Stand Steadfast and Immovable
I’m hoping today that I can say a few things that would be especially suited to each of you. As President Richards mentioned, I was called as a bishop last August in my home ward, and prior to that I was serving in a bishopric in a singles ward at the University of Utah. I served there for a few years and just absolutely loved that experience, the feeling of the energy and enthusiasm and sharing some of the grief and worries and anxieties of your life as you are at an important crossroads. As President Richards was talking about the bishop, it reminded me of a story about a bishop who was newly called. He went home to his wife and he said, “Honey, I feel so alone and inadequate.”
His wife was trying to reassure him, and she said, “Well, honey, you shouldn’t feel alone; a lot of people think you are inadequate.” I think I can relate to that a little bit today.
Several years ago our family was vacationing in Hawaii. And we had been out playing and having fun. We returned back to our hotel room and one of the kids turned on the TV. I was in the other room doing something, and then I heard someone yell from the other room, “Dad! Our house is on CNN!” My heart stopped, and that began the roots of a basic phrase that is well-turned at our house now, and that is “If your house in on CNN, most likely it’s not good news.”
That’s exactly what happened to us. There was a large wildfire on the hillside behind our home. Fortunately it was extinguished and we went on, but I had a similar experience a couple of weeks ago. I was taking my younger daughter to her seminary class about 6:30 in the morning. I was listening to the radio while I was talking to her on the way to her school, and on the radio it said that a water main had burst. It was a bitterly cold morning, and because the water main had burst, there was water that was scattered all over this piece of property and it had flooded out the neighbors next door. And then it gave the address.
I remember thinking, “Wow, that’s kind of close to a piece of property we own. I’m glad that it wasn’t ours.” Well, within about ten minutes my phone rang, and you know the rest of the story, right? They said, “Well, we’ve got a problem. There’s water going everywhere.” Anyway, it did thousands of dollars worth of damage. It was finally arrested and put to bed, but it turned out that wherever a high-pressure water line is laid in a piece of property, as the water is turned on the pressures are so great that where there is a turn in that pipe, it often will blow the pipe apart, unless something very significant happens. There’s a large chunk of concrete that’s poured around that corner, that turn, that juncture there in the pipe. It’s called a thrust block. A thrust block serves no other purpose than to just keep the pipe in one place. That’s its entire purpose. And it turned out, I found out later, that the thrust block on the corner of this large pipe that was pressurized and located on our property had moved, I was told, maybe 1/16th of an inch. And because it had moved 1/16th of an inch, the water burst out of the pipe and it created some real interesting problems for us.
As I’ve been thinking about you, I would like to speak a little bit—not on thrust blocks today—but on the idea of standing steadfast and immovable.
You are probably familiar with the famous message from King Benjamin in Mosiah 5:15: “Therefore, I would that ye should be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in good works, that Christ, the Lord God Omnipotent, may seal you his, that you may be brought to heaven, that ye may have everlasting salvation and eternal life, through the wisdom, and power, and justice, and mercy of him who created all things, in heaven and in earth, who is God above all. Amen.”
Think with me, if you will, for a moment about what it means to be steadfast and immovable. The dictionary definition says that “steadfast” means “firmly fixed in place”—interestingly enough, one of the definitions is “immovable”—“not subject to change, firm in belief, determination, or adherence.” And I’m going to add one other word for us to think about today, and the word that I would share with you is to be “steady.”
It seems to me that being steadfast and immovable is a higher requirement than simply being good. I think to me, being steadfast means we are continually good. There are places, important places, where the word “undeviating” is used as the gospel is taught, and I would suggest to you today that our challenge—and maybe it’s a double challenge for you as younger people—is to be consistently good in that which you do, to be steadfast.
My son tells me that every time the scriptures use the word “faithful,” he has learned to substitute . . . because he said, “Dad, to me the word ‘faithful’ as used in the scriptures is to be consistent. And God expects us to be consistently good.” In the scriptures, there are quite a few references to this. We know that God values steadiness in a high way.
Alma mentioned to his son, Shiblon. In Alma 38:2 he says this: “And now, my son, I trust that I shall have great joy in you, because of your steadiness and your faithfulness unto God; for as you have commenced in your youth to look to the Lord your God, even so I hope that you will continue in keeping his commandments; for blessed is he that endureth to the end.”
So Alma is telling Shiblon, “Thank you,” “Congratulations,” “I’m grateful that you have chosen to be steady.”
Let’s talk about you and your lives for a moment. If you think about you, your friends, your roommates, those who are around you, do you think steadfastness and immovability describes who you are? Or would it maybe describe something else? Let me tell you how I would view you students. I would say that you are full of faith and light; you’re full of great energy. Many of you to me are noble and honored pioneers. I am told that you come from over 60 different countries and all 50 states. Many of you I think are first-generation college students—you’ve done something that hasn’t been done maybe ever in your family, or perhaps not in a very long time. You are pioneers. I honor you.
To think out of 14-plus million members of the Church, that you are one of the few thousand who has the opportunity of studying and learning here at the feet of prophets is to me an astounding and overwhelming compliment to you. How great I think you are, and how amazing it is that your path, through the hand of our Father in Heaven, has led you to an opportunity like this.
But let me also say that I think it is typical of young people your age—even returned missionaries, even faithful Church members—to maybe be a bit unsteady, a bit unreliable, and maybe a bit unfocused. Maybe even a little movable in some ways. And so we have a great challenge, don’t we, and a great opportunity.
We learn from King Benjamin and many others that a steady way is pleasing to our Father in Heaven, and, I would argue, essential to our ability to progress. I want to reassure you and let you know that you are not in unfamiliar territory. I’m going to tell you a little bit about the struggle of even some of our Father in Heaven’s greatest prophets, who struggled with this idea of being steady. As you think about being unsteady, I want to add one other word to your notes and to your thoughts, and that is the idea of being casual. And I want you to know that I think being casual is a great sin, and I believe that it is a very serious offense before our Father in Heaven. I hope if we make mistakes they’re honest mistakes, and never mistakes of just being apathetic or casual about things that are eternally vital to our progress going forward.
Let’s think of a few of the prophets. Joseph Smith—here’s what he said: “I was left to all kinds of temptations; and, mingling with all kinds of society, I frequently fell into many foolish errors, and displayed the weakness of youth, and the foibles of human nature; which, I am sorry to say, led me into divers temptations, which were offensive in the sight of God.” (Joseph Smith—History 1:28)
And then in the next verse, Joseph Smith explains, “I didn’t do anything that serious.” (see the rest of verse 28) It wasn’t that bad, but it was clear he was bothered by his unsteadiness as a youth, and so ought we to be, I think, by our own unsteadiness.
We have a nephew who a few years ago was single, your age, still trying to find himself a little bit. And we had a saying at our house that he was a member of the “Better Offer Club.” And we would invite him to come to dinner with us on Sunday, for example, and he would say, “I’ll be there.” And we’d kind of look at each other and cross our fingers and say, “We hope.” But we also knew that he was unsteady, and if he got a better offer, even five minutes before he walked out the door to come to dinner at our house, we would not see that nephew. He was a devout and dues-paying member of the Better Offer Club. I’m wondering how many of you, and how many of us are guilty of that. I hope if you are a member of the Better Offer Club, you will tender your resignation and let other people be a part of that and realize that commitments and steadiness are great virtues that you ought to embrace with all of your hearts.
There were a few other prophets who talked a little bit about this idea of being steady. The brother of Jared, I think we would all agree, is one of the great prophets anywhere in the Book of Mormon, or anywhere on record, for that matter. In Ether 4, listen to this promise that came to the brother of Jared: “There never were greater things made manifest than those which were made manifest unto the brother of Jared.” (verse 4) Can you imagine? There is another scripture that says God showed the brother of Jared everything, (see verse 7) and we know later that He revealed even Himself to the brother of Jared.
But what happened is that they started out at the Tower of Babel with Jared and his brother and their families. And I love that Jared went to his brother and he said, “Would you ask God not to confound our language, because I really want to be able to talk to you.” So he went and asked, and God said, “OK.” Then Jared said to his brother, “Would you go back to God and ask if we could take our families to a better place than where we’re at right now?” And he said, “OK,” and God gave that wish to them. And then he said, “Would you show us”—Jared said to his brother, “Would you ask God to show us where we should go?” And he said OK, and they did, and the scriptures say that the brother of Jared received revelation. (See Ether 1:33-43) God showed them where to go, and eventually they reached, it says in Ether 2, verse 1: “It came to pass that Jared and his brother, and their families, and also the friends of Jared and his brother and their families, went down into the valley which was northward, (and the name of the valley was Nimrod, being called after the mighty hunter) with their flocks which they had gathered together, male and female, of every kind.”
So God led them to this valley, and the valley was right on the edge of the seashore. And then something interesting happened with this incredible, great prophet to whom the Lord had given so much, and that is, they found the valley of Nimrod was nice. It was beautiful. It had what they thought they needed. So the brother of Jared stopped asking God for direction. They were told they hadn’t yet made it to the choice and promised land, which eventually was America, where the Jaredite nation was later founded and grew to become an amazing society.
But for four years, the brother of Jared, we’re told, became a little bit unsteady. At least we can presume as much in the 14th verse of Ether 2. Here’s what happened after four years: “It came to pass at the end of four years . . . the Lord came again unto the brother of Jared, and stood in a cloud and talked with him.” This was not a talk I think you would want to be a part of. It says, “For the space of three hours did the Lord talk with the brother of Jared, and [He] chastened him because he remembered not to call upon the name of the Lord.” For four years. Now, we don’t know all of the details of that, and we know that the brother of Jared was rightly chastened by that conversation. He re-engaged and had some amazing things happen with the barges that were built, and finally seeing the finger of God and later the figure of God Himself.
And finally, the example I will give you, even the prophet Nephi, who I think we think was always perfectly steady and is an amazing example for us, wrote this in the 2 Nephi 4:18: “I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me.”
So brothers and sisters, I only share those with you to say if you are so easily encompassed about and beset by challenges and temptations and unsteady influences in your life, I want you to have faith that you can do better, and I want you to make a commitment to be more steady.
Elder Mark E. Petersen said this: “There is no reward for half-hearted obedience. We must become vigorous and enthusiastic about living our religion, for God commands that we serve him with all our heart, with all our might, with all our strength, and with the very best of our intelligence. With him there can be no halfway measures. We must be fully for him or we may be classed with those who are against him.” (“Where Do We Stand?” Ensign, May 1980)
And he said, “Half obedience will be rejected as readily as a full violation, and maybe quicker, for half rejection and half acceptance is but a sham, an admission of lack of character, a lack of love for Him. It is actually an effort to live on both sides of the line.” (We Believe in Being Honest,” Ensign, May 1982, 14)
So today, brothers and sisters, I’d like to offer you three keys to becoming more steadfast and immovable in your life—three ideas that you could add to and enlarge on in your life, but three ideas that I’m confident if you follow them will bring you power to become more steady.
The first is this: Fill your life with light. We live in an age of addictions and distractions. I cannot imagine how befuddling it would be to a pioneer to explain to them that one of our problems today is video-game addiction. Can you imagine? To them that whole idea would seem so completely strange to them. But we have any number of additional addictions that come with that. The list goes on and on—pornography, gambling, Internet, television, drugs, alcohol. There are even virtuous activities that become addictive and negative and vices to our soul like exercise taken to excess, sleeping or eating—even wholesome foods, eating that to excess. That’s the society we live in.
In addition to that, we have another big problem and that is we’re just so overwhelmed with media and with materialistic and temporal messages that it is a struggle for us to maintain a steadiness and a focus. I would say this, though. I believe it is as important for us to know what doesn’t matter, what we shouldn’t be reading, what we shouldn’t be watching, what we shouldn’t be involving ourselves in, as it does to know what does matter. We have to know what doesn’t help us, what can hurt us, and we have to eliminate each and every one of those things from our lives.
We have an abundance of choices. Many of them are good, but few that are really in our best eternal interest. And so my suggestion is that we fill our lives with things that bring light and power to us.
In my previous experience in a bishopric and as a bishop now, I will tell you there are people every week who come to me with serious addictions and weaknesses, some of them that have been with them for a long time. In our ward we had a missionary meeting last Sunday for a young man who has struggled with an addiction for something like six or eight years. And I haven’t been dealing with him that entire time, but I so admire that young man because he persisted. He fought. And finally, the key that got him past this addiction that was destroying his life was that he simply engaged himself fully and wholly and completely in seeking after spiritual power in his life. He immersed himself in the scriptures. He gave me a written report every week on what he had read, on what he had learned. We were able to get him more involved in Church callings and doing other things that way, and he became totally humble. He said, “Bishop, I will do anything you ask me to do.” And he did. And I saw with him a great rise of spiritual power that came to him. And as his spiritual power grew, his lust for that addiction, his kind of connection, the magnetism of it, waned totally and he really was not interested. He was able to completely turn from it and it was a beautiful thing to see light come into his face and power come into his life. And I would suggest to you that that is available to each of us.
But brothers and sisters, it comes in the little choices that you make every day of your life—the TV show that you’re watching, your choice to stay home and not attend Family Home Evening, your unwillingness to walk down the street and participate in baptisms for the dead at the temple. That’s just a stone’s throw away from you here. Those little choices, I promise you, will either give you power or will take power from you, as it goes on.
We all know the Captain Moroni principle; it’s found in Alma 48, and it says, “If all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni . . . the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men.” (verse 17) And then it says, what was it about Moroni that bound Satan so well? Well, in verse 16: “This was the faith of Moroni, and his heart did glory in it; not in the shedding of blood but in doing good, in preserving his people, yea, [and] in keeping the commandments of God . . . and [in] resisting iniquity.”
Brothers and sisters, please do not think that being casual or half-obedient is acceptable to our Father in Heaven. It is not. He requires a full measure of our obedience, of our commitment, of our faith and of our willingness to do everything we can to build the kingdom and to follow after Him. And it is a joyful process as that happens. But in your own life, consider carefully the things that happen.
We know in Alma 56 about the sons of Helaman. Their power came, we are told, because they obeyed “with exactness.” (Alma 57:21) And our power will come in exactly the same way.
Number two, the second key to helping us be steadfast and immovable: We must be willing to do hard but worthwhile things. I think we have an interesting message that is in our culture, which is that easy is good and hard is bad. And so we have this inclination to avoid things that are hard and look for the easy way. I don’t know how many thousands and millions of hours have been spent perfecting the TV remote control. Do you know what I mean? I mean, somebody doesn’t like where the buttons are, and somebody says, “Well maybe if we made it a little bit larger,” and somebody else says, “Well, maybe we could have a remote control that could handle the DVD, and the TV, and the VCR and the radio, then life would be good.” And yet, you think about that—wow, we’re not able to stand up and push a button? It’s a sad commentary, isn’t it, on all of us probably, and I’m as guilty as the next, I think. But let me just say that easy is not good. I don’t believe that our Father in Heaven places a very high value on things being easy. I don’t think it’s a priority of His to make our lives easy. I don’t think He cares about that. We see in 2 Nephi 28:24, “Therefore, wo be unto him that is at ease in Zion!”
I think sometimes the hard things are not complicated; the hard things sometimes are the simple things we just can’t do. Let me give you just a few examples: our home or visiting teaching. That’s a hard big thing that is very within our grasp. Calling your mother on occasion. That may be a hard thing for some of you, but that is something you can do. Attending Family Home Evening, and maybe one of the great challenges of your lives—caring in a deep and meaningful way for your roommates, including maybe even cleaning the refrigerator once in a while.
So brothers and sisters, I would tell you that those things matter. They are simple. Sometimes they’re hard, and they bring us power. May I suggest that you savor the joy of hard work, that you love doing things that are worth doing that are difficult, and that you take pleasure in the accomplishment of a worthy challenge in your life. There is little satisfaction in doing things that are easy. There is great satisfaction in tackling a great and difficult task.
President Kimball, one of my favorite quotes from him—think about this from a wonderful, awesome prophet of God—and this was from 1979: “This is my feeling for the work at this moment. There are great challenges . . . giant opportunities to be met. I welcome that exciting prospect and feel to say to the Lord, humbly, ‘Give me this mountain,’ give me these challenges. . . . I will ‘wholly follow the Lord my God’ to the fullest extent of my energy and my ability.” (“Give Me This Mountain,” Ensign, Nov. 1979, 78)
Brothers and sisters, can I suggest that each of us solemnly, sacredly in prayer, and humbly take that same vow: Give me this mountain. Give me worthy challenges. Give me the opportunities to accomplish the things that You want me to do, and I will give You my full energy, my ability, and everything that I have to the accomplishment of worthwhile objectives.
I just want to touch on a principle that I love, and we don’t have time. It could be a talk in itself. In the 88 th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, write down this verse—verse 32. In the verses preceding this verse, it talks about the various kingdoms and those who will receive rewards as they go to the kingdoms. It talks about those who will go to the celestial, the terrestrial, the telestial kingdom. And then in verse 32 it talks about everybody else—those who won’t receive those rewards of glory. It says, “They who remain”—meaning those who are left over—“shall . . . enjoy that which they are willing to receive, because they were not willing to enjoy that which they might have received.” I love the fairness and the comprehensive nature of the gospel. There is no LSAT to go to the celestial kingdom. To your great relief, there is no ACT. There is no MCAT, no GMAT. There’s not a handsome test, which I am particularly grateful for. But all there is is a measure of our willingness to do what we can, to do what is in every one of our own individual and our collective power. And so it comes down to our willingness to give of ourselves, to extend ourselves, to do hard things, and to simply be found on the right side of the line.
Brothers and sisters, you can have every gift God has promised. You can have the full complement of His blessings if only you are willing to receive it. It’s a beautiful principle that I love. And I might tell you that willingness is something that we’re all capable of giving, but even great prophets have at times been unwilling. You are familiar with Jonah, right? And he wanted to go to Tarshish because he really didn’t want to go to Nineveh. There is the story of Moses and Enoch, both who were amazing prophets, both who said the same thing, interestingly, when they were called. They both said, “I am slow of speech. Why do you want me to do this? I’m not capable of doing this.” And our Father in Heaven said, “I know, but I am, and I can give you everything you need so you can be capable.” (See Moses 6:31-34; Genesis 4:10-15)
And I suggest that is the case for each of us. President Benson said this, and it’s worth remembering: “When our obedience ceases to be an irritant and becomes our quest, in that moment God will endow us with power.” (quoted in Elder Donald L. Staheli, “Obedience—Life’s Great Challenge,” Ensign, May 1998) I love that.
The final thing that I would suggest to you is the third key for being steadfast and immovable. It comes down to one word, and that word is “remember.” The word “remember” is found 136 times in the Book of Mormon. Many of the prophets talked about the power they received by remembering what God had done for their forefathers. For those who have been on missions, for all of us here, if we could remember the times that God saved us. Nephi thought often about the time when He helped them get the brass plates. I’ll bet you have an experience like that in your own life. Think of the time or the times when God did something extraordinary to bless you in your life. We all have had them. We should remember that. If we remember that everything we’re being asked to do is simply to submit ourselves and to be willing to do what we can and are fully capable of doing, we will find that our quest to be steady becomes a joyful experience. It is awesome to feel the approbation of our Father in Heaven, to feel His Spirit supporting us and encouraging us, to feel inspiration guiding us about what major to take, or how to get through that next test that you’re all stressed out and worried about. I hope, brothers and sisters, we will remember all that our Father in Heaven has done for us.
I would just say in closing that I think these three keys are very valuable to us. I hope because of the easiness of the way for us, we will not be guilty of the great and extreme sin of casualness in our faith. I hope, in the little things of your life, that you will make a resolution to be better, to be more steadfast and immovable in your own little way, whatever that is. So the three things are: (1) Fill your life with light—crave it, seek it, desire it. Avoid and shun those things that are going to take light from you, and be involved diligently, wholeheartedly in those things that will bring you spiritual power. (2) Be willing to do things that are hard. And (3) simply remember the experiences of your life where good things have happened.
I want you to know that even those prophets that I have mentioned, who struggled in their youth, think of all that they accomplished in their life. Think of Enoch, the City of Enoch. The scriptures said that Zion was fled, and his city was taken. (See Moses 7:69) Think of Joseph Smith and how amazingly steady he became as time went on in his life. Think of Nephi and all of the times that he stood up resolute and powerful, immovable in every way.
I want to promise you that God keeps His promises, and I also want to testify to you that He will always be steadfast and immovable in our behalf. I love these words from the hymn “How Firm a Foundation”:
The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose
I will not, I cannot, desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake…
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake!
I’ll just close with this. The promise that King Benjamin mentioned in Mosiah 5:15 says this: If we are “steadfast and immovable, Christ, the Lord God Omnipotent, [will] seal us his, that you may be brought to heaven, that ye may have everlasting salvation and eternal life, through the wisdom, and power, and justice, and mercy of him who created all things.” I testify to you that that is true, and I leave you with my love and that testimony in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.