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Vaughn J. Featherstone

A Wise and Understanding Heart

In 1 Kings, chapter 3, we read,

And Solomon said, Thou hast shewed unto thy servant David my father great mercy, according as he walked before thee in truth, and in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with thee; and thou hast kept for him this great kindness, that thou hast given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day.

And now, O LORD my God, thou hast made thy servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in.

And thy servant is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude.

Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?

And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing.

And God said unto him, Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life; neither hast asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine enemies; but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment;

Behold, I have done according to thy words: lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee. (1 Kings 3:6-12.)

Elder John H. Vandenberg said, "The fruit of wisdom ripens slowly." To have a wise and understanding heart may take a lifetime without a special endowment from God. However, it is a glorious quest and will reap a harvest of blessings beyond your comprehension.

Many years ago President David O. McKay received the "Man of the Year Award" for the State of Utah. J. Patrick O'Keefe, C.E.O. of Kennecott, made the award to President McKay. In accepting the award President McKay responded humbly, after accepting the award, in these words of Portia "To Bassonio" from the works of Shakespeare.

"You see, me Lord Bassonio, where we stand, such as I am, though for myself alone I would not be ambitious in my wish to wish myself much better, yet for you I would be trebled twenty times myself a thousand times more fair, 10,000 times more (pure) that only to stand high in your account I might in virtues, livings, beauty, exceed account."

Remember, beloved graduates, that compliments are not necessarily what we are but what we should be. Accept compliments and honors graciously, but remember glory is temporary and fleeting at best. President McKay understood this principle.

Pericles said, "Surely the bravest are those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, both danger and glory alike, and yet notwithstanding move forward to meet it." Danger and glory require a type of bravery. You will find that knowledge is not necessarily wisdom, that intellectuality may not be the result of a high I.Q. A learned man said:

"The essence of intellectual living is not measured in the extent of science nor in the perfection of expression; but rather in a constant preference for higher thoughts over lower thoughts and that preference may be the habit of a mind which has not any considerable amount of knowledge." (P.C. Hamerton, The Intellectual Life.)

Now with that foundation let me talk to you about wisdom. The Master has told us how to succeed.


And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:

And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?

Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?

(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matthew 6:28-33.)

If this were the totality of my talk to you graduates, there is nothing more wise I could say to you. You may accomplish many great or special things in life, but if you ignore the Master's counsel, you will come up dreadfully short in life.

Henry Drummond laments,

"I lived for myself. I thought for myself, myself and none beside;

Just as if Jesus had never lived, as if Jesus had never died."

Should we fail in our reverence and duty to God, it makes little difference what success in life we achieve. We will have failed in that which is of most worth.


Life is not easy. It is not necessarily comfortable. Duane R. Kuelberg in a poem "Mother to Son" helps our understanding.

"Well, son, I'll tell you:
Life for me ain't been no crystal stair
Its had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor
"But all the time
I's been a-climbing on,
And reachin' landin's,
And turnin' corners,
And sometimes going in the dark
Where they ain't been no light,
So, boy, don't you turn back
Don't you set down on the steps
‘cause you finds it's kinder hard.
Don't you fall now -
For I'se still goin', honey,
I'se still climbing,
And life for me ain't been no crystal stair."
(Vital Speeches of the Day, 1988)

Life isn't a crystal stair. It isn't necessarily easy. Few may believe in you; but it is essential to believe in yourself when no one else does; and remember Eleanor Roosevelt said, "No one else can make you feel inferior without your consent." Believe in yourself.


Next, there is a difference in people. Ted Olsen said:

"And 90 and nine are with dreams content

But the hope of a world made new

Is the hundredth man who is grimly bent

On making the dream come true."

We have too many dream stealers in life. Be that person who makes dreams come true. Set goals and achieve them. Labor in the realm of the "final inch."


A second thought I would like to share is one that will have a profound impact on your self-esteem and how other persons of worth will feel about you. It has to do with morality.
No one can be truly great who is immoral. They can be successful but not great. Great passions accompany great minds. It will take discipline, restraint, and strong moral values to keep you pure. Ella Wheeler Wilcox puts this in verse.

"It is easy enough to be virtuous
When nothing tempts you to stray
When without or within, no voice of sin
Is luring your soul away;
But it is only a negative virtue
Until it is tried by fire,
For the soul that is worth the honor of earth
Is the one that resists desire.
"To the cynic, the sad, and the fallen
Who have no strength for the strife
Life's highway is cumbered today
They make up the sum of life
But the virtue that overcomes passion
The sorrows that hide in a smile
It is these that are worth the honor of earth
For we find them but once in a while.

All of you will be tested and the temptations will be great; but the rewards of virtue and chastity are numerous.

A few years ago Bishop Merrill Bateman met with Elizabeth Dole. She was the national president of the Red Cross. She was complimentary of all the Church had done through humanitarian services, then she said, "Do you know what we really need from your church? We need your blood. It is one of the few remaining sources for uncontaminated blood." How about that?

President McKay said, "No act is ever committed without first having been justified in the mind."

I recall a good friend, a valiant and respected priesthood leader who abandoned all that was precious and dear for a mess of pottage. He lost his wife, his children, his membership in the Church, his respect in his profession and in the community.

These words from the Rape of Lucrece by Shakespeare are sobering,

"What win I if I gain the thing I seek—

A dream, a breath, a froth of fleeting joy?

Who buys a minute's mirth to wail a week,

Or sells eternity to get a toy?

For one sweet grape, who will the vine destroy

Or what fond beggar, but to touch the crown

Would with the scepter straight be strucken down?

Thy secret pleasure turns to open shame

Thy private feasting to a public fast,

Thy smoothing titles to a ragged name."

There is a strength and a dignity and confidence that comes from purity.


Trials and obstacles will clutter your life. Some will test you beyond anything you would believe.

On the grave for Robert F. Kennedy in Arlington are these words by Aeschylus, a Greek, who wrote,

"In our sleep, pain that cannot forget

Falls drop by drop upon the heart,

And in our despair, against our wills

Comes wisdom through the awful grace of God."

Let me share a few gems of wisdom that have gone through the process Aeschylus describes. These come from various sources. I am not the author.

Never try to catch a falling safe.

Never walk on the message.

Never wound the king.

Use all the tools in your toolbox.

Don't be a dream stealer.

Every time you are confronted with a problem ask if it is 1/8 of an inch long or a yard long and handle it following that principle.

Each of the above could be worthy of a lengthy sermon and there is one more, "Don't die on every hill." Be grateful for the trials in life. There will always be compensating blessings.


Another: Go out and enjoy life. Wilfred Petersen wrote the following,

"A master at the art of living makes no distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues with excellence what he is about and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. He, himself, always knows he is doing both."


You will enjoy life when you keep things in their proper priority: your spouse, children, church, vacation, hobbies, etc.

If you get these priorities mixed up, it will create serious problems in your life. Remember the family comes first at the right time. There may be priesthood meetings you are expected to attend. There may be responsibilities at your work that must be met or you endanger your job. Fulfilling your callings in the church and doing what is expected of you at work cannot be at the mercy of every little whim of the family. But what I am saying is that when real needs are urgent, choices must be made regardless of dire consequences. Put the things you value most at the top of the list. Remember your companion and children will be with you throughout your life and in the eternities. Prioritize.
Abraham Lincoln said, "When a man is over forty, he is responsible for his own face." We see the results all around us especially in our parents, bishops, stake presidents, and the Brethren. Alma said it in a little different way, "have you received his image in your countenance?" Wisdom would dictate that you make decisions that will put integrity and character into your face.


On May 27, 1927, Charles Lindbergh crawled into the cockpit of the Spirit of St. Louis. Everyone thought he was going to fly from the east coast to the west coast. His plane took off. Instead of banking west, he turned eastward and across the Atlantic Ocean. Thirty-three hours and 30 minutes later he landed at Le Bourget field in France to the cheering crowds. The message of this accomplishment was telegraphed back to the United States. It was on the radio and in all the newspapers. An executive from General Motors ran into the C.E.O.'s office, Charles Kettering, and shouted, "Charles Lindbergh just crossed the Atlantic alone." To which Charles Kettering said, "Let him try to do it with a committee." You may not understand the subtleties of that yet. One day you will.

I believe it was a newspaper writer for the "Washington Post" who picked up on that theme of crossing alone and wrote for his newspaper,

"Is he alone by whose right side rides courage, who has skill sitting within the cockpit and faith on his left hand. What is solitude to him who has self-reliance to show the way and ambition to read the dials. Does he lack company for whom the air is cleft by daring and the darkness made light by enterprise? True the bodies of other men may be absent from his crowded cabin but as his aircraft keeps its charted course, he holds communion with those rarer spirits who sustaining potency give strength to his arm, resourcefulness to his mind, and contentment to his soul. Alone? With what more inspiring companions could he fly?"

Thirty-three hours and thirty minutes to cross the Atlantic. Now we see the progress man has made.

John Gillespie Magee reminisced in this verse,

High Flight
"Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds—and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of—wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
"Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew—
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God."
–John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

You live in a day of high flight—accelerated knowledge—unparalleled opportunity. Fly high but be wise and keep your feet on the ground. You will succeed.


Let me close with a poem by Edgar A. Guest. It was one of President Ezra Taft Benson's favorites. In fact two stanzas were on the memorial brochure at his funeral. This is a standard for living and if anyone ever qualified, President Benson did. As I quote this to you, take a test to see if you qualify to be a real man or a real woman.

A Real Man

"Men are of two kinds, and he
Was of the kind I'd like to be.
Some preach their virtues, and a few
Express their lives by what they do.
That sort was he. No flowery phrase
Or glibly spoken words of praise
Won friends for him. He wasn't cheap
Or shallow, but his course ran deep,
And it was pure. You know the kind.
Not many in a life you find
Whose deeds outrun their words so far
That more than what they seem they are.
"There are two kinds of lies as well:
The kind you live, the ones you tell.
Back through his years from age to youth
He never acted one untruth.
Out in the open light he fought
And didn't care what others thought
Nor what they said about his fight
If he believed that he was right.
The only deeds he ever hid
Were acts of kindness that he did.
"What speech he had was plain and blunt.
His was an unattractive front.
Yet children loved him; babe and boy
Played with the strength he could employ,
Without one fear, and they are fleet
To sense injustice and deceit.
No back door gossip linked his name
With any shady tale of shame.
He did not have to compromise
With evil-doers, shrewd and wise,
And let them ply their vicious trade
Because of some past escapade.
"Men are of two kinds, and he
Was of the kind I'd like to be.
No door at which he ever knocked
Against his manly form was locked.
If ever man on earth was free
And independent, it was he.
No broken pledge lost him respect,
He met all men with head erect,
And when he passed I think there went
A soul to yonder firmament
So white, so splendid and so fine
It came almost to God's design.

Whether we become a "real" man or a "real" woman, it is up to each one of us. Just remember, "seek ye first the kingdom of God and all else shall be added unto you." Following this counsel will bring you closer to having a wise and understanding heart.

Congratulations to all of you.

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