I hadn’t because I had spent the time studying for the test I had just bombed. Debi continued, “President Jeffrey Holland gave a whole talk on enduring and not giving up.”
“Great,” I thought. “That’s all I need right now.” But as it turned out, that was all I needed. We got a tape of the talk, and I listened to President Holland’s words:
My concern this morning is that you face some delays and disappointments at this formative time in your life and feel that no one else in the history of mankind has ever had your problems or faced those difficulties. And when some of those challenges come, you will have the temptation common to us all to say, “This task is too hard. The burden is too heavy. The path is too long.” And so you decide to quit, simply to give up. [My how well President Holland understood.] It is simply a truism that nothing very valuable can come without significant sacrifice and effort and patience on our part. … My plea is to stick with it, to persevere, to hang in and hang on, … I am asking you this morning not to give up “for ye are laying the foundation of a great work.” That “great work” is you.
President Holland then went on to tell about how our forefathers persevered, about Brigham Young, who on July 28, 1847, planted his cane in the Salt Lake soil and declared, “Here [we will build] the Temple of our God.” President Holland then told of the 40 years it took to complete that project. I had no idea that the foundation alone took over 9,000 man-days of labor to finish, only to be filled entirely back in when Johnston’s army came. After that threat was over, the Saints had to begin digging all over again.
The task of precisely cutting the granite stones out of the mountain and hauling them one at a time to Salt Lake was so arduous that it took three more years just to finish the first layer of stones around the foundation. When Brigham Young died in 1877, the temple stood only 20 feet high. More work was followed by more government persecution and intervention until finally, on April 6, 1893, the temple of God was complete. It was a grand, awe-inspiring structure. President Holland concluded by saying, “Know ye not that ye are the Temple of God?” (“However Long and Hard the Road,” BYU devotional talk delivered 18 Jan. 1983).
That was the perspective I needed. “Dear President Holland,” I wrote in a thank-you note, “You’ll never know what your talk did for me. Yesterday I felt like my foundation had been filled in and forgotten. Today, I started digging it out again. I will see you at graduation.”
I recount this experience because, as you enter a world of stress, I foresee times of discouragement—times when you also might find yourself tempted to say, “It’s not worth it. I quit!” That’s when I hope you will remember President Holland’s words: “Nothing valuable can come without sacrifice, effort, and patience.” And most certainly, education is valuable.