We Can Return to Our Heavenly Father
I love that President Richards just counseled us to thank Heavenly Father for being patient with us right before he introduced me. I can assure you, I have thanked Him many times for his patience with me. And I am grateful for the opportunity to be here with you today. I wanted to start off, actually, by reading to you a quote by Elder Marvin J. Ashton. He says, “Why does the lack of appreciation offend God and kindle His wrath? Not because he needs to see and hear our thanks, but because he knows an absence of appreciation on the part of anyone causes personal stagnation. Our growth and our progress are delayed when we fail to feel and express a sincere thank-you” (“And in Everything Give Thanks,” speech given at Brigham Young University, September 1, 1991). I was very grateful for that counsel.
I have many heroines that I have known throughout my life, especially in the Book of Mormon and in the Bible. But I have a particular heroine that I’d like to speak about today. Her name was Corrie ten Boom. She, in my mind, is a wonderful example of what a good, single, faithful Christian woman can do and what an effect she can have on the world. So, move over, Wonder Woman, you don’t hold a candle. This woman is a great example in my life.
For those of you who don’t know Corrie ten Boom and her sister Betsy or her family, Corrie ten Boom authored the book The Hiding Place, which was one of my favorite books that I’ve read. It helped me to solidify my own personal testimony and my ability to extend gratitude to my Heavenly Father, even in the worst of circumstances. Her and her family had a home in, I believe that it was the Netherlands, where they secured a hiding place for many Jews who were running from the effects of the Holocaust. And for a couple of years, they successfully protected many Jews. They were finally found out by the authorities and were taken into prison. Sister ten Boom found herself in a prison camp with her sister. They had a Bible they were able to sneak past the guards and keep with them throughout their time in the prison camps. Many of those that were in the prison camps with them were not Christians, but Corrie and Betsy, her sister, were able to share with them their testimonies and their love for God and of Jesus Christ through the Bible.
At one point, Corrie and Betsy found themselves in a situation in their barracks. Their unit in the prison camp, where the circumstances were the most gruesome, was infested with fleas, which caused a lot of great sickness and illness to those that were in their unit. But every night, Corrie and her sister would sit down and study the Bible, and gradually a large group of other Jews and prisoners in the concentration camp gathered to listen to their message, and to share in the gospel with them. They became a really strong unit because of that. One night, Betsy, after reciting a verse in the Bible (I won’t tell you what it is, read the book!) shared with Corrie their need to express gratitude to their God for what He had done for them, and placed them in the circumstances that they were in. Corrie had a hard time with that. But she finally agreed, and said, yes, it would do something for us to express gratitude to our God for this situation because we are able to bless others’ lives at a time when it is so needed for them.
In her prayer, Betsy prayed and thanked Heavenly Father for the fleas. And Corrie said in her book The Hiding Place, “I was sure that in this instance, Betsy was wrong. How could we possibly be so grateful for such a creature?” How could they be grateful for such a creature that had caused so much miserable circumstances for them? Later on in the book, they learned that the reason they were able to study the gospel so faithfully without being disturbed by the authorities was because the authorities were too afraid to come into their unit because it was so flea-infested. It was the very fleas that enabled them to study the gospel and teach others what they knew of their testimony. That was a wonderful example to me, and I really appreciated their willingness to be grateful in their humble circumstances, for the opportunity to testify and to share their story with others, whose spiritual lives may have been saved before their fatal death in those prison camps.
It reminded me of a talk that President Uchtdorf gave just last April. Many of you will recognize it. He talks about being grateful in our circumstances, and not just for our circumstances. Being grateful for the good things is easy, but are we grateful for the difficult things that prevail in our lives? He says
“We can choose to be grateful, no matter what.
“This type of gratitude transcends whatever is happening around us. It surpasses disappointment, discouragement, and despair. It blooms just as beautifully in the icy landscape of winter as it does in the pleasant warmth of summer.
“When we are grateful to God in our circumstances, we can experience gentle peace in the midst of tribulation. In grief, we can still lift up our hearts in praise. In pain, we can glory in Christ’s Atonement. In the cold of bitter sorrow, we can experience the closeness and warmth of heaven’s embrace.
“We sometimes think that being grateful is something we do after our problems are solved. But how terribly shortsighted that is. How much of life do we miss by waiting to see the rainbow before thanking God that there is rain?
“Being grateful in times of distress does not mean that we are pleased with our circumstances. It does mean that through the eyes of faith, we look beyond our present-day challenges.
“This is not gratitude of the lips but of the soul. It is a gratitude that heals the heart and expands the mind” (“Grateful in Any Circumstances,” Apr. 2014 General Conference).
My first invitation to you today is that you might be able to find a difficult circumstance that you are currently facing in your life, and then pray to our Heavenly Father to know what you might learn from that experience, and express gratitude to Him for the opportunity. And then, do something about what you’ve learned.
Another form of gratitude that I thought of as I was preparing this talk came in light of this season, in especially a holiday, which shall remain nameless since we are still celebrating Thanksgiving . . . But there is a holiday coming up where excessive amounts of gift-giving and receiving are shared by many family members, loved ones, neighbors, and coworkers. And as we prepare for that holiday, I would like you to consider, when you find a gift that is perfect for someone, think of how you feel when you prepare that gift for them. And think of the anticipation you feel upon their reaction to that gift. How do you want them to receive it? How do you want them to use it?
I know that oftentimes when we received gifts as children, my mom made sure that we wore them and used them so that those who gave them to us understood our gratitude for what we had been given. Many students that I have the privilege of working with here at the College have asked from time to time, “How do I respond when someone gives me such a gracious compliment?” And this is something I really struggle with, but I’ll tell you the secret to responding to gracious compliments. We express our sincerely genuine gratitude to them so that we build them and leave them in a better place. That is the best way to receive a compliment: by building the person who gave it to you. “Thank you, so much. I should have known that such words of comfort would come from you today.” What a great way to return that favor to them.
And the same is with gift giving. How do we show our appreciation when we receive gifts? I know that oftentimes when people give me compliments, the response is, “Ughhh. Thanks; whatever.” Or, “What in the world am I going to do with this?” Or, “Wow, this is far too generous.” Do you think it feels good for the person who is giving that gift when we respond that way? It is so important for us to show our gratitude.
And with that, I thought of another gift that we’ve been given, and that is the gift that our Savior has given to us. When we experience trials and tribulations in our life, we stand on holy ground because we stand where the Savior has stood, and He bore our pain. We can take part in the Atonement that He so graciously suffered and gave to us because He loved us. I echo Elder Holland’s sentiment when he says how honored and privileged it is to bear with Him His burden, let alone that He bore with us ours. We get to take part in a small, small, tiny part of what He suffered in Gethsemane. It is a gift, and in this season of giving, what are we doing to show our gratitude to Him, with how we use His gift? (“Come Unto Me,” Speech at BYU on March 2, 1997.)
That is my second invitation to you: What are you doing currently in your life to express gratitude to Him for His gift? How are you showing Him that you are making the best use of it?
It is my humble prayer and my testimony to you that as we seek to express gratitude to our Heavenly Father, and especially to our Savior, Jesus Christ, for the gift that He has given us, for the opportunity that we have to come down to this earth and to prove to Him and to ourselves that we can return to Him and that we are made of good quality stuff, and to prove to Him that we will make good on the promises that we made and the gifts that have been given to us. And I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Well, it’s good to be here. I know all of you want to shout “Hallelujah” because tomorrow you won’t be here. So, I know you’re excited. And Thursday, eat yourself to oblivion. Is that okay? You can do that.
The spirit of gratitude: what I want you to do is take your little black book, if you would, and I want you to write down three things that you are really grateful for right now. Just quickly write down three things you are really grateful for. And I don’t have a lot of time, so I’m going to give you just a few moments to do that. As soon as you’re done with that, I want you to turn to somebody next to you and share one of those things with them. Turn to the person next to you, introduce yourself, and share the thing you’re grateful for and why you’re grateful for that.
Okay, did everybody get a chance? The reason I did that is because there’s a famous scripture in the Doctrine and Covenants in section 59 verse 21 that tells us that we’re to confess God in all things. And when we express gratitude out loud to other people, I believe that that’s one way that we can show our Heavenly Father that we’re grateful for the things that He has blessed us with. This is a great time of year when you can take time to think about your relationship with our Heavenly Father and with His son Jesus Christ, and what you’re doing in your life to show gratitude for the blessings that you have.
You need to be grateful for who you are. One of the exciting things about being a member of the Church is that you should know that you are a special person. I checked on the Internet in the last couple of days: there are roughly 7 billion people in the world; the Church website says there are about 15 million members of the Church. So you make up less than 1% of the world’s population. You ought to be grateful that you have the blessing of having the gospel in your life. It’s interesting, as you look at the world and how big of a place it is, we’re kind of like the salt that makes things taste better (see Matthew 5:13). In the scriptures, we’re likened to the leaven that can raise everything up, if we want (see Matthew 13:33). And the Savior told us to be a light (see Matthew 5:14). Those are some great blessings that we can have in our life if we want to. One thing for sure is you want to be grateful for your life. It’s important that you recognize how important you are.
So what I want you to do is to write down one thing that makes you cool. Write that down in your little book. Write one good thing about yourself—write it down right now. Just write it down. What’s cool about you? What makes you cool? Now, once you’ve written that down, I want you to turn to a different person and tell them what makes you cool, and then they can tell you. Okay? So do that real quick—tell somebody what makes you cool. Don’t be afraid. Go ahead. Tell somebody what makes you cool.
Okay. Hopefully you got to tell why you’re cool. Now, sometimes we forget that we’re cool because we’re so worried about being humble, which is great. Obviously, that’s super important. But we have to also recognize that the Lord has blessed us with some talents, and then when you become a member of the Church and you get the Holy Ghost—in Doctrine and Covenants section 46 the Lord gives some special gifts of the Spirit that we can receive if we want to. If we live our life according to the commandments, we can receive some very special gifts. And most of you, if you’re members and you’ve received a patriarchal blessing—if you don’t know what makes you cool, you should go there and read that, and have a little faith in yourself, and be grateful that you’re here and that you’re a cool person. You can effect a lot of good by being the person that the Lord wants you to be.
I’m going to ask President Richards to stand up a minute, if he would. He’s a cool guy, by the way. You should know that. Now, President Richards seriously is a great guy, and I’m going to ask him, do you love the students here? Is that okay to ask you that? Well, repentance is easier than permission, so . . .
President Richards: “I will get even…. They have no idea the depth of my love for people who I barely know. It’s a gift of the Spirit, and I love them deeply because I know how my Father in Heaven loves them, and therefore, I love them.”
Brother Doug Meredith: Thank you. And yes, you may sit down.
Okay now, Brother Burkhart hasn’t been here very long, but I’m going to ask him to stand up; I’m going to pick on him. I’ve got to be careful. And it’s easier to get forgiveness than permission. So, now, you haven’t been here very long. You’re from the great state of Texas. Do you love the students here? The people here—how do you feel about them?
Brother Burkhart: “Almost exactly the way President Richards described. Maybe some of you have felt this before, but there is something that happens to your heart that can only come from heaven. It is like a gift of the Spirit, perhaps it’s even a way to apply the Atonement of Jesus Christ to our lives, when you come to love people that you don’t know. When I walk through the halls and go up the stairs and see you, you’ll notice that I smile. And it’s because my heart really literally does fill with love for you.”
Brother Doug Meredith: Thank you. Now, if I asked all the other people who worked at the College to come up, they would probably say similar things. And so, just to give you an idea, I have a little over 200 students, and I love those students. I love them as people. And I don’t say that very often to people. I don’t walk up to people on the street and say, “Hey, dude, I love you.” That’s just not comfortable. But I love my students. And if you can get a little feeling of what was just said, if you want to multiply that by a million times, that’s how the Savior feels about you. There is very famous scripture, right? “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son” (John 3:16), right? That’s how much Heavenly Father loves you.
Now, I teach the preparation for marriage course, so obviously I’m going to talk about marriage for a second, right? If you’re not married, repent and get married. Sorry, but I’m going to show you this picture. Does that touch your heart? That’s me when I had hair. One thing about the Resurrection that’s going to be great is that I will get hair back. And I won’t have to wear contacts anymore. The reason I show that picture is not to show you how great I am; that’s not the purpose. The purpose is to show you that the love you experience as a single person with your family will become multiplied when you get married. You can experience great things as a single person. And again, I’m teaching a principle, and I know there’s exceptions where people don’t get married and stuff like that. But the principle of the gospel is that you get married. And it’s not because it’s just the cool thing to do. It’s the right thing to do, and your love and your service and your gratitude for other people is amplified in marriage. When you get married, it should be the greatest day of your life.
And then, as you go through the cycle of life (see “The Circle of Life,” The Lion King, Walt Disney, 1994)—I’ll throw a little “Lion King” in there—you get a bunch of people around you called kids. They are very exciting. I love my children a lot, most of the time. No, I do love my children. The reason I show you that picture is this idea of gratitude and love for other people expands as you have a family. And then you start to experience a little bit of what the Savior talks about when He says that He loves us because then you start seeing the importance of family and children and posterity. And then, if you come to institute, we talk about the Abrahamic promise, and we talk about priesthood and posterity, and the promised land, and stuff like that. And you think, well, what does that mean? When you start having a family, all of those blessings of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob start to really take meaning in your life. And then the Lord says in section 68, you better teach your children the gospel, or you’re going to pay a price for that if you don’t do that (see D&C 68:25).
That’s why your parents want you to be active in the Church—because of all the blessings that come from this idea of being an eternal family. I’ll show you this picture.
These are my grandchildren. I have one grandson that passed away at six years old, and that was horrible in our family. It was not a good experience, but because of the gospel covenant, it was something that we can live with because someday we’ll see him again. What a great promise Heavenly Father gives to us because of His Son. It’s really cool to have grandchildren because when the day’s done, you can say, “Go home.” You know? It’s time to go home. But then you can go visit them, and they’re not coloring on your walls like your kids did, and then you have to repaint the wall five times. But when you have grandchildren, then you really start to see the blessings, and you have gratitude in your heart for the Savior because the plan starts to make sense to you.
Right now, if you’re single at LDSBC, you’re just on the edge of greatness. And your little kingdom will grow and grow and grow. And sometimes we don’t have the vision. And so when old people like me come around, and we show you pictures of our grandkids, it’s to give you an idea of the power of the Savior’s love and of the plan for each one of you. That you are cool people, and that everybody on the earth can be a cool person. You see, that’s what’s so awesome about the gospel. And then last, but not least, is a very famous picture of the Savior. He makes it all possible because of His price that He paid. And so, this year, at Thanksgiving, I hope you go home and tell your mom and dad, “You know, mom and dad, you’re cool people, but I’m a cool person too.” Because you are. And listen to what the Savior said in D&C 29:1: “Listen to the voice of Jesus Christ, your Redeemer, the Great I Am, whose arm of mercy hath atoned for your sins.” What a powerful message from one tiny little verse. And then He says this: 2 Nephi 26: 24, “He doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world; for he loveth the world. . . . ” And I would put your name in there: He doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of Brother Meredith. Put your name in there. “ . . . even that he layeth down his own life that he may draw”—you— “all men unto him. Wherefore he commandeth none that they shall not partake of his salvation.”
And so, as I close, I testify that Jesus is the Christ, that He lives, that He is our elder brother, that He loves us. I testify that He wants every one of us to come back. I testify that His plan is set up so that every person, whatever the circumstance they’re in, wherever they’re at on the earth, they can come back to Him. It may be in the spirit world; it may be here. But there is a way for everybody to come back. I testify that He is the way, the truth and the light, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Introduction: President J. Lawrence Richards
Let me introduce to you both of our speakers. As you might guess, today our theme is on gratitude. Let me share with you something I heard from one of the senior Brethren over the weekend about gratitude. Here’s one for you that I bet you’ve never thought about. He said during this Thanksgiving season, you ought to thank the Lord for His patience with you. That’s a good one; I commend that one to you. Thank the Lord for His patience with you as you try to become what He has commissioned you to become.
Let me tell you about Sister Brinkerhoff. She joined the College as an employee in the fall of 2011. She works as a Student Development Advisor for the College, and focuses on first-year students as well as those students who may be struggling academically, personally, or otherwise. After graduating from Davis High School in Kaysville, Utah, she attended Weber State. There, she had an interesting experience: she failed college algebra four times in a row. Believing that she was not meant for education, she dropped out of college and focused on her full-time employment. Holly worked in retail management, she became an office manager, and she became the executive assistant for the Vice President of Sales for SystemEd, a subsidiary of Medco Health Solutions. Later, she worked as an Operations Processor in Educational Investments for Morgan Stanley, a securities firm, before she decided to return to college to complete her degree. So at the same time she enrolled in LDS Business College in the summer of 2008, Holly was able to secure a job working with curriculum development for a local tech school, where she came to understand and have a unique perspective on learning and education. She graduated with her associates degree from LDS Business College and has continued her education.
As a student at the College, Holly discovered her two greatest passions thus far in her life: one is the study of marriage and family, and the other is the process of learning. She attributes much of that discovery experience to her mentors, her friends, and her colleagues at the College. She continues to have a great interest to study religion, and effective teaching and learning methods, in order to help students the best way she can. Holly is a bright light on the ninth floor of LDS Business College.
Let me also introduce to you our final speaker, Brother Doug Meredith. Brother Doug was born and reared in Salt Lake City, Utah. He attended BYU and the University of Utah. Brother Meredith has taught seminary and institute for the last 29 years. He came to the College in 2009. His Church service includes a full-time mission to the California Oakland Mission. He’s been a bishop and a high councilman. He was recently released from the inner-city mission with his wife. Brother Meredith and his wife, Shauna, have been married for 36 years. They have four children, nine grandchildren. He says that his love in life consists of watching his grandkids, going to the gym, and most of all participating in and watching all kinds of sports. I’ve come to love this good man. His wife has been very important in the Richards family household. I am much in debt to Doug and Shauna Meredith.
We’re pleased to have both our speakers.