“Come unto me, all ye that labour”
Thank you choir. That was wonderful, beautiful rendition of a very familiar and favorite hymn. Brothers and Sisters, I am very grateful and thankful to be with you today. I was with President Nelson and others this morning. He would want me to extend to you his love and thanks for your goodness and your faith. I’m also grateful to be with your president and his wife, President and Sister Kusch. And I’m also grateful to have Sister Funk with me today, not only because of the fact that I love her and like having her with me, but what I will talk about will be something that we have experienced together.
During the past month, I’ve been learning about you. In addition to reading about the college, Sister Funk and I went to the college to explore. We enjoyed seeing the uplifting scriptural statements, photos and paintings on the walls. We learned that the bookstore is well stocked with food, not just books. We also met with several students to learn of their background, their goals and plans. Some were international students who described the challenges of learning in a second or third language. Others were life-long residents of Utah. One was about to be married and another was newly married. One was a single mother raising a large family. Though they were different in many ways, one thing they all seemed to share was that all of them were working very hard in their own circumstances. With that observation, I have prayed that Heavenly Father might guide me to say something of help to you in your various circumstances.
Nearly a year ago, President Kusch set forth a new mission statement for this college. At the core of that statement is this very important sentence: “The schools’ mission is to develop capable and trusted disciples of Jesus Christ.” I was pleased to see that statement. It goes to the heart of what each of us is striving to be or become. When I served as a mission president in India, the vision Sister Funk and I had for our missionaries was this verse in 3 Nephi 5:13: “Behold, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, I have been called of Him to declare His word among His people that they might have everlasting life.”
Mormon, the prophet who made that statement, could have described himself in many ways. He was the leader of the Nephite army. He was the abridger of the Book of Mormon. He was a prophet of God. But of all the titles he could have used to describe himself, he chose to identify himself as a disciple of Jesus Christ.
When you complete your education and begin a career, people will ask you what you do or who you are. For example, for 31 years Sister Funk and I lived in Colorado – the full duration of my professional career. As I would attend different meetings or events I was often asked who I was or what I did? I would usually respond that I was a lawyer or that I was the attorney for a specific client. But I hoped that those I met could see that I was a disciple of Jesus Christ by the way I conducted myself. Well today, I no longer practice law and when people ask who I am or what I do, I respond differently. Someday, the career for which you are studying and eagerly preparing to begin, will also come to an end. Then, what will you be? Before, during, and after earning a living, always be a disciple of Jesus Christ.
To help you in that effort, let me begin by describing an experience Sister Funk and I had while we were serving in India. We had gone to the city of Vishakhapatnam, a coastal city in Southern India. After arriving at the airport, we went to the hotel before going to meet with missionaries. It was about 10:00 am on a bright sunny day. The temperature would soon exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit and the humidity would be almost as high.
As we arrived in our hotel room, we looked out the window and noticed that on the lot adjacent to our hotel, there was a building under construction. We were on the fifth floor of the hotel and a man was carrying bags of cement up to what would become the fourth floor of this new building. A small cement mixer began to mix the cement as about four or five women dressed in traditional Indian dress, called saris, with large bowls or saucers began to climb the stairs. The man filled their bowls with cement. With heavy bowls of cement on their head, they would walk across interwoven rebar to the other side of the floor and pour the cement to begin making the floor of the building. Sister Funk and I watched for a few minutes as these small and thin but very strong women walked back and forth, back and forth, carrying these heavy loads of cement on their heads.
After a few minutes of watching, we needed to go to our meetings with the missionaries. When we returned that evening, we eagerly looked out the window to see what had happened. It was now after dark and a large light illuminated the almost completed floor. But there were the same women, going back and forth with their bowls of cement to finish the floor they had been constructing all through that long and very hot day.
As I thought of how hard they worked for barely subsistence pay, I remembered the Savior’s words, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (1)
Now, how does that apply to you? Here you are, living in this beautiful valley, attending this fine business college. Forty years ago, I was also a student here in Salt Lake City. Perhaps like some of you, I was feeling rather heavy laden. I was beginning my third year of law school and was very busy with my classes, the law review, and other responsibilities as a student. I also needed to find a job and was in the middle of the interviewing process during October that year. Sister Funk and I had a one-year old daughter and about this time of year we learned that we would have our second child. In addition, just after the school year had started in September, I had been called to serve as the elders quorum president in our married student ward. October 1978 was one of those times in my life when I was laboring with all my might but I felt very heavy laden.
Well, a decade later, on October 9, 1988, exactly 30 years ago and one week ago today, I was sustained and set apart as a stake president. By now we had five children and would later add a sixth. I was a relatively new partner in a larger Denver law firm, but the Denver economy was not doing very well, so I had to work hard. I felt heavy laden then too. Now, here we are in October 2018. I am laboring in my current calling, which I love, but at times it seems rather weighty. Do you see a pattern of life?
Perhaps some of you are feeling the weight of your current circumstances, even as you look to the future with hope. In addition to the many opportunities and choices we have because of education, we are blessed to know of Jesus Christ and His restored gospel. Because of our faith and trust in Him, I hope that each of us has or is in the process of accepting the Savior’s invitation: “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." (2)
For many, this is a challenging time in your life; yet, hopefully, a joyful time. You are seeking an education to better provide for you and your current or future family. You may be trying to find a companion or are adjusting to being newly married. Perhaps you are a single parent trying to support your family while pursuing more education. As I noted before, each of you is in a different situation, but in all situations, you may feel from time-to-time, uncertain, overwhelmed or simply exhausted as you labor to learn and do the many things that life requires. If that seems familiar, please remember the invitation Jesus has extended to all of us, “Come unto me." (3)
Notice how that phrase continues, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden." (4) The invitation is to those who are labouring, who are working, who are striving to improve or provide, but weighed down by the load of our responsibilities. Recognizing that at times the load we are called upon to bear is heavy, the Savior invited us to come unto Him so He could help us.
A common problem, among both students and those in the workplace, is to feel they are so busy, that they don’t have time for the simple religious practices that will draw them closer to the One who can most help them. They sometimes feel they don’t have time for the Sabbath, time for a calling, time for daily prayer and scripture study, or time for the temple. But what all of us really need, especially during those times, is to come unto Christ and let Him share our burdens.
I had a classmate in law school who discovered that he had started down the path of pulling away rather than coming unto Christ. He was a fine returned missionary, but early in the semester he decided one Sunday morning that he needed to catch up on some school work and didn’t make it to Church meetings that day. The next Sunday he went to visit a friend and so the third week he again felt behind and decided to study once more that Sunday rather than attending his Church meetings. Later that week, the elders quorum presidency of his ward came to visit him. Their question surprised him. They asked why he didn’t come to Church anymore. As he described their visit to me, he said, “I think they thought I was inactive.” Fortunately, that caring visit helped him realize he had fallen into a pattern that is very easy to do as a student or in your employment. He had much to do, as we all did, but instead of turning to the greatest source of help, he was turning away from it.
Let me illustrate this in another way. A strong draft horse can pull more than its own weight on a sled. How much then can two equally strong draft horses pull when yoked together? One would think about twice as much. But the answer is they can pull at least three times as much, and if they are well-trained and pulling in unison, they can pull four times as much as either of them could do alone.
Similarly, when you are very busy and don’t think you have time to pray, to read the scriptures, to attend Church, to fulfill a calling, or worship regularly in the temple – that is usually the time when you most need to do so. Especially during those times when you are laboring with all your might, share your burden with the Savior by taking His yoke upon you. During his concluding remarks at General Conference last week, President Nelson urged us to “find a way to make an appointment regularly with the Lord – to be in His holy house – then keep that appointment with exactness and joy.” He then added, “I promise you that the Lord will bring the miracles He knows you need as you make sacrifices to serve and worship in His temples.”
Here are a few recommendations to further help you:
First, accept the Savior’s invitation to come unto Him. “Draw near unto me,” He said, “and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. Whatsoever ye ask the Father in my name it shall be given unto you, that is expedient for you." (5)
Expedient means necessary or essential. As we draw closer to Him and seek, ask and knock, we can receive answers and help in doing what is needful or essential, even during challenging times.
To have faith in our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, means that we trust Them. We trust that They know us, They love us and will help us. They know what experiences will help us to attain our full potential during this mortal probation, and they will help us.
Second, while pursuing other important talents, skills and attributes, develop the ability to recognize and follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost. We not only need to know about our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, and Their divine attributes, but we need to know that the course in life we are pursuing is pleasing in Their sight. (6) To attain your full potential in this life, requires the stretching experiences of learning, working, serving and becoming, sometimes all at the same time. But how can you know if you are on the right course? How can you know if the day-to-day choices you are making in using your time are pleasing to God? Through the power of the Holy Ghost, you can know the things you should do, particularly those things that relate to your eternal salvation and happiness. (7)
In speaking about revelation during General Conference last April, President Nelson described how the Holy Ghost can assist us in every aspect of our lives. He spoke about how revelation had guided him not only in his new calling as the President of the Church, but long before that in important decisions about marriage, raising his family, his profession as a doctor, and in his prior service in the Church. President Nelson helped us understand what we need to do and to be to receive revelation. He said, “Nothing opens the heavens quite like the combination of increased purity, exact obedience, earnest seeking, daily feasting on the words of Christ in the Book of Mormon, and regular time committed to temple and family history work." (8) Always strive to do those things so you can receive the revelation you need to know that the course in life you are pursuing is pleasing in the sight of God.
Third, let others know your values and standards. It will help you and protect you. Following law school, I began working for a large law firm in Denver. Soon after I began working there, the firm held a social to welcome those of us who had just joined the firm. As I arrived at the social, I was kindly greeted. Then, while visiting with a couple of attorneys, one pointed to the beer and wine and asked which I wanted. I explained that I was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and so did not drink alcohol. They discovered there were no other beverages and sincerely apologized. Well, I simply enjoyed some of the food and getting acquainted with my new colleagues. A few months later, however, the firm had another social. As I arrived, several people approached me to point out that there were different types of juice and soft drinks that they had provided just for me. At every firm function after that, there was always something I could drink.
Later in my career, I was representing a very important client for our firm. As we were preparing for a negotiation with an opposing party and their attorney who had been rather difficult to deal with, my client recommended that I act differently than I normally did. He suggested I swear and get upset with the other party. I explained that I would be firm and clear about our position, but that I would not swear or become angry. While maintaining the standards I described, we accomplished all my client hoped for in those negotiations.
Living the gospel of Jesus Christ is never a burden. You will be protected and helped when others know your standards.
Fourth, as you labor and seek to do good in every aspect of your life, give thanks for the fact that the Savior will be with you in your righteous efforts. In the allegory of the olive trees found in Jacob 5, the Lord of the vineyard gave instructions to his servants and told them to “Go to, and labor in the vineyard, with your might." (9) Though they were few, and there was much to be done, “It came to pass that the servants did go and labor with their mights; and the Lord of the vineyard labored also with them.” (10) Though that verse is often used in connection with missionary work or other Church service, my experience is that the Savior will help us in every aspect of our life when we take His yoke upon us and allow Him to labor with us.
Now let me return to the women carrying cement and what I learned during my own educational endeavors 40 years ago. My feelings of deep compassion as I saw those women working so hard on that hot day were mixed with feelings of gratitude. Gratitude for a Savior, who provides hope, help and comfort when the burdens of life seem heavy.
When I accepted the calling to serve as a young elders quorum president forty years ago, I immediately went to Heavenly Father in sincere and very concerned prayer. I let Him know I had accepted the call to serve, but I didn’t know how I could possibly do all that I needed to do. I committed to do the best I could, but humbly asked for His help in every aspect of my life. What I learned that year has helped me during every year since then. I gained a firm conviction that as we heed the Savior’s invitation to come unto Him and take His yoke upon us, He will share our burdens.
I completed my degree, obtained better employment than I deserved, and our son was born just after graduation. Our family was greatly blessed in every expedient way. I labored hard that year, just as those of you whom I met are laboring hard right now. But I testify that as you come unto Christ and take His yoke upon you, your life will be better and happier.
I testify of the blessings of drawing near unto our Savior. Trust in His goodness and kindness; His love and willingness to help each us. With His yoke upon us, we can do far more than we can by ourselves. Of that I bear witness, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
1. Matthew 11:28
2. Matthew 11:28-30
3. Matthew 11:28
4. Matthew 11:28
5. Doctrine & Covenants 88:63-64
6. See Lectures on Faith, Third
7. 2 Nephi 32:5
8. President Russell M. Nelson, “Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives,” May 2018 Ensign
9. Jacob 5: 71
10. Jacob 5:72