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Devotionals

Rhett James

Being Kind to Others

Brothers and sisters, it’s a pleasure to be with you today. I’m so thankful for the invocation, that wonderful prayer. Whenever we call upon God the Eternal Father in the name of Christ, the most important event has taken place. And I appreciate that wonderful testimony from one of our fellow students.

I’ve been prayerful about preparing these remarks, and so this is my fifth draft. I thought I had it written, and then the impression came, “Don’t do that; do this.” And so here it is. The first part has to do with the instruction from Elder Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and the second has to do with the direct teachings of Jesus Christ.

Let me share with you this one experience with you before I begin. President Richards was kind enough to point out a clock here on the podium that we are to follow. At the Logan Tabernacle, the clock is at the very back, so when you spoke you could see what time it was. Back in those stake conference days, we used to hold a prayer meeting with the visiting authority before stake conference. Brother Boyd K. Packer was the visitor that day. He had asked President Sorenson to ask Bishop James to speak—for five minutes.

So we had the prayer meeting, and he smiled—he had interviewed me to be a seminary and institute teacher back in 1964, and had trained me as a stake president in a number of items. In any case, as we came into the prayer meeting, he said, “Hello, Brother James.”

I said, “Hello, Elder Packer.”

He said, “Now your assignment is to give a five-minute talk.”

I said, “I know how to give a five-minute talk.”

He said, “Now, I don’t mean a six-minute talk.”

“I know how to give a five-minute talk, Elder Packer.”

“I don’t mean a four-minute talk.”

I said, “I know how to give a five-minute talk, Elder Packer.”

He smiled and said, “We’ll see.”

I had been asked to speak on the blessings of tithing, and I had discovered thirty blessings that come from the payment of tithing. And so when I stood up to speak my five minutes, I began: “Number one, number two, number three, number four . . . ” These are one-liners, you know. And when I finished my talk, I had ten seconds before the five minutes was up, so I said, “In the name of Jesus Christ . . . ” and then I watched the second hand, “ . . . amen.” And then I sat down. And Brother Packer had a huge grin on his face. He reached over and patted me on the arm, and he said, “Now that’s what I call a five-minute talk.”

I think there is something to be learned from that. When you are asked to speak in sacrament meeting, get to the point, and don’t take more time than you’ve been asked. Follow the apostles and the prophets with as much exactness as you can.

During his address at the BYU Provo Education Week devotional on August 19, 2014, Elder David A. Bednar urged Church members to flood the earth with the gospel message of truth: “What has been accomplished thus far in this dispensation communicating gospel messages through social media channels is a good beginning—but only a small trickle.” Elder Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, “I now extend to you the invitation to help transform the trickle into a flood. Beginning at this place on this day, I exhort you to sweep the earth with messages filled with righteousness and truth—messages that are authentic, edifying, and praiseworthy—and literally to sweep the earth as with a flood.”[1]

So far as my records show, I created my Instagram account on the next day, August 20th. So as to focus on the restored gospel message and not on the author, I named my Instagram account “OldPoet.” On the same day or shortly thereafter, I selected a photograph for myself. I am dressed in full military uniform, cap and all, posed saluting the United States of America. That was 1944. At that time, which was near the end of World War II, I had five uncles serving in three branches of the United States military—the Army, the Army Air Corps (now called the Air Force), and the Navy.

I immediately visited Temple Square’s North Visitors’ Center and collected copies of all the internet site addresses that the Church was using to invite people all over the world to learn about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As the new Church pass-along cards appeared, I collected them and used the addresses on them to spread messages to others using Instagram.

In the first year, I pulled up other people’s Instagram sites and selected from one of their photographs that I judged to be in keeping with the 13th Article of Faith—“We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.”

In that year and four months, I believe I invited more persons who were not Latter-day Saint Christians to email the Church, to pass-along card addresses, or to call on the Church missionary number on pass-along card sites, than I did during my full-time mission in the New Zealand South Mission and five later stake missions. It was exciting and spiritually rewarding.

I made every effort to follow exactly Elder Bednar’s instructions to sweep the earth with messages filled with righteousness and truth—messages that are authentic, edifying, and praiseworthy. Between mid-2015 and 2016, however, I discovered that the great adversary called Lucifer and Satan—even the devil—began corrupting the Instagram site with many evils. I had to become more discerning in what persons I selected to share the gospel.

Then the Instagram site itself began directing how direct I could be in sharing the restored gospel. I would put in the Book of Mormon number, and it would come up and say, “You’ve repeated this too much. Stop it.”

Nevertheless, success has continued, and many continue to search OldPoet and read the gospel messages that have been composed under each of my photographs. Sometimes a wicked or even an apostate will respond to my Instagram messages, and I’ve found it best to block them.

Remember the Apostle Paul cautioned the Corinthians: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness?”[2]

What photographs did I select? I chose to photograph many sites on Temple Square and other Church sites. I did not include photographs of family, friends, personal activities, or myself. Remember, Elder Bednar asked that we share the gospel. He did not ask us to share our own vanities or light-minded musings. I suppose that photographs of you and a friend sticking your tongues out might interest someone. I do not believe such photographs help convert anyone to the gospel. I chose to follow the apostle’s strict instruction to flood the earth with the gospel messages defined in the 13th Article of Faith.

This brings me to my central message, which I will now address. One response to my Instagram photographs and messages was this question from somebody: “Who are you? How old are you?”

My answer was a poetic couplet wrapped in a riddle. I answered: “I am as old as the stars and as young as the instant.”

Do you understand this riddle wrapped inside a poetic couplet? When understood, it will open to you a profound truth about yourself—past, present, and future. So is it with each of you, with every one of us. We are all as old as the stars—probably older—and as young as the instant.

The mighty prophet of God, Joseph Smith, wrote that God found Himself in the midst of intelligences and instituted laws whereby each of us could go up and be where He is.[3]

King David’s Levite overseer of music, Asaph, composed and sang this song to Jehovah: “Ye are gods, [even] . . . children of the most High.”[4] Now it’s a little g, but that’s still not too shabby.

The very Savior and Redeemer of us all—the firstborn in the spirit and the Only Begotten in the flesh, even Christ Jesus, the anointed Savior of all—confirmed Asaph’s inspiration in the gospel of John when Jesus quoted Asaph, saying, “I said, Ye are gods?”[5]

The prophet and Apostle Paul wrote that God is the Father of our spirits.[6] Fifteen living prophets, seers, and revelators wrote in The Family: A Proclamation to the World, “All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic [to our eternal nature and destiny] of [our] individual premortal, mortal and eternal identity and purpose.”[7]

Apostle, prophet, and seer Boyd K. Packer taught: “Never forget that you are sons and daughters of God.”[8]

Then why do some walk about in darkness at noonday? Why do some doubt their eternal worth? Why do some give way to the whispering lies of the wicked adversary? Remember, remember, o, you daughters and sons of our Eternal Father and Eternal Mother in Heaven, those holy words written by Relief Society general president of the Church Eliza R. Snow. She said, “[Reason] tells me I’ve a mother there. Remember Eliza R. Snow’s inspired lyrics in the fourth stanza of her hymn, “O My Father”:

When I leave this frail existence,

When I lay this mortal by,

Father, Mother, may I meet you

In your royal courts on high?

Then, at length, when I’ve completed

All you sent me forth to do,

With your mutual approbation

Let me come and dwell with you.[9]

 

So how may we know that we are blessed? The doctrine of Jesus Christ to each of us is found in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 and is found in 3 Nephi 12 in the Book of Mormon. Instructing His twelve disciples in the western hemisphere, when Jesus Christ appeared as a glorified and perfect celestial person, He said: “Therefore blessed are ye if ye shall believe in me and be baptized, after that ye have seen me and know that I am. And again, more blessed are they who shall believe in your words.” Do you understand that? More blessed are they who believe in your words—you apostles who believe—“because that ye shall testify that ye have seen me, and that ye know that I am.”[10] So when you hear that witness in general conference, believe. More blessed are those who believe. What a great gift. “Yea, blessed are they who believe in your words, and come down into the depths of humility and be baptized, for they shall be visited with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and shall receive a remission of their sins.”[11]

Belief is a might principle, is it not?

I share an experience I had with you in Ezra Taft Benson’s office. A few years after the production of the Martin Harris Pageant, he invited us to come to his office in the Church Office Building. The name of the play was Martin Harris: The Man Who Knew. And as I met President Benson, he invited us to sit down. He took me by the hand and said, “Brother James, I believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. I believe in the restoration of the gospel. I believe that if we will follow the principles in the Constitution, we will be blessed as a nation. I believe the Book of Mormon. Now, come and sit down.”

And so we sat down, he and myself and Brother Huff and Brother Denzel Clark, the producer, and we talked for about a half hour. And as we got up to leave what had riveted into my heart was “I believe.” Isn’t it interesting that the 13 Articles of Faith begin with “We believe”? If you tell somebody you know, they may argue with you about how you know. But if you say “I believe,” what can be said?

And so as we left that day shaking hands with President Benson, I said to him as I shook his hand, “President Benson, maybe we need to change the name of the pageant from Martin Harris: The Man Who Knew to Martin Harris: The Man Who Believed.” And his blue eyes lit up, and he smiled a big smile. He understood that I got the message. And then he said, “No, you leave it just as it is. It’s accepted of the Lord.”

And so the instructions now of how we know we are blessed continues: “Yea, blessed are the poor in spirit who come unto me, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.[12] Have you ever felt poor in spirit? Am I the only one in this room that ever felt poor in spirit? Have you ever had those moments? “Blessed are the poor in spirit who come unto me, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

“And again, blessed are all they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.”[13] All they that mourn. That’s what happens to my history students at the Business College. They are comforted with A’s because they are doing such a good job.

“And blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”[14] Meek means to be teachable. Do you know the earth comes with instructions? It’s important to be teachable; then you shall inherit the earth, a celestial earth.

“And blessed are all they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost.”[15] Have you ever noticed that when you are down and out and you feel the Holy Ghost, how it dispels the darkness? Often in our prayers, I think we ought to pray for that gift on a regular basis.

“And blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”[16] And so one of my students gets a 60 on one of their papers, I am merciful. I give them another try. Because when I face God, He’ll be ready to send me to another kingdom, and I’ll say, “Whoa, wait a minute. I was merciful to my students; you have to be merciful to me.” And He’ll check His books and say, “Oh, that’s right. Enter into your rest, my good and faithful servant.” Is not the Atonement the essence of mercy?

And then “Blessed are all the pure in heart, for they shall see God. And blessed are all the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.”[17] Boy, we need peacemakers on this earth, don’t we?

“And blessed are all they who are persecuted for my name’s sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. And blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake; For ye shall have great joy and be exceedingly glad, for great shall be your reward in heaven; for so persecuted they the prophets who were before you.”[18]

In conclusion, then, what may we choose to do? How may we live? I share with you the counsel of a Latter-day Saint president, prophet, seer, and revelator Howard W. Hunter. He set me apart to serve as a stake president, and before he left he said, “You know, Brother James, I will give you this counsel: be nice to people. You have 5,000 people in your stake and 23 units. If you’re not nice, you’ll have to do all the home teaching yourself.” And then he cautioned me. He said, “They’re going to call you ‘President.’ That’s pretty heavy.” It was.

We sat down to dinner one afternoon and my wife, Alice, broke into laughter. I couldn’t figure out what she was laughing about. I thought maybe one of the children had done something precious. I said, “Tell me. You can share with me; I’m your stake president.” I’d only been president a few days.

And she grinned, and she said, “It just amazes me who the Lord calls to be His servants.”

So remember that, sisters. Don’t be discouraged if the returned missionary you married is not perfect. You may be the means whereby that will occur.

These are President Hunter’s words: “[What shall we then do?] Mend a quarrel. Seek out a forgotten friend. Dismiss suspicion and replace it with trust. Write a letter. Give a soft answer. Encourage youth. Manifest your loyalty in word and deed. Keep a promise. Forgo a grudge. Forgive an enemy. Apologize. Try to understand. Examine your demands on others. Think first of someone else. Be kind. Be gentle. Laugh a little more. Express your gratitude”—which was done today in that excellent sharing of testimony—“Welcome a stranger. Gladden the heart of a child. Take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of the earth. Speak your love, and then speak it again.”[19]

I testify that these principles and teachings, as they have come from Jesus Christ through His many servants, are true. Of this I testify, in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior, amen.
 


[1] Elder David A. Bednar, “To Sweep the Earth as with a Flood,” Prophets and Apostles, https://www.lds.org/prophets-and-apostles/unto-all-the-world/to-sweep-the-earth-as-with-a-flood?lang=eng.

[2] 2 Corinthians 6:14.

[3] “Chapter 17: The Great Plan of Salvation,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith.

[4] Psalms 82:6.

[5] John 10:34.

[6] See Hebrews 12:9.

[7] The Family: A Proclamation to the World.

[8] Boyd K. Packer, “The Standard of Truth Has Been Erected,” Oct. 2003 General Conference.

[9] “O My Father,” Hymns, no. 292.

[10] 3 Nephi 12:1–2.

[11] 3 Nephi 12:2.

[12] 3 Nephi 12:3.

[13] 3 Nephi 12:4.

[14] 3 Nephi 12:5.

[15] 3 Nephi 12:6.

[16] 3 Nephi 12:7.

[17] 3 Nephi 12:8–9.

[18] 3 Nephi 12:10–12.

[19] Howard W. Hunter, “The Gifts of Christmas,” Ensign, Dec. 2002.

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