The longer I live, the more I’ve come to understand how the Lord has a way of educating our desires. For what feels like a very long time—stretching back to the end of my full-time mission—the Lord has impressed upon my mind, and planted a strong desire for me to understand, the principle of temperance. I don’t know the Lord’s full purpose in this, but I trust there’s a reason. Perhaps it stems from my own need to further develop this important attribute, but it may also be that the Lord has revealed its necessity in our lives. Four different times in the scriptures we are commanded to be “temperate in all things” (1 Corinthians 9:25, Doctrine and Covenants 12:8, Alma 7:23, and Alma 38:10).
Temperance is more than just self-control. At a deeper level it’s our willingness to “submit to all things the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon [us]” (Mosiah 3:19).
Father Lehi taught his family, “For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so… righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad” (2 Nephi 2:11). Sometimes we oversimplify and consider opposition as being evil fighting against righteousness. While that is certainly true, conversely righteousness must also oppose evil, and oftentimes the opposition we need is the kind born of temperance.
Temperance is also a close friend to repentance. When we sin we need correction via the Atonement. Other times we are corrected via life’s challenges, misfortunes or difficulties. Sometimes mortality’s hard enough we wish the world would stop spinning so we can get off, but that’s not the program. We’re here to live up to our divine privileges, not live beneath them.
Both temperance and repentance are about change and growth, recognizing our primary purpose is to become “new creatures” in Christ. In 2 Corinthians 5:17 we read, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”
Even with promises like this we tend to skip over temperance in our gospel study, probably because we’re not entirely sure what it means. Our lack of understanding of this principle isn't entirely shocking. In the near 42,0001 verses in our scriptures there are only 24 instances of the word temper or any of its derivatives such as temperance or temperate. In other words, the principle of temperance is directly addressed in 0.0006 of the total verses in our scriptural canon. That’s six ten-thousandths, or six instances in every ten thousand verses.
Let me illustrate what six ten-thousandths looks like. I owe thanks to Matt Tittle from our Math Department for helping me develop this example.
This is a picture of the University of Michigan’s football stadium—the Big House—with a seating capacity of 100,000 people. There’s a lot of yellow and blue in those stands. If you can find the 60 people wearing red you will have found six ten-thousandths of the entire crowd.
While the total verses may be lacking there are many hidden gems, and the quality of the verses we do have is high. Take for example Peter’s sermon in 2 Peter 1. Here we’re taught how to be “partakers of the divine nature” by following an important sequence for change and growth. Starting in verse 5 we read, “And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity” (2 Peter 1:5-7).
In speaking to this principle Elder Robert D. Hales said, “From temperance to patience and from patience to godliness, our natures change.”2
So we see temperance is also closely tied to faith and patience. Just as faith is a principle of action, so too is temperance. As we receive knowledge we must act on it, even if only to experiment. Struggles are sure to come, especially if we’re to receive the special tempering that only comes from experience.
Likewise, if we’re impatient and give up the effort too soon we run the risk of losing the tempered, or experienced end result available to us. We end up “under-baked,” having been pulled from the oven too soon.
Often times it is life’s tribulations that lead to the greatest tempering. We need look no further than the Prophet Joseph Smith and his experiences as a jailed prisoner. In the winter of 1839 the Prophet Joseph was being held in the ironically named, Liberty Jail. The rationale for his incarceration was unjust, and his trials were intensified due to severe cold, inadequate bedding, poor food, and the seemingly endless reports of the Saints’ suffering as they were driven from Missouri.
In this episode of intense trial Joseph raised the soul cry, “Oh God, where art thou?” (Doctrine and Covenants 121:1). The verses that follow contain some of the best instruction ever revealed about the Lord’s purposes for us in mortality. Expressions like, “all these things shall give thee experience, and be for thy good” (Doctrine and Covenants 122:7) provide a perfect statement on the tempering power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ available to all those who follow Him.
And follow Joseph did. He exercised great faith, acted on the knowledge he received, and patiently worked through those harsh experiences in Liberty Jail. As a result he was tempered—his nature was changed and his capacity was increased.
Regarding trials he would later say, “And as for the perils which I am called to pass through, they seem but a small thing to me, as the envy and wrath of man have been my common lot all the days of my life; and for what cause it seems mysterious, unless I was ordained from before the foundation of the world for some good end, or bad, as you may choose to call it. Judge ye for yourselves. God knoweth all these things, whether it be good or bad. But nevertheless, deep water is what I am wont to swim in. It all has become a second nature to me; and I feel, like Paul, to glory in tribulation; for to this day has the God of my fathers delivered me out of them all, and will deliver me from henceforth; for behold, and lo, I shall triumph over all my enemies, for the Lord God hath spoken it” (Doctrine and Covenants 127:2).
The depth of change in the Prophet Joseph can be further seen on the road to Carthage. Knowing he was likely going to his death he nevertheless made the solemn, tempered statement, “I am going like a lamb to the slaughter; but I am calm as a summer’s morning…” (Doctrine and Covenants 135:4). This mighty change in Joseph came only five years after that cold winter in Liberty Jail, and as we commemorate the 175th anniversary of the martyrdom we have a deep appreciation for the example of this good man.
Life’s experiences will often have us tempering each other. Sometimes we’re the oft-swinging hammer and other times we’re simply the anvil.3 This is a common hallmark of strong marriages. The relationship between husband and wife does much to bring about the kinds of change and growth we’ve been talking about.
On my lapel I wear a rather simple pin. Don’t try to squint to see it; here’s a close up.
You may recognize this symbol because it’s frequently used on temples. Many years ago, my stake president was serving as the managing director of what was then known as the Temple Construction Department. He explained this symbol as the union of the only shape with four equal sides—the “perfect square”—with a shape having no beginning or end. When put together they symbolize perfection into the eternities. I’ve never forgotten that and I wear this pin as a reminder of God’s plan “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39).
One day as I was walking past the Salt Lake Temple I received an additional insight. This is one of those unlooked-for moments when the Spirit just knows you’re ready to be taught. What I learned is perfection into the eternities can only be realized when two distinct but complimentary entities are brought together. Just like the circle and the square are brought together, man and woman must be sealed together in the new and everlasting covenant of marriage.
I am forever grateful to my wife Katie for who she is and how she tempers me. In our years together she has done much to teach and refine me. She is extremely capable, with a good head exceeded only by an even better heart. In the years to come I expect to be, like the anvil, well beaten. I know she’ll continue to shape me in preparation for eternity.
Just as the circle and square are different, so too are my wife and I different. Speaking to this principle Elder Bednar recently posted the following to his Twitter account, “Part of a happy marriage is benefitting from the differences between men and women. We might think we want our spouses to have the same attitudes and qualities that we do, but differences actually strengthen our marriages.”4
When we were first married I told my wife there was only one thing I would try to change about her. I wanted her to stop and smell the roses more often. She quickly quipped that her life’s mission would be to put a little more spring in my step. So it goes between us, but if we’re being honest the roses have smelled great and much has been accomplished in our time together.
Nothing illustrates this more than the revelation almost eight years ago that we were pregnant with triplets. That was the only ultrasound I ever missed, and I vividly remember Katie’s post-appointment phone call. All I could hear was her crying. After waiting approximately two minutes—it felt like a lot longer than that—I interrupted her just to make sure she wasn’t injured or in danger. She assured me she was okay. In my head I was going through all the possible causes of her distress and the only thing I thought probable was she had a miscarriage.
Before I go on let me pause for a moment and say, regardless of what you learn and experience in life there are some things you can’t be adequately prepared for. When my wife said, through her tears, there were four heartbeats (yes, I said four) I found myself completely and utterly flat-footed. I had nothing, and soon it was Katie’s turn to make sure I was safe and uninjured.
Once I stepped out of my coma, or stupor, or whatever that was, my brain immediately began processing all the “how” questions. How would we feed them? How do you put that many babies in a car? How do you pay for all of this? On and on it went.
Early on we knew four heartbeats would likely become three, and seven years ago, after a 36-week pregnancy, our little trifecta joined our family.
As cute as they were many of my “how” questions still lingered. Thankfully, we found lots of help along the way. Moms, sisters, sisters-in-law, and other family and friends all took up the task. Our then five-year-old son and three-year-old daughter were crucial to our success keeping those three fed, clean and cared for.
Fast forward to today and all three are healthy and happy, living in a home with, for the most part, sane parents.
In the years since many have asked Katie and me how we did it. I could write a book but it would probably be pretty short and would likely only cover two principles. The first principle is simple: we just went to work. Concerning all my “how” questions, the truth is there was no time to sit down and analyze them. There was too much work to be done, and infants aren’t well-known for their patience and long-suffering.
The second principle is the greater part: The Lord knew what He was doing, and He knew what we were capable of if we could endure a little bit of tempering. Even our five- and three-year-olds were tempered beyond their years because of those experiences. Katie and I often reflect how good and capable they are and continue to be.
An essential element of having temperance as our travel companion is the need to realize our true identity. We know from the scriptures we’re sons and daughters of God, and that fact alone should strengthen us in moments of trial and hardship.
President Henry B. Eyring spoke on the relationship of identity and struggle in his LDSBC devotional address given last year. He said, “When you realize who you really are, you will be sorry that you didn’t try harder.”5
Knowing who we are and whose work we’re doing brings tremendous staying power. Whatever we’re called to pass through—trials like the Prophet Joseph, raising triplets, or struggling to master a concept or skill—knowing you’re a child of God provides ennobling and sustaining power to endure the tempering fire.
Elder Maxwell admonished us, “Some of us will have to be most courageous, not when we’re alone, but when we’re in a crowd. Whatever the form the test takes, we must be willing to pass it. We must reach breaking points without breaking.”6
It is through the Lord’s tempering processes that we become unbreakable.
Earlier I spoke of marriage and its connection to eternity. For some in this room the goal of marriage stands unrealized. There may be, in some cases, tremendous frustration associated with your efforts to achieve that goal. This can oftentimes be heightened by watching others enjoy what you so strongly desire. It’s in these moments, and moments like this, that temperance is needed. We must fight against the natural man tendency to covet what others possess, or to resent those who’ve caused us pain and heartbreak in the pursuit.
We must also remember that not all paths, and no two travelers are alike, even if we’re all seeking the same destination. Brigham Young once said, “There are no two faces alike, no two persons tempered alike;… we are tried with each other, and large drafts are made upon our patience, forbearance, charity, and good will—in short, upon all the higher and godlike qualities of our nature.”7
If we are to be truly happy and continue our progression we must reach for those “better angels of our nature”8 as often as possible. We must remember who we are, have faith, “be of good cheer” (Doctrine and Covenants 61:36; see also Doctrine and Covenants 68:6), and endure. We must trust our Father in Heaven will temper us and prepare the way to full realization of all our righteous desires.
Even when we falter we’re never too far from the Lord’s tempering influence. Returning to the connection between temperance and repentance, in Doctrine and Covenants 112:13 we read, “And after their temptations, and much tribulation, behold, I, the Lord, will feel after them, and if they harden not their hearts, and stiffen not their necks against me, they shall be converted, and I will heal them.”
Elder Orson F. Whitney recalled the Prophet Joseph teaching of the “tentacles of Divine Providence”9 that reach out after us when we go astray. With the Lord, part of “feel after them” is helping us become sufficiently tempered so our repentance—our change—is genuine. The Lord’s healing power is universal. It makes us better spiritually, physically and emotionally. Since the process of tempering and repentance leads to change and growth, we can also say He will make us better qualitatively.
As in all things, Jesus is our exemplar. It is through Him we have access to these promises, and He gave us the perfect example to follow. Observing His final days of mortality we see the most tempered man to ever live on the earth. He suffered the atoning agony in Gethsemane. He was betrayed by one of his own. He was unjustly arrested and abused. Even with all that, He chose to heal the severed ear of one who’d come to take Him. While suffering on the cross He expressed no judgment or self-pity. Instead He ensured His mother would be cared for and reassured a penitent thief about tomorrow.10
Temperance plays a vital role in our efforts to become like the Savior. When we’re not at our best it’s often because we’ve submitted to the weaknesses that come so naturally to the natural man. It’s on these battlefields where temperance is one of our most effective weapons against the adversary. After all, temperance is a forerunner to godliness.
Temperance is speaking less and listening more.
Temperance is not letting your wants get the best of your judgment.
Temperance is exercising restraint, even if you think what you’re about to say (or post online) needs to be heard.
Temperance is “acting on the first prompting… even when it doesn’t make sense.”11
Temperance is being anxiously engaged without being hectically involved.
Temperance is listening to the counsel of your spouse, even if they’re not intimately aware of all the details.
Temperance is heeding the wisdom and experience of others, even when you think you’re right.
Temperance is shunning discouragement, knowing “these deeds shall thy memorial be, fear not, thou didst them unto me.”12
Temperance is asking forgiveness, even when you’re the one who has suffered abuse.
Temperance is worrying less about gaining ground, but rather ensuring “those who live after may have clean earth to till.”13
Temperance is entrusting our Heavenly Father with our righteous desires, confident He knows what—and when—is best.
Temperance is discipleship.
Brothers and sisters, if the natural man is an enemy to God, the temperate man (or woman) is His disciple.
Doctrine and Covenants Section 4 occupies a special place in our hearts. If I were to ask you to stand and join me in reciting this section I know the majority of you could, and in a variety of languages. In verse 6 we read:
“Remember faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, diligence.”
The preceding verse reminds us of faith, hope, charity, love and having an eye single to the glory of God. Each of these attributes are given as essential and qualifying for one to serve the Lord in this, the last dispensation.
Now for the key point: these verses are the result of revelation, not translation. Think about that for a minute. Every word—every attribute—in these verses was specifically revealed by the Lord. In the past you may have wondered, “Of all the saint-like characteristics available, why did He choose temperance?” Hopefully now you have an increased understanding of the wisdom in the Lord’s choice.
Another gem from verse 6 is it begins with remember, a word occupying an important place in our theology. To illustrate we can look to the ordinance of the sacrament where “remembering” is a central theme; we covenant to “always remember Him.”
Remembering—especially remembering truth—is vital each and every day. President Hugh B. Brown was once asked by a group of missionaries if he always had the Spirit with him. When he immediately said “no” they were shocked, but listen to the counsel he gave them. He said, “When the sun is out, you bask in the sunshine. You enjoy it, and you participate, as it were, knowing full well that it may go behind the clouds. And when it’s gone, then you go on the memory and on anticipation, with faith that in due time it will come out again.”14
President Brown beautifully captures the need for us to remember. He also teaches an important lesson on temperance. When we’re not at our spiritual best, or not feeling the Spirit strongly, we temper the natural man’s discouragement or anger by being hopeful and full of remembrance.
Moroni taught in the last chapter of The Book of Mormon, “remember how merciful the Lord hath been” (Moroni 10:3). He of all people, after wandering alone for many years, understood the importance of remembering and its effects on our happiness and progression.
So how can we remember temperance? On many of the windows around campus you see this sticker:
These stickers let us know our windows are made with tempered glass, which to the layperson means they’re both strong and safe. In other words, tempered glass is really hard to break, but if it does break it ends up in little harmless pieces rather than jagged shards that can injure. You will also find tempered glass on windshields, entrance doors, racquetball courts and so forth.
Creating tempered glass involves a carefully controlled process of cutting, surface preparation, intense heat and high-pressure cooling. There’s an eternal truth hidden in that process: nothing can become stronger without preparation, heat and pressure. While the heat of adversity may not be literal, it’s true nonetheless. So, whether you’re making strong glass or strong disciples, the process is the same.
Next time you see this sticker I hope you’ll remember temperance. I hope you remember your identity as a child of God. I hope you remember life’s heat and pressure are opportunities to become stronger. I hope you remember the more tempered you are, the safer you will be from the buffetings of Satan. I hope you remember your divine potential through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
I won’t go as far as recommending an official change to the college mission statement, but my hope and prayer is we all will become capable, trusted and tempered disciples of Jesus Christ. I bear my witness of His role as Savior and Redeemer. This is His work and His gospel. I know it to be true. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
2 Robert D. Hales, Conference Address, Becoming a Disciple of Our Lord Jesus Christ [April 2017]
3 Neal A. Maxwell, BYU Devotional Address, Patience 
5 Henry B. Eyring, LDSBC Devotional Address, Learning Who You Really Are 
6 Neal A. Maxwell, BYU Devotional Address, But for a Small Moment 
7 Journal of Discourses, 9:923
8 Abraham Lincoln, First Inaugural Address 
9 David A. Bednar, Ensign Magazine, Faithful Parents and Wayward Children [March 2014]
10 Neal A. Maxwell, BYU Devotional Address, Wisdom and Order 
11 Loren Dalton, LDSBC Devotional, You ARE Receiving Revelation!... Now ACT on it!! 
12 Hymns, no. 29
13 The Lord of the Rings , 879
14 Truman G. Madsen, Audio Recording, Timeless Questions, Gospel Insights: Inspiration and Revelation