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Robert Fotheringham

Scripture Study Will Bless Your Life

      What an intro. That was stunningly beautiful. Thank you. Maybe some of you joined Adrian—he had his hand over his heart because of George’s tie. I’ve not seen that before either. But what a beautiful rendition. I’m a sucker for things that are patriotic, and I really, really enjoyed that. Thank you very much.

      President Richards, your files are way too deep, pulling out stories that no one’s told for years and hopefully were forgotten at one time. And Madelyn, thank you for those wonderful remarks and sharing your testimony.

      I’ve spoken at this pulpit once before. It was really an odd circumstance. There used to be a tradition after the Tabernacle Choir broadcast on Sunday mornings when they would have a nondenominational service in this building for about a half hour for tourists. And they invite a variety of people, one at a time, to speak on those occasions. There was a very tight box that you operated out of, and that was you couldn’t say anything about the Church and you couldn’t say anything about the Restoration. But if you wanted to talk about general stuff, you could. And that sounds kind of inviting until you’re stuck up here, and it was a horrible experience. I kept wanting to declare my faith, I kept wanting to testify of the Savior and Joseph, and all the things associated with things that are precious to us, and it was out of bounds. So I’d like to begin today by declaring my faith to make up for that experience, and tell you that Christ is very real to me. When I hear the term “Living Christ” and “Living Water” and “Bread of Life,” it does something to my soul. When I read in the Doctrine & Covenants about the only true and living church, and I know that I have a living Heavenly Father listening to my prayers, and I know that those prayers will be answered on His terms and according to His timetable, that renews my faith. And that is my faith, that this is the church of Jesus Christ, that Joseph was the prophet of the restoration, that the ancient religion founded by the Savior has been restored in our day, and that we’re led by apostles and prophets, under the direction of the Lord Jesus Christ. I testify of all of that, and it really feels good.

      I need to declare a couple of other things. First of all, let me tell you why I love President Richards. It isn’t because he stands up here and blows a lot of smoke at you about people who speak, and he’s going to have to live with for the rest of the afternoon. It has nothing to do with that. Let me just tell you two things I’ve observed: One, when other people would sit on the stand, kind of stuffily while the congregation gathers, he’s out working the crowd, shaking hands with students, getting to know them. I guess he knows a lot of first names in this college, and that’s pretty impressive for the size of the student body. But even more impressive than that, for an under-shepherd like him, a couple of years ago I had a brazen thought. And that was, I’m going to be gone for part of the summer, and I need somebody to teach my institute classes. I’m going straight to the top. And I sent him an email and I said, “President Richards, I understood that President Eyring, when he was the president of Ricks College, now BYU-Idaho, would teach occasional classes so he could stay in touch with the students. So, I want to give you an opportunity to teach a couple of classes and stay in touch with your students.” Now, this is a man that doesn’t have anything else on his plate, and he fired right back and said, “I typically teach every semester, but I don’t have any classes this semester. I’d be happy to substitute for you.” I thought, “Wow.”

      Well, the reason I even tell you that is because we had a student that was struggling with some tremendous emotional problems. I mean, to get up was a challenge every day. To come to school was a double challenge, to be around other people was a challenge that took her right off the charts. When we exchanged emails afterwards and I thanked him, he said, “We have to do something for so-and-so.” And I have the clear sense that he took her on as a personal project. Now he’s got a lot of students to care about, and a lot of things to worry about. That student is in one of my classes this semester, two years later. And the change is absolutely remarkable. That person is functioning on a whole different level. I don’t know what’s happened between then and now, but I know that the president of this college was in the middle of it. And I salute him for his sense of Christlike stewardship like that. And it makes me want to do a better job, in the quiet interactions that I have with the people I’m responsible for. So I thank you for that, President.

      I want to tell you about some others in the college that I’m really impressed by, and that’s anyone who teaches in the Institute of Religion. And I’m impressed because these brothers and sisters have chosen a path that the Savior chose. They’ve chosen to be teachers. They’ve let the world of mammon go to somebody else, guys with advertising agencies and so forth. And they’ve taken a higher road, knowing that they’ll never make the same that others will make, that they’ll be moved from pillar to post.  Brother Burkhart just tells me that overnight he was moved from Dallas up here, so they have to pack up their family and move, and he could be moved somewhere else next year, and somewhere else the next year. But yet they gladly, lovingly, embrace what it is they’ve chosen to do, and that is to follow the Savior and to bring the rest of us along with them. So I salute those in that department.

      Then finally, and getting to my presentation, I’ve sought long and hard to know what to do. And Elder Oaks, in a training video for teachers said, “You need to teach to the needs of the students.” (A Panel Discussion with Elder Dallin H. Oaks, Seminaries and Institutes of Religion Satellite Broadcast, August 7, 2012)  Not having any idea exactly what those needs were, I went to some students.  I don’t know how many of them are here today, already I’ve  seen a couple of them, but let me just tell you what they thought others needed. Now it’s really interesting to ask somebody what everybody else needs. You don’t know how much of their needs are reflected in the response, but…

      Alma Landean is from West Jordan, Utah. He’s engaged to be married very soon and he’s very uptight about it. He went on a mission to the Philippines, and he said, “I think what we need right now is to learn about diligence in becoming disciples of Jesus Christ, and having patience in the process of it.” Now this is the nicest picture in terms of the reproduction. The next picture will frighten the person who’s here, because it was taken, it was about that big. So you can see how big it’s been blown up into.

      Ariel Webber is from Leona Valley, California, medical assistant, she served a mission here on Temple Square. And Madelyn, you think that she was cheating off your notes. “I think the students need a reminder about the temple and what sort of blessings come from it. It was something for me that I did not realize how much going to the temple affects my life, until I started going weekly. Now it has gotten to the point that if I wait too long in the week to go, I start to feel like I’ve missed something that week until I get there. There are so many answers to our questions waiting for us in the temple. I think it is so amazing how the Lord has given us such a special place on this earth that we can go in and be reminded of our mission in this life.”

      This is Doyeaun Oh from South Korea. He calls himself “Logan.” I said, “Is that a Korean name, Logan?” And he said, “No, but I was living with an English family, and I met a guy I liked named Logan, so my name was Logan Oh.” He’s a convert of about two years, and has all the charm that you could package in one person. He said, “I think the students need most in their lives right now, what they need is their family. For me, I haven’t met my family for two years, and it makes me miss them a lot. I not only think all international students experience this, but American students, whose hometown is far from Salt Lake City, would feel this, too.” I never thought in those terms.

      This is Samantha Santos from Brazil. Her mother died last year. She’s also a convert, about three years. She’s in business management. Her father wanted her to come home; he is not a member of the Church. But she knew if she left this environment, she would never be the same. So she had that difficult bridge to cross. This is what she thinks students need: “Nowadays a lot of people are spending more time alone, and are more vulnerable to the things of the world, like the internet, television, pornography, etc. And also, they are more selfish. I think it’s extremely important for all of us to socialize in order to understand and respect others. And also to know who you are yourself.”

      This is Martin Harris. He claims no relationship to the more famous Martin Harris.  He’s a network engineer, he’s from Ogden, he’s married with a child, he served a mission in Argentina 12 years ago. His suggestion was quite pointed. “I would talk about following the guidance of duly ordained leaders of the church, in light of the media circus involving ordaining women. It’s okay to ask questions, that’s why God gave us brains—to calculate, and to think about what goes on around us. We’ve been told that it’s okay to have questions, to go home and pray about it, to find out if it’s right, and then follow the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Ghost. Our entire church is based on a question posed by a teenager in New York, no doubt the biggest question asked in this dispensation.”

      This is Jonathon Lopez. He’s a convert of three years from Mexico. He’s married, he speaks Spanish, German and English. He’s in the executive medical assistant program. “I’m concerned about the changes some returned missionaries have when living again their normal lives. Some, or probably most of them, just forget the covenants they made before serving a mission.”

      This is Chun Yu Leou. Sorry, I do not want to be there. Can you back me up, Kathy? I won’t cheat. There we go, thank you. [Referring to pictures projected on a screen.] He goes by “Alan.” He was living in Taiwan, waiting for a mission call, and he got his travel papers to Paris, France. He didn’t have a call, and he couldn’t understand what was going on. So he kept calling Salt Lake City, and they said, “Just be patient.” A month later his mission call came, to Paris, France. So it was no surprise. He is fluent in Chinese, in French, and in English. “I personally consider what most students need is a greater sense of priorities. There are many things that surround us, and it’s not an easy thing for everyone to have the focus on the Lord all the time. Many students might have a great desire in their heart to work hard in school, but they are distracted by different activities; hanging out with friends all the time, and their laziness. Eventually they miss the opportunities to learn. Then, they could be as successful as the Lord expects them to be.”

      Finally, could we go to the next slide? Thank you. This is Gina Parke. Gina’s on the second row down there, dying that we have her picture up. She’s from Sandy, Utah. She’s very musically talented and she is in medical assisting. “I think what students need most in their lives right now is the gospel, and then parenthetically, their families. I really think the gospel would help you in everything you do, whether it be school work or personal things.”

      What I’m about to tell you is really boring. And I was in a business where things that were different and unusual and unique and creative carried the day. That’s where success came from. I’m going to reverse that paradigm and say that my advice and counsel to you is as old as dirt. It’s as boring as vanilla, it’s as tired as yesterday’s news. And because of that, it would be very, very easy for you to miss the spirit of what I want to communicate.

      I’ve sought long and hard; there’s lots of things that I could talk about. And the natural inclination is to say, “Let’s broaden everybody’s horizon, let’s come up with something exciting, new and different.” And unfortunately, as I’ve sought the direction of the Lord, it hasn’t taken me there. It’s taken me to this. I read a verse this morning, can they go to their scriptures in airplane mode? [Referring to cell phones.] Can they go to the World Cup in airplane mode? Okay. In Mosiah chapter 1, I found a very intriguing verse. It is verse 7. “And now, my sons, I would that ye should remember to search them [meaning the scriptures] diligently, that you may profit thereby” (Mosiah 1:7). Well, I’d like to take a minute and hear from some of you, because I suspect there’s a whole lot of folks here that have profited from a consistent study of the scriptures. I know we’ve got microphones, and I’ve come to learn, and listen, as much as talk and teach. And we’ve sought the influence of the Lord to teach us all. So, would someone raise their hand, first of all, an instructor? Maybe even somebody that teaches in the department of religion, or some other instructor. And share with us how you have profited from making the scriptures a regular part of your lives.

      Thank you, Brother Meredith, he’s right back there in the corner. Would you stand so that they can make a record of this testimony?

      Brother Meredith: How I’ve made the scriptures profitable in my life?

      Brother Fotheringham:  How have you profited personally from making a regular study of the scriptures, part of your life?

      Brother Meredith: “Well, it’s helped me to keep the commandments better, because I have reasons to keep the commandments. And as I’ve done that I’ve noticed that I’ve been able to try to keep my covenants, and by doing that, I’ve noticed my family has been safe in the world. Doesn’t mean we don’t all have problems, but (sorry my voice is so loud, my student know…I really don’t need this microphone). But that’s been the biggest blessing has been I feel like my family’s been safe as we’ve tried to keep the commandments, and felt the protection of the Spirit.

      Brother Fotheringham: Thank you. Thank you very much. I’d like to hear from a student bold enough to stand. There’s one in the back, thank you. Would you stand please?

      Student #1: Can you hear me? I love one song that is called “Pure like water.” It just reminds me of the scriptures, because like, any time I read the scriptures I feel pure water. The scriptures are my source of inspiration, and any time I read it I can feel the words from my Heavenly Father. I feel closer to Him, and this is very wonderful. A little experience I had was one day I was deciding to go to a place or not, and I just opened the scripture that said, I don’t know it in English, but it’s like, stay in holy places until the day of God comes, or the Lord comes, (see D&C 87:8). I received all of my answer, that I knew I should be in the places where the Holy Spirit would be with me. And, I really believe in every single word that is said in the scriptures, because they have been inspired by God. So I love the scriptures.

      Brother Fotheringham: Thank you very much. Thank you. Would another share with us? Yes, up here, up front. Thank you very much. Here’s a microphone.

      Student #2:  I’m a convert. I joined the church a little over a year ago. And the scriptures have always been a part of my life. But since joining the church, I found that not just reading the scriptures but studying the scriptures is important. We can all read, but it takes a little more effort to study the scriptures. And if I don’t have that daily reading, I feel out of place. I feel like something’s missing, and I feel like I just can’t get the day started right. So every day I take a few minutes, even if it’s only five minutes and I can only read two verses of scripture, I find that it helps me to get through my day. I have had some emotional problems, and reading my scriptures has helped me to get through those emotional problems and to overcome a lot—a  lot of anxiety. Before I came out here, I’d never been on an airplane before, and I remember we had sung the song one morning before our sacrament service. The last line in that song, I can’t remember exactly the words, but it was something about being protected under His wings. And this voice whispered to me and said, “See, I told you you’d be safe.” And the fear to fly was gone. And so, the morning that I left I got on the plane and there was no anxiety. I’m afraid of heights, terrified of small spaces, and I have, or had, panic attacks, but not one on that plane. I didn’t have one problem at all. And I believe that is because of my scriptures. Because of reading my scriptures, and listening and obeying the Lord.

      Brother Fotheringham:  Thank you. Thank you so much for sharing that.

      In case you’re feeling a little overconfident, when we would meet with missionaries as they were departing, this was the conversation. “Elder, or Sister, you’re about to go to the worst experience of your life. You have reached the spiritual plateau through the course of your mission that you’re not aware of. And now you’re about to come off that plateau. You can’t continue to live that kind of consecrated life, it’s just not possible. You don’t have the time, and life is beckoning. You need to get on with your life. So you’re going to come off that plateau, and the question is, where are you going to land?” And we gave them a little card with some commitments on it, and this quote was on that card. Who would read this for us?

      Luke, is there a mike near you?

      Luke:  Testimony isn’t something that you have today, and you are going to have always. A testimony is elusive as a moonbeam. It is as fragile as an orchid. It is something you have to recapture every morning of your life” (quote from Harold B. Lee, Church News, July 15, 1972).

      Brother Fotheringham:  Thank you. Now, a hundred people here have clickers. We hope it’s a representative sample, we didn’t have enough clickers for everybody. Now here’s what I want us to do. Go to the next slide, if you would please. Okay, it says, how long do you typically read your scriptures? Press “A” if it’s less than 5 minutes, “B” 10 minutes, “C” 15 minutes, “D” 20 minutes, “E” 30 minutes, “F” more than 30 minutes. Now this is anonymous, you can be honest with God. We won’t know if you’re cheating, and there’s no reason to cheat. Tell us the truth. We want to know how we’re doing here. Everybody click. Okay, so, Cathy, let’s see how we’ve done. Less than five minutes - 22%, ten minutes – 20%, fifteen minutes—26%, more than 30 minutes—10%. Thank you.

      Let’s go to the next slide. Those with clickers, when do you typically read your scriptures? Morning—“A”, “B”—midday, “C”—evening/mealtime, “D”—late at night. Go ahead and click. The results. Morning—37%, late at night—48%, probably not surprising, given the makeup of the crowd.

      Okay, the last one, in the month of June, how many days did you read your scriptures? “A”—every day, “B”—20-25, “C”—15-20, “D”—7-15 days, “E”—1-7 days, “F”—not at all in the month of June. Got a goose egg. Okay, click. Let’s see how we did. Twenty percent read their scriptures every day, 25% :20-25 days. Then you see the rest of them, 22%: 15-20, and so forth and so on. And only 1% was not at all.

      Could we go to the next slide? There’s a pattern here. There’s a pattern in living. There’s a pattern in scripture study, there’s a pattern in the mission field. These four boxes represent that pattern. And in the first box are the words “Have to.” When missionaries came into the mission field, oftentimes it was because of a girlfriend, a mother, family culture and tradition, and so forth. And after a while, go to the next one, please, they realize it really was the right place to be. And then they transitioned as they started to have some success and grow spiritually. Then they got to the next stage, which is this is really something they wanted to do. And in almost every case, at some point in the process of that transition, they reach the stage of this: They actually loved what they were doing. And we had a very difficult time helping them realize that it was time to go home.

      Scripture study is the same way. No matter where you start, we all want to get to the “love to” side of the equation. Well, I’m going to forget the rest of the PowerPoint and describe an experience that Elder Ballard had. He had a returned missionary from his mission come years later to his office and say, “Elder Ballard, I’m in the process of losing my testimony. I’ve read some anti-Mormon literature, and I’m not sure I believe anymore.” He said, “I have 10 questions here I want you to answer.” Now you can imagine what those questions were like, and Elder Ballard said, “I can’t, I mean, give me a few weeks and I’ll research the answers and I’ll be happy to meet with you again.”

      And he said, “Okay, fair enough.”

      But then as he was about to leave, Elder Ballard said, “But here’s something I want you to do if I’m going to do this. I want you to read your scriptures one hour a day every day between now and then.”

      And he said, “Fair enough.”

      So, he came back in two weeks or three weeks, or whatever the time span was. And he came in a little bit humbled. And he said down and Elder Ballard pulled out the research he’d done on his questions. And the missionary said, “You can put that away.”

      He said, “What do you mean?”

      He said, “I don’t need the answers any longer.”

      Elder Ballard said, “Well, I spent a lot of time on this, I’m going to give you the answers.” So they went through it, and it was what it was (“How to Find Safety and Peace,” November 1997 New Era). And it demonstrated the power of what some of you have testified to here today.

      This seems very ordinary. Buried somewhere in my PowerPoint presentation is the picture of a 25-year-old young woman who just came home from a mission in Denmark. When she was 12 years of age, she sat with her bishop, and her bishop said, “I want to give you a challenge.” Here she is [on screen].  Her name’s Katrina Redd. “I want you to read your scriptures every day.”

      And she said, “For how long?”

      And he said, “Forever.”

      And she said, “Okay.” Well, I contacted her on Facebook, because she’s told this story over the pulpit before.

      And I said, “I won’t use your picture, and I won’t tell the story, if it hasn’t worked out.”

      She said, “July 6th is the thirteenth anniversary of me never missing a day reading the scriptures.”

      I want to testify of something to you. I’m a person of average intelligence. I’m a person of average makeup. By all the laws of nature, I’m an introvert, and I lack confidence. And I was in an industry where people were filled with bravado, they were enormously creative, they were very intelligent, and they were very educated. And I knew that I couldn’t compete in that environment without some sort of edge.

      That’s when I discovered the power of daily scripture study. And reading scriptures every day, the pattern and model established by Marion G. Romney in his professional career, he said, “I’d come in the office and I’d read the Book of Mormon 30 minutes before I’d start my day,” (Paraphrased from general conference, April 1949, pp. 35-41). That pattern has given me the confidence that I’ve needed to compete in the professional world. I bear testimony that the Living Water, that the Bread of Life, that the rod of iron, that the living word of the living Christ, will bless each of your lives in ways that I can’t even anticipate, that only the Lord knows. God bless you with the faith to listen to these prophetic utterances, not mine, but others who have made those promises, and that I have realized in my own experience. I bear testimony of all that. And I also bear testimony that saying, “Okay, I’ll read the scriptures every day for the rest of this week, and then every day for the rest of this month, and then maybe for the next six months, and then every day for the next year…is not too much. If you read the scriptures for 20 minutes a day, that is 1/50th of your waking hours. That’s 2% of 16 hours, and I know most of you don’t sleep for eight hours. Two percent of your time. And then to make that commitment for the rest of your life, will not only bless your life, it will bless the life of your family, and it will bless your family for generations to come. Of that I bear holy witness, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


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