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Foundational Speeches

A Quest for Life Eternal

I think the title “A Quest for Life Eternal”gives a broad enough platform for me toengage you in a conversation. I feel it is atremendous responsibility and privilege tospeak to you today. I pray for the ­inspiration ofheaven to attend me and to inspire my remarks.A Man of God and a School in LaieEighty-four years ago Elder David O. McKaystopped in Laie during a tour of Church missions. He attended the flag-raising and devotional exercises of the Laie Mission School,where 127 children of many races wereenrolled.Elder McKay was deeply touched as hewatched these ­children singing and praying and pledging allegiance to the flag of theUnited States. As he watched the proceedings,he envisioned a Church school of higher learning for Laie that would eventually complementthe recently dedicated Hawaii Temple in Laie.That vision, which endured for many years,including the years of World War II, culminated in what became the Church College ofHawaii, later renamed BYU–Hawaii.In February of 1955, the man who by thenhad become President of the Church—DavidO. McKay—presided at the groundbreakingservices. In September of that year the Church College of Hawaii officially commenced classeswith a student body of 153. Today on thisbeautiful campus there are some 2,400 studentsfrom Asia, the Pacific Islands, the U.S., another parts of the world. You represent over70 countries and are fulfilling the dream thatPresident David O. McKay had for you and thethousands of others who have passed, and whowill yet pass, through these hallowed halls.As he broke ground 50 years ago, PresidentMcKay declared that there were two purposesfor the school: first, for things “pertainingto God and His kingdom” and, second, to“develop . . . character, and make noble menand women” (David O. McKay, address atthe Church College of Hawaii groundbreaking, 12 February 1955; in Reuben D. Law, TheFounding and Early Development of the ChurchCollege of Hawaii [St. George, Utah: DixieCollege Press, 1972], 66–67). For 50 years nowthis institution has been fulfilling these noblepurposes. It will continue to do so.Honoring David O. McKayAs we celebrate this Golden Jubilee, may wealso, in a sense, celebrate the life of that giantof the Lord, President David O. McKay. It washe who, 42 years ago this month, extended tome my call to the apostleship—an event in mylife too sacred to detail. Before that time, I hadassisted him in preparing his writings anddiscourses so that they could be printed andpublished.President McKay was an educator and apatron of the arts. He was a teacher of truthafter the pattern of the Master Teacher, evenour Savior, Jesus Christ. Ever courteous andgentlemanly, President McKay was the epitomeof kindness.I observed this trait when, long before Iwas a General Authority, I entered his office to review some printing proofs. On that particularoccasion I noticed a picture on the wall, and Isaid to him, “President McKay, that’s a lovelypainting. Is it a rendition of your childhoodhome in Huntsville, Utah?”He sat back in his chair, gave a familiarDavid O. McKay chuckle, and said, “Let me tellyou about that picture. A sweet woman camein to see me one autumn day and presented tome that beautiful painting, framed and readyto be placed on the wall. She said, ‘PresidentMcKay, I have spent the entire summer painting this picture of your ancestral home.’” Hesaid he accepted the gift and thanked herprofusely.“Do you know, Brother Monson,” hecontinued, “that dear woman painted thewrong house. She painted the house next door!I didn’t have the heart to tell her she paintedthe wrong house. She may come back, so that’swhy it’s hanging on the wall.” But then hemade this comment, and here is a vital lessonfor us: “In reality, Brother Monson, she paintedthe right house because when as a young boyI would lie on the bed, which was on the frontporch of my ancestral home, the view I hadthrough the screened porch was of the veryhouse she painted. She did paint the righthouse for me!”As a new member of the Quorum of theTwelve in 1963, I met my colleagues for thefirst time in the fourth-floor room of the SaltLake Temple where the Presidency and theTwelve assembled. We were having the sacrament that day, and, as we were preparing to receive it, President McKay said to other members of the First Presidency and to the Quorumof the Twelve, “Before we partake of the breadand water, I would like to invite our newestmember, Brother Monson, to instruct the FirstPresidency and Quorum of the Twelve on theatoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. Wewill hear from you now, Brother Monson.”I can tell you, that was a heart-stopper for me.At the conclusion of the meeting, we wentto the lunchroom, where we were eating in thearea reserved for the First Presidency and theTwelve. President McKay was making conversation with me and said, “Brother Monson, doyou believe that William Shakespeare reallywrote the sonnets attributed to him?”“Yes,” I replied, “I do, President McKay.”He responded, “Wonderful! So do I; so do I.”In the moment of silence that followed, Ithought to myself, “I hope he moves awayfrom Shakespeare; I’m a business major.”However, he turned to me and said, “BrotherMonson, do you read Shakespeare?”I responded, “Occasionally.”“Fine,” he said. “What is your favorite workof Shakespeare?”I thought quickly and replied, “Henry theEighth.”He was unrelenting. “Which is your favoritepassage?” he asked.I had another heart-stopping moment rightthere. Then I thought of Cardinal Wolsey, thatman who served his king but had neglectedGod. Shorn of all his power, he lamented:Had I but served my God with half the zealI served my king, he would not in mine age Have left me naked to mine enemies.[William Shakespeare, King Henry the Eighth,act 3, scene 2, lines 455–57]President McKay smiled. “Oh, I love thatpassage, too,” he said. He then changed thesubject, for which I shall be ­eternally grateful.President David O. McKay was a giantamong men—truly a prophet of God. I paytribute to him and honor his name.Guidelines for Your QuestMy young friends, today I also pay tribute toyou. As one who loves you and who, with yourparents, appreciates your great expectations,may I discuss with you four guiding principlesto help you in your quest for education and toassist you throughout your lives?These guidelines are prepare properly, servewillingly, live honorably, and pray earnestly.Prepare ProperlyFirst, let us prepare properly. When we contemplate the eternal nature of our choices,preparation is a vital factor in our lives. Theday will come when we will look back uponour period of preparation and be grateful thatwe properly applied ourselves.Many years ago, when I worked in theprinting and ­publishing business, I had theopportunity to address a business conventionin Dallas, Texas, a city known as the City ofChurches. After the convention, I took a casualsightseeing tour by bus around the city’s suburbs. As we would pass the beautiful churches,our driver would comment, “On the left yousee the Methodist church” or “There on theright is the Catholic cathedral.”As we passed a beautiful red brick building situated upon a hill, the driver exclaimed,“That building is where the Mormons meet.”A lady’s voice from the rear of the bus calledout, “Driver, can you tell us something aboutthe Mormons?” The driver pulled the bus over to the sideof the road, turned around in his seat, andreplied, “Lady, all I know about the Mormonsis that they meet in that red brick building. Isthere anyone on this bus who knows anythingabout the Mormons?”I gazed at the expression on each person’sface for some sign of recognition, some desireto comment. I found nothing—not a sign. ThenI realized for the first time the truth of thestatement “When the time for decision arrives,the time for preparation is past.” For the nextfifteen minutes, I had the privilege of giving, asPeter declared, “a reason of the hope that is inyou” (1 Peter 3:15).Since that time, I have developed a greaterappreciation for the matter of proper preparation. You will recall the truth from the Doctrineand Covenants: “If ye are prepared ye shall notfear” (D&C 38:30).I once had the opportunity to teach at theuniversity level. Some of the students seemedto know where they were going. They appliedthemselves. They had objectives, they hadgoals, and they worked toward the achievement of these objectives and goals. Otherstudents could not have cared less. Theyseemed to be drifting on a sea of chance, withwaves of failure threatening to engulf them.In your pursuit of excellence, real effort isrequired. Remember, “He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he whichsoweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully”(2 Corinthians 9:6).I love the words of the American industrialist Henry Ford, who said:An educated man is not one whose memory istrained to carry a few dates in history—he is onewho can accomplish things. A man who cannotthink is not an educated man however many college degrees he may have acquired. Thinking is thehardest work any one can do—which is probably thereason why we have so few thinkers. [Henry Ford,My Life and Work, in collaboration with Samuel Crowther (Garden City, New York: Doubleday,Page and Company, 1922), 247]Greater than academic preparation is thematter of spiritual preparation. We mustacquire for ourselves a testimony of the gospelof Jesus Christ—a testimony that PresidentDavid O. McKay described as an anchor to thesoul.In this inquiring, inquisitive period of yourlives, some of you may ask, as did Pilate,“What is truth?” (John 18:38). And again weturn to the revelations for guidance: “Andthat which doth not edify is not of God, and isdarkness. That which is of God is light” (D&C50:23–24). Prepare properly.Serve WillinglyNext, serve willingly. The Lord declared, “TheLord requireth the heart and a willing mind;and the willing and obedient shall eat the goodof the land of Zion in these last days” (D&C64:34).A wise man of experience, Harry EmersonFosdick, once observed:Men will work hard for money. [Men] will workharder for other men. But men will work hardestof all when they are dedicated to a cause. . . . Dutyis never worthily performed until it is performedby one who would gladly do more if only he could.[In Emerson Roy West, comp., Vital Quotations(Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1968), 38; see alsoHarry Emerson Fosdick, The Second Mile (NewYork: Association Press, 1912), 26]When you help another in his race of life,you really also serve your God. King Benjaminstated the principle so beautifully: “When yeare in the service of your fellow beings ye areonly in the service of your God” (Mosiah 2:17).Let no one of us follow the example ofLaman or Lemuel. When given an opportunityto serve, they murmured, saying that it wasa hard thing that had been required of them. Their privilege was taken from them and givento willing Nephi, who confidently responded,“I will go and do the things which the Lordhath commanded, for I know that the Lordgiveth no commandments unto the children ofmen, save he shall prepare a way for them thatthey may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them” (1 Nephi 3:7).We do not live alone in our city, our nation,or our world. The New Testament teaches thatit is impossible to take a right attitude towardChrist without taking an unselfish attitudetoward men. “Inasmuch as ye have done itunto one of the least of these my brethren, yehave done it unto me” (Matthew 25:40). As wepray to our Heavenly Father each day, let uspray for His inspiration in guiding us to thoseto whom He would have us extend a helpinghand or a listening ear.Many years ago, as a bishop, I worriedabout any members of the ward who wereinactive. Such was my thought one day as Idrove down the street where Ben and Emilylived. The aches and pains of advancing yearshad caused them to withdraw from activity tothe shelter of their home. Isolated, detached,shut out from the mainstream of daily life andassociation, Ben and Emily had not been in oursacrament meeting for many years. Ben, whohad many years before served as a bishop inanother ward, loved to sit in his front roomreading the New Testament.I was en route from my uptown sales officeto our plant. For some reason I had drivendown First West, a street I never had traveledbefore to reach the destination of our plant.Then I felt the unmistakable prompting to parkmy car and visit Ben and Emily, even thoughI was on my way to a meeting. I did not heedthe impression at first but drove on for twomore blocks; however, when the impressioncame again, I returned to their home.I approached the door to their home andknocked. Emily opened the door and, uponseeing me—her bishop—she exclaimed, “All day long I have waited for my phone toring. It has been silent. I hoped that the postman would deliver a letter. He brought onlybills. Bishop, how did you know today is mybirthday?”I answered, “Our Heavenly Father knows,Emily, for He loves you. I don’t know why Iwas directed here today, but He knows. Let’skneel in prayer and ask Him.”Ben came into the room, and the three of usknelt in prayer. The reason for my visit wasmade clear as I felt impressed to invite bothBen and Emily to join us in our Church meetings, asking each of them to respond to a particular assignment.Each accepted and began regular attendanceonce again at Church, remaining active for therest of their lives. That day of my visit withBen and Emily, hearts were touched and soulssaved. My young brothers and sisters, it ismost important that we learn to serve willingly.Live HonorablyMy next guideline is to live honorably. Avoidthe detours that will deprive you of your celestial reward. You can recognize them if you will.They may be labeled “Just this once won’t matter” or “My parents are so old-fashioned.” Badhabits also can be such pitfalls: First, we couldbreak them if we would. Later, we would breakthem if we could.Each of you has received from the Savior—and I emphasize it anew today—the divinecharge to “let your light so shine before men,that they may see your good works, and ­glorifyyour Father which is in heaven” (Matthew5:16).“Ye are the light of the world” (Matthew5:14). To glow with brilliance, our code of conduct emphasizes not so much the philosophy“What will others think?” but rather “Whatwill I think of myself?”When I contemplate living honorably, mythoughts inevitably turn to Brother GustavWacker. I met Brother Wacker when I served as president of the Canadian Mission in EasternCanada. He was president of the KingstonBranch of that mission. He was from Germanyand spoke English with a thick accent. Henever owned or drove a car. He was a barberby trade, making but little money cutting hairnear an army base at Kingston.How Brother Wacker loved the missionaries! The highlight of his day would be whenhe had the privilege to cut the hair of a missionary. Never would there be a charge. Whenthe missionaries would make a feeble attemptto pay him, Brother Wacker would say, “Ohno, it is a joy to cut the hair of a servant of theLord.” Indeed, he would reach deep into hispockets and give the missionaries all of his tipsfor the day. If it were raining, as it often did inKingston, President Wacker would call a taxiand send the missionaries to their apartmentby cab, while he himself at day’s end wouldlock the small shop and walk home alone in the driving rain.I first met Gustav Wacker when I noticedthat his tithing was far in excess of thatexpected from his potential income. My effortsto explain to him that the Lord requiredno more than a tenth fell on attentive butunconvinced ears. He simply responded thathe loved to pay all he could to the Lord. Itamounted to about a third of his income. Hisdear wife felt exactly as he did. Their uniquemanner of tithing payment continued.Gustav and Margarete Wacker establisheda home that was a heaven. They were notblessed with children, but they mothered andfathered the young missionaries who loved tovisit them. Men of learning and men of experience sought out this humble man of God andcounted themselves fortunate if they couldspend an hour with him.His appearance was ordinary, his Englishwas halting and somewhat difficult to understand, his home was unpretentious. He didnone of the things to which the world usuallypays attention; yet the faithful beat a path to his door. Why? Because they wished to drink athis “fountain of truth.”It was not so much what he said as whathe did; not the substance of the sermons hepreached but the strength of the life he lived.He had the glow of goodness and the ­radianceof righteousness. His strength came fromobedience.In their later years, Brother and SisterWacker served a proselyting mission to theirnative Germany and later a temple missionin the beautiful Washington D.C. Temple.Then, in 1983, his mission in mortality concluded: dressed in his white temple suit,Gustav Wacker peacefully passed away in theWashington D.C. Temple while being held in the loving arms of his eternal companion. Hehad felt a bit faint, and the two of them founda sofa there in the temple, where they sat downjust before he slipped away. He had not laid upfor himself treasures on earth; rather, he hadlaid up for himself treasures in heaven (seeMatthew 6:19–20).The Psalmist wrote ever so long ago: “It isbetter to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the Lordthan to put confidence in princes” (Psalm118:8–9). Live honorably.Pray EarnestlyMy final guideline today is to pray earnestly.As we pursue our quest for eternal life, we willcome to many forks and turns in the road. Wecannot venture into the uncertainties of thefuture without reference to the certainties of the past. Your challenge is to join the forces of the old and the new—experience and experiment, history and destiny, the world of manand the new world of science—but always inaccordance with the never-changing word ofGod. In short, He becomes your pilot on thiseternal journey. He knows the way. His counsel can keep us from the pitfalls threatening toengulf us and will lead us, rather, to the way oflife eternal. As we face the temptations of time, the confusion of choice, the embarrassment of error,the pursuit of perfection, our Heavenly Fatheris there to listen, to love, to inspire. Our Father,to whom we earnestly pray, is not an etherealsubstance or a mysterious and incomprehensible being. Rather, He has eyes with which toview our actions, lips with which to speak tous, ears to hear our pleas, and a heart to understand our love.In our petition, we must remember that faithand doubt cannot exist in the mind at the sametime, for one will dispel the other.Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire. It is ourcompass to guide our lives. Prayer providespower—spiritual power. Prayer ­providespeace—spiritual peace.In February 1965, on my first visit to thevillage of Sauniatu, Samoa—so loved byPresident David O. McKay—my wife, Frances,and I met with a large gathering of smallchildren. At the conclusion of our messagesto these shy but beautiful youngsters, I suggested to the native Samoan teacher that wego forward with the closing exercises. As heannounced the final hymn, the distinct impression came to me that I should personally greeteach of these children. My watch revealed thatthe time was too short for such a privilege, soI discounted the impression.Before the benediction was to be spoken,I again felt this strong impression to shake thehand of each child. This time I made the desireknown to the instructor, who displayed a broadand beautiful smile. He spoke in Samoan to thechildren, and they beamed their approval ofhis comments.The instructor then revealed to me the reason for his and their joy. He said, “When welearned that President McKay had assigned a member of the Council of the Twelve to visitus in faraway Samoa, I told the children if theywould each one earnestly and sincerely prayand exert faith like the Bible accounts of old,that the Apostle would visit our tiny village at Sauniatu, and, through their faith, he would beimpressed to greet each child with a personalhandclasp.”Tears could not be restrained as each ofthose precious boys and girls walked shyly byand whispered softly to us a sweet talofa lava.Their prayers had been answered.My young brothers and sisters, may youprepare properly, serve willingly, live honorably, and pray earnestly.A Prophet’s Testimony and Prayer for YourSuccessI testify to you that God lives, that Jesus is theChrist, our Older Brother, our Mediator withthe Father, our Lord, and our Savior. May youhave this same testimony in your hearts to guide you well throughout your sojourn herein mortality and into the eternal worlds of ourHeavenly Father.Your parents are proud of you. Your facultymembers are pleased with your accomplishments. The leaders of the Church honor you.As we celebrate the Golden Jubilee of thisfine institution of higher learning, whoseexistence came about by inspiration, may youremember who you are and what you canbecome. May you choose the right when thechoice is placed before you. May you honoryour parents. May you love and serve God.May you also love your fellow man. May youhave peace within your hearts and contentmentwithin your souls. For these things I humblypray in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.