Be Faithful, Trust in the Lord’s Timing
Let me start with a true story from a favorite professor at BYU. Brother Tolman is a wonderful and unique individual. He was funny in the classroom and spiritual, and he cared about his students. He also cared about being honorable. One morning prior to his class, he had a student show up in his office, and the student reported to him that apparently he had witnessed another student cheating on an exam. Apparently, this was a take-home exam and no materials were to be used, and the student said to Brother Tolman, “I don’t want to be a snitch or a tattle-tale, but I signed the Honor Code, too.”
Brother Tolman thanked the student and went to class, and as he stood by the door he gathered the tests, and when he recognized the so-called offender, he put the test at the bottom of the pile. And then he did something rather creative. He stood in front of the class and he told them that he knew of two people that had cheated, not just one. He gave them a choice. He said, “Come to me and confess, and I’ll still fail you on the test, but I won’t report you to the Honor Code Office.” And if they didn’t confess to him, he said that he would not only fail them but he would contact the Honor Code Office and have them call their parents and recommend that they be expelled from the university.
Later that day six people confessed to him of cheating. So I’m going to ask a favor of you today. Would you please be totally honest with yourself as I speak to you today?
I want to share an experience that I had while serving my mission in South Africa. The story, however, begins when I was a young boy. My parents, even though active in the Church, had never been to the temple to be sealed. My father and mother both held Church callings—in fact, I believe that my father may hold some sort of record for being the ward financial clerk for 39 years and working with nine bishops. The fact that our family was not sealed together weighed heavily upon me as a young member of the Church. You can imagine how interesting it was to have parents that were active members of the Church, they paid their tithes and offerings, and, as far as I knew, did everything that would qualify them to participate in the covenants of the temple. But for some reason, they just didn’t do it.
I left to serve my mission with this weighing upon my mind, and I prayed more and more to have the Lord bless my parents to go to the temple. In fact, I was somewhat distracted by this, and I couldn’t be the effective missionary that I needed to be. I had this on my mind constantly.
I had been a missionary for about four months when I had an experience that changed my life forever. I was again petitioning the Lord to bless my parents, to soften their hearts. And then a voice spoke to me. It wasn’t a loud or a harsh voice, but a voice of peace and mildness that simply and confidently said, “Trust in the Lord, and all will go right.”
I refer here to the scripture in Proverbs that says, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)
I knew at that moment that everything was going to be all right. I knew that the Lord’s timing was not my timing, and I could lay aside this worry for now and concentrate on being a missionary. Concerning revelation, the Prophet Joseph Smith said, “A person may profit by noticing the first intimation of the spirit of revelation; for instance, when you feel pure intelligence flowing into you, it may give you sudden strokes of ideas, … and thus, by learning the Spirit of God and understanding it, you may grow into the principle of revelation until you become perfect in Christ Jesus.” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, Chapter 10: “Prayer and Personal Revelation,” , 125-34.)
I know that the principle of revelation is real. Three years after returning home from missionary service, I was sitting at the kitchen table having a conversation with my mother. The subject of going to the temple came up, and surprisingly she said, “Well, we’ve decided to go through the temple.” She followed up by saying that my father had come home from church two weeks earlier, and to her surprise had said that he felt it was time. She thought that it was the right time as well, and so they went through the interview process, they received their recommends, and we were all sealed together in the St. George Temple.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks said, “In all the important decisions in our lives, what is most important is to do the right thing. Second, and only slightly behind the first, is to do the right thing at the right time. People who do the right thing at the wrong time can be frustrated and ineffective. They can even be confused about whether they made the right choice when what was wrong was not their choice but their timing.” (“Timing,” Ensign, Oct. 2003, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/2003/10/timing?lang=eng.)
Let me tell you a little bit about timing in my life. I was baptized when I was eight years old. I received the Aaronic Priesthood when I was 12; I received the Melchizedek Priesthood when I was 18. I made covenants in the temple. I served an honorable mission, and I graduated college. Sounds about right, doesn’t it? However, I wasn’t married. I dated, I searched, but I felt that as I did so it just wasn’t the right time. I accepted a job in upstate New York upon my graduation from BYU. It was a wonderful opportunity. I later moved to Washington, D.C., and had an amazing experience there with friends, and I took opportunities to grow both spiritually and intellectually. I loved the wards there. I participated in those wards, and yet no wife. I was beginning to believe that my wife had perished in the war in heaven. I was to learn later—no, she hadn’t. It just wasn’t time.
It also wasn’t easy. It was hard to face the questions of “Why aren’t you married?” Or the standard, “What’s wrong with you?” I had some great comebacks to those questions, but regardless, people’s comments dug deep, and they hurt. However, I knew that the Lord was not going to leave me in the dust. It was never meant to be that way for me or for you. I’m also convinced that, as a single member of the Church, you face some of the hardest challenges with the concept of faith. We must learn to trust in the Lord, and all will go right.
Elder Oaks also said, “The first principle of the gospel is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Faith means trust—trust in God’s will, trust in His way of doing things, and trust in His timetable. We should not try to impose our timetable on his. As Elder Neal A. Maxwell …has said, ‘The issue for us is trusting God enough to trust also His timing. If we can truly believe He has our welfare at heart, may we not let His plans unfold as He thinks best? The same is true with the Second Coming and with all those matters wherein our faith needs to include faith in the Lord’s timing for us personally, not just in His overall plans and purposes.’ ” (also from “Timing,” by Elder Oaks)
Many of us have to step from the light into the darkness and truly exercise that particle of faith. If we don’t know where to start, we can follow the counsel of Alma, where he said, “Begin to believe in the Son of God.” (Alma 33:22) At that moment, we will be led, as President Packer said, to the edge of the light, and step in the darkness to discover that the way is lighted ahead, with just a footstep or two. The spirit of man is, as the scripture says, “the candle of the Lord.” (Proverbs 20:27; see also “The Edge of Light,” BYU Magazine, Mar. 1991, magazine.byu.edu.)
This action takes courage and it takes hope. One of the most important things that you can do now is to stay worthy and to stay clean. I am convinced that if you do all that you can in keeping yourself worthy, willing, and able, that you will have the opportunity to marry, whether in this life or the next. It will happen in the Lord’s time. That does not excuse those who give up or give in to sin or temptation, or put off the more important things for worldly gain or ambition. When the scriptures talk about being anxiously engaged, that means that we must work.
I’m very glad that I have Laurie here with me today. As you can see, I married way up. Laurie is solid in the gospel; she has deep spiritual roots and has paid the price and worked hard for a strong testimony and the Spirit. Her unyielding determination to be faithful to her covenants is a great example to me.
Laurie and I first met in 1993 when she returned home from the Arcadia California Spanish-speaking Mission. We dated a couple of times, as we were lined up by my niece and her husband, who just also happens to be Laurie’s brother. Now because this is a test even to the trained genealogist, I won’t explain that, except to say that it’s a legal and lawful marriage. While I was attracted to Laurie and I thought we had a good time, she was not even close to pursuing anything seriously with me. She wasn’t ready. Can you imagine that? And so we went our separate ways. And I want to share with you that she just didn’t sit around. She just didn’t sit around waiting for things to happen. She was proactive. She obtained her undergraduate degrees. She participated in a study abroad. She did a number of things. And then she also started and eventually received her law degree.
Fast forward, then, four years later. Here I was at 33, still single, and I will never forget that day in March when she called me. Laurie had had an experience that prompted her to contact me. After returning home from yet another date that went nowhere, Laurie’s mother said, “Why don’t you just call Mitch?” I was glad she did. We had our second first date on March 13th. I knew after only a couple more dates that I was to marry Laurie, so at the end of April I decided to travel with Laurie and, I guess for support, two nieces and a nephew, to Disneyland. And I proposed to Laurie at the Wishing Well at the base of Cinderella’s Castle.
Now while that Cinderella story sounds great, it wasn’t 15 seconds after I proposed that Satan made his move. I want you to take a look at this picture of me right after the proposal. Now Laurie uses this as evidence that Satan is real, because she says I was trying to choke myself rather than going through with the wedding.
Each one of us throughout our lives will make decisions and will reach certain milestones. Those decisions bring us to a point where we are tried by the adversary, and we may start to doubt. Elder Holland here has wonderful counsel. He said, “I wish to encourage every one of you today regarding opposition that so often comes after enlightened decisions have been made, after moments of revelations and conviction have given us a peace and an assurance we thought we would never lose. In his letter to the Hebrews, the Apostle Paul was trying to encourage new members who had just joined the Church, who undoubtedly had had spiritual experiences and had received the pure light of testimony, only to discover that not only had their troubles not ended, but that some of them had only just begun. …
“Paul pled with those new members… [and he] said to those who thought a new testimony, [or conviction, or] conversion, or a spiritual baptismal experience would put them beyond trouble, ‘Call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions” (Hebrews 10:32; emphasis added).’
“Then came this tremendous counsel…: ‘Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise…. If any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him…. We are not of them who draw back unto perdition’ (Hebrews 10:35-36, 38-39; emphasis added).
“In LDS talk that is to [simply] say, ‘Sure it is tough—before you join the Church, while you are trying to join, and after you’ve joined.’ ” [And may I add, when you’re getting ready for a mission or for marriage.] “That is the way it has always been, Paul said, but don’t ‘draw back.’ … Don’t panic… [Don’t] retreat. Don’t lose your confidence. Don’t forget how you once felt. Don’t distrust the experience that you had.” (“Cast Not Away Therefore Your Confidence,” BYU Devotional, March 2, 1999, http://speeches.byu.edu/?act=viewitem&id=795.)
So, for three months of our engagement, Laurie was patient with me as I was pummeled with doubt. However, I relied upon the spiritual answer and experience that I had, and I relied upon the power of the priesthood. The night before our wedding, I sought advice from a very spiritual and very inspired stake president. He blessed me, and he told me to rely upon those feelings that I had experienced. I went home and slept soundly. Laurie did not. In fact, she was convinced that I wouldn’t even show up at the temple. However, I came to the temple a different person. I was confident. I knew that the Lord wanted this marriage to happen. And when I approached Laurie that morning, she knew that I knew. It was the best decision that I ever made.
Now, it would have been easy to just give in to the doubts and fear, and give up. It would have been easy to say, “You know what? I’m done.” I could have thrown in the towel. But I didn’t, and I’m very glad that Laurie was patient and that she didn’t either.
Once you have received personal revelation and answers from the Lord, please stay the course. When I was learning how to drive, my father taught me a very valuable lesson. In the mountain areas of southern Utah, you have to really watch for deer crossing the road. A hard thing to teach is to not overreact to a deer jumping in front of your car. My father taught me that you have to make the choice to hold your course long before that incident ever happens. It is much too dangerous to make the choice at the time of the incident.
This principle can be applied today as we face spiritual fender-benders, detours, and potentially serious accidents. In time—in fact, within two weeks of receiving my driver’s license—I faced the very challenge that my father had warned me about. We were on our way to a basketball game in Panguitch from the more upscale and thriving metropolis of Parowan when a deer jumped right in front of us. I had been taught, and I’d made up my mind that I would press on the brakes as hard as I could, hold my course, and resist the temptation to veer to the left or to the right.
It was a good thing. On my left a car was approaching, and on the right was a very steep canyon. We came close to hitting the deer, but we didn’t. And the decision that I had been taught and that I had made, to hold the course previous to the incident, paid off.
If we yield to Satan and not follow the Lord’s well-marked road, it can have devastating consequences. What I’m asking you today is to prepare now, decide now to heed the promptings of the Spirit, even when it’s hard. And believe me, the three months of our engagement—wow, were they hard. Make the decision now how you will react, and don’t let the laughter from the “tall and spacious building” get in the way of doing the right thing.
Consider Joshua and the Israelites. The scriptures say, “Joshua said unto the people, Sanctify yourselves; for to morrow the Lord will do wonders among you.” (Joshua 3:5)
In the Doctrine and Covenants, it says, “Sanctify yourselves and ye shall be endowed with power.” (D&C 43:16) If we sanctify ourselves, prepare ourselves, and exercise faith, then surely the Lord will do wonders among us. It is time, right now, to put away the childish things and turn our hearts toward the Savior. We can still have fun. We can laugh. We can experience life in its fullest. I know that, because I know the Lord wants us to be happy. And in order to be truly happy in the Lord’s way, we must live the Lord’s will.
So what does it take? Well, it takes courage and strength. It takes discipline. What is needed are valiant Saints that are willing to turn off the filth and tune into the scriptures. We need a force of Saints that are willing to stop texting long enough to learn how to speak, and to raise a common voice high and clear and loud that serves God. Plain and simply, we need to be desirous of doing good, of keeping virtue as one of our most precious gifts, and of repenting and of continually striving to repent and fulfill our duty to God.
All of us need to be totally obedient. One young man who kept going to the edge of the obedience cliff said, “You know, I’ll be totally obedient when I get on my mission.” Now is the time to do this. How can you expect to suddenly be a starter on the team when you push the envelope of sin and mischief now? It would do as much good if you put a bag over your head and ran across the freeway.
In the end, we want to be on the winning team, and believe it or not, we’re already on the winning team. The outcomes are known, the score is already posted. We just have to continue to stay on the Lord’s team and contribute all that we have.
Now, trust in yourself. Give yourself some credit. Be not faithless but believing. And know that God is in control and you will not be forgotten or abandoned. Your righteous desires will come to pass in the Lord’s time. But in your quest to have great personal revelation, please don’t force any spiritual decision, including that of marriage. Let it happen naturally, and maintain and protect your virtue and the Lord’s standards as you progress towards that goal.
The Lord has said, “My words are sure and shall not fail,… But all things must come to pass in their time.” (Doctrine and Covenants 64:31-32) Nothing that I’ve tried to force in my life has ever worked out. In fact, forcing the Spirit can have the opposite effect, and can bring into your lives the powers of the adversary.
However, if we will heed the challenge to do better, to be better, to rise above the world and conquer the negative things that we have in our lives, our Father in Heaven and His Son will stand by us. That doesn’t mean that we can be perfect right now, but it does mean that for everything that we need—everything for our success and well-being is available and we need to simply grasp the iron rod and hang on.
I’ll share with you a personal goal that I have, or whatever you want to call it. I don’t say, “If I make it.” I say, “When I make it.” Now for some, that may sound arrogant. It’s not meant to be. Rather, I am confident that Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son did not send us here to fail. We need to be more confident in the plan. I believe in self-fulfilling prophecies, and I have to go forward with this type of faith. Anything less—well, it would be failure. And I’m not here to fail and neither are you.
Now don’t give up. You hang in there. Yes, there will be days of darkness ahead. But the light of the gospel, the doctrine of Christ, will give us confidence, and is a beacon that will lead us through this battle.
Elder Richard G. Scott said, “When you feel that there is only a thin thread of hope, it is really not a thread but a massive connecting link, like a life preserver to strengthen and lift you. It will provide comfort so you can cease to fear. Strive to live worthily and place your trust in the Lord.
“We need not worry if we can’t simultaneously do all the things that the Lord has counseled us to do. He has spoken of a time and a season for all things. In response to our sincere prayers for guidance, He will direct us in what should be emphasized at each phase of our life. We can learn, grow, and become like Him one consistent step at a time. (“For Peace at Home,” April 2013 General Conference, http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2013/04/for-peace-at-home.)
Now we all have hardships. Is it worth it? Yes. I want to show you our family picture now. Are our troubles over? No. Are we the perfect family? No. Are we facing problems now? Yes, of course we are. But I am confident that, as we make solemn covenants and promises before God, He will be there to buoy us up. As you face certain hardships and trials, He will not leave you. He will be there by your side, in some cases when no one else will.
Thank you for being who you are. Thank you for making me proud of my association with you. I love all of you, and I trust that all of us will go forth this day and rise above the world, not in self-righteousness, but in self-mastery and discipline, confidence.
I’m going to end by this hymn that I love. It gives me confidence and makes me want to be better. I’ve made a little variation in that hymn, and it goes like this:
Rise up, O [Saints] of God!
Have done with lesser things.
Give heart and soul and mind and strength
To serve the King of Kings.
Rise up, O [Saints] of God,
In one united throng.
Bring in the day of brotherhood
And end the night of wrong.
Rise up, O [Saints] of God!
Tread where His feet have trod.
As [a witness] of the Son of Man,
Rise up, O [Saints] of God!
(“Rise Up, O Men of God,” Hymns of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 323)
This is the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is true. I have had experiences in my life where I know that it is true. You need to gain those experiences, and I hope that if you haven’t, that you will. If you need to borrow from some of us, do so as you are gaining your own testimony. This is the work of the Lord. We’re not here by accident or chance. We’re here as servants to the Almighty. And as we follow His plan, the plan carried out by His wonderful and glorious Son, we will, in our own due time, receive all that the Father has.
I love you. I’m grateful for the gospel, and I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.