All Things Shall Work Together for Your Good

----------------------

Devotional Talk Given at
Brigham Young University-Hawaii

July 24, 2003
Douglas Bates
University Librarian

In my younger days when I was participating in the youth program of the church each month a scripture was selected to highlight a theme for the month. When I was 14 or 15 one of the scriptures selected as our theme made a strong impression on me. I have remembered it over the years and from time to time I have evaluated my life in the context of this scripture. It is found in D&C 90: 24. "Search diligently, pray always and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good if you walk uprightly and remember the covenant wherewith you have covenanted one with another. In this scripture the Lord has given us what I will call a pattern for our lives. A pattern with a promise. And it is this pattern with a promise that I want to speak about for a few minutes today.

Throughout the scriptures the Lord makes promises. And one of the significant things about the promises of the Lord is that he asks us to test Him. In the Hymn, "We Thank Thee O God For a Prophet", we sing the words, "We doubt not the Lord nor his goodness, for we have proved Him in days that are past." This concept of proving the Lord is powerfully illustrated in Malachi. As I say a few things about D&C 90:24 today I want you to keep in mind a specific phrase found in Malachi 3:10. Talking about tithing the Lord says "Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of host, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it" The phrase I want you to keep in mind is prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts and I want you to relate that phrase to the pattern found in D&C 90:24.

The first element of the pattern is search diligently. The word diligent is defined as characterized by steady, earnest, and energetic effort. This admonition to search or seek can be applied to many things but I want to focus on three in particular. The first thing I want to mention about searching is from D&C 88:119 the Lord says And as all have not faith seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom yea seek ye out of the best books; yea seek learning even by study and also by faith. I especially like the part about seek ye out of the best books. It just so happens that I know where you can find several thousand of the best books. It is not too far from here. As a matter of fact I will even let you borrow some of them. If you promise to bring them back. We have a great opportunity to study and work at this university. You who are students will learn many wonderful things here from dedicated and talented faculty. When you leave the university and as time goes by you will undoubtedly want to learn new and different things. Much of the information in the fields you are studying now will change. And as wonderful as the faculty is, you can't take them with you. However it is likely that wherever you go you will have access to some type of library either paper or digital or both. I encourage you that while you are here that you learn the skills of how to seek out of the best books or database. I encourage you to develop the desire to learn as the lord counsels even by study and also by faith. You will notice the Lord does not say seek ye out of the best books until you are 25 years old or even 35. Your search should be a life long endeavor.

Another important search that we should pursue with steady, earnest and energetic effort is searching the scriptures. I grew up in California and spent my first year of college at San Diego State University in Sunny San Diego. After my first year at San Diego State, in the fall of 1976 I was called to serve a mission in Sweden. Just before I entered the LTM my father passed away and we had to move from the home in which I had grown up. I arrived in Sweden on the 28th of December 1976.  At that time of year in Stockholm the sun comes up around 9:30 and goes down at 3:30 in the afternoon and when it is daylight it is either snowing or completely overcast. After 3 weeks in Sweden I couldn't speak the language very well, the people were not exactly lining to be baptized, every time I went outside I was freezing, and I had not seen the sun for almost a month. I was feeling pretty useless and depressed. One day I was at the desk by a window in our apartment doing my daily scripture study and occasionally glancing outside at my winter wonderland. I was reading in the New Testament in one of the Gospels. I don't remember now the specific reference but I was reading the words of the Savior.  As I read, a warm spirit came over me and it felt almost as if I was there and the Lord was speaking to me. At that time, while I was struggling as a missionary, the Lord took the occasion of my regular daily scripture study to give me much need comfort and strength. To be sure many trying days (including a lot more snow and cold) lay ahead but I had received much needed encouragement to carry on and something I could look back on when times got tough again. In D&C 18: 34-36 the Lord says this about the scriptures.  "These words are not of man or of men but of me, wherefore you shall testify they are of me and not of man. For it is my voice which speaketh them unto you, for they are given by my spirit unto you, and by my power you can read them one to another, and save were it by my power you could not have them. Wherefore you can testify that you have heard my voice and know my words. Now that type of immediate effect does not happen every time we read the scriptures. But besides the immediate benefits there are cumulative benefits to searching the scriptures. As we read the scriptures we fill our minds with truth and light In D&C 84 45 the Lord says "For the word of the Lord is truth, and whatsoever is truth is light, and whatsoever is light is spirit, even the Spirit of Jesus Christ". If our minds are filled with truth and light we can draw on that truth and light throughout our lives. Like the virgins in the parable of the ten virgins we never know when we will need the oil. But if we don't have it when the time comes it is too late.

The third aspect of searching or seeking also concerns what we put in our minds. I would like us to consider the last phrase of the 13 Article of Faith. "If there is anything virtuous lovely or of good report or praiseworthy we seek after these things." In today's world we have many choices for our entertainment Movies, videos, DVD's books, magazines, the Internet. I believe what the Lord tells us in the 13th article of faith can be applied directly to the choices we make for our entertainment. He has counseled us to seek that which is virtuous lovely and of good report or praiseworthy. I want to focus on the first word virtuous. One of The blessings of seeking after that which is virtuous is highlighted in D&C 121: 45. Let they bowels be full of charity to all men, and to the household of faith and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly, Then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God, and the doctrine of the priesthood will distill on thy soul as the dews from heaven".  Whenever we choose entertainment  we can ask ourselves with what are my thoughts being garnished by watching this or reading this or whatever the case may be.

Having confidence in the presence of God is a powerful blessing and relates directly to the second part of the pattern pray always. Prayer is an opportunity for us to enter the presence of the Lord. The Hymn Sweet Hour of Prayer expresses the thought beautifully. " Sweet hour of prayer, sweet hour of prayer that calls me from a world of care and bids me at my fathers throne, make all my wants and whishes known"   The Lord asks us not only to pray but to pray always. I would like to relate two experiences that taught me somewhat of the meaning of pray always. In 1991 I was playing on a ward softball team that was participating in the local city league in Manhattan, Kansas. Before each game we would gather as a team to have a prayer. At one particular game for some reason we forgot to pray before the game. I was playing second base and in the second inning when we were in the field the first baseman said to me Hey we didn't have a prayer before the game. I responded, yes you are right. But silently I clearly remember thinking. "Ah so what, nothing ever happens at these games". Two innings later we were in the field again. The first batter up hit a hard low line drive directly at me. I could tell by the flight of the ball that it was going to hit about 5 feet in front of me. It was going to be a one hopper, one of the easiest infield plays. Now, I am a fairly coordinated person, and I have played a fair amount of infield. To this day I do not know how I missed the ball but I missed it. It hit me right in the mouth and knocked me to my knees. My very first thought was, I sure hope I still have my teeth. After checking my teeth my second thought was, I guess we should have had that prayer. My lip was split from the bottom of my nose all the way down. It took two hours in the emergency room and 15 to 20 stitches to patch me up. You can draw your own conclusions but I believe that I was taught a lesson that day. Regular prayer makes a difference. Even those prayers we say routinely such as at the beginning of activities or sporting events or meetings. God is paying attention and we should pray always with the understanding and faith that He is paying attention. Answers to our regular daily prayers are not often immediate but we should continue to pray regularly with the faith that the Lord will bless us. Whenever we pray we are approaching the throne of God and our attitude should be one of reverence and faith.   Remember the brother of Jared. In Ether 2:14 we read "It came to pass at the end of four years the Lord came again unto the Brother of Jared, and stood in a cloud and talked with him and for the space of three hours did the Lord talk with the Brother of Jared and chastened him because he remembered not to call upon the name of the Lord."   These are not lessons I have applied perfectly in my life but they are lessons I will always remember because I a reminded of them every time I shave.

The second experience happened some years earlier. We were living in Salt Lake City, our oldest daughter Lisle was 2 and Sandee was pregnant with our second daughter Monica. And I was about to lose my job. Within a few short weeks we would have no income and no health insurance. About this time a large well established company in Massachusetts began recruiting me for the position of customer service representative. They were very positive about my chances. The entire family would fly to the east coast on a Friday and spend the week-end in looking for a place to live. On Monday I would visit with representatives of the company and we would   finalize the deal. Surely this was a blessing waiting to happen. On the day before the trip Sandee asked have you prayed about this. I said no, it seemed fairly obvious to me that the Lord was going to bless us with a job on the East coast. She said, I think you should pray. As usual Sandee's counsel was wise. I agreed and sought out a quiet place to pray. I knelt down and no sooner did I begin to ask the question than the Spirit whispered to me, as clearly as it ever has, they will offer you the job but you should not take it. I would like to be able to report that I immediately stood up and announced to Sandee that the Lord had counseled that I not take the job. We were going to have to find something else. What actually happened is I thought "there must be some mistake. This can't be right. We had better go to Massachusetts and check this out", So off to Massachusetts we went. The entire week-end was one long stupor of thought. On Monday morning I sat down with the Vice President. We had talked for no more than a minute when he said "you don't want this job" and I said you're right I don't. At that point I felt like a burden was lifted. Later, sitting in our rental car in the company parking lot,  Sandee and I discussed our situation. We did not know how the Lord would bless us, but he did. The way was made possible for me to go back to school and study librarianship. One of the lessons that I learned from that experience does not specifically fit with what I have been discussing but I will share it anyway. That is you can have no greater blessing in life than an eternal companion who loves the Lord and is full of faith and has an obedient heart. Sandee is all of that and I am greatly blessed because of it. What may seem like the most obvious path to choose is not always the right path. We should seek the counsel of the Lord through prayer and he will lead us in the direction which is best for us. And when the Spirit whispers to us we should be believing.

Which is the third part of the pattern.   One of the great tests for the saints in any age is how they react to the words of the living prophet. Do we believe what he says?  Do we believe that he is speaking for the Lord? At times we may lose sight of the fact that what the prophet gives us is not his own counsel but counsel from the Lord. Not long after Lehi and his family left Jerusalem, the Lord commanded to Lehi to tell his sons that they were to return to Jerusalem to get the Brass plates. The assignment was not well received by Laman in Lemuel.  In 1 Nephi 3: 5 Lehi says "And now behold thy brothers murmur, saying it is a hard thing which I have required of them: but behold I have not required it of them, but it is a commandment of the Lord. Laman and Lemuel seemed to have two problems They thought the assignment was too hard and they did not believe it came from the Lord.

  Sometimes the problem is not that the counsel is too hard or even that we doubt the source. Sometimes we ignore it because it seems too easy or insignificant.  Consider Naaman captain of the host of the King of Syria. Naaman was afflicted with leprosy. When the King heard, through a captured servant from Israel, that there was a prophet who could cure Naaman's leprosy he sent Naaman to Israel. In 2 Kings Chapter 5 starting in verse 9 "So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariots, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha. And Elisha sent a messenger unto him saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean. But Naaman was wroth, and went away and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the Lord his God, and strike his hand over the place and recover the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? May I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage. And his servants came near, and spake unto him and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing wouldest thou not have done it? How much rather then when he saith to thee wash and be clean. Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child and he was clean". Let us consider carefully all of the counsel that the prophet gives us and not ignore the seemingly small yet significant direction because we are waiting for some great thing. In either case an essential part of being believing is that we follow the counsel of the prophet.

At the center of all that we believe is our faith in Jesus Christ. Alma, when preaching the Zoramites compared the word to a seed and asked them to place it in their hearts. When he had finished speaking the Zoramites asked him how they should plant the seed, or word, in their hearts or how they should begin to exercise their faith. In Chapter 33  beginning in verse 19 through the first part of verse 23 Alma talks to the Zoramites  about Jesus and says "Behold, he was spoken of by Moses; yea, and behold a type was raised up in the wilderness, that whosoever would look upon it might live. And many did look and live. But few understood the meaning of those things, and this because of the hardness of their hearts. But there were many who were so hardened that they would not look, therefore they perished. Now the reason they would not look is because they did not believe that it would heal them.  O my brethren, if ye could be healed by merely casting about your eyes that ye might be healed, would ye not behold quickly, or would ye rather harden your hearts in unbelief, and be slothful, that ye would not cast about your eyes, that ye might perish?  If so, wo shall come upon you; but if not so, then cast about your eyes and begin to believe in the Son of God, that he will come to redeem his people, and that he shall suffer and die to atone for their sins; and that he shall rise again from the dead, which shall bring to pass the resurrection, that all men shall stand before him, to be judged at the last and judgment day, according to their works. And now, my brethren, I desire that ye shall plant this word in your hearts" Above all else we should believe in Jesus Christ, that he redeemed us, atoned for our sins and was resurrected and that one we will also be resurrected and stand before him to be judged.

One of the ways that we plant the word in our hearts and exercise our faith is that we walk uprightly. When I was 14 this meant to my unsophisticated teen age mind that we should do what we are supposed to do. Either my mind is still unsophisticated or it is that simple because it still means to me: do what we are supposed to do. I would like to emphasize a different aspect of this part of the pattern. When we do what we are supposed to do not only are we blessed but we will be a blessing to other people. When our family was younger we were living in Lubbock Texas. At that time in our lives, it seemed to me that the Spirit in our home was not what it should be. It was my conclusion that the problem was that the children were not being sufficiently obedient. I determined that they needed a lesson on respect for their father and for obedience so that we would have less contention and more of the Spirit. My first idea for this lesson was to have a talk with our home teacher and ask him to prepare a message to help the children. Now our home teacher was very faithful and visited every month. After considering it I decided that I would not speak to him about the issue but I would let the Lord inspire him and see what he came up with. When the time for the visit came we exchanged pleasantries and then our home teacher said we have a message today about the Spirit in the home. He then looked at me and said the primary responsibility for the Spirit in the home belongs to the Father. . It is a lesson that is still a work in progress. But it is a lesson I have always remembered. And I am able to work on it in part because a faithful brother was doing his home teaching. We do not know now all of the people that we have influenced or will influence because we faithfully do what we are supposed to do.

In May 1977 the sun had finally come out in Sweden and my companion and I had an appointment one morning in a suburb on the south side of Stockholm. We arrived at the apartment complex 20 minutes early. Not much time to accomplish anything and we could conceivably have sat on a bench and enjoyed the sunshine after the long winter. However we discussed it and my companion suggested that we knock on some doors and see if we could talk to someone for a few minutes. Neither of us felt any special prompting to do so. We concluded that we were missionaries and that is what missionaries should be doing. After a few minutes we knocked on a door and a woman came to the door. We introduced ourselves and explained that we had a short message and asked to come in. She said that it was not her apartment. She was just visiting a friend who had stepped out for a moment. We asked her where she lived. She said she lived on the North side of Stockholm. We said that while that was not I our area we had missionaries all over the city. We asked if we could have her address and have some of our colleagues visit her. She agreed. She gave us her address and we gave her a pamphlet about Joseph Smith. I thought no more about the encounter until February 1978. In the intervening months I had served at different places in the mission and in February received a transfer to the Stockholm north zone. At church one Sunday not long after my arrival I was approached by a sister who asked "Elder Bates, do you remember me?" I said "no I'm sorry." She said "last May you and your companion knocked on a door in Jordbro. I was visiting a friend. I gave you my address and you gave me a pamphlet. I was baptized in September." When we do what we are supposed to do, what we are called to do, the Lord will use us to bless the lives of others. Whether it is through missionary work, visiting, home teaching, primary, young women's or young men's if we walk uprightly we will be blessed and we will and bless others.

The last piece of the pattern deals with covenants. And remember the covenant you have covenanted one with another. At the beginning of my remarks I said that God makes and Keeps promises. It is one of the many attributes that makes him God. We can absolutely and unconditionally depend on what he has said and promised to do. I mentioned the phrase I Malachi that describes this attribute. It is also described in a different way in Abraham 3: 17. In the second half of the verse it says. "And there is nothing that the Lord thy god shall take in his heart to do but what he will do it."  We have made covenants  with each other. I have made a covenant with this university. I have promised to perform a job and implicitly I have promised to perform it to the best of my abilities. For the work the University has promised to pay me. All of the employees have entered into a similar covenant with the University. All of the employees have also signed a code of honor. We have covenanted to certain standards. The students have also entered into a covenant. Each one has signed a paper agreeing to abide by the code of honor. If we remember our covenants we have made with each other and faithfully follow them we will be taking on a Godly attribute and will be blessed for it. If we ignore our covenants we are jeopardizing our blessings. We cannot ignore these covenants and remain unaffected. 

We have also made covenants with God, all of which include promised blessings.  I will mention one such covenant associated with baptism. In Mosiah 18:8 Alma talks to the people who are about to be baptized." And it came to pass that he said unto them: Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another's burdens, that they may be light;   Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life --   Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you? "Let us remember our covenants both those we have made with each other and those that we have made with God.

In D&C 90:24 God has given us a pattern with a promise and the promise is that all things shall work together for your good. I can't see very far into the future. There are times when I wish I could, especially times of stress like sitting in a rental car in Massachusetts, having no job, or health insurance and wondering how it will all work out, or walking into the LTM leaving behind my newly widowed mother with two teenage children at home and two sons in the mission field. All of us have periods of trial and testing that sometimes involve pain and sorrow. If you haven't already you will face such trials. You may be facing them today. When you face your trials you may also wish you could get a glimpse of the future to see what will happen to you and what you can do to make it work out. Even though I can't see into the future, at this point I can look back and see what has transpired. I can see my life since entering the mission field. I can see my life with Sandee and our family since that day in Massachusetts. What I can see is how patterns of events, both large and small, have worked together for our good and I can say without a doubt that what the Lord says in D&C 90:24 is true. In Jacob 4:13 Jacob has this to say about what is true. "for the spirit speaketh the truth and lieth not wherefore it speaketh of things as they really are and of things as they really will be". What the Lord has spoken in D&C 90:24 is things as they really are and things as they really will be. Brothers and sisters let us prove the Lord. Remember Search diligently, Pray always, and be believing and all things shall work together for your good if ye walk uprightly and remember the covenant wherewith ye have covenanted one with another.