It is a rare privilege to be in your presence today, my beloved brothers and sisters! I bring you the love and greetings of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. They have a deep interest in your welfare. The creation of the LDS Business College almost 130 years ago attests to this interest.
I am very grateful for President Larry Richards’s great kindness in helping me through the usual questions and arrangements of this assignment. We are members of the same ward in the Church, which means that my wife and I have the great privilege and joy to associate often with him and his beloved eternal companion, Julie.
We salute you and your outstanding faculty! You belong to a college with a great heritage! Since its founding in 1886 as the Salt Lake Academy, many notable individuals have taught here as faculty members or passed through its doors as students. Countless individuals from the LDS Business College have made tremendous contributions to the economy of nations and the communities in which they live. Most important, they have significantly contributed to faith and devotion to God and have established strong families that continue to influence countless others. In short, individuals from the LDS Business College have blessed and are blessing societies throughout this rapidly changing world.
On the stand is my eternal companion, Diane, whom I cherish. I sometimes wonder whether the reason she married me many years ago was at least in part due to the fact that she felt sorry for me!
Let me provide an illustration of this expression. When we decided to marry, it was our desire to marry by the authority of the holy priesthood for time and all eternity in the house of the Lord. In those days, Latter-day Saints from South Africa, like many Saints from other countries, had to travel long distances to get to a temple. Accordingly, immediately following our civil marriage in South Africa, we traveled by air for over 10 hours to London, England—which, as you can imagine, was a choice experience and a wonderful honeymoon!
However, this is not what I wish to tell you about Diane at this time. What I will share with you is what happened after our arrival at London’s Heathrow Airport. Here I learned something new about her—something I had been quite unaware of at the time. On arrival at the airport, we had a rented car waiting for us. I drove, while Diane acted as my navigator, using the modest road map of London I had handed to her in the car. Thus we commenced weaving our little Austin motorcar through London’s notorious highways, byways, and countless tiny streets. We discovered that many roads had the same name but were differentiated only by one being called a street, another a road, another a circle or an avenue, and so forth. Our hotel’s address was in the vicinity of Hyde Park Lane, Hyde Park Place, Hyde Park Crescent, Hyde Park Square, and Hyde Park Avenue. Remember too—and this is probably very foreign to most of you here today—that this was long before smartphones and Google maps were ever invented.
The point of my story is this: that my navigator, the one whom I had married only a day previously, armed only with a modest roadmap, surprised me by navigating —without getting us lost or making a wrong turn—right to the front door of our hotel! After I parked our car, I looked at my bride with new eyes. I suddenly realized that I had married a magnificent daughter of God who was much, much more than I had previously contemplated. And she was also able to navigate! That day I was taught what the word “helpmeet” means. Countless times over the years Diane has provided, in her usual thoughtful, kind, and patient way, the perfect counsel that was needed and has enriched our lives. In fact, in the Golden family she has helped us and our children navigate a wise course through the many “highways and byways” of life!
Today it is my intent to pose two questions.
The first is: Why have we gathered here today? If you think about it, great effort and time have been expended by you and many others in order for us to be here in this magnificent building. Many reasons, I suppose, can be given. The one reason I would want to point out is the importance of being taught by the Holy Ghost.
The LDS Business College exists to provide an education that embraces all of your capacity, including your mind, spirit, and body. No effective and well-rounded education can do less.
In a revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord taught, “Behold, I gave unto him [speaking of every man or woman] that he should be an agent unto himself; and I gave unto him commandment, but no temporal commandment gave I unto him, for my commandments are spiritual; they are not natural nor temporal, neither carnal nor sensual” (D&C 29:35; emphasis added).
This brings me to the second question: What would you want your life to look like at the end of your earthly, mortal, probationary state?
In considering this question, I refer again to your education here at the LDS Business College. Much of what has been accomplished by your predecessors at this college will never be, nor ever could be, adequately recorded. Rather, they become part of each individual’s unwritten personal history. Likewise, you are making your own personal life history—you too are now “writing” or recording your own life through daily, even minute-by-minute acts, words, and even thoughts. If you are a thinking and thoughtful person, the question I would want to suggest to you here today is: How would you want to write this account of your life?
Sobering as this may be, let me share with you something the Prophet Joseph Smith has said: “The spirits of the just are exalted to a greater and more glorious work; hence they are blessed in their departure to the world of spirits. Enveloped in flaming fire, they are not far from us, and know and understand our thoughts, feelings, and motions, and are often pained therewith (in History of the Church, 6:52; emphasis added).
Being aware of our connection to an unseen world filled with those who care for us could inspire us to be more faithful. Our lives matter, and a concerned loving Heavenly Father and countless others are watching us and pleading our cause as we strive to make our way through this vitally important mortal probationary state!
Sometimes the consequences of our thoughts, words, or behavior—good or bad—are immediate. Yet the real consequences are felt only many years later.
In my life, I have learned this lesson well. As a young man, many years ago, I was drafted—or, as we called it, conscripted—into the South African military. I was assigned to a squad of soldiers who were good men but had the roughness of speech and behavior that too often come to men serving in the military. On one of our training camps, we were deployed to an area in South Africa where the winters are as bitterly cold as the summers are sizzling hot.
One Sunday, our little squad gathered in a tent for protection against the inclement weather outside. I busied myself by reading my scriptures, and while I was thus engaged, the conversation of the other men in the tent turned a little unsavory and crude. I was uncomfortable, and my first, almost instinctive response was to interrupt their talk and request that they refrain from such crudeness, at least while I was in the tent with them. I checked my first impulse to correct them as another thought came to me: that I was very presumptuous for taking it upon me to correct men who had every right to speak as they pleased. A third impulse followed the second: if their unsavory talk indeed did offend me, I could quite easily leave the tent, which should resolve the matter for them and for me. Then I remembered the absolutely freezing weather outside.
I was thus left in a quandary. What should I do? I am embarrassed to tell you today that I chose to stay and say nothing. My intent in doing so was to immerse myself as deeply as I could into the reading of my scriptures and block out from my mind the talk around me, while at the same time avoiding catching double pneumonia!
Now fast forward, two years later. I am on another military training camp with the same men in my squad. On this occasion, we were standing around a fire on a beautiful, dark, cloudless, star-filled night. Some of the fellows were drinking beer whilst I sipped from my non-alcoholic soft drink. The discussion was quite pleasant, with no improper talk; however, during our visiting, a few men from another unit had wandered over to our happy band. One of these men turned to me during the course of the evening and, after noticing the soft drink in my hand, mocked me for not joining them in drinking some beer with them. However, before I was able to respond robustly to his intrusion into my preference for abstaining from alcohol, one of my friends, a member of our squad, interrupted. My friend rebuked the man for trying to coerce me into drinking beer and surprised me by saying, “We suggest that you leave now, sir. We will not have anyone speak to Chris like this! In fact, he is the only man amongst any of us who lives his life like a true Christian.” With that the rebuked man quietly skulked away into the dark night.
Later that evening, while my friend and I were walking back to our foxholes, he said, “You know, Chris, you are the only true Christian I have ever met in my life. You truly live what you believe and what you preach.” But then he added, “You have only let me down once.” As he said that I could sense deep within the recesses of my memory an unpleasant remembrance of that instance two years before on that very cold Sunday in the tent. I waited as he spoke the next words: “Do you remember two years ago in the tent on our last camp?” How could I forget! He continued: “Remember when we were telling those crude stories? Well Chris, while I was telling those stories, I was silently praying that you would stop me, but you didn’t!”
I won’t take the time here to tell you about our discussion afterwards and my process of repentance. This much I can say: I have always remembered that night in the midst of a clear, black, star-filled sky, when all of heaven looked down upon me in rebuke for failing a friend and our Heavenly Father. Over the years I have chosen to look upon that experience as a lesson of immense importance. As a disciple of Christ, I resolved never again to be silent, even in the face of difficult choices!
You too face choices, especially at this time in your life, when your spirit is uniquely attuned and receptive to the great opportunities that await you. The question is what would you want to write or record about yourself in five, ten, twenty years’ time, or even at the end of your life?
In one of the most remarkable visions recorded in holy writ, the Prophet Joseph Smith described the condition of those who would inherit the celestial kingdom once we have been resurrected and judged. This same section in the Doctrine and Covenants (section 76) also reveals to us the conditions and circumstances of those who are not fit for the celestial kingdom and are candidates instead for the terrestrial and telestial kingdoms.
For example, we are taught that those who will inherit the terrestrial kingdom are those who are “honorable men of the earth, who were blinded by the craftiness of men … [and] who receive of [God’s] glory, but not of his fulness” (D&C 76:75–76). Then this astounding principle is taught: “These are they who are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus; wherefore, they obtain not the crown over the kingdom of our God” (D&C 76:79; emphasis added).
Imagine for a moment—would we forfeit the glory of the celestial kingdom, with all of its profound blessings, because we were not valiant in the testimony of Jesus?
A modern-day apostle of the Lord asked:
“What does it mean to be valiant in the testimonyof Jesus?”
And he answered:
“It is to be courageous and bold; to use all our strength, energy, and ability in the warfare with the world; to fight the good fight of faith. … The great cornerstone of valiance in the cause of righteousness is obedience to the whole law of the whole gospel.
“To be valiant in the testimony of Jesus is to ‘come unto Christ, and be perfected in him’; it is to deny ourselves ‘of all ungodliness,’ and ‘love God’ with all our ‘might, mind and strength.’ (Moro. 10:32.)
“To be valiant in the testimony of Jesus is to believe in Christ and his gospel with unshakable conviction. It is to know of the verity and divinity of the Lord’s work on earth.
“But this is not all. It is more than believing and knowing. We must be doers of the word and not hearers only. It is more than lip service; it is not simply confessing with the mouth the divine Sonship of the Savior. It is obedience and conformity and personal righteousness. ‘Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.’ (Matt. 7:21.)
“To be valiant in the testimony of Jesus is to ‘press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men.’ It is to ‘endure to the end.’ (2 Ne. 31:20.) It is to live our religion, to practice what we preach, to keep the commandments. It is the manifestation of ‘pure religion’ in the lives of men; it is visiting ‘the fatherless and widows in their affliction’ and keeping ourselves ‘unspotted from the world.’ (James 1:27.)
“To be valiant in the testimony of Jesus is to bridle our passions, control our appetites, and rise above carnal and evil things. It is to overcome the world as did he who is our prototype and who himself was the most valiant of all our Father’s children. It is to be morally clean, to pay our tithes and offerings, to honor the Sabbath day, to pray with full purpose of heart, to lay our all upon the altar if called upon to do so.
“To be valiant in the testimony of Jesus is to take the Lord’s side on every issue. It is to vote as he would vote. It is to think what he thinks, to believe what he believes, to say what he would say and do what he would do in the same situation. It is to have the mind of Christ and be one with him as he is one with his Father” (Bruce R. McConkie, in Conference Report, Oct. 1974, 45–46).
Here I need to add something our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, taught during His earthly, mortal ministry:
“Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.
“For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.
“And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.
“He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
“And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is no worthy of me
“He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it” (Matthew 10:34–39).
Much more can be said in regard to our purpose in mortality. Our purpose is nothing more or less than once again to live in the presence of our beloved Heavenly Father as equal heirs with Christ in eternal families alongside our wife or husband and our children and posterity, even though some of these blessings will be known in their fulness only sometime after mortality.
The road each of us will need to chart is filled with numerous opportunities and also fraught with many challenges. Countless decisions are to be made every day, many small and seemingly unimportant, others profound. It is a glaring fact that each one of us will be called upon to act in moments that are difficult and yet defining. These moments can and will define who we are and what we have become. Often these moments come when it is inconvenient and unpopular. You will find as you write your life story that the most defining moments you will ever face are those moments when you will stand alone.
I should like to relate to you two accounts illustrating the consequences of standing alone in the midst of great opposition. I will take one from American history and another from Church history. The first is a watershed moment in the life of Benjamin Franklin and the history of the United States. The second is an event that is emblematic of the life of the Prophet Joseph Smith.
About two years prior to the American Revolution, on January the 29th, 1774, Benjamin Franklin appeared before the British Privy Council in London, which was then the highest governing body under the king of England. I shall not go into the history surrounding this event; suffice it to say that up to this point Benjamin Franklin had been one of England’s greatest friends as the representative of four of the American colonies to the British crown, as well as the king’s deputy postmaster-general for these colonies. Alexander Wedderburn, the British solicitor general, (a position similar to the U.S. attorney general), in the presence of every member of the Privy Council, which comprised the cream of British aristocracy, ferociously interrogated Franklin, greatly abusing him as a representative of the American colonies.
This famous event was captured for posterity in a painting by Christian Schussele in 1856.
A historian wrote that Benjamin Franklin, “though apparently unmoved before the Privy Council, felt deeply the indignity cast upon him; and, it is said, when he returned to his lodgings … that night, he took off the suit of clothes he had worn on the occasion, and declared that he would never wear it again until he should sign the degradation of England by a dismemberment of the empire, and the independence of America. He kept his word; and almost ten years afterward, when, as American commissioner, he signed a definitive treaty of peace between the United States and Great Britain on the basis of absolute independence for his country, he wore the same suit of clothes for the first time after his vow was uttered” (Benson John Lossing, Lossing’s History of the United States from the Aboriginal Times to the Present Day , 3:714).
But the point to be made here is Benjamin Franklin’s behavior during Wedderburn’s tirade. I quote:
“Benjamin Franklin stood right there, motionless for the full hour, taking Wedderburn’s abuse along with the howls and laughter of the spectators. Edward Bancroft noted, ‘The Doctor was dressed in a full suit of spotted Manchester velvet, and stood conspicuously erect, without the smallest movement of any part of his body.’ Finally, Wedderburn went quiet and called Franklin as a witness. The Privy Council official proceedings recorded, “… Dr. Franklin being present, remained silent. But declared by his counsel, that he did not [choose] to be examined’” (John L. Smith Jr., “Benjamin Franklin: America’s First Whistleblower,” Journal of the American Revolution, Dec. 19, 2013, http://allthingsliberty.com/2013/12/benjamin-franklin-americas-first-whistleblower).
Another historian noted this interesting fact: “The course of the patriot and his accuser were widely different in the future. Franklin went forward in assisting and achieving the freedom and independence of his country, and will be forever venerated, as Washington wrote, ‘for benevolence, to be admired for his talents, to be esteemed for patriotism, to be beloved for philanthropy.’ Wedderburn went through life neither respected nor beloved, a grasping place-seeker and corrupt courtier, ‘unhonored and unsung’ at last; and when, thirty years [later], this man, having held various high offices in the government and received honors, died Earl of Roslyn, the king upon whom he had fawned said [quote], ‘He has not left a greater knave behind him in my dominions’”(Lossing’s History of the United States, 3:713–14).
Joseph Smith (in Prison)
A second example of standing alone:
Sometime during November of 1838, the Prophet Joseph Smith and others, including Elder Parley P. Pratt, were chained and incarcerated in Richmond, Missouri.
Elder Pratt records the following incident during their incarceration: “In one of those tedious nights we had lain as if in sleep, till the hour of midnight had passed, and our ears and hearts had been pained, while we had listened for hours to the obscene jests, the horrid oaths, the dreadful blasphemies and filthy language of our guards, Colonel Price at their head, as they recounted to each other their deeds of rapine, murder, robbery, etc., which they had committed among the “Mormons” while at Far West and vicinity. They even boasted of defiling by force wives, daughters and virgins, and of shooting or dashing out the brains of men, women and children.
“I had listened till I became so disgusted, shocked, horrified, and so filled with the spirit of indignant justice that I could scarcely refrain from rising upon my feet and rebuking the guards; but had said nothing to Joseph, or any one else, although I lay next to him and knew he was awake. On a sudden he arose to his feet, and spoke in a voice of thunder, or as the roaring lion, uttering, as near as I can recollect, the following words:
“‘SILENCE, ye fiends of the infernal pit. In the name of Jesus Christ I rebuke you, and command you to be still; I will not live another minute and hear such language. Cease such talk, or you or I die THIS INSTANT.’
“He ceased to speak. He stood erect in terrible majesty. Chained, and without a weapon; calm, unruffled and dignified as an angel, he looked down upon the quailing guards, whose weapons were lowed or dropped to the ground; whose knees smote together, and who, shrinking into a corner, or crouching at his feet, begged his pardon, and remained quiet till a change of guards.”
Elder Pratt continues, “I have seen the ministers of justice, clothed in magisterial robes, and criminals arraigned before them, while life was suspended on a breath, in the Courts of England; I have witnessed a Congress in solemn session to give laws to nations; I have tried to conceive of kings, of royal courts, of thrones and crowns; and of emperors assembled to decide the fate of kingdoms; but dignity and majesty have I seen but once, as it stood in chains, at midnight, in a dungeon, in an obscure village of Missouri” (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, ed. Parley P. Pratt Jr. , 210–11).
My beloved brothers and sisters, you are now, this very day, engaged in the some of the most significant moments of your life! You are now writing and will yet write the story of your life! There will be times when you will need to act and others when you will be required to hold your peace. Opportunities will abound, decisions will need to be made, and challenges will need to be confronted!
However, always remember that in our Heavenly Father’s great plan of happiness, you are never alone! Many in this life and many more beyond the veil are pleading your cause before the Lord. Great power is given to you through the ordinances you have received and the covenants you have made. Above all, your beloved Heavenly Father and His Son, our Advocate, are alongside you to help you through life. In a profound teaching, the Savior taught:
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
“For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28–30).
I add my solemn witness that our Eternal Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, live and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is in every conceivable way the Lord’s restored Church and kingdom of God upon the earth.
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.