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Devotionals

Bradley R. Wilcox

Bradley R. Wilcox
Bradley R. Wilcox
Bradley R. Wilcox was born in Provo, Utah, on December 25, 1959. He and his wife, Deborah Gunnell, have four children. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Brigham Young University (BYU) and his doctorate in education from the University of Wyoming.

Bradley has served in several Church callings, including full-time missionary in the Chile Vina del Mar Mission, bishop, mission president of the Chile Santiago East Mission, counselor in a YSA stake presidency, and member of the Sunday School general board. Most recently, he served as high councilor and stake Young Men president and currently serves and second counselor in the Young Men General Presidency.

He is currently a professor in BYU’s Department of Ancient Scripture. He is the author of the book The Continuous Atonement and the BYU devotional address “His Grace Is Sufficient.”




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There is a Hurry

Thank you President and Sister Kusch. It is an honor to be here with you and I am so grateful for the choir that sang to us. Beautiful message in the song but also beautifully performed. Thank you very much.

We are in a historic building. I am so honored to be standing right here because it was on this spot that the original bowery was built. When the saints first came into the valley it is was a series of poles with a covering on top with some branches and that bowery is where Brigham Young, and some of the early church speakers, and teachers and leaders addressed the saints. That was later replaced by an adobe tabernacle which was built on the same spot. Later this Assembly Hall was built out of the same stones that the Salt Lake Temple is built out of. Some of the stones as they were shaped and shipped and prepared for the Salt Lake Temple some of the pieces of those stones were large enough that then they were able to use them in the construction of this building. So it is a historic place where we are gathered. The wall that you walked through to come to this devotional today is the oldest structure still standing in the Salt Lake Valley. So it is an honor to be here and I feel very privileged and I feel the responsibility comes from standing on the very spot where Brigham Young addressed the saints. I’ll try to not be quite a fiery as he was when he spoke.

I once attended a meeting at Brigham Young University where Stephen R. Covey addressed the students. Brother Covey was a very wealthy man because he was a very successful man. He wrote a book called The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People [1]  And he lived those habits and he taught them all over the world. Even today the book is one of the bestselling books of all time. And Brother Covey spoke to the students and he asked, “How many want to be rich?” Well most of the hands went up. He said, “Why?” The students gave very altruistic answers. Well they said well part of it is because we want to help with the church’s humanitarian aid programs. One girl said I want to be able to give micro loans in third world countries to deserving people. Somebody else said I want to promote education.

Dr. Covey listened and complimented the students on their fine goals and desires. Then he stated simply, “If those are truly your desires, you won’t wait. You will find a way to do it right now. You won’t wait until you are rich. If you wait until you are rich enough to do some good in the world, you will probably never do it.” Those who know Dr. Covey know he certainly didn’t wait.

Another one of the men I admire a great deal is a man named Jon M. Huntsman Sr., founder of Huntsman Chemicals. It all started with a container that would hold eggs and the eggs wouldn’t break. He figured if he could build a container out of a kind of styrofoam instead of cardboard then the eggs could survive a little better. That lead to the Big Mac container. The little styrofoam container that could hold hamburgers. Even now when you go to a restaurant and come home with a to go package, that is usually in a styrofoam container. That’s what Jon Huntsman developed. Later that grew into a huge company that became one of the wealthiest companies in the world. Brother Huntsman is well known for his philanthropic efforts. His generosity began much earlier than when he attained great wealth. His wife, Karen, would always kept track of their finances when they were a young struggling couple and she could always account for everything except $50. Every month she would be $50 off in her accounting. She complained to her husband and said, “Where is this extra $50 going?” and he said, “I’m not too concerned about it.” Well she found out where the money was going at a testimony in their ward when a lady stood up who was single mother she said I just wanted to thank the anonymous donor who puts $50 on my doorstep every month. Karen looked at her husband and said, “I know where the $50 is going.” Brother Huntsman later explained, “If you cannot give when you have a little, you will not be likely to give when you have everything.” [2]

I admire Stephen R. Covey and Jon M. Huntsman Sr., not just because of their philanthropy but also because of their sense of urgency. They both felt—and responded to—the need to help others and to build the kingdom long before they had professional and economic success. They were building people and they were building the kingdom long before there were buildings named after them.

Satan has convinced many in the world that there is no God. He has convinced others there is no truth. But even believers are not much better off if we allow him to convince us there is no hurry. We need to feel the urgency to draw closer to God and an urgency to live in accordance with His truth.

When the shepherds heard about the birth of the Lord, the scriptures say they came “with haste” (Luke 2:16) to find Him. They did not say, “Tomorrow will be soon enough. Next month will be soon enough.” We would do well to follow the examples of the shepherds and to go with haste in our efforts to serve the Lord. I want to urge you today to proceed “with haste” in your education, in your repentance, and in your efforts to gather Israel. First of all, let’s talk about the urgency of obtaining – pursuing your education.

Education

When I was the bishop of a young single adult ward, some of the boys came to me concerned about their roommate. They said he spends all day and most of the night gaming and then he does day trading. We are just worried that he hasn’t been going to classes at all and he hasn’t been coming to church. When I was finally able to visit with the young man down, I expressed my concern. He said, “Oh, bishop, don’t worry about it. I can make more money day trading in a month than you make in a year.”

I responded, “I’m a teacher. Anyone can make more than I can make in a year, but that is not the point. The point is that education is not just about earning a living. Education is about enriching and making a better life.”

I encouraged this young man to start attending his classes and doing well in his classes and I promised him that what he learned in his classes would be so much more meaningful than whatever he was doing as he was gaming and trading on line. I make the same promise to you.

As Latter-day Saints, education is simply part of our culture. It is part of who we are. Former superintendent of schools in Salt Lake valley M. Lynn Bennion once wrote, “It is doubtful if there is an organization in existence that more completely [invests in] the educational development of its people than does the [Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints].” [3] Only three years after its founding in 1830, the Church, Joseph Smith was establishing a school. It was called the School of the Prophets. It was for grownups. It was for women as well as men. They studied philosophy and they studied business and they studied history and they studied languages. They didn’t just study religion. That is one of the earliest schools in this country that was for grownups and not just teenagers and kids. Because of that, Joseph Smith became one of the pioneers of adult education in the United States.

Brigham Young picked up where Joseph Smith left off. He picked right up and said man we’re going west. I want you to bring charts, I want you to bring maps, and I want you to bring books. (Books? Oh yea, that’s what I want to haul across the plains in my handcart! “Don’t forget the set of encyclopedia Mildred!”) I mean can you imagine you are hauling books across the continent? Those obedient saints did it because they knew they would need books to be able to continue to teach the youth when they got out here in the middle of nowhere. Where there was nothing. So they brought books and they used those books just three months after the first pioneers arrived in Salt Lake Valley the first school started and we have been in school ever since. It was just four months later that they founded a university. It was called the University of Deseret. [4] And it was right here in Salt Lake. When I studied at University of Wyoming I took a class in the history of education and the teacher had an overhead. Some of you may remember the overhead projector. It is what teachers used in the olden days. He had a transparency of all the universities in the country before the Civil War. And they were all on the east coast. Somebody said what’s that one over in the west? And the teacher said I don’t know. I must have spilled something on that and he was trying to scratch off the little dot. And I raised my hand and said don’t scratch that off that is the University of Deseret that was founded by the early Latter-day Saint pioneers. That was the University of Deseret. They were founding a university even though they had been in the valley a short time.

Now that focus on education continues in the Church today. Research indicates that “Latter-day Saints—both male and female—have a significantly higher level of educational attainment than does the population of the United States as a whole.” [5] It’s true in our country. It’s true in countries in Europe in Canada, in the Orient, and in Latin America. In Mexico a member of the Church is 30 percent more likely to have a higher level of education than those who are not members of the Church. [6] Interestingly, Church members are very unique because worldwide in every denomination as people get more education, they usually become less faithful; publicly (like going to church meetings) and privately (like saying prayers). [7] You have seen that to be the case all around you. But it’s not the case in our Church. We are the only Church in which the opposite is true. As people gain more education they actually become more faithful in their public and private religiosity. Our fear is not that people will find out something that will pull them away from the faith not when our doctrine is all truth. That’s a pretty big Article of Faith – all truth.

See we don’t fear that you are going to learn something or study something that is going to hurt your testimony the fear is that we have is that you won’t study deeply enough that you will settle for sensational sound bites on social media and not look into an issue or a topic deeply enough because we are assured that as we study deeply enough there is nothing you could ever learn that’s going to pull you from the faith. It will only deepen your faith. So our fear is not learning and education, our fear is illiteracy—people who can’t nourish their testimonies because they can’t read. Our fear is aliteracy—people who have the ability to read but choose instead to do anything else. That is what we’re afraid of because then they won’t be able to continue learning. That is when their faith will be in danger. Contrary to public opinion, everything we ever really needed to know we did not learn in kindergarten. [8] There is so much more to learn. Reading broadly matters. Education matters. Attending your classes matters. There is a hurry.

Repentance

Along with an urgency about education, we should feel an urgency when it comes to repentance. I once received an email from a young woman who asked, “Why not have sex with my boyfriend? Why not? We can always repent later.”

I said, “I am so glad you know you can repent and I’m so glad you know you can be forgiven. And I’m so glad you know that can happen as many times as you need. But cleanliness is only one of God’s many attributes. To become like God, we need to become more than just clean – more than just forgiven. And the time you’re wasting with your boyfriend is time that could be better spent. It could be better spent developing the selflessness, the charity, developing the self-control that are the Godly qualities that the law of chastity can teach us if we are willing to learn.”

A young man, a return missionary, once said to me, Brother Wilcox “If there is a God and if the plan of salvation turns out to be true, then I will just repent in the spirit world.”

I said, “Good plan except for one thing. If you are not motivated to change now what makes you think you will be motivated then?” Amulek taught “that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world” (Alma 34:32-33). Mortality is a school. The spirit world is a continuation of that school. Continued opportunity for learning doesn’t give a desire for learning. Continued opportunity to repent does not guarantee a change of heart. That change of heart comes from Jesus Christ. And the sooner we can get started on that process of becoming more like Him, with His grace, with His help, the sooner we can begin that process the better off we are.

In today’s world, we often hear people say, “YOLO!” It is an acronym that means, I don’t need to tell you what it means I just had to look it up for myself. It means “You Only Live Once,” and people use it to justify All kinds of risky choices. However, YOLO is not in the scriptures. Instead, we see YEA WO: “Yea, wo be unto him that hearkeneth unto the precepts of men, and denieth the power of God” (2 Nephi 28:26). Yea, wo unto him that shall say, “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die; and it shall be well with us” (2 Nephi 28:7). God’s work and glory is to bring to pass our immortality and eternal life (see Moses 1:39). It is time that we are about our Father’s business (see Luke 2:49). Repentance matters. Change matters. There is a hurry.

Gathering of Israel

Along with an urgency to be educated and an urgency to repent, there is also an urgency to gather Israel. In the worldwide youth devotional of June 2018, President Russell M. Nelson proclaimed: “The Lord is hastening His work to gather Israel. That gathering is the most important thing taking place on earth today. Nothing else compares in magnitude, nothing else compares in importance, nothing else compares in majesty. . . . I testify that the gathering is now, and it is real.” [9] Think of it. We can be part of the most important thing taking place on earth. We can change the world!

Are such statements stretching the truth? Not according to Joseph Smith, who taught that the revelations associated with the restored gospel provide “a foundation that will revolutionize the whole world.” [10] Many in your generation are desperately seeking a cause—sadly their causes last about fifteen minutes. As they superficially flip from one cause to another cause to another cause depending on whatever happens to be the hot topic of the moment on social media. Please don’t let your efforts to change the world be that superficial. Please don’t let those causes distract you from the most important cause in the world today and that is the cause of Christ, the gathering of Israel.

Most people think gathering Israel is just about serving full-time missions and that’s definitely part of it. However, the gathering is more comprehensive than that. We gather Israel as we live the gospel, care for those in need, invite others to receive the gospel, and unite families for eternity. That is the way the work of exultation is expressed in the handbook of the Church.

Previously we talked of the threefold mission of the Church: redeem the dead, preach the gospel, perfect the saints and then under President Monson was added care for the poor and needy. Now do you see how elegantly those purposes are phrased today? Care for the poor and needy becomes care for those in need. Preach the gospel becomes invite others to receive the gospel. Perfect the saints becomes live the gospel and redeem the dead, boy there’s something that raises the eyebrows anytime you say it, that becomes unite families for eternity. The purposes are the same but they have been so elegantly phrased that we can simply remember four key words: live, care, invite, unite.

Gathering Israel is about preparing for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and that is how we do it. If one million people wanted to join the Church tomorrow, would we be ready? Would we have enough bishops, Relief Society presidents, stake presidents, Young Women presidents? Would we have enough full time missionaries? Would we have enough full-tithe payers? No. We would be totally swamped. And that’s just one million. So, what’s going to happen when Christ comes and says “Hello! By the way, I belong to the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” That’s what he is going to say. Are we going to be ready when two billion people want to join the Church in one day? We have to be ready. Jesus isn’t going to come to watch the Church fail. He is going to come when the Church is ready to succeed. When we have a leadership base strong enough all over the world that we will be able to welcome everyone into the Church and we will be able to, as a Church, as Israel, gather all of God’s children on both sides of the veil home to Him.

Let me invite the young single adults to consider one thing you can do that will make a huge difference. Go to FSYCounselor.churchofjesuschrist.org. I’m going to say that one more time because the spirit is going to inspire you to put that in your notebooks. FSYCounselor.churchofjesuschrist.org and find out more about being an FSY counselor next summer. FSY stands for (For the Strength of Youth) and these conferences have been modeled after BYU’s EFY (Especially for Youth). That conference would reach about 30,000 to 40,000 teenagers every summer. FSY, because it is not under BYU, but it is a program of the Church is going to reach 150,000 teenagers in North America next summer. And the following summer about the same number. That means 900 stakes are going to be turning their youth over to you, to young single adult counselors who will be able to receive room and board and a stipend if they wish to work all summer long. Sometimes people will just be able to volunteer for a week and that will definitely be an option as well. Whatever you can do we need you next summer.

This is completely unprecedented in the Church. We are going to need thousands of young single adults to teach the youth some crazy dance moves, to yell and scream until you lose your voice, to help the youth participate in stimulating classes that are going to keep them on the edges of their seat, to participate in devotionals, to play games and to be able to have fun with no drugs or alcohol or anything that the world says they need to have to be able to have fun as they play together on a field without any electronics. This is what you are going to be able to do as you stand and as you become a hero for these young people and be able to show them that you can have fun and you can be strong in the gospel at the same time. Those teenagers are going to look at you and say, “Wow! She’s cool.” You’re thinking “Me? I am not cool.” But they don’t know that. They think you’re cool. They know adults aren’t cool and they question that most of their peers are cool but young single adults, you’re cool. And they are going to look at you and say “Wow! He can dance like that and he can still read his scriptures?” “Wow! She’s got all kinds of friends and everybody likes her and she still lives the standards of gospel and dresses modestly?” They are going to look at you and you are going to become heroes that are truly going to make a difference in their lives.

One young man said to me, “Among the teenagers, I have taught more progressing investigators than I ever did on my mission.” Another said, “It is amazing to see the youth come on Monday and then leave on Saturday totally different from when they came.” Another said, “Seeing these wonderful youth grow and develop is just the greatest thing in the world.”

I agree. A study was done to determine the influence of Church programs on teenage testimonies and there were two that tied for first place - of all the programs of the Church including Sunday meetings: the two that tied for first place were seminary and EFY. [11] You will have the chance in one week to have the kind of impact that will gather Israel in a big way. That gathering matters. The work of salvation and exaltation matters. Preparing for the Second Coming matters. There is a hurry. FSY was supposed to kick off in 2020. Well we all know what happened then. Then it was supposed to roll out in 2021 and once again it was stopped by the Covid pandemic. Next summer it is going to roll out. At this point the youth don’t even know what it is. We have got to be ready to show them an experience that is going to turn the corner in their lives. A turning point moment that is going to give them a foundation on which they will build and stay strong forever. You can be a part of that.

Conclusion

As I conclude today, I would like to share a personal experience—something that happened to me when I was about your age. I was home from my mission, newly married, and trying to figure out what I should major in. The poor woman married a freshman. I was going to the temple to seek direction and ponder what I should do for a major and as I was there I listened to the covenant in which we promise to give all of our time, talents, and treasure to the building up of the kingdom. I thought, “But, I don’t have any money to give.” My wife and I paid our tithes and offerings, but we were earning so little that the bishop would get our envelope and go “Coins? Coins?” We just didn’t have that much to offer. Talents? I did not feel I had any great ability to offer. I couldn’t even decide on a major. Time? I did have that, but no more or less time than the person next to me. So what on earth did I have to offer? Then the Spirit prompted me in unspoken words in impression, “You have something to offer that even President Kimball doesn’t have.” The impression took me aback. President Spencer W. Kimball was the prophet at the time, he was the man that signed my mission call and I loved him dearly just as you loved President Monson, just as you love President Nelson. I wondered, what on earth did I have to offer that one of the greatest men who has ever lived didn’t have? Then the Spirit whispered, “Your youth.” In that moment, I realized I did have something to offer that even President Kimball no longer had. I committed right then and to devote my youth to building the kingdom.

Please don’t postpone activity and service in the Church until you get through school and settle down, until you don’t have to go to school and work a job at the same time. Please don’t postpone it. You have something that President Russell M. Nelson doesn’t have to offer this kingdom. You have something that his wife doesn’t have. You have your youth. And you can choose to not waste it rather to consecrate it. As Stephen R. Covey and Jon Huntsman Sr. taught, if you wait until you are rich enough, talented enough, or have enough free time to make a difference, you probably never will. Seek the help of the Lord, and do it now.

With all my heart, I testify that education matters. Repentance matters. Gathering Israel matters. And in each case, there is a hurry. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

[1] Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1989).

[2] See J. Michael Pinegar, “The Lord’s Goods.” Speech delivered November 16, 2004, at Brigham Young University. Accessed online at speeches.byu.edu.

[3] Milton Lynn Bennion, Mormonism and Education (Salt Lake City, 1939), as cited in David P. Gardner, “Attitudes toward Education,” Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 2:441.

[4] See David P. Gardner, “Attitudes toward Education,” Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 2:443; Terrell H. Bell, “Educational Attainment,” Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 2:446.

[5] Terrell H. Bell, “Educational Attainment,” Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 2:446.

[6] Tim B. Heaton, “Vital Statistics,” Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 4:1534.

[7] Stan L. Albrecht and Tim B. Heaton, “Secularization, Higher Education, and Religiosity,” Review of Religious Research 26 (Sept. 1984), 43-58.

[8] Robert Fulghum, Everything I Ever Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten (New York: Villard Books, 1988).

[9] Russell M. Nelson, “Hope of Israel,” Supplement to the New Era and Ensign, August 2018, 8.

[10] Joseph Smith in “History, 1838-1856, [Manuscript History of the Church]. volume F-1. josephsmithpapers.org.

[11] John Hilton III and Anthony Sweat, “Developing Teenage Testimonies: Programs and Pedagogy with Spiritual Impact,” Religious Educator, 18, no. 2 (2017), 111-129.

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