Recipes for Success
Devotional Talk Given at
Brigham Young University–Hawaii
May 6, 2008
Steven C. Wheelwright
President of Brigham Young University–Hawaii
My dear brothers and sisters, aloha! It is wonderful to be with you and to welcome you to a new academic term on this beautiful campus. We love you and appreciate the wonderful spirit and energy you bring to BYU-Hawaii. This is indeed a very special place, in large part because of your many daily acts of service and obedience. It is a place of great spiritual development and learning, as well as outstanding academic development and learning. We thank you for all you do to help make this the kind of place that the Lord and His prophets would have it be.
I thought I'd start out today by telling you a little about my family. Sister Wheelwright and I have been married for 42 years, and we have five wonderful children, three daughters and two sons. Over those 42 years, we've made a lot of wonderful memories together and created many wonderful traditions. One of those recurring details which has become a real favorite for us and our children, and now also for their spouses and our grandchildren, is a special recipe of Sister Wheelwright's, affectionately referred to as "Mom's Orange Rolls."
"Mom's Orange Rolls" are not just your standard dinner rolls with a hint of orange flavoring added. These rolls are divine! Sister Wheelwright has perfected the process so that the result is a fluffy, light roll with just the right amount of buttery gooey-ness and tangy citrus to melt in your mouth and compel you to eat far more than you ought to! Due to the work entailed, they are normally reserved for special occasions such as Thanksgiving dinner or Christmas dinner, but they occasionally make an appearance at other special events, like birthday dinners or missionary homecomings. They are a sure indicator of a memorable day!
Over the years, our daughters, and even our daughters-in-law, have been taught the process for making these exquisite rolls. However, the results are not always the same as their mother's! Kristy, our third daughter, loves to cook. As she works in her kitchen, she is focused, careful, and patient. She has a knack for following a recipe precisely and is able to create an end product that is exactly as intended. When our daughter Kristy pulls out the orange roll recipe, mouths start watering because people know what a treat they are in for!
Our second daughter, Mindy, on the other hand, has acquired a rather strong dislike for cooking, in no small part because of the great disasters she has experienced when trying to prepare the famous orange rolls! Mindy is focused and diligent in many areas of her life, but when it comes to the kitchen, she is impatient! She is easily distracted by the many other things she'd rather be doing, and tends to improvise or "wing it" in order to save time. She doesn't always measure out her ingredients, and she's likely to skip a step or two that seems insignificant. Well, many of you probably know that any recipe which calls for yeast requires a bit of caution! So it's no surprise that Mindy's version of "Mom's Orange Rolls" are nothing like her mother's on some occasions. In fact, she describes them as sticky hockey pucks.
As you may have guessed, I share these details with you not only to introduce you a little to our family but also to create a framework with which to discuss an important gospel idea. I'd like to call that the Lord's "Recipe for Success."
There are all kinds of recipes, not just those used in the kitchen, of course. There are recipes for concrete, which differ depending on how the end product will be used. There are recipes for soil preparation, dependent on what you plan to grow. There are very precise recipes for pharmaceutical preparations, depending on the ailment you would like to treat. In fact, whatever your given field or area of expertise is, you can probably think of a "recipe" for success; a proven method to attain a desired result. And, as our daughter Mindy knows all too well, depending on how closely you follow that recipe, your results can range from divine to positively disgusting!
Now, whatever recipe you've thought of that you can relate to, there are three common elements that all "recipes" have in common. First, there are the ingredients and directions. These often are very small, simple things, as seemingly insignificant as a pinch of salt or the difference of a few degrees on the oven dial. Next, there is the cook, or the concrete mixer, or the pharmacist: The one who "makes" the recipe. Finally, there is the result, whatever the recipe produces, a heavenly roll or a sticky hockey puck!
As Mindy has learned, when it comes to how you follow a recipe, "almost exact" just isn't good enough if your goal is success!
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf shared a story at our last General Conference which we could summarize, sadly, as a "recipe for disaster."
He recounted the events of a tragic airline crash that occurred in 1979. A DC-10 with 257 people on board left New Zealand for a sightseeing flight to Antarctica. What the pilots did not know, however, was that someone had modified the flight coordinates by a mere two degrees. That might seem small and insignificant but, upon arriving in Antarctica, this error placed the aircraft 28 miles to the east of where the pilots assumed they were. As the pilots descended to a lower altitude to give the passengers a better look at the landscape, they had no way of knowing that the incorrect coordinates had placed them directly in the path of Mount Erebus, a volcano that rises from the frozen landscape to a height of more than 12,000 feet.
As the pilots flew onward, the white of the snow and ice covering the volcano blended with the white of the clouds above, making it appear as though they were flying over flat ground. By the time the instruments sounded the warning that the ground was rising rapidly toward them, it was too late. The airplane crashed into the mountainside, killing everyone on board.
It was a terrible tragedy brought on by a minor errorï¿½a matter of only a few degrees. (See President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, General Conference, April 5, 2008.) In essence, a small and simple ingredient, in this instance, the minor modification of flight coordinates, had the unavoidable result of putting the plane and its passengers on a fatal collision course with a mountain peak.
President Uchtdorf concluded by observing, "Through years of serving the Lord and in countless interviews, I have learned that the difference between happiness and misery in individuals, in marriages, and in families often comes down to an error of only a few degrees." I would add my voice of testimony: In life, many small and simple ingredients or steps, which might seem insignificant at the time, have eternal consequences, ranging from the divine to the tragic based on how we choose to follow the recipe. In other words, how we use our agency as we make small, daily choices, ultimately determines the outcome of our lives. The process is often slow and imperceptible, first affecting our growth and development but ultimately determining our eternal destiny.
These three common elements of any recipe, first, the small and simple things, second, our agency, and third, the consequences or results, are all discussed in the scriptures.
Consider Alma, chapter 37, verses 6 and 7, where we read:
". . . by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; . . . and by very small means the Lord doth confound the wise and bringeth about the salvation of many souls."
Alma is explaining here how something as simple as having the faith to give heed to the Liahona and to follow its directions daily made all the difference as to whether Lehi and his family proceeded on their journey on a straight course and with the Lord's blessings, or whether they wandered in the wilderness, experiencing additional challenges, afflictions and delays. In other words, those basic choices and ingredients inevitably determined the end result.
Earlier in the Book of Mormon, Father Lehi teaches his children about agency.
". . . men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose . . ." (2 Nephi 2:27)
In fact, choice, or agency, is not just a God-given right; it is a God-given requirement. Our Father in Heaven has established this earth and placed us on it so that we will be required to make choices. We cannot escape the necessity of exercising our agency and making numerous decisions, many seemingly insignificant, on a daily basis. We're all "cooks in the kitchen," whether we like it or not.
And what we create in our kitchen teaches us about consequences. We learn in section 130 of the Doctrine and Covenants,
"There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated. And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which is it is predicated." (D&C 130:20-21)
Imagine with me, if you will, a recipe box, filled with cards containing the various directions for all the dishes you enjoy eating. Now consider each of these cards a different aspect of your life. The gospel provides us with many different important and delicious recipes which all contribute to our overall growth and development, and ultimately our eternal salvation. Let's take a look at three of those cards together.
The first card reads "Sustaining the Lord's Chosen Servants." This recipe is really an invitation to support and assist those who are in a position of authority to guide and serve us. Each year in Ward Conference, Stake Conference, and General Conference, we are asked to raise our right hand, indicating that we sustain the leaders whom the Lord has chosen. We are also given the opportunity to indicate a "contrary" vote if we so choose. But while the vast majority of us raise our hand in support of these chosen leaders, the degree to which individual members sustain the leaders of the church can vary widely. In other words, some carelessly toss in the ingredients but forget to follow the rest of the directions on the card.
To be fully supportive of our leaders means not only that we follow their counsel and guidance but also that we speak respectfully of them and their office. It means we actively support them by accepting assignments and working faithfully to carry out those assignments. Indeed, it means treating them just as we would the Lord Himself if he were here leading our ward or stake and giving us such counsel, guidance, and assignments.
Now think about how closely your support for your bishop and stake president here on campus aligns with that recipe for success. Do you listen and humbly follow their counsel? Do you speak respectfully of them and their office? Do you accept the assignments and invitations they extend, and do you seek to carry those out faithfully and diligently? Those steps of the recipe might seem small or insignificant, but they are, in fact, an important dimension of your spiritual development and progress. Remember, being "almost exact" cannot yield a perfect outcome. However, if you follow the steps precisely, you will end up with wonderful results, because "there is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven . . . upon which all blessings are predicated . . ."
Now, let's pull out a second recipe card from the box. This one is entitled "Honesty." The Lord's standard with regards to honesty is very clear. In fact, four of the Ten Commandments relate to various aspects of honesty, and the 13th Article of Faith states firmly, "We believe in being honest."
You may recall that one of the unique characteristics of the people of King Lamoni, following their conversion, was that ". . . they were distinguished in zeal towards God, and also towards men; for they were perfectly honest and upright in all things" (Alma 27:27). We, too, should be distinguishable because of our perfect honesty.
While the Lord's standard is absolute, we all know seemingly "good" people who routinely compromise their honesty. It may begin with embellishing the truth to take credit for something beyond their own work, or it may involve filling in an expense report such that the amount reimbursed is a few dollars more than the actual expenses incurred on their business trip. Perhaps it starts with rationalizing that some small sin really doesn't require confession or discussion with a Priesthood leader when asked during an interview about our personal worthiness.
These seemingly small and simple acts of dishonesty place one on a very slippery slope. Almost daily we hear of people who have been convicted of taking property or cash from an employer, or who have been caught cheating on their commitments to their spouse or family. These people did not set out to end up in jail or ruin their family. Most started out with little compromises. But such is the nature of a pattern of choices that is off by even just two degrees, as over time that two degrees is magnified, leading to significant pain and heartache. How true the Lord's counsel in Matthew 16:26, "For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?"
On the other hand, by following the recipe exactly, we overcome the urge to take credit for something we really didn't do. By filling in your expense report precisely, no matter how easily you could get away with larger numbers, and by refusing to rationalize away private sins, we will end up with wonderful results. That is the way blessings work. It is a divine law, as tried and true as the scientific laws that govern the baking of cakes and cookies and even orange rolls.
Perhaps nowhere do we see more clearly the blessings that come from following the Lord's standard of honesty than in the lives of Helaman's young warriors. "They were men who were true at all times in whatsoever thing they were entrusted. Yea, they were men of truth . . ." (Alma 53:20-21). And as a consequence they were richly blessed, both temporally and spiritually, for adhering to the Lord's standard of truth and honesty.
I would invite each of us to make an unbiased assessment of our own personal standard of honesty. Are we completely honest in our dealings with others? Do we avoid any compromises or allowances to get personal gain? Commit today that you will adhere to the Lord's standard of honesty. It is His recipe for success.
Now, there's a third card I'd like you to pull out from your recipe box. Let's look closely at the one that's titled "Beware of Entertainment and Media." It's pretty easy to read: It says we should let no "unclean" thing enter our minds or hearts or proceed from our mouths.
During the last several years of President Hinckley's life, in every single general conference of the church, he discussed the importance of avoiding those things that would defile and disqualify us from having the Holy Ghost. Invariably, he would mention such things as music and lyrics, magazines and books, television and movies, and particularly the internet. He always connected these things to the dangers of addictive behavior regarding pornography. Why would God's chosen prophet make this one of just a handful of themes that he never failed to mention?
Undoubtedly it was because the Lord had made it abundantly clear to President Hinckley how habit forming, addictive, and dangerous such behavior becomes. Furthermore, President Hinckley had ample evidence of the destructiveness of poor media choices because of the many letters he received. In fact, he would often quote from those letters, hoping that the personal pain and suffering of others might help us gain the resolve needed to firmly resist such temptations in our own lives.
Again, we see further proof of the Recipe Rule. Only in precisely following the Lord's counsel, as delivered by His prophets, can we be assured that we will remain on course and avoid what has become one of today's most frequent and tragic evils. Even being off course by just one or two degrees puts us at tremendous risk. Pornography is a recipe for disaster. The only sure and safe recipe is follow the Lord's plan and avoid pornography and "anything like unto it." (D&C 59:6)
Now, any experienced chef will tell you that sometimes they make a mistake and can see they're headed toward a sticky hockey puck, but the beauty of cooking is that you can always dump out the ingredients and start fresh. Brothers and sisters, I would invite each of us to honestly consider the interactions we've had recently with media, including music, magazines, books, TV, movies, and the internet. Was there any of it that caused you to lose the Spirit? Was there any of it that caused you to think inappropriate thoughts? Was there any of it that caused you to engage in inappropriate behaviors? If so, dump out the ingredients and start fresh. Ask the Lord's forgiveness and seek His help in correcting the problem. If needed, have a confidential discussion with your bishop. He loves you and can help you develop a plan that will make you worthy of the Holy Ghost, one that will enable you to stay on the Lord's course in this important aspect of your life.
Now that we've looked at three of the cards in your recipe box, let's look at the box itself. There's a name for that box. It's called "Putting the Kingdom of God First," and it contains all the cards we've talked about plus many others. The Lord's commandment to His disciples is very clear: ". . . Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness" (Matthew 6:33).
So what does "putting the kingdom of God first" mean? Is it raising our hand in sacrament meeting to show that we sustain our leaders or is it following their counsel, speaking respectfully of them, and carrying out our assignments? Does putting God's kingdom first mean being honest when people are watching or does it mean being honest always, audience or not? Does it mean accepting the world's definition of pornography or the Lord's definition? They are not the same.
Obviously, putting the kingdom of God first means following His Recipe for Success precisely because "almost exact" just isn't good enough. Remember President Uchtdorf's observation that the difference between happiness and misery usually comes down to an error of only a few degrees. None of us wants to find ourselves two degrees off course when we're flying over unfamiliar territory. The risks are just too great, the consequences too serious.
Every time we knowingly accept deviations from the Lord's standard, no matter how small and seemingly insignificant, we will inevitably discover that we have put something other than the Kingdom of God first in our life. The Savior Himself taught that "no man can serve two masters." We may be able to pretend to do so for a time, but eventually we will "hate the one and love the other; or [we] will hold to the one and despise the other" (Matthew 6:24).
I know this is easier said than done, especially as a young adult. When I was your age, there were several aspects of my life where I sincerely tried to put the Lord first, consistently following His recommended path and quickly taking corrective action when I strayed, even just a little. For example, paying tithing was always straightforward and easy for me. I never struggled with that commandment. Attending seminary was also clear cut. I could see the wisdom and blessings connected with being a diligent seminary student.
But there were other areas during those early University years where I was not yet convinced that such "exactness" was needed and where I would, on occasion, find my actions off course, usually just a few degrees but, nevertheless, off course. One of these was in attending all my meetings. Sunday meetings were easy but weeknight MIA, as we called it back then, was a struggle for me. I questioned its importance and could usually find things I would rather be doing. Similarly, I didn't see a need for daily scripture study. As long as I spent some time reading my scriptures several times each week, I would surely be fine.
I believe that such challenges and temptations beset all of us during our teenage and young adult years. Indeed, I've often thought that such were the challenges that the prophet Joseph Smith was referring to when he recorded his experiences leading up to the initial visit of the Angel Moroni. In his own words, he stated:
"ï¿½Mingling with all kinds of society, I frequently fell into many foolish errors, and displayed the weakness of youth, and the foibles of human nature; which I am sorry to say, led me into divers temptations, offensive in the sight of God. In making this confession, no one need suppose me guilty of any great or malignant sins. A disposition to commit such was never in my nature." (JS-History, 28-29)
Clearly the young prophet Joseph felt he was falling short of what he knew to be the course God would have him follow, the Lord's Recipe for Success, and thus it was that he retired to his bed for the night, and "betook [himself in] prayer and supplication to Almighty God for forgiveness of [his] sins and follies." In answer to that heartfelt supplication, Joseph was visited by the Angel Moroni, as it were his personal tutor, to help him learn to put the kingdom of God first and to seek no other goal than to do God's work.
It's been my observation that each of us, on occasion, has the clarity of thought, fresh insight, and divine inspiration to realize that we have strayed from the exact recipe. We have measured carelessly or been impatient with our yeast. Critical at such a time is the desire and commitment to make corrections and adjustments, even to dump out the batter and start fresh if necessary.
Allow me to share one personal example of when I experienced just such an occasion. I was in my second year at the University and approaching my 20th birthday. Because I had been the youngest in my class throughout high school, all of my friends who were going on missions had already left by the start of my sophomore year in college. But I was still 18, so I had continued on in school. I was also on the university swim team, doing well in school, and dating a wonderful young lady. In short, I was having a lot of fun. In fact, I was enjoying life so much that I was selfishly becoming increasingly reluctant to leave for my mission. I remember even thinking that maybe I should wait until after I graduated to go on a mission.
Then one Sunday, my bishop asked me when I was going on a mission, and I gave an indirect response about wanting to finish that year of school. Later that afternoon at the dinner table, my dad happened to ask me when I was going. Through a couple of key questions, he challenged me to find out what the Lord wanted me to do. His questions haunted me for several days because I knew the recipe for success regarding the blessings of serving a full-time mission.
I finally went to see the bishop to make firm plans to leave on my mission that summer. I am so grateful that the Lord provided the circumstances and subtle hints that led me to make a choice that clearly corrected my error and redirected a slight deviation in my course. Following that particular recipe made a huge difference in the rest of my life.
As I have thought about the blessings that come from putting the kingdom of God first in our lives, I'm reminded of a story that President Monson told a few years ago in one of his conference talks. It's the story of a Brother Joseph Millett who recorded the following in his journal:
One of my children came in, [and] said that Brother Newton Hall's folks were out of bread. [They] had none that day. I put ï¿½ our flour in [a] sack to send up to Brother Hall's. Just then Brother Hall came in. Says I, ï¿½Brother Hall, how are you for flour?'
He answered, ï¿½Brother Millett, we have none.'
ï¿½Well, Brother Hall, there is some in that sack. I have divided ours and was going to send this to you. Your children told mine that you were out.'
"Brother Hall began to cry. He said that he had tried others and could not get any. [He then] went to the cedars and prayed to the Lord and the Lord told him to go to Joseph Millett.
ï¿½Well, Brother Hall, you needn't bring this back if the Lord sent you for it. You don't owe me for it.'
Brother Millet's journal continued, "You can't [imagine] how good it made me feel to know that the Lord knew that there was such a person as Joseph Millett." (In Eugene England, New Era, July 1975, p. 28.)
What a great blessing to know that the Lord knows He can trust us to put His Kingdom first and to do His will and act on His behalf when inspired to do so. The Lord will give us subtle "hints" to help us see how we are doing, though He will never take away our agency to choose for ourselves. And He will never remove the consequences of our choices. Rather, He may inspire our bishop to casually ask us about our mission plans, or our father to suggest we seek out the Lord's will in the matter.
If we are doing well, He might guide a person in need to us, and that person might even confide to us that we are an answer to their earnest prayers. I know from personal experience that the Lord is prepared to give each of us such blessings if we follow His Recipe for Success, making adjustments and corrections as needed and as prompted by the Holy Ghost.
Brothers and Sisters, I would invite each of you to re-examine those "small and simple" daily choices you make and determine whether you are following the Lord's Recipe for Success. If you're not sure what that recipe is, find out. Study your scriptures and seek counsel from the prophets. And if you find that you have been distracted or impatient or careless in your cooking, take the corrective steps needed to get back on track. Don't settle for a sticky hockey puck when you could have delicious orange rolls. Don't be afraid to ask for the Lord's help in the process. He will answer your prayers and bless your life immeasurably.
I testify that we are His children, sons and daughters of God. He loves us and desires to bless us if we will but make those choices that entitle us to the blessings of the Atonement and all that our Father has. And I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.