Child of Promise


Henry B. Eyring
From a fireside address at Brigham Young University on May 4, 1986.
Time rushes by, but master it, and the riches of eternity are yours.

Child of Promise

Since I know something of the anxiety the pressure of time creates in your life, I would like to share what I have learned about how to handle that feeling of hurry. It’s important to be sure we agree on the nature of the problem. Time passes at a fixed rate and we can’t store it. You can just decide what to do with it—or not to do with it. Even a moment’s reflection will help you see that the problem of using your time well is not a problem of the mind but of the heart. It will only yield to a change in the very way we feel about time. The value of time must change for us. And then the way we think about it will change, naturally and wisely.

That change in feeling and in thinking is combined in the words of a prophet of God in this dispensation. It was Brigham Young, and the year was 1877. “The property which we inherit from our Heavenly Father is our time, and the power to choose in the disposition of the same. This is the real capital that is bequeathed unto us by our Heavenly Father; all the rest is what he may be pleased to add unto us” (Journal of Discourses, 18:354).

Time is the property which we inherit from God, along with the power to choose what we will do with it. President Young calls the gift of life, which is time and the power to dispose of it, so great an inheritance that we should feel that it is our capital. The early Yankee families in America taught their children and grandchildren some rules about an inheritance. They were always to invest the capital they inherited and to live only on part of the earnings. One rule was “Never spend your capital.” The hope was that inherited wealth would be felt a trust so important that no descendant would put pleasure ahead of obligation to those who would follow.

There is more than one way to spend time foolishly, as you know. You may sleep it away or play it away. But the bankruptcy that will cheat all those who come after you, comes after the idleness and the thoughtless seeking for thrills.

When you choose to see or hear filth portrayed, for instance, you may at first feel you have just spent some time. But if you persist, you will find that beyond time wasted you have allowed Satan to draw you toward sin and then into it. And then you will have incurred debts that will burden and diminish every minute of existence that follows, unless and until you find the healing balm of the atonement of Jesus Christ through repentance, which takes pain, and time. Oh, what Brigham Young would want for you, and what I pray you may have, is a heart that wants to invest your inheritance, time.

It’s worth doing, not only because you have life ahead but because you have eternity ahead, as well. Here is one report that suggests your reward for investing your inheritance well here will be to get to do it forever. President Wilford Woodruff gave this report in general conference in 1896.

Joseph Smith continued visiting myself and others up to a certain time, and then it stopped. The last time I saw him was in heaven. In the night vision I saw him at the door of the temple in heaven. He came to me and spoke to me. He said he could not stop to talk with me because he was in a hurry. The next man I met was Father Smith; he could not talk with me because he was in a hurry. I met half a dozen brethren who had held high positions on earth, and none of them could stop to talk with me because they were in a hurry. I was much astonished. By and by I saw the Prophet again and I got the privilege of asking him a question.

“‘Now,’ said I, ‘I want to know why you are in a hurry? I have been in a hurry all my life; but I expected my hurry would be over when I got into the kingdom of heaven, if I ever did.’

“Joseph said: ‘I will tell you, Brother Woodruff. Every dispensation that has had the priesthood on the earth and has gone into the celestial kingdom has had a certain amount of work to do to prepare to go to the earth with the Savior when he goes to reign on the earth. Each dispensation has had ample time to do this work. We have not. We are the last dispensation, and so much work has to be done, and we need to be in a hurry in order to accomplish it.’

“Of course, that was satisfactory, but it was new doctrine to me” (Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, sel. G. Homer Durham, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1946, pp. 288–89).

Can you see and feel the truth in these familiar words of President Benson? “You have been born at this time for a sacred and glorious purpose. It is not by chance that you have been reserved to come to earth in this last dispensation of the fulness of times. Your birth at this particular time was foreordained in the eternities. You are to be the royal army of the Lord in the last days. You are ‘youth of the noble birthright’” (Ensign, May 1986, p. 43).

When I heard those words I thought of a boy with a noble birthright, but lacking what many of you have. He was born on November 22. Thirteen days later his father was buried. He was named and blessed by the bishop of his ward, Edwin Woolley. The name he was given by the bishop was Heber Jeddy Ivins Grant. “I was only an instrument in the hands of his dead father … in blessing him,” Bishop Woolley later remarked. Heber Grant “is entitled to be one of the Apostles, and I know it” (The Presidents of the Church, ed. Leonard J. Arrington, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1986, p. 212).

People then and since have called Heber J. Grant a “child of promise.” He was. But his departed father didn’t make the promises to the child. His Heavenly Father did. Your Heavenly Father did—the same Father who chose you to come into this time and place to hold, honor, and to nurture those who hold his power. You have a right to become like your Heavenly Father. You are a royal child of God, a child of promise, chosen from among many to be here and to have your royal inheritance, time in the fulness of times.

One young man changed forever my feelings about the value of that gift, and what it means to be a child of promise. Bob Allen was an undergraduate at Stanford University when I was his bishop. He left his schooling to serve a mission in Japan. He came back to school, took up his studies, and lived in a world of too many demands and too little time.

One day I was sitting at my desk in the graduate school of business at Stanford. I looked up and saw two people. I remember that their faces seemed to shine. Suddenly, Bob Allen stepped between them and, smiling as broadly as they were, said, “These are two new bishops from Japan.” They could speak little English, but I could tell they loved Bob Allen and, because of something he must have told them, they loved me. I thought then, as I have many times since, how remarkable it was that he had found time to spend days with those young men from Japan.

I spoke in a sacrament meeting in Tokyo ten years later. The person who had introduced me mentioned that I had been at Stanford. Two young people, a couple, rushed to me after the meeting and said, “Did you know Bob Allen? We love him.”

Later I was in Tokyo again. Of all the excellent presentations made to me, one seemed most remarkable. I asked to see the man who had made it. He was introduced and then said, “We have met before, at Stanford University.” He was the young man, now older, who had stood with his fellow bishop in my office door. He told me about his life, and the life of the other man, now a great leader in Japan. In that moment, I learned again, in my heart as well as my head, what it means to have a royal inheritance of time, and how a child of promise, who believes the promises, can invest it to produce returns for eternity.

Because of that moment I’ve come to understand something that happened to me in my early teens. I was in a hurry when I felt, not heard, a voice, an impression, which I knew then was from God. It was close to these words: “Someday, when you know who you really are, you will be sorry that you didn’t use your time better.” I thought then that the impression was odd, since I thought I was using my time pretty well and I thought I knew who I was. Now, years later, I am beginning to know who I am—and who you are—and why we will be so sorry if we do not invest our time well.

You will develop your ability to invest your precious time well by gaining three confidences. First, you must gain confidence that God keeps his promises. Second, you must gain God’s confidence that you will always keep the promises, not that you choose to make, but that he asks you to make. And third, you must help others gain confidence that God keeps his promises.

You can gain confidence that God keeps his promises by trying them. That’s why I so appreciate those commandments to which God has attached an explicit promise. I see those commandments as school masters. And I try to put them high on my list of things to do, because I know their value for changing my heart and building my power to invest my time.

One of those commandments with promise came to the top of my list awhile back. I was in a sacrament meeting in California. I chose not to spend my time, but to invest it. When the young priest blessed the sacrament, I thought of John the Baptist and Joseph Smith. I thought what it means to live in a time when the promise that young man made for me was authorized by God. He said that if I remembered the Savior, and kept his commandments, I would always have his Spirit to be with me. Because I made that promise with faith, and kept it, I had a remarkable week. God kept his promise, made by his servant. I hope those two young men in the Palo Alto Ward know that God honored the promise they spoke.

If President Benson has been successful in helping us sense who we are, there are a whole series of things you will be adding at the top of your lists of things to do, if they weren’t already there. Reading the Book of Mormon every day, and paying tithing, and paying a fast offering, and keeping the Sabbath will all be there. And when you carry out those commitments with faith, you will come quickly to know that God keeps his promises.

Now, you might say, “But Brother Eyring, you’ve just made my problem worse. Now, I’ve added new tasks to my list and I’ve put them at the top. If my worry before was that I might fail in my work, now I’m even more worried. You know that at least some of the people I’ll be competing with will put work first and spiritual things last, or never. Will I always be second-rate in my work if I’m a child of promise?”

You can take comfort. Whenever I’ve had unusual success in a financial investment, I’ve started with great partners. Although you are very much the junior partner, you have been invited to invest your time, not alone, but with God. Here is the promise he has made:

“But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God. And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good—to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted” (Jacob 2:18–19).

The promise to you and me in the last days is that after seeking God and serving his children with unwearyingness, we will come to know his will. The promise is not just that I will have the power to do what’s on my list of tasks but that I will know what to put there. On those occasions when I have known what should be there, I’ve found myself glancing at the list as a source of joy, not of anxiety.

Finally, our capacity for investing time well will hinge on our desire to offer others the chance to gain confidence in the promises of God. We’ve talked about investing time, guided by the promises of God and by our wanting what he wants. What he wants is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man, so much of your time will be invested with the return to come to others. You can take that as a source of great optimism. First, and perhaps less important, the returns finally do come to you, particularly when you focus on giving instead of getting. You remember the promise in Luke:

“Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again” (Luke 6:38).

Now, I haven’t solved the problem of your busy schedules. You will still feel that you are in a hurry and you will still find yourself not reaching the end of every list. In fact, you may find your list changing and even growing larger. But you can have peace and confidence in your choices. I pray that you will feel that peace and that you will feel gratitude for having been blessed with the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, with living prophets, and with the sure promise of the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ. And I pray that you will have confidence in God’s promises, gain his confidence, and offer to others the promises you have, as a child of promise.

How You Can Invest Yourself in Good Works and Get (Almost) Everything Else Done, Too.

When you’ve got too much to do and too little time, the last thing you want is more to add to your list. The secret is learning to invest time rather than just spending it.

To do this, you must—

  1. 1.

    Gain confidence that God keeps his promises.

  2. 2.

    Gain God’s confidence that you will keep promises he asks you to make.

  3. 3.

    Help others gain confidence that God keeps his promises.

You may indeed find yourself adding things to the top of your “to do” list, if they aren’t already there, things like reading the Book of Mormon, paying tithing, keeping the Sabbath day holy, and giving Christlike service to others.

God promises if you’ll do these things first, you’ll come to know his will. The promise is not just that you’ll have the power to do what’s on your list, but that you’ll have peace and confidence in knowing what to put there. You’ll find yourself looking at the list with joy, not anxiety.

[photos] Photography by John Luke