"Your Whole Soul as an Offering to Him" Omni 1:16
Brothers and sisters, it is a privilege for Sister Bednar and me to be here with you today.
Let me begin by indicating that I wear lots of different hats. I have a husband hat. I have a dad hat. I have a president of Ricks College hat, and I also have an Elder Bednar hat. During the time that I am going to visit with you today, I am going to wear my Elder Bednar hat. And I am going to pay you the ultimate compliment.
Each week as we attend devotionals at Ricks College, I hear speakers address the young people of the Church and say you are the finest generation ever to live upon the earth, reserved for this special day and time. And that is exactly how I am going to talk to you. That is the compliment. I'm not here to entertain you. I want to discuss with you a topic that I believe is very important in this day, in this time, and especially for students.
I invite the Spirit of the Holy Ghost to be with us here. The Holy Ghost is a revelator and a teacher. Please turn with me to Section 8 in the Doctrine and Covenants, if you have your scriptures. Here we find a description of the spiritual gift of revelation. In verse one we find our instruction to Oliver Cowdery given through the Prophet Joseph Smith. Oliver was concerned about and interested in the process of translating. He is instructed that the knowledge he desires will indeed come if he follows the pattern outlined in verse one. And in verses two and three we learn how revelation often comes.
Turn to Section 8 in the Doctrine Covenants if you have your scriptures. Because here we find a description how revelation occurs. In verse two--now what precedes this in verse one is instruction to Oliver Cowdery through the Prophet Joseph Smith--Oliver was quite concerned about, and interested in the process of translating. He wanted to be able to do that, and he's instructed that, that knowledge will come if he follows a particular pattern as it is outlined in verse one. Now I won't tell you what the pattern is; just read it at a later time. Section 8 of the Doctrine Covenants verse one outlines a pattern that precedes revelation. And then in verse two it describes how the revelation will come.
Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart. Now behold this is the spirit of revelation. (D&C 8:2-3)
Brothers and sisters, revelation frequently comes as thoughts to the mind and feelings to the heart. One of the most miraculous things about the Church is the spiritual gifts it makes available to us. In an assembly like this, each person can be taught individually that which is needful by the Holy Ghost. My responsibility is to preach the doctrine and invite the Spirit so each person can receive that portion which is needful.
Now, if you will, in the Book of Mormon, turn to1 Nephi chapter 16. I want to share with you some of the things that I have been studying, thinking about, and trying to integrate during the past several weeks. I have been studying two major topics: faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and diligence. In1 Nephi chapter 16 verse 28 we are introduced to the Liahona, which provided direction to Lehi and his family. Pay close attention in verse 28 to the description of how the Liahona worked.
And it came to pass I Nephi, beheld the pointers which were in the ball, that they did work according to the faith and diligence and heed which we did give unto them.
Note the emphasis on faith, diligence and heed. Now please notice in verse 29.
And there was also written upon them a new writing, which was plain to be read, which did give us understanding concerning the ways of the Lord; and it was written and changed from time to time, according to the faith and diligence which we gave unto it. And thus we see that by small means the Lord can bring about great things. (1 Nephi 16:28-29)
Now I would like you to keep in mind the concepts of faith and diligence a you listen to this statement by Elder Richard L. Evans. He was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve from 1953 until 1971. He teaches us a powerful lesson in this statement.
You know it is a wonderful thing to be faithful, but a much greater thing to be both faithful and competent. There is no particular virtue in being uninformed, certainly no virtue in ignorance. When young people can acquire the skills, the techniques, and the knowledge of these times, and along with it have a spiritual commitment and a solid faith and cleanliness of life, there is nothing that you cannot achieve, nothing in righteousness, or in reason. (from an address given to the young people at the Northwest Inland Division Gathered for Zion's Camp, 15 October 1971)
That statement was made in 1971. Personal computers had not been invented yet. There was no such thing as the Internet. Many of the topics that you presently are studying had not yet been discovered or fully developed. Again listen to what he said.
When young people can acquire the skills, the techniques, and the knowledge of these times, and along with it have a spiritual commitment and a solid faith and cleanliness of life, there is nothing that you cannot achieve, nothing in righteousness, or in reason.
I fear that sometimes students at Church institutions falsely separate their spiritual progress from their academic discipline and diligence. Faithfulness and competence both are important. We should not naively assume that because we consistently attend our church meetings and conscientiously serve our brothers and sisters, that it is "ok" to miss classes and perform at a lesser level academically. If we believe our spiritual progress is a valid reason for not doing well academically, we are fooling ourselves.
My primary objective today is to explain why both spiritual development and academic diligence are crucial for students. What I would like to do is challenge you to be balanced in both spiritual and intellectual development.
Please turn to Section four in the Doctrine and Covenants. I want to emphasize verse two. Listen carefully and see if you can identify a reference to both faithfulness and competence in this verse.
Therefore, O ye that embark in the service of God see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day. (D&C 4:2)
Now consider these four words: heart, might, mind and strength. Typically we would interpret heart, might, mind and strength as four separate but interrelated factors that are required in the service of God. May I suggest an additional interpretation? Please consider the word "might" as descriptive of the "heart." In other words, a mighty heart is required for serving God. Now also consider that the word "strength" as descriptive of the "mind." Therefore, to effectively serve God we also must have a strong mind.
Perhaps, then, another way of interpreting this verse is as follows:
O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with a mighty heart, and with a strong mind, that ye stand blameless before God at the last day.
A mighty heart equates to the faithfulness and spiritual development described by Elder Evans. A strong mind equates to competence achieved through diligence and intellectual preparation.
Please remember that as I talk about intellectual diligence and preparation I am not talking about taking tests and getting good grades. Many students can memorize wonderfully and ultimately learn little or nothing at all. A student can be very savvy in the process of playing the game to get good grades but fail in the development of a strong mind, which is a requirement, even a prerequisite, for the service of God.
Turn with me to 2 Nephi chapter 2. There you will find a verse that very clearly indicates why both a mighty heart, and a strong mind are so crucial.
And now my sons, I speak unto you these things for your profit and learning. [I think that it is just not a coincidence that learning is contained in this verse] for there is a God, and he hath created all things, both the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are, both things to act and things to be acted upon. (2 Nephi 2:14)
Note the distinction between things to act and things to be acted upon. Now we might ask the question: What things are to act and what things are to be acted upon? Verse 16 provides the answer.
Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other. (2 Nephi 2:16)
Brothers and sisters, you and I are to act and not to be acted upon. You and I have the gift of agency, the blessing of agency, and you and I are to act and to use our agency to choose the right. You and I are prepared to act if we have both a mighty heart and a strong mind. It requires both of these vital qualifications for us to be successful, especially in the world in which we live today. And in the world into which we are moving, both qualifications will increasingly be necessary.
You owe it to yourself to become a diligent student. Note that I am using the word diligent. I would not suggest that you have to be a 4.0 grade point average, but you do have to be diligent. You don't have to get an A on every test; we all have differing levels of ability and skill. But you do have to be diligent. And diligence leads to the ability to learn how to learn. That is the key. You owe it to yourself to develop this vital skill.
You owe it to your family to become a diligent student as an expression of your love and appreciation for them.
And thirdly, you owe it to the Savior and to His Church to become a diligent student because of the covenants you have already made or will yet make, particularly, the covenants of sacrifice and consecration.
I now want to relate the responsibility that you and I have to develop strong minds to the principles of sacrifice and consecration. Let me briefly describe each of these principles.
The word sacrifice means to offer or to surrender something valuable or precious. The Prophet Joseph Smith gave the best and clearest definition of sacrifice in the "Lectures on Faith."
For a man to lay down his all, his character and reputation, his honor, and applause, his good name among men, his houses, his lands, his brothers and sisters, his wife and children, and even his own life also -- counting all things but filth and dross for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus -- requires more than mere belief or supposition that he is doing the will of God; but actual knowledge, realizing that, when those sufferings are ended, he will enter into eternal rest, and be a partaker of the glory of God.
Let us hear observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation; for, from the first existence of man, the faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things. It was through the medium of the sacrifice, and this only, that God has ordained that men should enjoy eternal life; and it is through the medium of the sacrifice of all earthly things that men do actually know that they are doing the things that are well pleasing in the sight of God. ("Lectures on Faith," Lecture 6, p. 57-58)
Did you note the things we must be willing to offer, to give up, and to surrender? As I understand this statement by the prophet, the principle of sacrifice requires you and me to willingly offer anything and everything we possess for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ, including, our character and reputation, our honor and applause, our good name among men, our houses, our lands, and even our families, all things including our very lives if need be. It is a very serious principle and commitment.
In essence our pledge is this: I will give all that I possess, and I am willing to die, if need be, for the gospel of Jesus Christ. Sacrifice is motivated by faith and hope and produces increased commitment and a desire to obey.
President Spencer W. Kimball vividly describes how he, as a very young boy, began to learn about the principle of sacrifice.
When I was a little boy about four years old, my father had gone to work on Monday morning and my mother took my brothers and sisters and myself to see the bishop. (You see, my mother had eleven children.) There were about four or five that were not in school, so Monday morning we started out on the road with two buckets of eggs. I was like many other little boys, I could ask many questions, and I said: "Where are we going, Ma?" and she said, " We are going to the bishop's," and I said, "Why are we going to the bishop's?" "These are tithing eggs," she said. Then I said, "Ma, what is tithing?" And then she explained, "Every time we take ten eggs out of the nest, we put one in a special bucket. The other nine we take to the store to buy clothes and food with and so these eggs in this special bucket keep increasing until we have bucket full. And then every week we take them to the bishop and he gives us a receipt showing that we have paid our tithing."
Then, when I was a little bigger boy, I used to put up hay. I would drive the horses that were hitched to the wagon and tramp the hay down and my older brothers pitched it on the wagon, and when we had gone to the field in the morning, my father would say, "Now, boys, this is the tenth load this morning. This belongs to the Lord. You go up into the upper part where the hay is the best and get a big load and then take it over to the big barn in which the bishop keeps the Church hay." In that way I learned how to pay tithing, so it isn't hard for me to obey this law. ("Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball," p. 341)
For the Kimball family, only the best was good enough for the Lord. And it is in that spirit that you and I should observe the principle of sacrifice.
The second principle I want to emphasize is consecration. Consecration is related to but different from sacrifice. Sacrifice is what we will offer, surrender, yield, or give up. Consecration, on the other hand, is to develop and dedicate to a sacred purpose. Listen to this description of the principle of consecration provided by President Ezra Taft Benson:
We covenant to live the law of consecration. This law is that we consecrate our time, talents, strength, property and money for the up-building of the Kingdom of God upon this earth and the establishment of Zion. (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 121)
As we live the principle of consecration, we are willing not only to offer anything and everything that we possess for the gospel, but we also promise to devote our best selves, our time, our talents, and our energy to the building of the kingdom of God on the earth. Our pledge is: I will give me and all that I can become to the building of the kingdom of God.
The principle of sacrifice is a lesser law in preparation for the principle of consecration. The law of consecration encompasses the law of sacrifice and much, much more. We are not only willing to offer up our possessions, but we are willing to become the very best that we can be and assist, however possible, in the building of the kingdom of God in righteous ways. I would summarize consecration in this way: We will not only die for the gospel, but we will live for and dedicate our best selves to the gospel of the Savior.
The best application of the principle of consecration that I can think of, being developed and dedicated to a sacred purpose, is motherhood. I have over the past 24 years watched my wife, a very talented, capable, and competent woman, as she has developed and dedicated herself to the holy purposes of our home. Some would say she has sacrificed or given something up much to become the heart of our home and to rear and nurture our children. She has not given up anything; rather she has been dedicated and consecrated to a holy purpose. She has developed herself and applied those skills as God has directed, in the most important undertaking of a lifetime, which is the rearing and nurturing of those children.
May I suggest that in these latter days, more is required of you and me than our substance and our money. As the Church rapidly grows throughout the world in a technologically sophistication information age, we must consecrate unto the Lord a faithful heart and a strong mind, a mind capable of learning, of instruction, of discipline and receiving revelation.
I would ask you to keep in mind that you pay only a very small percentage of the actual cost of your education. Every single student at the LDS Business College receives a substantial scholarship from the Church. If you were paying the total cost of the educational experience, it would be many, many times more than the price you pay. Sacred tithing funds of the church make it possible for you to be here.
Why would the church invest in you in that way? Because you are the hope of Israel. You have the responsibility to contribute and assist in building the kingdom of God in important and significant ways -- in rearing righteous families, in contributing in society and in serving the Church. And your time at the LDS Business College is a unique opportunity, the chance to study and learn in a place where the Spirit of the Holy Ghost can assist you in preparing to have a mighty heart and a strong mind.
Please turn to Omni in the Book of Mormon. As you listen to verse 26, pay particular attention to the phrase that describes your whole soul.
And now, my beloved brethren, I would that ye should come unto Christ, who is the Holy One of Israel, and partake of his salvation, and the power of his redemption. Yea, come unto him, and offer your whole souls as an offering unto him, and continue in fasting and praying and endure to the end; and as the Lord liveth ye will be saved. (Omni 1:26)
As a student at the LDS Business College, you have been provided with a stewardship opportunity and responsibility to develop a might heart and a strong mind -- to become both faithful and competent as Elder Evans described -- in preparation for that day when you can offer your whole souls unto Him.
I want to conclude with a statement from President Marion G. Romney.
Can we see how critical self-reliance becomes when looked upon as the prerequisite to service, when we also know that service is what Godhood is all about. Without self-reliance one cannot exercise this enate desire to serve. How can we give if there is nothing there? Food for the hungry cannot come from empty shelves. Money to assist the needy cannot come from an empty purse. Support and understanding cannot come from the emotionally starved. Teaching cannot come from the unlearned. And most important of all spiritual guidance cannot come from the spiritually weak. (Conference Report, October 1982, p. 135)
Indeed, you are a choice generation; and you must remember that where much is given much is required. More will be required of you an me--not just our money and possessions. In this day as the Church grows rapidly throughout the earth, you and I must be prepared to consecrate a might heart and a strong mind. Please use this opportunity at this marvelous school to the fullest. Do not be causal about learning. And remember that I am not talking simply about getting good grades. I am talking about learning how to learn through the Spirit of the Holy Ghost so you can develop the skills that will bless you and your family for a lifetime.
Now, my dear brothers and sisters, the thing which I value most is my testimony. I know that God lives. I know and witness that Jesus is the Christ. I know that Joseph Smith saw what he said he saw, the Father and the Son, and the fullness of the gospel was restored to the earth. I know that there are apostles and prophets on the earth today who direct the affairs of this Church for the Savior. I pray that each of us will develop a mighty heart and a strong mind so that the Lord can use us in building of His kingdom in the important days ahead. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
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