Let every man take heed how he builds

Philip Packer DevotionalDevotional Talk Given at
Brigham Young University-Hawaii

October 26, 2010
Philip Packer
Professor
BYU-Idaho

Good morning brothers and sisters. I am grateful to be here with you today and for the opportunity to share some thoughts. I recognize this special place and ask for your prayers that the Spirit of the Lord will carry my words to your hearts. I am especially thankful to be introduced by my sweet companion, Pat. I'm always better when she is near. She helps me keep the proper perspective. As I was preparing to speak, I was looking in the mirror trying to get my hair in just the right place. I said to Pat, "I wonder how many great speakers there are in the Church?" Always trying to help me learn, she said, "I don't know, but there is one fewer than you think there is."

Today I begin with the opportunity each of us has to make choices. We know that as we travel through life we come in contact with situations and people. Sometimes our travel is referred to as a path, sometimes as a highway, but whichever it is, we have choices to make as we experience our lives. My talk today is entitled "Let Every Man Take Heed How He Builds." That title is taken from 1Corinthians 3:10, where the Apostle Paul writes,

10. According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise master builder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon, But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.

Continuing to verses 11 through 14:

11. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

12. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;

13. Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is.

14. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.
Construction video Comments
Demolition video Comments

My message today is that each time we face a situation in our lives we have the opportunity to build in a beneficial way or to tear down in a destructive way. There is always an instant in which we can choose one way or the other.

In the Summer 2010 issue of The Wilson Quarterly (I), Daniel Akst, poses the question America: Land of Loners? He describes what he calls "Our longstanding reverence for self sufficiency." He cites the once popular Cole Porter song which pleads "give me land lots of land "˜neath the starry skies above, don't fence me in." In our society, we admire those whom we call "self made." We talk of "plowing one's own field." When others don't cooperate or things don't go our way, we jut out our jaws and say, "Well, I guess I'll have to go it alone." As a young boy, I idolized the great western hero, The Lone Ranger. I am not very sophisticated, I guess because to this day I can never listen to the William Tell Overture without thinking of the masked man fighting alone for justice in the old west.

This picture shows a single hiker. It is Brother Checketts crossing the Bechler River in the Yellowstone backcountry. He is alone in the river striding confidently from one bank to the other overcoming all obstacles...going it alone. Doesn't he look self reliant? But there were others on the hike. It is true that each hiker had to contribute individually, but the success of the hike was determined by the group. My memories of that hike are that we supported each other, we knew that we were part of a common enterprise, we would travel together, reach the upper part of the Bechler River and return to the trailhead.

In a larger sense, we are all linked together. We know that we are all children of our Heavenly Father, sent to earth to prove ourselves by learning to be like Him and His son, Jesus Christ. We have the possibility of eternal life because of the Savior's atonement bringing us together with Him and our brothers and sisters. You recognize His words in 3 Nephi 27:13-15: Behold I have given unto you my gospel, and this is the gospel which I have given unto you" ”that I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me. 14. And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by me, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil. 15. And for this cause have I been lifted up; therefore, according to the power of the Father I will draw all men unto me, that they may be judged according to their works.

Notice the words "all men" in these verses. The atonement applies to all of us. And similarly our works involve other people. Whatever our work in life, we influence others and they influence us. What we do and say becomes a shared experience with others. We can build or we can tear down. As Terry Warner wrote in his essay Honest, Simple, Solid, True: "We are not oysters or abalones existing in shells, even though that is how we feel when we become self involved. We are members of one another, committed to each other, and especially to God, by spiritual sensitivities and obligations profound as eternity." (II)

At times in our lives we may feel that we would rather "go it alone." Dealing with the push and pull of everyday situations tries us. We may think it would be a relief to be hermits with "land, lots of land" and not fenced in. But we recognize our ties to others around us. There is something which resonates within when we see challenges of others. We want to help, we want to build as Paul said, where we can.

The English theologian and poet, John Donne, wrote:

"All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; God's hand is in every translation, and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again"¦ No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were. Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee." (III)

In summary of this section of my message: We like to think we are self reliant. It is a virtue to be so, but we must realize that we are tied together. Opportunities abound for us to work cooperatively. I would like to suggest that we make the choice to build or tear down in a variety of situations. We can decide to "go it alone" or to contribute for the good of others.
I would like to test you now through a series of short situations. I ask that you listen carefully to each and then think about the question, "What could I do to "build" in each situation? "

The first situation I have called, "Contribute even when you disagree."
You are a member of a basketball team. It is late in the third quarter of a close game. You are called for your 4th foul. It was, we are sure, totally undeserved. The coach calls time out and says, "I'm taking you out. Take a seat. "You disagree, you are sure you can avoid fouling, and after all how can the team win without you? As you take your place on the bench you are at the pivotal moment I talked about before, you can decide to contribute or you can decide to detract.

What would you do?

Do you resent the coach and sulk at the end of the bench?

Do you throw a towel and go for a drink of water?

Do you mutter to yourself, I can't play for this guy?

How could you contribute? How could you build rather than tear down? You are out of the game.

What can you do in that moment, or even after the game to build, to contribute to the team and its members?

It takes a strong will to react positively when you disagree. I quote from my missionary District

Leader's Handbook from so long ago:

The signs of a man making progress are these: He censures no man; he accuses no man; he says nothing about himself as if he were somebody or knew something. When he is impelled at all or hindered, he blames himself; if he is censured by another, he offers no defense. (IV)

Epictetus

How could you contribute positively? Blaming the referee, the coach, or even the other team
does not help. You do have the ability, however, to encourage your team members and prepare
mentally to re-enter the game. Situation No. 1, then, is contribute even when you disagree.
The second situation I have called, "Contribute when someone else gets the credit."

You are serving as the second counselor in the Relief Society presidency. I know this may be hard to imagine for about half of you. You are asked to attend Ward Council in place of the president who is out of town. The bishop asks for suggestions on how to make the next ward activity better. You provide a suggestion for an activity which has always been a hit in the past. The council likes your idea and it gains momentum in the meeting. Soon everyone is participating in planning the activity and making assignments, but they forgot who had the idea in the first place. You are finally asked to be sure there are enough paper products on the refreshment table.

What would you do? How would you feel? How can you build rather than tear down?

Would you think, this is the last time I speak up?

The Relief Society always has the grunt work? The whole thing was my idea.

I'm pretty sure I'll be studying that night anyway? I don't think I can make it.

How could you contribute constructively even though someone else will get most of the credit?

Here is some perspective to help you decide. Elder Neal A. Maxwell quoting the Catholic writer G.K. Chesterton said:

"How much larger your life would be if you could become smaller in it you would be interested in others. You would break out of this tiny theatre in which your own little plot is always being played, and you would find yourself under a freer sky, in a street full of splendid strangers." (V)

If you were a little "smaller" as Elder Maxwell counseled, how would you respond to this situation? How could you build the Ward Council, the ward activity and those who attend? Situation Two, then, is contribute when others may get the credit.

I have called Situation Three, "Contribute when you are afraid."
One reason you are here at BYU-Hawaii is to prepare for your life's work. The day may come when you actually get a job. It will happen, you'll see. How would you respond constructively to this situation?

Not long after you graduate you take a position with a public relations firm. The firm's client is a major corporation involved in off-shore oil drilling. There is an accident at a deep-water well which results in multiple deaths and what appears to be an unstoppable leak of oil into the ocean. You are assigned to make a statement to the press. You write your statement carefully. It seems clear and accurate. Your teachers at BYU-Hawaii would be proud of you, but a bead of cold sweat trickles down your back as you enter the newsroom and approach the camera.

This is a tough situation. You would want to contribute in a meaningful way. It is important to your job, but there are also serious implications to what you are doing in society at large.

Would you be able to stand and deliver? Could you overcome the fear and build rather than tear down?

Would you say, "I can't do this," and try to run out the back door?

I didn't know it would be like this.

I'm not ready.

First, work is part of life. Elder Bruce R. McConkie speaking in general conference in April 1979 said, "We are here to work -to work long, hard, arduous hours, to work until our backs ache and our tired muscles knot; to work all our days." (VI) We must realize that, whatever work we are doing, it is going to require our best effort. Indeed, accomplishing our work is a positive principle of the gospel. As Elder Neal A. Maxwell said, "Even if work were not an economic necessity, it is a spiritual necessity." (VII)

Will you be able to overcome your fear when you face difficult situations at work? In one particularly trying situation, I found David's counsel to his son, Solomon, encouraging: ""¦be thou strong therefore, and shew thyself a man. (VIII)

If you were faced with this work situation, what would you do to contribute positively to a very difficult situation? Situation Three is contribute even though you are afraid.
I have called Situation Four, "Contribute when you have superior abilities."

You are a member of a study group in a senior seminar. There are five members of the group, all of whom are close to the end of their studies. The seminar involves research on the problem of affordable housing for low income citizens. You have just returned from a internship working with the poor in South Chicago. You believe you can really contribute to the group, but you don't want to come across as a "know it all."

How could you contribute to the group's success?

First, think of some all-too-human responses.

I can't carry the whole project, I've got too many other things going this semester.

Well, here we go again. I'll end up doing all the work and the others will just ride my coattails to graduation.

If I appear to know something, so and so will not like me. No one likes a know-it-all.

The first three situations required that you reach up to bring your talents to bear in difficult
situations. In this case you are asked to reach down to provide a helping hand.
Quoting Marianne Williamson: "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous. Actually, who are you not to be. You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. (IX)

Your playing small does not serve your study group. What could you do to build rather than tear down the study group?

So far, I have talked about the way we have a choice to contribute or detract, to build or tear down in many situations we face in life. We are not alone in our journey and we all do better when we work together. You can make every situation better.

You will have noticed by now that I have tried not to prescribe what you specifically should do in any of the situations. I hope you will think about how you could contribute rather than detract in each one. However, I would like to suggest three attributes which I believe are essential abilities to contributing constructively.

First: Confidence. This is not the "I'm the center of the universe" confidence which is often the most popular approach. This is the mindset that "I can solve problems." "I am confident enough in my own abilities and I know the source of my strength. I know the Lord will help me." You have to be "comfortable" in your own skin in order to build in every situation. This confidence is not based on a foundation of pride. In a recent Harvard Business Review article, Elder Clayton Christensen teaches that a key to making meaningful contribution is humility born of high self esteem. (X) This confidence is based on our knowledge that no matter what happens, God is in his heaven. As it says in Proverbs 3:26, "¦the Lord be thy confidence.

Can you see how having confidence would open the way for you to contribute positively in the situations we talked about? For example, could you focus on cheering for your team members and preparing to re-enter the game, rather than receding into your own embarrassment at having been taken out of the game? Could you contribute to the Ward Council even though someone else will get the credit for your idea about the ward activity?

Second: Courage. It often takes courage to build rather than tear down. Our courage can be based on the scriptural promise in 2 Timothy 1:7, "God has not given us the spirit of fear"¦" As we go about our work, the hymn instructs, "Gird up your loins, fresh courage take, our God will never us forsake." (XI) Can you see how courage founded in faith could help you contribute when you have to face the TV cameras in your news conference?

Third: Charity. We contribute so much better when we care about those with whom we associate. Donne's statement that we need not ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for each of us because we are part of the whole of humanity makes our contributions in every situation vital. We can attain the gift of charity by following the counsel provided in Moroni Chapter 27, verses 47 and 48:

47. But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.

48. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen.

In each of the four situations, your ability to build rather that tear down would be greatly enhanced if you could see those with whom you associate for whom they really are, children of or Heavenly Father, brothers and sisters who all have access to the great Plan of Happiness. Could you extend love to the Coach with whom you disagree? How would your contribution to the study group where you clearly had superior information and abilities be enhanced is you applied the gift of charity?

To begin my talk today I cited the scripture about being careful how we build from Corinthians. We each have the opportunity to add to people and situations in our lives. There is the moment when faced with a choice. Will we contribute or detract? It is so easy to detract, to tear down, to contend, to criticize, to withdraw. It is harder, but so much better to encourage, to build, to edify by our words and actions. We as a people are known for working cooperatively, for contributing in positive ways. What is at the heart of it?

Elder Dallin H Oaks provided the following insight as I close.

"Some attribute our member's willingness to sacrifice and their skills in cooperative effort to our effective Church organization or to what skeptics mistakenly call blind obedience. Neither explanation is correct. No outside copying of our organization and no application of blind obedience could duplicate the record of this Church or the performance of its members. Our willingness to sacrifice and our skills in cooperative efforts come from our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, from inspired teaching of our leaders, and from the commitments and covenants we knowingly make." (XII)

I hope you will think about how you can contribute in a positive way to everyday and extraordinary situations in your lives. You will have the opportunity to influence people and events with confidence, courage and charity. These essential attributes built on the foundation of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ will allow you to build rather than tear down. That faith is more than a belief that if think positive thoughts everything will turn out. It is based on our faith in His great atoning sacrifice. May we each take heed how we build, I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

I. Daniel Akst, "America: A Land of Loners?" The Wilson Quarterly, Summer 2010, p. 25.

II. C. Terry Warner, "Honest, Simple, Solid, True," Brigham Young Magazine, June 1996, p.35.

III. As quoted in The Belonging Heart, The Atonement and Relationships with God and Family, Bruce C. and Marie K. Hafen, Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1994, p.4.

IV. Epictetus as quoted in the District Leader's Handbook, Germany West Mission, 1971.

V. Neal A. Maxwell, "Brim with Joy," Brigham Young Magazine, Fall 2004, p. 61.

VI. Bruce R. McConkie, Stand Independent above All Other Creatures, Ensign, May 1979, p. 93.

VII. Neal A. Maxwell, "Insights from My Life, Ensign, August 2000, p. 7.

VIII. I Kings 2:2

IX. Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love, Harper Collins Publishers, 1992, pp. 190-191.

X. Clayton M. Christensen, "How Will You Measure Your Life?" Harvard Business Review, July-August 2010, p. 51.

XI. Come, Come, Ye Saints, Text by William Clayton, English Folk Song, Hymn No. 30, in Hymns of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1985.

XII. Dallin H. Oaks, "Unselfish Service", Ensign, May 2009.