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Elder Stephen B. Oveson

Obedience to the Law 

It’s good to be here with you today. I’m one of those General Authorities that most of you don’t know anything about. When I was your age, there were a limited number of General Authorities in the Church, and I think most of us knew exactly who they were. We knew who the First Presidency were, the Quorum of the Twelve, the seven presidents of the Seventy, and the Patriarch, and they were the General Authorities of the Church. Now there are currently 79 members of the Seventy, and most of you have no idea who we are. And maybe that’s just fine.

It’s my pleasure to be here with you this morning. Thank you to the choir; that was beautifully done. This is my first chance to actually be on campus here with you. I’ve been reading a little bit, and I recognize that this school was founded not very long after my alma mater, Brigham Young University. LDS Business College was founded in 1886, right? As I read the history, it said that at one point they thought this school would have to be closed due to financial reasons. But Karl G. Maeser’s prediction about the college has certainly come true as the school has grown and blossomed. And here you are today, attaining something I think is extremely important, and that is learning a way to go to work and earn a living.

A good friend of mine—Elder Dale Miller, with whom I spent two years in Chile and with whom I now ride back and forth to work almost every day—and I have a contest to see who has the most jobs in our lives. Both of us try to decide who started the earliest. I contend that I went to work at the age of eight, and he tries to tell me that he went to work even earlier than that, but I don’t really believe him.

I was raised on a farm in Oregon, and so I did start working early raising animals. I was raised in a little town with a population of about 300. Until I got sent on a mission to Mexico, I had no idea that the world had more than a few thousand people in it. But that has been a great change in my life, to be able to go to Mexico and serve a mission and to get to know the wonderful Mexican people. And then of the last seven and a half years, we’ve spent six in South America, first in Argentina and then in Chile. Those are two wonderful countries. I hope some of you get a chance to visit those countries during your lives because they are wonderful.

I am especially grateful to have my wife, Dixie, here with me today. As you heard, I got a degree in finance and banking from BYU, but what I really got was a wonderful wife. That has been what has changed my life the most.

Where are we going, all of us? Some men have known exactly where they were going. The world worries about this and about what is going to happen to us as we move through this life. But some men really have known exactly where they were going—for example, Enos. We read in chapter one of Enos: “And I soon go to the place of my rest, which is with my Redeemer; for I know that in him I shall rest. And I rejoice in the day where my mortal shall put on immortality, and shall stand before him; then shall I see his face with pleasure, and he will say unto me: Come unto me, ye blessed, there is a place prepared for you in the mansions of my Father” (Enos 1:27).

Now, how did Enos know this? He tells us, as we continue to read in Enos, in verse four: “And my soul hungered; and I kneeled down before my Maker, and I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul; and all the day long did I cry unto him; yea, and when the night came I did still raise my voice high that it reached the heavens.” Isn’t that an interesting phrase: “I [raised] my voice high that it reached the heavens.” Now, we know that our Heavenly Father can hear even our smallest prayers, those that we don’t even utter vocally. And yet, I think what Enos is saying is that he had finally gotten himself totally in tune with the Spirit, and in that way he knew that his voice was rising to heaven and that it would be heard.

Then Enos says, “And there came a voice unto me, saying: Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed” (Enos 1:5). Wow, what a great blessing. What a great blessing.

And then Moroni, in somewhat similar words, speaks these words in Ether: “And it came to pass that the Lord said unto me: If they have not charity it mattereth not unto thee, thou has been faithful; wherefore, thy garments shall be made clean. And because thou has seen thy weakness thou shalt be made strong, even unto the sitting down in the place which I have prepared in the mansions of my Father” (Ether 12:37).

The Prophet Joseph Smith, as we know and have heard this morning in song, saw the Father and the Son. In section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord says these words to the Prophet Joseph: “For I am the Lord thy God, and will be with thee even unto the end of the world, and through all eternity; for verily I seal upon you your exaltation, and prepare a throne for you in the kingdom of my Father, with Abraham your father” (D&C 132:49).

Likewise, Paul spoke these words: “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. . . .

“Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing (2 Timothy 4: 6, 8). What does Paul say? Everyone that loves the Lord, “Not to me only, but unto all them.”

Who are “all them”? In section 88 of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord spoke these words: “Wherefore, I now send upon you another Comforter, even upon you my friends, that it may abide in your hearts, even the Holy Spirit of promise; which other Comforter is the same that I promised unto my disciples, as is recorded in the testimony of John” (D&C 88:3).

You will notice that he talks about “you my friends.” In the book of John in the New Testament, the Lord spoke these words: “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.

“Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.

“Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it to you” (John 15:14–16).

Again he defines who His friends are—those who do “whatsoever I command you.” What commandments do we have? Well, we know that Adam had a fullness of the gospel. We also have the Ten Commandments. We have the two great commandments, to love the Lord and to love our neighbor. We have the commandments that are brought back to our memories at the time we sit with our bishops for an interview for a temple recommend. And we have the words of a prophet. What a great blessing it is to be here in Salt Lake and to be able to be in the presence of the prophet. Yesterday I was hurrying back from a meeting to go to another meeting. I pushed the elevator button and the elevator came, it opened, and I started to rush into the elevator. And there stood the prophet. He said, “Elder Oveson, how are you?” Now, I have to tell you that is a pretty special thing. When we finish this call, my wife and I will have served continuously for nine years. But just this little thing that happened yesterday is really payment in full—to be recognized by the prophet of God.

A few months ago I was watching the 10 o’clock news on channel 5 here in Salt Lake City. A special interest story came on about a town that had been revealed by the receding waters of Lake Mead. This town was started in 1860 when the prophet Brigham Young sent 200 members to form an important way station on the road to California. They fought heat, drought, snakes, hostile Indians, loneliness, and all manner of affliction for 10 years. Brigham Young finally came to visit them, probably on his way to California. In dismay at the conditions that they were living in, he told them they could leave, their work was finished. And they did. They left. Why did they stay there 10 years under these deplorable conditions? Well, because they were obedient. What were they obedient to? The laws of the gospel and the prophet.

In Doctrine and Covenants, section 130 is a favorite scripture of mine, verses 20 and 21: “There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this would, upon which blessings are predicated—And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.” Here it talks about blessing and being predicated on what? Obedience to the law. What laws? The laws of God.

We have to recognize and we have to know within ourselves just who God the Father is. He truly is our Father. He is the Father of our spirits, and He knows us. Do you think He would give us laws that would hurt us, that would not help us to be all that we can be? I assure you that He does not. He complies with every law that He gives to you. Now, there are laws which we do not understand, laws which allow Him to do some things that we are unable to do. Hopefully someday we will understand these laws and be able to do some of these things. But He lives by the laws that He has given us. If He were not to keep these laws, He would cease to be God.

When did we agree to live these heavenly laws? Were they given to us by our parents here on earth? Were they given to us by our bishop or our stake president or our prophet. Not really. We read in Abraham:

“I dwell in the midst of them all; I now, therefore, have come down unto thee to declare unto thee the works which my hands have made, wherein my wisdom excelleth them all, for I rule in the heavens above, and in the earth beneath, in all wisdom and prudence, over all the intelligences thine eyes have seen from the beginning; I came down in the beginning in the midst of all the intelligences thou hast see.

“Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones;
“And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born. . . .

“We will make an earth whereon these may dwell;

“And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them” (Abraham 3:21–25).

So we knew. When Abraham writes about the noble and great ones he saw, I guarantee that you were among those of the noble and great ones. Look at the blessings you have received. Many who are in this college have come from foreign lands and came with a knowledge of the gospel. I’m sure that many of you who have come from so far have come because of missionaries who found you, taught you the gospel, and have allowed you to come here. And you have come here to prepare and better yourselves to provide for yourselves and your families as your lives roll forward.

Now what would be the proof as to whether or not we are obedient and shall do all things which the Lord commands us? Let me tell you a story about my grandfather. I am sure that one reason I am here today is because of my grandfather and my father and those who went before me and laid the way, laid the path, along with my grandmother and my mother. My mother will be 100 years old on the 26th of December of this year. She’s in her 100th year! She lives in her own home, and she’s still very sharp. And when I see her, which I get to do very regularly, she tells me every time that she loves me , and she tells me that she prays for me. Now what more can someone ask than a mother who prays for her son every day? It gives me great strength, and I know, again, for that reason, I am here.

Let me read you a short story about my grandfather, Lars Peter Oveson, as he records it in his diary: On the 10th of August, 1890, a Stake Conference was held at Castle Dale with Apostles Anton H. Lund and Abraham H. Cannon in attendance. My wife and I attended conference.

“After it was over, the apostles came to Huntington and held a meeting. After the meeting I said to my wife, ‘I’m going to say goodby to the brethren before we go home.’ She went with me. Brother Lund said, ‘Well, Peter, we are going to Cleveland tomorrow to hold meetings and we would like to have you go with us. We will have another good time there.’ ‘I know that you will,’ I replied, ‘but I have lots of work to do so I will not go down, but I would like you to drive by our place and see where we live.’

“In the morning I got ready to go into the harvest field. My team was hitched to the binder. I wondered if the Brethren were coming this way. I decided to wait awhile and see if they did.

“They soon came and went into the house to shake hands with the children. Brother Lund said, ‘Come outside, Peter, I want to talk with you.’ We went out and he said, ‘We want you to go with us to Cleveland.’ I told him I had too much to do and couldn’t spare the time. He said, ‘We are going to organize a ward and put you in as Bishop.’ I said, ‘Brother Lund, what have I done to be punished this way. You can send me on a mission for five or ten years if you like and I will go cheerfully.’ ‘This is what we want now,’ he answered, ‘maybe some other time we will want something else. Pull off your overalls and let’s go.’ ”

Listen to the words, “This is what we want now. Maybe some other time we will want something else. Pull off your overalls and let’s go.” Have you received the same kind of call? You that are young men, and I’m looking at many of you, and I know that you are in other rooms in this edifice, have you received that same kind of call? You that are young men have heard the prophet tell you to prepare yourselves to serve a full-time mission and then to do it. The prophet said these words on January 11, 2003: “The work is rigorous. It demands strength and vitality. It demands mental sharpness and capacity. It demands faith, desire, and consecration. It demands clean hands and a pure heard” (Gordon B. Hinckley, “Missionary Service,” First Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting, Jan. 11, 2003, 17).

The Lord expects the same standard of righteousness for the young women of the Church, that all will be worthy to enter the Lord’s house and there receive the great blessings of the temple. A biyearly interview with the bishop to obtain a temple recommend is a great privilege and opportunity to declare your status before a judge in Israel and to know that you’re on the right path.

Now we’ve heard a good deal lately about “raising the bar” for missionaries and for lots of other things, but specifically for young men who want to serve the Lord as missionaries. Now, I want to explain a small difference to you. The prophet has never talked about raising the bar for missionaries in the same manner that one talks about raising the bar for the high jump in track and field events. As you all know, when the bar is raised for the high jump in track and field, it is raised to what point? Until everyone fails, right? That’s not what the Lord means. That’s not what the prophet means. What he does mean, though, is that there is a standard. Maybe you could think of it more as the low hurdles. The bar is about 30 inches high. Everyone can do it. Everyone can learn, with practice, to jump that high. And that’s the kind of bar that the prophet is talking about. The bar is there, and there are qualifications to meet, but there is no one who I am looking at, or who is seeing me here, who cannot qualify to go on a mission. The age range for young men is from 19 years to 26 years. Young women may elect to serve as missionaries. The call has not been given to you, so you need not feel that you have to serve, but if you want to, young women are wonderful missionaries. And you can go. The same standard exists for you. However, you can serve a mission from 21 years of age unto 80, if your health is good.

This standard is there in order to ensure that you will be successful missionaries, that you have prepared yourself by living the gospel. If you have made a mistake, you can go through the repentance process and clear your life so that you can enter the mission field with clean hands and a pure heart as the prophet has said. This is the gospel of repentance. It is. We all do things that we wish we hadn’t done from time to time. And that’s why we do things such as go to church every Sunday, so that we can clear up the small deficiencies in our lives and then partake of the sacrament and renew our covenants. If you have done something that needs to be cleared with a bishop, do that. Do it as early as possible, and prepare yourselves to serve.

Perhaps not all of you will serve missions. But you will all be called upon to serve in the kingdom. Prepare yourself for that service by living and keeping the commandments. And these commandments will bring you great joy. But please, do not ever believe that the bar has been raised to the point where you cannot serve. Please accept that, because that’s absolutely as it is.

We live in a difficult time of trial. Nephi wrote the following, which pertains clearly to our time, as we know the Book of Mormon was clearly written for us:

“Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he [meaning the devil] seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself” (2 Nephi 2:27).

We live in a time when Satan can and does send his message of immorality and lies into our homes through television and the Internet. So much of these mediums is geared to dehumanize us and make us simply a composite of physical parts, without a mind or feeling. We are then taught to simply use others or ourselves for physical pleasure. We are enticed to become addicted to that which will enslave us—beer and alcoholic beverages, tobacco in all its forms, drugs, and pornography. Those of you who will read the Church News, I’m sure it will be in the Church News this coming week, will read that the prophet, while he was in Hawaii last weekend, spoke out very clearly concerning methamphetamines, saying they were a terrible plague. (See Julie Dockstader Heaps, “Members Greeted with Aloha Spirit,” Church News, Nov. 1, 2003, 11.) I guarantee you that they are. I have a 27-year-old son who knows of these things, not that he has ever participated, I don’t believe. But he knows many who have, and he has warned me. He has said, “Don’t let anybody tell you that meth is not addictive.” He said, “Those that produce it cut it with very addictive drugs. Why? Because they want to addict you.” He said, “Don’t let anybody tell you that it’s not very, very addictive, because it is.”

Of all of these vices, which can be the most addictive? It might be different things for different people, but studies show that pornography can be the most addictive of all of these items, and therefore can be the most destructive. A friend of mine told me some weeks ago that he found in his home his three teenage children watching pornography. He had had no idea. And now he recognizes that he has a big fight on his hands. He had to simply eliminate the Internet from his home. He really had no other choice. How did it happen? Well, supposedly with innocent, casual watching of free Internet sites. I tell you that this action is tantamount to trying a little “free” cocaine, as they can both be equally addicting.

The Lord has told us many times, but very strictly in Moses 1:39 that His goal is eternal life for all mankind. That is why we, all of us here, cheered for joy at the opportunity to come to this world and work out our salvation. In Moses 1:39, it says, “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” Now, that’s our Heavenly Father working on our behalf. Isn’t that wonderful? We all have the potential to return to our Father with the same assurance as expressed by Apostle Alonzo A. Hinckley in a letter to the First Presidency just prior to his death. He spoke these words: “As to the future, I have no misgivings. It is inviting and glorious, and I sense rather clearly what it means to be saved by the redeeming blood of Jesus Christ, and to be exalted by His power, and be with Him evermore.

We have the great blessing of knowing that Jesus Christ is our Savior and our friend, our good friend, who has done all He could to provide everything necessary for us to return and live with Him and our Father. I testify to you that God the Father lives, that He is our Father, that He loves us, and that Christ has provided, through the Atonement, the way that we may all return and live with Him and with the Father. This is my calm assurance and my testimony that I leave with you, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen

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