The next implication of our simple key is this:
We will live nobly, on a higher plane,
because we will constantly think above our own individual needs.
Sometimes it is easier to recognize a lack of nobility than it is to recognize nobility.
For that reason I will tell you of my less than noble conduct one afternoon.
I was in a neighborhood store, waiting for my turn and chatting with a neighbor in line next to me.
Somehow the name of a mutual acquaintance came up—actually someone we both like very
much but who is quite eccentric. My neighbor told a funny story about her; that reminded
me of another funny story; she topped that one . . . Pretty soon we were laughing
uproariously. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the clerk listening to us. It startled me into a
recognition of what I was doing. I should have stopped. I didn't. But as I finished my
transaction and walked to the car, I was overwhelmed with my smallness. They weren't
mean or slandering stories, but I would have been ashamed if the subject of our stories had
overheard us. I was so uncomfortable that I had to return later and apologize to the clerk as
well as express my shame to my neighbor. Most of all, I had to let the Lord know that I
knew that kind of behavior was wrong and I needed forgiveness. Nobility is a correlate of
devotion to the Lord.
Justice Potter Stewart is an associate justice of the Supreme Court. He defined ethics
in the following way: "Knowing the difference between what you have a right to do, and
what is the right thing to do" (in Rex E. Lee, "Honesty and Integrity," address delivered at
Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 5 Sept. 1995).
That's a good one to think about, even memorize. "Knowing the difference between
what you have a right to do, and what is the right thing to do." Quite often we have a right to
lash out, to retaliate and to punish. But is it the right thing to do?
Nobility suggests that even when we receive injury, we refuse to seek petty revenge. We may seek to right a wrong, but revenge is another story. We desire to rise above our side of the story, to absorb pain and choose not to pass it on.
Isn't that what the Savior did?
Next point: We will never be truly victimized by our failures, adverse circumstances, or the bad choices of other people. Equally important, we will not be victimized by success.
Now, how could that be?
Even though our performance is uneven and awkward, there is something that we
can count on as we come to Him in humility and submissiveness. It is that every event, every task that we are a party to, can be made to benefit our souls. That is a stunning
thought, isn't it? Given the natural way, there are so many things that we do or that we are
victims of that could hurt our souls. Only God, through the intervention of his Son, can
change, in a miraculous way we don't understand, how things will affect us.
"Pray always, and not faint; that ye must not perform anything unto the Lord save in
the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy
performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul" (2 Nephi
The Savior can turn negative things to our good.
Rather than bitterness, when we turn to him, we can forgive. Then, our own suffering can help us develop the capacity to withhold judgment and to reach out compassionately to others who suffer.
Turning to the Savior can also protect us against our successes.
We see every day evidence of how success can result in destroying a person's soul.
The media holds up lives ruined by success. What if, on a daffodil day, we really, really think that all of the good things in our lives are there because we are simply so smart, so talented, so effective that
everything we enjoy comes as a direct result of our work and brains?
Do you see my point? Pride and egotism injure a soul as surely as do the bitterness
and pain of affliction and failure. Success is an affliction to the soul unless it is recognized
for what it is—God's working in our lives. With success, as well as adversity, we pray that
our performance will be consecrated for the welfare of our souls. And he will do that,
because each prayer we offer will somehow be an expression that we are joyfully,
voluntarily, and quietly desiring to give our lives to him. Then desperate days refine us
rather than destroy us. And daffodil days become days of worship and gratitude rather than
days of pride and boasting.
Another dimension: We will live with the security that our real needs will be met and that we will be fully able to do our part in meeting the real needs of others.
Last month our youngest child and only son—in a suit, missionary nametag on his
lapel—waved as he disappeared into the plane that would drop him off in the Chile Santiago
North Mission—only another hemisphere away! You know this story. I went home with that
big hole in my stomach and went about my life, trying not to think of him every single
minute. Well, about nine days had passed, and I was beginning to check on the mailbox
more than once a day. On Thursday morning came a telephone call. A gentle man with a
Spanish accent introduced himself. He said that his wife had been in sacrament meeting in
Santiago the Sunday before, and our son, who had been assigned to their ward, was asked to
introduce himself and bear his testimony. After the meeting she had offered to deliver a
letter from him to his family, because she was leaving for general conference in Salt Lake
City the following week.
You can imagine that I wasted no time in driving to the hotel to meet these good
people. How do I describe that little exchange? I have just told you that you can't always judge who the people are who have joyfully, voluntarily, and quietly given their lives to the
Lord. Well, I could tell with these two. The conversation between Sister Jaramillo and me
was in two different languages—her husband translated as we spoke a few words. She told
me that her youngest son was in the Missionary Training Center on his way to Phoenix. She
told me that she had met my son and that he was a very humble missionary. And then she
reached out to me and spoke gentle Spanish words. Her husband followed: "My wife is
telling you that she will take good care of your son." That took two Kleenexes to wipe up.
Actually, it took all I had to prevent myself from making gasping noises as she handed me
the letter. I told her that I wouldn't be in Phoenix to take care of her son but that I would
pray for him.
I walked out of that hotel lobby with such a feeling of peace and comfort.
What do I really expect she could or should do for James? Stop by his apartment
once a week, write him notes, cheer him up with periodic pep talks, bake cookies? No. Not
at all. In fact, I doubt that she will need to do anything. Then why should I feel so good?
The security I feel is rooted in her devotion to the Lord's will, because that means that if my
son does have some real need, the Lord will know of it and Sister Jaramillo is at least one
person in that city who would unhesitatingly respond when prompted by the Lord.
I cannot tell you the security and gratitude I feel for each of you who kneels and
offers herself to the Lord. You are the ones who he will direct to teach my grandchildren,
who answer the needs of my married children, who invite my missionary daughter to dinner,
who carry letters home to an anxious mother, who work respectfully beside my husband.
You don't need to do everything all of the time for every member of my family. But I know
that if you have given yourself to do the Lord's will, you will do the right thing at the right
I love you.
Another implication as we use this simple key: We will be assured success.
This is a personal metaphor, but it helps me understand the power of guaranteed
success. I hate to shop. Did I say that strongly enough? I hate to shop. I have very little skill
and so have very limited success. And besides, I don't have good feet. Anyway, one day one
of my daughters and I were shopping. She needed a particular piece of clothing for a
particular occasion that would make her look close to spectacular. All this for a reasonable
amount of money. Is that the worst formula? We started out in the morning full of energy
and hope. But by early afternoon, we were dragging in and out of the dressing rooms. Her
hair was full of static, my feet hurt, we were hungry, and we were getting grouchy. And then
we had a startling idea. If we knew, absolutely guaranteed knew, that at the end of the
afternoon we would have found the perfect dress, would it make any difference to how we
felt now? We inventoried—the hair, the feet, the hunger, the discouragement—and we said
unhesitatingly yes! We could easily go another three hours, if we knew there was
unequivocal success ahead. And so we simply told ourselves that we were going to find the
outfit—and, I am amazed to tell you, it worked! We were laughing and talking again instead
of whining and dragging
Could it be the same with life? Do we get exhausted because we quit believing that
success is assured? You know, it is! In the sooner and later context, it might not be sooner,
but it will for sure be later.
"Thy God shall stand by thee forever and ever. And the world passeth away and the
lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever. He that endureth in faith and
doeth my will, the same shall overcome, and shall receive an inheritance upon the earth
when the day of transfiguration shall come" (D&C 63:20).
There must be dozens more implications, but I will only mention one more: We will
expect to have to make this choice many, many times. Our ongoing responsibility is to keep
offering ourselves and everything that we have and are to Him—to work actively but to
cease judging each task with our mortal measurements. Great paradox of the gospel: In the
total giving away, we receive total abundance, the only total security available. When we
submit voluntarily and joyfully, far from being passive victims, we become victors, because
we have accepted a partnership with an all-powerful and all-loving Being.
We aren't in the onion patch for the weeds. We are here for him. We are here with
Now I've worn you out. Surely we must be at the back door. Let's walk through it
and sit in the living room for a last moment with Moroni 9:25. Mormon writes his final
letter (at least the last one we have) to his son Moroni. He describes the "horrible scene" (v.
20), the "depravity of my people" (v. 18), who are "without order and without mercy" (v.
18), "strong in their perversion" (v. 19), "brutal, sparing none" (v. 19). "But behold, my son,
I recommend thee unto God, and I trust in Christ that thou wilt be saved" (v. 22); and then
"My son, be faithful in Christ; and may not the things which I have written grieve
thee, to weigh thee down unto death; but may Christ lift thee up, and may his sufferings and
death, and the showing his body unto our fathers, and his mercy and long-suffering, and the
hope of his glory and eternal life, rest in your mind forever" (v. 25).
It doesn't matter what time we live in: the time of Mormon (421 a.d.), the 1950s
(doesn't everyone talk about what a good time that was?), or this very day. It doesn't matter
whether we are talking about a difficult individual environment or a sin-filled culture. The
only thing that provides real lifting—lifting beyond mortality and all of its chaos and
troubles, beyond our own weaknesses and sins and changing fortunes, beyond our own pain
and suffering and success—the only real lifting comes through our Savior and Redeemer,
Daffodils do bring gladness. Healthy, happy children cause our hearts to sing.
Balanced brain chemistry and physical health maximize our enjoyment of this world. Rides
in convertibles, picnics in a pine-scented forest, shelter during the cold storms of winter—these are delights I wouldn't want to have missed. Economic security lightens our load of
worry. Attentive husbands and the warmth of good friends bring contentment.
Accomplishment, a job well done, music, art, an exquisitely written piece of literature—yes,
there are so many things that lift in happy ways, but if some of these, if all of these, were to
evaporate, to be snatched away from us, cut off at ground level, we could still count on
Christ: the one who did only the will of his Father, the co-creator of all that is good, the one
who knows every soul—the sick, the oppressed, the gifted, the gorgeous, the abused, the
charismatic, the brilliant, as well as the bumbling and stumbling soul who can't seem to
make anything work. Yes, you and me. He knows us. He not only knows us but loves us so
much that the focus of his mortal and heavenly life is us. His simple key is a statement about
us: "This is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of
man" (Moses 1:39). He suffered himself to be lifted up upon the cross that we might be
lifted up, back to our Father, clothed with immortality and eternal life.
And our part is easy, as simple in design as the Egyptian ankh. In faith, each of us
takes the only thing we really have—our agency—and offers it back to him joyfully,
voluntarily, and quietly. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.