The Blessings of True Worship
Devotional Talk Given at
Brigham Young University–Hawaii
October 4, 2007
First Lady of BYU-Hawaii
Brothers and Sisters, take a look at this cartoon and tell me if this has ever happened to you:
[Cartoon shows two women in the front of a doughnut shop. One exclaims to the other while eating, "Get down! It's someone from our exercise fitness class!"]
Similar things have happened more than once to my best friend, and me! We have discovered, with the help of our advancing years, that a single doughnut can sabotage a dozen exercise classes!
In this medically-advanced age in which we live, it's no longer a secret that true physical well-being requires constant, diligent effort. Aerobic exercise just once a week, or healthy eating only in the mornings, simply won't keep us in top physical condition.
Similarly, true spiritual well-being requires more than just Sunday church attendance, and more than simply saying our morning prayers.
In Doctrine and Covenants 59:11, the Lord directs us in this regard: "Nevertheless thy vows shall be offered up in righteousness on all days and at all times." That sounds to me like true spiritual well-being requires constant, diligent effort, just like our physical well-being. True worship means being actively engaged every day and in every way. Consider this year's theme for the youth of the church; it reminds them to "let virtue garnish [their] thoughts unceasingly." In other words, every day and in every way. In the Old Testament, the Lord says He will establish Solomon's kingdom forever "if he be constant to do [the Lord's] commandments." There it is again. Every day, in every way. We are commanded to "pray without ceasing" and to "thank the Lord thy God in all things." President Kimball warned that "the cultivation of Christlike qualities is a demanding and relentless task . . . not for the seasonal worker." Again and again we see that true worship means worshipping every day and in every way.
This type of constant, unceasing devotion reminds me of a term we use often in this church: Consecration. Webster's dictionary defines the verb to consecrate as "to set apart as holy; devote to sacred or serious use."
I've created a working definition of my own that elaborates on this one--for consecration of self. It is "a holy, spiritual respect for 'all things' in one's life, both tangible and intangible; and the devotion of one's daily life to the Lord and His purposes.
True worship requires our devotion and attention, every day and in every way.
The fact that we are all in attendance here at this university is evidence that we are devoted men and women interested in hallowing the Lord's name, in worshipping Him every day and in every way. As they say, I am "preaching to the choir" today. But we are here because we want to try a little harder and reach a little higher in our quest for true worship, so let's take a look at how we, as members of the Church, can sharpen the focus a bit of our personal perspective on worshipping every day and in every way.
For the sake of our remembering, I have broken down true worship into five components, like building blocks, each beginning with the letter T. The first two Ts are closely connected. They are "thoughts" and "talk."
Proverbs teaches that "as [a man] thinketh in his heart, so is he." My husband is fond of repeating this meaningful saying which you have probably all heard:
Thoughts lead to acts, acts lead to habits, habits lead to character, and character determines our eternal destiny.
We know how important our thoughts are in determining who we really are and in directing us to our eternal destiny. There are two main questions we can ask ourselves when determining if we are consecrating our thoughts to the Lord. First, what is the quality of our input? The books we read, the pictures we look at, the music we hear, and the movies we watch all provide the raw materials which become our thoughts. Input trash will not become output treasure.
The second question, and possibly the harder of the two, is how do we interpret our thoughts? Sometimes we have a particular propensity to be hard on ourselves, to think self-defeating, negative thoughts. Depression often strikes well-intentioned people just like us! In an excellent Ensign article, Steve Gilliland offers two steps for beginning your battle against depression:
Attack depression and feelings of inadequacy
1. Change what you're doing so that you'll feel better about yourself.
2. Change your feelings about yourself so that it will be easier for you to do things differently.
This is not easy, but managing our feelings, combined with filtering our input, are critical as we try to worship every day and in every way, consecrating our thoughts to the Lord and His purposes.
I have a dear friend who has struggled with depression at times in her life. She is such a perfect example to me of how thoughts lead to actions and actions lead to habits. At one particular point in her "teenager mothering era," she really struggled with depression because of feelings of inadequacy and feeling deep concern for one particular son who was doing things that she knew were very detrimental and damaging to himself and to the family.
During this period of depression, my friend spent a lot of time on her knees seeking guidance. She said that as she prayed for help, the name of a new sister in the ward kept coming to her mind. She could not keep this new acquaintance out of her thoughts, so the next morning, she telephoned the woman. This sister and her family had recently moved into our ward so that they could be near better medical facilities for their young son who had a rare form of cancer that was causing tumors to grow in his brain. He was slowly losing his eyesight because of these tumors. This young mother truly needed a friend and a helper. The mother had two other children who also needed attention. Quickly, my friend became a frequent visitor and caregiver to this family. Her thoughts were no longer focused just on her own personal problems but on her friend's family. This resulted in my friend's depression quickly subsiding, and her wayward teenager was also positively affected by the little boy his mother was helping.
Service is often the best change we can make to what we are doing in order to feel, and think, better about ourselves.
The second T in true worship is talk. Jesus taught the Pharisees that it isn't what goes into the mouth that defiles a man, but "that which cometh out of the mouth" which defiles a man. The words we speak, the tone we use, and the message we convey are all components of worshipping the Lord, every day and in every way. We consecrate our daily communications with everyone around us to the Lord and His purposes when we use uplifting words, speak gently, and convey the Lord's love in whatever we may be saying.
In October 1988 General Conference [also on March 13, 2007, at a BYU-Idaho devotional], Elder L. Lionel Kendrick spoke of Christlike communications:
"Christlike communications are expressions of affection and not anger, truth and not fabrication, compassion and not contention, respect and not ridicule, counsel and not criticism, correction and not condemnation. They are spoken with clarity and not with confusion. They may be tender or they may be tough, but they must always be tempered."
My husband is a perfect example of tempering his words. In all of our married life, Steve has never had any type of car accident. I incurred my first accident during our first year of graduate school, and they have been a reoccurring problem ever since! The amazing thing about my accident record is that Steve has never used anger in his reaction-- only affection. Never has he ridiculed me as I have sheepishly come to him to report a new dent. There has never been ranting or raving, but always calmness, compassion and acceptance. Many a marriage could have been damaged by a driving record such as mine! Instead, my marriage has not only survived, but gotten stronger over the years. I know this is, in part, due to my husband's special talent for tempering his words. I know that my children have also appreciated their father's calm and caring reactions over the years, no matter what they have needed to tell him.
Brothers and sisters, as we temper our talk, letting the Spirit direct the words that come out of our mouths, we can be a source of support to our friends or spouses, a source of wisdom to our little children, a source of comfort to our parents, and a source of compassion to our struggling friends. Our Father in Heaven will be able to hear firsthand that we are worshipping Him every day and in every way. He will know that we have consecrated our talk to Him and His purposes.
The third and fourth Ts of true worship are also tightly linked. They are "time" and "talents."
As members of the BYU-Hawaii Ohana, we know that time is finite. As hard as we may hope, wish, and even pray, it is not limitless. This simple reality then requires that we use our time wisely. Sincerely consecrating our time to the Lord requires us to constantly be asking ourselves, "Does this demand on my time serve the Lord's purposes?" Please don't misunderstand: I am not suggesting that taking time out to go to Family Home Evening on Monday nights is a righteous activity, while playing a good tennis match is evil! But I am suggesting that we should carefully consider if we are balancing the use of our time between our personal desires, loved ones' needs, our university and community duties, and our church callings. Elder Neal A. Maxwell said that anxiously engaged does not mean hectically engaged or frantically engaged! "Rather, [the words anxiously engaged] reflect a deep, quiet commitment." Replacing the frantic, hectic rush with peaceful calm sometimes feels as impossible as doing a cartwheel on a tightrope. We have so many demands on our time! Time management is not always about choosing good over bad, but is often about choosing between many "goods." Only you know the state of your balance and what is the best use of your time.
A dear friend whom I admire greatly is particularly gifted with lovingly balancing her time. She always has been able to pay attention to what matters most, regardless of everything else going on around her. She once told me that the most important person to her is the one she is with at any particular moment...whether it is the mailman, the grocery clerk, or the next-door neighbor.
In the midst of the chaos and confusion of getting her six children off to school in the mornings, I recall seeing her stop everything and gather her children around the front door for a morning prayer. I remember picking her up for a meeting one busy morning when it was very apparent she hadn't taken the time to do her breakfast dishes or pick up the living room. Instead, I watched as she quietly and sweetly finished reading a picture book to her three year old before we rushed off to our meeting. She understood that anxiously engaged does not have to mean hectically engaged or frantically engaged. She has been a perfect example to me of "deep, quiet commitment" because of the way I have watched her use her time in serving the Lord and His purposes.
The fourth T of true worship is "talents." Four years ago, at BYU Women's Conference, Bonnie D. Parkin, then president of the Relief Society, said:
"The Lord's Storehouse - where 'there is enough and to spare'- is [symbolically] what the Lord has placed in each of us. It is you and me with our strengths, our skills, and our talents blessing the life of another."
Each one of us has been blessed with unique gifts and talents which come by the Spirit of Christ. There is a satisfaction I feel like no other when I know I am using one of my unique talents in a worshipful, consecrated way, in a way that helps the Lord's kingdom. When considering whether or not to share our special talents with others, or how to share them, we can ask ourselves, as Mordecai asked Esther, "Who knoweth whether [we] art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?"
What if Betsy Ross had opted to embellish hankies instead of embroider the first American flag? What if Mary Cassatt had only painted her toenails instead of her masterpieces? What is Benjamin Franklin had played hockey instead of flown his kite?
We may not have quite the historical impact these three people did, but our talents can do great things to bless and enrich the lives of those around us, furthering the Lord's purposes, if we are willing to share them. President Hinckley has said, "The work of the world is done by ordinary people working in an extraordinary way."
This past December, my oldest grandchild used her musical gifts to profoundly bless the life of my dying father. As he lay in a hospital bed in his den, hardly able to speak, 15-year-old Maggie played Christmas songs on her portable keyboard by his side. Dad softly hummed and tapped his fingers to those calming melodies, and each of us watching powerfully felt the Spirit.
These four Ts--thoughts, talk, time, and talents, are all supported by the fifth T: thankfulness. A thankful attitude can improve our lives from every single angle. An attitude of gratitude makes everything feel a little easier. We can look at challenges like Maria, in 'The Sound of Music,' who wisely said that when the Lord closes a door, somewhere He opens a window. Or when we feel dogged by disappointments, we can play the Glad Game with Pollyanna and find something, no matter how small, to be glad about. We can look at our well-intentioned errors and say, like Anne Shirley, "Isn't it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?"
Seven years ago, soon after we received our calling to preside over the England London Mission, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Even though we had a house to sell, another house to finish building, a 30-year career to bring to an end, and five children to say goodbye to, my husband and I found ourselves facing another huge challenge. At first, I did NOT have an "attitude of gratitude" about this new burden, but the Lord saw fit to bless me with the calming assurance that everything would somehow be all right.
After my surgery, my three daughters each came for a week to care for me. What a blessing that was in each of our lives! Our roles were suddenly reversed. I had always been their caregiver, and now these beautiful daughters were lovingly caring for me and each of my needs. What a perfect bonding experience for a mother and her daughters. The gratitude my heart felt during those recovery weeks miraculously lessened the pain my body was feeling.
I also soon came to realize the great gift my cancer experience was in teaching me about compassion, empathy, pain, suffering, patience, and charity first hand. I think the Lord saw I needed a crash course on all of these virtues before Steve and I had to counsel and care for nearly 500 elders and sisters, each with unique problems and worries, over the next three years.
No matter what our challenges may be, with the Lord's help, we can search out that window the Lord has opened.
In the Book of Mormon, Amulek reminds us to "live in thanksgiving daily, for the many mercies and blessings [God] doth bestow upon [us]." Once again, true worship is a daily activity. Every day, in every way.
Understanding the five Ts of true worship helps us more clearly see the blessings that come from consecrating our lives to the Lord and His purposes.
First, when we live this way every day and in every way, we begin to recognize the help of the Spirit in everything we do. The Holy Ghost will help us keep our thoughts clean and uplifting, and He will help us temper our words and keep our communications Christlike. The Spirit will guide us in choosing how we spend our time, and He will magnify our talents as we devote them to the Lord's purposes. As we strive to give thanks daily for all of God's mercies and blessings, the Spirit will make it even easier for us to see the hand of the Lord in our lives. What a wonderful gift!
A second great blessing of true worship is really two-part, one part for the Lord and one part for us, almost like a covenant. When we live in this way, worshipping every day and in every way, the Lord will come to be able to depend on us. He will know He can trust us to be on His errand, attuned to the Spirit, and ready to be an instrument in His hands. Likewise, consecrating our selves to the Lord and His purposes allows us to be able to count on Him, as well. Listen to the wonderful counsel President Hinckley gave Sister Elaine S. Dalton and her husband on their wedding day, 38 years ago, in the Salt Lake Temple:
"Always live in such a way that when you need the Lord's blessings, you can call upon Him and receive them because you are worthy. There will come times in your life when you will need immediate blessings. You will need to live in such a way that they will be granted - not out of mercy but because you are worthy."
That is the peaceful, beautiful security that comes from true worship. As a student, teacher, administrator, lab technician, brother, sister, or friend, what could be more reassuring than to know that we can call on the Lord for immediate blessings, and receive them, because we have earned them.
Brothers and sisters, in conclusion, I quote Elder Robert D. Hales, from his recent priesthood session address:
"Now is the time to become a disciple of Jesus Christ, which means accepting His invitation to 'come follow me.' Now we must make [the decision] again here in mortality, every day, in every situation by taking the Savior's name upon us, remembering His atoning sacrifice, and keeping His commandments."
I leave you my testimony that I know that our lives will be richly blessed if we choose to follow Christ, every day and in every way. Truly worshipping our Savior will bring us joy and peace as we consecrate ourselves to the Lord and His purposes. The Spirit has testified of this to me, and I hope you have felt this testifying spirit here today, as well. May we have the strength and courage to fully commit ourselves to the gospel is my prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.