Choose Happiness | Larry R. Lawrence


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>>THIS DEVOTIONAL ADDRESS WITH
ELDER LARRY R. LAWRENCE
WAS GIVEN ON MARCH 8, 2016.
>>WELCOME, BROTHERS AND SISTERS,
TO OUR DEVOTIONAL. TODAY WE WILL HAVE THE
PRIVILEGE OF HEARING FROM ELDER LARRY R. LAWRENCE,
A GENERAL AUTHORITY SEVENTY. WE EXTEND A SPECIAL WELCOME
TO SISTER LAWRENCE WHO IS SEATED ON THE STAND,
AS WELL AS THEIR FAMILY MEMBERS
AND FRIENDS WHO ARE HERE.ELDER LAWRENCE JOINED
THE CHURCH IN 1970 AND
HAS SERVED IN NUMEROUS
CALLINGS SINCE THAT TIME. HE WAS CALLED TO SERVE AS
A GENERAL AUTHORITY IN 2010. ELDER LAWRENCE RECENTLY
PRESIDED OVER THE EASTERN EUROPE AREA OF THE CHURCH.HE AND HIS WIFE, LAUREL,
HAVE SPENT A TOTAL OF
SEVEN YEARS LIVING IN RUSSIA
TO FILL CHURCH ASSIGNMENTS
AND WERE REASSIGNED TO
SALT LAKE CITY LAST YEAR.
CURRENTLY ELDER LAWRENCE IS
CHAIRMAN OF THE SCRIPTURES
COORDINATION COMMITTEE AND
LEADS THE MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA
NORTH AREAS OF THE CHURCH.ELDER LAWRENCE GREW
UP IN TUCSON, ARIZONA, AND HE AND SISTER LAWRENCE WERE
MARRIED IN THE ARIZONA TEMPLE. AFTER MEDICAL SCHOOL
ELDER LAWRENCE MOVED HIS YOUNG FAMILY TO FRESNO, CALIFORNIA,
WHERE HE ESTABLISHED HIS MEDICAL PRACTICE. HE WORKED AS AN EYE SURGEON
WHILE SISTER LAWRENCE WORKED AS A FULL-TIME MOTHER. THEY ARE THE PARENTS
OF SIX CHILDREN AND
HAVE 30 GRANDCHILDREN.AND NOW WE WILL HAVE THE
OPPORTUNITY OF HEARING FROM ELDER LARRY R. LAWRENCE.>>LAST OCTOBER,
I WAS ASSIGNED TO SPEAK IN GENERAL CONFERENCE. I DECIDED TO SPEAK ABOUT
PERFECTING OUR LIVES SO WE COULD EVENTUALLY BECOME
LIKE OUR FATHER IN HEAVEN. IN MY TALK,
I INVITED THE SAINTS TO PARTICIPATE IN A
SPIRITUAL EXERCISE. I SUGGESTED THAT MEMBERS
TAKE THE TIME TO HUMBLY ASK THE LORD THE QUESTION,
WHAT LACK I YET? AND THEN TO WAIT FOR A
PROMPTING FROM THE HOLY GHOST. IN THE WEEKS THAT FOLLOWED,
AS I VISITED STAKES AROUND THE CHURCH,
MEMBERS CAME UP TO ME AND SAID, “ELDER LAWRENCE,
“I TRIED THE SUGGESTION YOU “GAVE IN YOUR CONFERENCE TALK. “I ASKED THE LORD WHAT
“I NEEDED TO IMPROVE, AND I GOT A CLEAR ANSWER.” SOME HAVE EVEN SHARED WITH
ME THE SPECIFIC DIRECTION THEY RECEIVED FROM THE LORD. IT WAS INTERESTING TO LEARN
THAT MANY SAINTS HAVE BEEN PROMPTED TO BE MORE CHEERFUL,
OR TO SMILE MORE OFTEN, OR TO COUNT THEIR BLESSINGS. I AM CONVINCED THAT MORE
THAN ANYTHING ELSE, OUR HEAVENLY FATHER WANTS
HIS CHILDREN TO BE HAPPY. LATTER-DAY PROPHETS HAVE
TAUGHT THAT HAPPINESS IS THE PURPOSE OF OUR EXISTENCE. JOSEPH SMITH UNDERSTOOD
THIS PRINCIPLE. IN SPITE OF ALL HIS CHALLENGES,
HE CHOSE TO BE HAPPY, MAINTAINING HIS CHEERFUL
DISPOSITION TO THE END OF HIS LIFE. ONE WHO KNEW HIM WELL DESCRIBED
THE PROPHET AS ALWAYS WEARING AN UNCONSCIOUS SMILE. I HAVE KNOWN PEOPLE LIKE THAT;
INDIVIDUALS WHO ARE CONTINUALLY SMILING
WITHOUT EVEN REALIZING IT. THEIR FACES REFLECT
GENUINE INNER PEACE. WHEN I SPEAK AT
STAKE CONFERENCES, I LOOK AROUND THE CONGREGATION
FOR ONE OF THOSE HAPPY FACES TO FOCUS ON. A SMILING FACE IN A CROWD OF
STRANGERS IS A GREAT COMFORT. WHAT IS THE SECRET
OF INNER HAPPINESS? THE OBVIOUS ANSWER
IS RIGHTEOUS LIVING. BUT BESIDES BEING TEMPLE WORTHY,
WHAT ARE SOME WAYS THAT YOU CAN INCREASE THE JOY IN YOUR LIVES? MODERN DAY PROPHETS HAVE
SHARED HELPFUL INSIGHTS. FOR EXAMPLE,
PRESIDENT GORDON B. HINCKLEY TAUGHT,
“THE MORE OFTEN A “PERSON SAYS THANK YOU,
THE HAPPIER HE WILL BE.” IT MIGHT BE A WORTHWHILE
EXPERIMENT TO KEEP TRACK OF HOW MANY TIMES YOU SAY THANK
YOU IN A TYPICAL DAY AND THEN MAKE AN EFFORT TO INCREASE IT. THE THEME OF GRATITUDE HAS BEEN
ADDRESSED BY EVERY LATTER-DAY PROPHET AND MORE OFTEN
THAN ALMOST ANY OTHER TOPIC. OUR INSPIRED LEADERS KNOW
THAT BEING GRATEFUL LEADS TO HAPPINESS,
AND THEY ARE COMPELLED TO REMIND US. IN THE SCRIPTURES,
WE ARE COMMANDED TO THANK THE LORD IN ALL THINGS,
AND THAT MEANS TO THANK HIM FOR TRIALS AS WELL
AS FOR OBVIOUS BLESSINGS. IF WE LOOK CLOSE ENOUGH,
WE DISCOVER THAT THERE IS ALWAYS SOMETHING TO BE GRATEFUL FOR. FOR EXAMPLE,
ONE BYU COED SUFFERED WITH THE STOMACH FLU ALL DURING
THE WEEK OF THANKSGIVING, BUT SHE TRIED TO KEEP
A POSITIVE ATTITUDE. SHE RECORDED IN HER JOURNAL:
“I LOST 5 LBS. THIS WEEK. LIFE IS GOOD!”[LAUGHTER]
BESIDES EXPRESSING THANKS TO OUR FATHER IN HEAVEN,
PRESIDENT THOMAS S. MONSON HAS ENCOURAGED US TO ALSO
THANK OUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY. HE SAID,
“WE OFTEN TAKE FOR GRANTED “THE VERY PEOPLE WHO MOST
“DESERVE OUR GRATITUDE. “LET US NOT WAIT UNTIL IT
“IS TOO LATE FOR US TO EXPRESS THAT GRATITUDE.” SEVERAL YEARS AGO,
THERE WAS AN INSPIRING STORY IN A POPULAR SPORTS MAGAZINE
ABOUT A PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALL PLAYER NAMED DEION BRANCH. HE WAS A WIDE RECEIVER
FOR THE NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS FOR 11 YEARS,
AND DURING THAT TIME HE PLAYED IN THREE SUPER BOWLS. THE ARTICLE POINTED OUT THAT
MANY PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALL PLAYERS GO OUT DRINKING AND
GET “HAMMERED” IN THE DAYS LEADING UP TO THE SUPER BOWL. THEY FIND VARIOUS WAYS
TO DEAL WITH THE STRESS, AND MANY OF THESE WAYS
ARE NOT PRAISEWORTHY. BUT DEION BRANCH HAD A DIFFERENT
WAY OF PREPARING HIMSELF FOR THE BIG GAME IN 2005. HE PICKED UP HIS PHONE AND
CALLED EVERY COACH HE EVER HAD. HE CALLED HIS JUNIOR
COLLEGE COACHES. HE CALLED HIS HIGH
SCHOOL COACHES. HE EVEN SOUGHT OUT THE
PHONE NUMBERS OF HIS “PEE WEE” COACHES AND
REACHED OUT TO THEM. HE MADE 13 PHONE CALLS IN ALL. HE CALLED THESE MEN TO SAY,
“THANK YOU. “THANK YOU FOR CARING ABOUT
“ME ENOUGH TO TEACH ME. “THANK YOU FOR MAKING
“ME RUN STAIRS. “THANK YOU FOR BELIEVING
I COULD DO THIS.” HE THANKED HIS COLLEGE COACH
FOR NOT GIVING UP ON HIM WHEN HIS GRADES WERE BAD. DEION STOOD ONLY
5 FEET 9 INCHES TALL, SO HE THANKED HIS HIGH SCHOOL
COACH FOR NEVER SAYING HE WAS TOO SMALL TO PLAY FOOTBALL. THESE PHONE CONVERSATIONS WERE
VERY MEANINGFUL TO HIS COACHES, BUT THEY ALSO INVIGORATED
DEION BRANCH. HE FELT SO MOTIVATED THAT
HE PLAYED HIS VERY BEST, LEADING HIS TEAM TO VICTORY. HE WAS NAMED
“THE MOST VALUABLE PLAYER” OF THE SUPER BOWL IN 2005. HAVE YOU EVER HAD A RUSH OF
GRATITUDE COME OVER YOU? DID YOU MAKE A PHONE CALL
OR WRITE A NOTE OR TAKE TIME FOR A PERSONAL VISIT? HAVE YOU EXPERIENCED THE
HAPPINESS THAT COMES FROM SAYING, “THANK YOU” AND FEELING
IT WITH YOUR WHOLE HEART? MY FATHER DIED OF CANCER
WHEN I WAS JUST 18 YEARS OLD. I WAS NOT YET A MEMBER
OF THE CHURCH, AND I DIDN’T HAVE THE
SENSITIVITY THAT THE GIFT OF THE HOLY GHOST CAN BRING. I NEVER REALLY TOOK THE
OPPORTUNITY TO THANK HIM FOR ALL THAT HE HAD DONE FOR
ME BEFORE HE PASSED AWAY. NOW I WISH I HAD THANKED HIM
FOR COACHING MY LITTLE LEAGUE TEAM AND FOR TEACHING
ME NOT TO LOSE MY TEMPER WHEN OUR TEAM DIDN’T WIN. I WISH I HAD THANKED HIM FOR
WORKING WITH ME NIGHT AFTER NIGHT WHEN I WAS LEARNING
TO READ IN THE FIRST GRADE. I WISH I HAD THANKED HIM
FOR TEACHING ME TO WORK AND TO VALUE FAMILY. PLEASE DON’T MAKE THE
SAME MISTAKE THAT I DID. THANK YOUR PARENTS OFTEN WHILE
YOU STILL HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY. IT DOESN’T MATTER IF YOUR
PARENTS ARE NOT PERFECT. THEY STILL CHANGED THOUSANDS
OF DIAPERS AND PROVIDED COUNTLESS MEALS FOR YOU. THEY TAUGHT YOU HOW
TO WALK AND TO TALK AND A MILLION OTHER THINGS. THEY GAVE YOU PLENTY OF RIDES
AND EVEN LET YOU LEARN TO DRIVE BY PRACTICING IN THEIR CARS. THEY MUST HAVE
ENCOURAGED YOU TO STUDY- OTHERWISE YOU WOULD NEVER HAVE
BEEN ACCEPTED HERE AT BYU. THEY DESERVE YOUR
HEARTFELT THANKS, AND SOMEDAY YOU WILL REALIZE
IT WHEN YOU ARE DOING ALL THESE THINGS FOR SOMEONE ELSE. THE PROPHET NEPHI EXPRESSED
GRATITUDE FOR HIS PARENTS IN THE VERY FIRST VERSE
OF THE BOOK OF MORMON. HE PRAISES THEM BY SAYING,
“I NEPHI, HAVING BEEN BORN “OF GOODLY PARENTS,
“THEREFORE I WAS TAUGHT “SOMEWHAT IN ALL THE
LEARNING OF MY FATHER.” WHAT A SWEET TRIBUTE
TO LEHI AND SARIAH. AN EXCELLENT WAY TO
EXPRESS GRATITUDE IS BY GIVING SINCERE PRAISE. PRAISE LIFTS BOTH THE
GIVER AND THE RECEIVER. MARK TWAIN SAID HE COULD
LIVE FOR TWO MONTHS ON A GOOD COMPLIMENT,
AND I THINK MOST OF US FEEL THE SAME WAY. GOD SHOWED US THE IMPORTANCE
OF GIVING PRAISE BY HIS OWN PERFECT EXAMPLE. AT THE BAPTISM OF JESUS,
HEAVENLY FATHER ANNOUNCED, “THIS IS MY BELOVED SON,
IN WHOM I AM WELL PLEASED.” JESUS, HIMSELF,
GAVE MANY COMPLIMENTS DURING HIS MINISTRY. SOME OF THEM ARE RECORDED
IN THE SCRIPTURES. REMEMBER WHEN HE
FIRST MET NATHANIEL, WHO LATER BECAME ONE
OF THE TWELVE APOSTLES. THE LORD PRAISED
NATHANIEL’S HONEST CHARACTER BY SAYING OF HIM:
“BEHOLD, AN ISRAELITE INDEED, IN WHOM THERE IS NO GUILE.” WHEN JOHN THE BAPTIST
WAS IN PRISON, THE SAVIOR MADE A POINT OF
PRAISING THIS GOOD MAN PUBLICLY. JESUS SAID:
“AMONG THOSE THAT “ARE BORN OF WOMEN,
“THERE IS NOT A GREATER PROPHET THAN JOHN THE BAPTIST.” WHEN THE ROMAN CENTURION ASKED
JESUS TO HEAL HIS SERVANT, THE LORD PAID HIM THE
SUPREME COMPLIMENT. HE SAID:
“VERILY, I SAY UNTO YOU, “I HAVE NOT FOUND
“SO GREAT FAITH, NO, NOT IN ALL ISRAEL.” AND DON’T FORGET NEPHI,
SON OF HELAMAN. ONE DAY WHEN HE WAS
ESPECIALLY DISCOURAGED, THE VOICE OF THE LORD CAME
TO HIM AND DELIVERED THESE WORDS OF PRAISE:
“BLESSED ART THOU, NEPHI, “FOR THOSE THINGS
“WHICH THOU HAS DONE; “FOR I HAVE BEHELD HOW THOU
“HAST WITH UNWEARYINGNESS “DECLARED THE WORD,
“WHICH I HAVE GIVEN THEE. “BEHOLD, I WILL
BLESS THEE FOREVER.” IF WE TRULY WANT
TO EMULATE THE LORD, WE NEED TO BE LOOKING FOR
THE GOOD IN OTHERS AND THEN VOICING IT. “IF THERE IS ANYTHING VIRTUOUS,
“LOVELY, OF GOOD REPORT, OR PRAISEWORTHY…” WE SHOULD BE SEEKING
AFTER THESE THINGS. PRAISE IS A PRECIOUS GIFT THAT
COSTS THE GIVER NOTHING. SO IF YOU SEE SOMETHING,
SAY SOMETHING. IN HIS CLASSIC TALK,
“BEWARE OF PRIDE,” PRESIDENT EZRA TAFT BENSON
WARNED THAT WHENEVER WE WITHHOLD GRATITUDE AND PRAISE
THAT MIGHT LIFT ANOTHER PERSON, WE ARE MANIFESTING
THE SIN OF PRIDE. ON THE OTHER HAND,
WHEN WE POINT OUT THE GOOD IN OTHERS,
THE HOLY GHOST HELPS US DISCOVER THE GOOD IN OURSELVES,
AND EVERYBODY WINS. WHEN OUR SIX CHILDREN
WERE GROWING UP, WE OFTEN PLAYED A GAME DURING
FAMILY HOME EVENING THAT ENCOURAGED THEM TO GIVE
AND RECEIVE COMPLIMENTS. EVERY FAMILY MEMBER
TOOK A TURN SITTING IN THE CHAIR THAT WAS DESIGNATED
“THE HOT SEAT.” THEN WE WENT AROUND THE ROOM AND
EACH OF US SAID SOMETHING WE ADMIRED OR APPRECIATED ABOUT
THAT PERSON IN THE HOT SEAT. FOR EXAMPLE,
COMMENTS WERE MADE LIKE: “CASEY ALWAYS SHARES
HIS THINGS WITH ME,” OR “BROOKE DOES HER
HOMEWORK AS SOON AS SHE COMES HOME FROM SCHOOL,”
OR “MCLANE IS REALLY FUNNY; HE CAN MAKE ME LAUGH WHEN
I’M HAVING A HARD DAY.” YOU GET THE IDEA. WE NOTICED THAT WHENEVER
WE PLAYED THIS GAME, THE SPIRIT WOULD FILL
OUR HOME WITH LOVE. I AM SURE THAT HEAVEN APPROVED
OF THIS FAMILY TRADITION BECAUSE THE LORD HAS COMMANDED US TO
“STRENGTHEN OUR BRETHREN IN ALL OUR CONVERSATIONS.” A NEWLY CALLED BISHOP UNDERSTOOD
THIS PRINCIPLE AND USED IT TO STRENGTHEN HIS WARD MEMBERS. AS EACH FAMILY CAME TO HIS
OFFICE FOR TITHING SETTLEMENT, THE BISHOP ASKED THE FATHER TO
INTRODUCE HIS WIFE AND CHILDREN. FATHERS WERE INVITED TO
TELL THE NAME, THE AGE, AND SOMETHING THEY ESPECIALLY
LOVED ABOUT EACH FAMILY MEMBER. AS SOON AS THESE
INTRODUCTIONS GOT UNDERWAY, THE SPIRIT GREW STRONGER
AND STRONGER IN THE ROOM. TEARS APPEARED IN THE EYES OF
FATHERS, MOTHERS, AND CHILDREN. SINCERE COMPLIMENTS
FROM PARENTS MEAN A LOT; SOMETIMES THEY ARE
REMEMBERED FOR A LIFETIME. EVEN WHEN A COMPLIMENT COMES
FROM A COMPLETE STRANGER, IT CAN MAKE YOUR WHOLE DAY. MY NIECE TOLD ME ABOUT A
DIFFICULT TIME WHEN SHE WAS A SINGLE COLLEGE STUDENT. THE WHOLE WEEK HAD
BEEN A DISASTER, AND SHE WAS FEELING
LONELY AND DISCOURAGED. WHILE SAYING HER
PRAYERS ONE MORNING, SHE ASKED HEAVENLY FATHER TO
HELP HER FEEL HIS LOVE THAT DAY. AFTER PRAYING,
SHE WAS PROMPTED TO GO TO THE TEMPLE,
SO SHE PUT ON A DRESS AND FIXED HER HAIR. ON THE WAY THERE,
SHE PASSED AN OLDER WOMAN WHO STOPPED, AND SMILING,
COMPLIMENTED HER BEAUTIFUL, WHOLESOME APPEARANCE. THE GRACIOUS STRANGER HAD NO
IDEA THAT A FEW KIND WORDS FROM HER HAD DELIVERED
A MESSAGE FROM HEAVEN. MY NIECE IMMEDIATELY FELT A
FEELING OF LOVE WASH OVER HER AND REALIZED THAT HER
MORNING PRAYER HAD, INDEED, BEEN ANSWERED. AN ELDERLY WIDOW
SHARED A SIMILAR SWEET EXPERIENCE WITH ME. SHE OPENED HER FRONT DOOR ONE
WINTRY DAY TO FIND A HANDWRITTEN NOTE LEFT ON THE DOORSTEP. THE NOTE READ,
“I JUST WANTED TO DROP YOU “A NOTE TO TELL YOU HOW
“MUCH I ADMIRE YOU IN ALL “THE ROLES YOU HAVE PLAYED
“AS A MOTHER, TEACHER, “WIFE AND EXAMPLE OF
“A DAUGHTER OF GOD. “THANK YOU FOR BEING YOU,
FROM A FRIEND AND ADMIRER.” THE ANONYMOUS NOTE FROM A
THOUGHTFUL NEIGHBOR TOOK ONLY A FEW MINUTES TO WRITE,
BUT THE MESSAGE WILL LIFT THAT FAITHFUL WIDOW
FOR MONTHS TO COME. YEARS AGO,
PRESIDENT DAVID O. MCKAY GAVE THIS VALUABLE COUNSEL
TO LATTER-DAY SAINTS: “STRIVE TO MAKE SOMEBODY
“ELSE HAPPY AND SEE HOW “QUICKLY YOUR OWN SOUL
IS FILLED WITH JOY.” WHEN I WAS CALLED AS
A GENERAL AUTHORITY, MY FIRST ASSIGNMENT WAS
TO MOVE TO MOSCOW, RUSSIA. I WAS VERY HUMBLED TO SERVE
IN THE AREA PRESIDENCY, ESPECIALLY AS I THOUGHT
OF THE HISTORY OF THE AREA. THE COUNTRIES IN EASTERN
EUROPE WERE FORMERLY UNDER COMMUNISTIC RULE,
AND MANY OF THE OLD ATTITUDES STILL PREVAILED. PRESIDENT RUSSELL M. NELSON WAS
ASSIGNED TO ADVISE OUR AREA. HE HAS A WEALTH OF EXPERIENCE,
HAVING OPENED RUSSIA AND MOST OF THE SURROUNDING COUNTRIES
FOR THE PREACHING OF THE GOSPEL. ALTHOUGH HE LIVED FAR
AWAY IN SALT LAKE CITY, I COMMUNICATED WITH HIM ON
A REGULAR BASIS BY EMAIL OR BY PHONE WHEN I SERVED
AS THE AREA PRESIDENT. I WAS CONSTANTLY REPORTING
WHAT WAS HAPPENING IN EASTERN EUROPE AND ASKING FOR
HIS INSPIRED COUNSEL. AFTER SEVERAL WEEKS,
I BEGAN TO SEE A PATTERN. WHENEVER I RECEIVED AN EMAIL
FROM PRESIDENT NELSON, IT CONTAINED MORE THAN
JUST EXCELLENT ADVICE. IT ALWAYS INCLUDED SOME
COMPLIMENTARY WORDS, AND A POSITIVE MESSAGE TO
ENCOURAGE OUR PRESIDENCY. HIS EXAMPLE MADE ME WANT TO LIFT
OTHERS AS HE HAD LIFTED ME. I LEARNED THAT KINDNESS
IS CONTAGIOUS. I ALSO LEARNED THAT OUR
MODERN DAY APOSTLES EMULATE THE SAVIOR IN THEIR LIVES,
ESPECIALLY IN THE WAY THEY TREAT OTHERS. THEY ARE TURNED OUTWARD,
NOT INWARD. I REMEMBER THE FIRST TIME
I MET PRESIDENT HINCKLEY. I WAS ATTENDING A LUNCHEON HELD
AT THE CHURCH OFFICE BUILDING. BY SOME TENDER MERCY,
I FOUND MYSELF SEATED AT THE SAME TABLE AS THE PROPHET. DURING THAT LUNCH HOUR,
I OBSERVED THAT HE RARELY TALKED ABOUT HIMSELF;
HE WAS MORE INTERESTED IN LEARNING ABOUT OTHERS. HE DIRECTED THE CONVERSATION
BY ASKING QUESTIONS OF EACH PERSON AT OUR TABLE. SOMEHOW HE KNEW THAT I
HAD SERVED AS A MISSION PRESIDENT IN SIBERIA,
SO HE ASKED ME HOW THE RUSSIANS HEAT THEIR BIG APARTMENT
BUILDINGS IN THE WINTERTIME. HE WAS A VERY GRACIOUS LISTENER,
SINCERELY INTERESTED IN EVERYONE AND EVERYTHING,
MUCH LIKE THE MASTER WHOM HE SERVED. CONSIDER THE UNSELFISH
LIFE OF THE SAVIOR. THINK BACK TO THE NIGHT WHEN HE
WAS ARRESTED IN GETHSEMANE. EVEN AFTER SUFFERING AND
BLEEDING FROM EVERY PORE, JESUS WAS NOT THINKING
JUST ABOUT HIMSELF. HE WAS SENSITIVE TO OTHERS. WHEN HE SAW PETER SMITE OFF
THE EAR OF ONE OF THE GUARDS, JESUS REACHED OUT,
TOUCHED THE FRESH WOUND, AND HEALED IT. KEEP IN MIND,
THIS WAS A GUARD WHO HAD COME TO ARREST HIM. WHEN HE WAS DYING ON THE CROSS,
OUR LORD SHOWED MORE CONCERN FOR HIS BELOVED MOTHER
THAN FOR HIS OWN SUFFERING. THE DYING CHRIST USED UP HIS
LAST BIT OF STRENGTH TO ARRANGE A HOME FOR MARY,
ASKING JOHN TO CARE FOR HER AFTER HE WAS GONE. TRY TO IMAGINE MEETING
THE SAVIOR IN PERSON. HOW WOULD HE GREET YOU? WOULD HE BE SLOUCHED OVER,
LOOKING INTENTLY AS HIS CELL PHONE,
OR WOULD HE SMILE AND LOOK RIGHT INTO YOUR EYES? I BELIEVE HE WOULD CALL
YOU BY NAME AND MAKE THE CONVERSATION ABOUT YOU. HE WOULD OFFER
REASSURANCE AND HELP. MOST OF ALL,
I BELIEVE HE WOULD RADIATE LOVE. IN THE EARLIEST ACCOUNT
OF THE FIRST VISION, JOSEPH SMITH RECORDED
THAT HAVING MET THE FATHER AND THE SON,
HE WAS “FILLED WITH LOVE FOR MANY DAYS” AFTERWARDS. SOMEDAY WE WILL MEET JESUS AND
FEEL HIS PROFOUND LOVE FOR US. UNTIL THEN,
WE HAVE MANY LESSONS TO LEARN. THERE ARE GOING TO BE BOTH
SMOOTH DAYS AND ROUGH DAYS THROUGHOUT OUR LIVES,
BUT THE LORD HAS COMMANDED US REPEATEDLY TO BE
“BE OF GOOD CHEER.” ELDER JEFFREY R. HOLLAND
OBSERVED THAT “WE ARE MORE GUILTY OF
“BREAKING THAT COMMANDMENT THAN ALMOST ANY OTHER.” SOMETIMES WE JUST PLAIN
CHOOSE TO BE GRUMPY. AT THOSE TIMES,
WE TURN INWARD INSTEAD OF OUTWARD. MY WIFE AND I SERVED IN
RUSSIA ON CHURCH ASSIGNMENTS FOR A TOTAL OF SEVEN YEARS. WE TREASURE THE MEMORY
OF OUR TIME THERE, BUT THERE WAS ONE THING WE
COULD NEVER QUITE GET USED TO. RUSSIAN PEOPLE ON THE STREETS
AND IN THE STORES ALWAYS WEAR A VERY SERIOUS EXPRESSION. THEY AVOID SMILING OR MAKING
EYE CONTACT WITH OTHERS. THEIR COLD OUTER DEMEANOR COMES
FROM LIVING UNDER A COMMUNIST REGIME FOR MANY DECADES. DURING THE SOVIET ERA,
PEOPLE LEARNED NOT TO CALL ANY ATTENTION TO THEMSELVES,
THEY JUST TRIED TO BLEND IN. THEIR GUARDED BEHAVIOR IN PUBLIC
BECAME A PART OF THE CULTURE. FOR THIS REASON,
WE WERE AMAZED AT THE WARM GREETING WE RECEIVED
WHENEVER WE ATTENDED THE BRANCH MEETINGS ON SUNDAYS. WHAT A CONTRAST! THOSE RUSSIANS WHO HAD JOINED
THE CHURCH WERE VERY FRIENDLY AND WELCOMED US WITH OPEN ARMS. THEY HAD SMILING FACES,
AND THE LIGHT OF CHRIST SHONE IN THEIR EYES. WE REALIZED WHY THE CHURCH
MEMBERS WERE SO KIND AND OUTGOING BECAUSE THAT’S
WHAT THE GIFT OF THE HOLY GHOST DOES TO PEOPLE. JESUS TAUGHT:
“BY THIS SHALL ALL “MEN KNOW THAT YE
“ARE MY DISCIPLES, “IF YE HAVE LOVE
ONE TO ANOTHER.” WE LEARNED FOR OURSELVES
THAT THE SAINTS IN RUSSIA WERE TRUE DISCIPLES OF CHRIST. I WAS BAPTIZED WHEN I WAS
A YOUNG MEDICAL STUDENT AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA. THE FIRST TIME I ATTENDED CHURCH
MEETINGS AT THE LDS INSTITUTE, I LOOKED AROUND HOPING
TO FIND A FAMILIAR FACE. THANK GOODNESS ANOTHER MEDICAL
STUDENT RECOGNIZED ME AND CAME RIGHT OVER TO SAY “HELLO.” HIS NAME WAS PHIL FREESTONE. PHIL SAT WITH ME AND INTRODUCED
ME TO OTHER CHURCH MEMBERS. IT’S NOT EASY TO BE A NEWCOMER,
AND PHIL’S FRIENDSHIP MEANT A GREAT DEAL TO ME AT THAT
IMPORTANT TIME IN MY LIFE. I CAME TO UNDERSTAND WHAT THE
SAVIOR MEANT WHEN HE SAID, “I WAS A STRANGER
AND YE TOOK ME IN.” LATTER-DAY SAINTS,
WHO ARE GUIDED BY THE SPIRIT, SHOULD BE THE MOST
CONGENIAL PEOPLE ON EARTH. I HOPE THE BYU CAMPUS
REFLECTS THAT SAME SPIRIT OF FRIENDLINESS. EVERY STUDENT SHOULD
FEEL WELCOME HERE, WHILE AT THE SAME TIME GOING OUT
OF HIS WAY TO WELCOME OTHERS. IT TAKES VERY LITTLE
EFFORT TO SAY, “HELLO” BUT WHENEVER YOU DO,
YOU MAKE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE. TODAY I HAVE POINTED OUT
A FEW PRACTICES THAT CAN LEAD TO GREATER HAPPINESS:
SMILING MORE OFTEN, EXPRESSING GRATITUDE,
LOOKING FOR AND PRAISING THE GOOD IN OTHERS,
WELCOMING THE NEWCOMER, AND REACHING OUT TO
THOSE WHO NEED A FRIEND. LET ME ALSO SHARE WITH YOU
SOME PRACTICAL ADVICE FOUND IN THE SCRIPTURES. I READ THE ACCOUNT OF A YOUNG
MAN WHO HAD EXPERIENCED SOME SEVERE PERSONAL TRIALS. IN THE COURSE OF A FEW MONTHS,
HIS BROTHER DIED, THEN HE LOST HIS JOB,
AND FINALLY HIS GIRLFRIEND BROKE UP WITH HIM. ALTHOUGH HE WAS FEELING
MISUNDERSTOOD BY HIS BOSS AND SOMEWHAT BETRAYED
BY HIS GIRLFRIEND, HE DIDN’T LOSE HIS FAITH. IN FACT,
HE PRAYED TO THE LORD FOR COUNSEL BECAUSE HE REALLY
WANTED TO BE HAPPY. AFTER PRAYING,
HE OPENED THE SCRIPTURES, DETERMINED TO ACT ON
WHATEVER VERSE HE FOUND. THE BOOK FELL OPEN TO
THE 88TH SECTION OF THE DOCTRINE AND COVENANTS. ALMOST IMMEDIATELY HE
RECOGNIZED A CALL TO ACTION CONTAINED IN
THESE WORDS OF SCRIPTURE: “CEASE TO BE IDLE;
“CEASE TO BE UNCLEAN; “CEASE TO FIND FAULT
“ONE WITH ANOTHER; “CEASE TO SLEEP LONGER
“THAN IS NEEDFUL; “RETIRE TO THY BED EARLY,
“THAT YE MAY NOT BE WEARY; “ARISE EARLY,
“THAT YOUR BODIES AND YOUR “MINDS MAY BE INVIGORATED. “AND ABOVE ALL THINGS,
“CLOTHE YOURSELVES WITH THE “BOND OF CHARITY.” AS THE YOUNG MAN PONDERED
THIS COUNSEL AND APPLIED IT TO HIS OWN SITUATION,
HE REALIZED THAT HE COULD NO LONGER SIT AROUND MOPING. HE NEEDED TO BE ANXIOUSLY
ENGAGED IN A GOOD CAUSE LIKE FINDING ANOTHER JOB
AND ANOTHER GIRLFRIEND. THERE WAS A LOT ABOUT HIS
LIFE THAT HE DECIDED TO CHANGE, INCLUDING HIS SLEEPING HABITS. HE ALSO BEGAN TO PRAY
FOR THE GIFT OF CHARITY. THIS TIMELY ADVICE HELPED HIM
PUT THE PAST BEHIND HIM AND LOOK FORWARD TO THE FUTURE. ALL OF US NEED A LITTLE
CHEERING UP SOMETIMES. BOOK OF MORMON READERS ARE
OFTEN SURPRISED WHEN THEY COME TO THE CHAPTER WHERE NEPHI IS
GRIEVING OVER HIS IMPERFECTIONS. HE EXPRESSES HIMSELF
IN THESE WORDS: “O WRETCHED MAN THAT I AM.” MOST OF US ON A GOOD
DAY WISH WE COULD BE AS “WRETCHED” AS NEPHI. HIS SORROWFUL LAMENT
MAKES US WONDER, “WHY DO GOOD PEOPLE,
“EVEN PROPHETS LIKE NEPHI, “OCCASIONALLY FEEL
DISCOURAGED AND UNWORTHY?” LET ME TELL YOU A FABLE
ABOUT THE DEVIL THAT OFFERS SOME PERSPECTIVE. THE STORY GOES THAT SATAN WENT
INTO HIS GARAGE ONE DAY AND NOTICED THAT EVERYTHING
WAS A COMPLETE MESS. HE COULDN’T FIND WHAT
HE WAS LOOKING FOR BECAUSE THERE WERE SO MANY
RUSTY TOOLS LYING AROUND CLUTTERING UP THE PLACE. SATAN DECIDED ON A SOLUTION;
HE WOULD HAVE A GARAGE SALE. HE CLEANED UP HIS OLD TOOLS
AND OFFERED THEM AT A DISCOUNT PRICE FOR OTHER
DEVILS TO PURCHASE. SOME TOOLS SOLD RIGHT AWAY. FOR EXAMPLE:
THE HAMMER OF HATRED, THE WRENCH OF FEAR,
AND THE CLAMP OF ADDICTION. THEY WERE VERY POPULAR ITEMS. WHEN HE WAS ASKED WHY
HE WAS SELLING OFF SO MANY OF HIS TOOLS,
SATAN EXPLAINED THAT HE HAD DECIDED TO CONCENTRATE
ALL OF HIS PERSONAL EFFORTS ON BRINGING DOWN
THE LATTER-DAY SAINTS. HE PREFERRED TO USE HIS
FAVORITE TOOL ON THEM. WHAT DO YOU THINK IT WAS? IT WAS THE
WEDGE OF DISCOURAGEMENT. SATAN BOASTED ABOUT IT SAYING:
“WITH THIS ONE TOOL “I CAN INFLICT MAJOR
“DAMAGE ON THE FAITHFUL. “DISCOURAGEMENT WORKS
“WONDERS EVERY TIME, “EVEN WHEN NOTHING ELSE WILL. “IT CAN BRING MISERY TO THE
“MOST CONSCIENTIOUS SOULS, “THOSE THAT ARE STRIVING TO
KEEP THE COMMANDMENTS.” THEN SATAN,
USING HIS FAVORITE TOOL, WENT ABOUT WHISPERING LIES. TO THE HUMBLE FOLLOWERS
OF CHRIST HE SAID, “YOU ARE WORTHLESS,
“YOU NEVER DO ANYTHING RIGHT. “GIVE UP,
“NO ONE CARES ABOUT YOU, YOU CAN NEVER CHANGE.” SADLY, MANY GOOD
PEOPLE BELIEVED HIM. THERE IS A LESSON TO BE
LEARNED FROM THIS STORY. THE DEVIL SPECIALIZES IN
DISCOURAGING THE FAITHFUL AND THOSE WHO ARE TRYING TO REPENT. FOR THAT VERY REASON,
CHURCH MEMBERS MUST CONTINUALLY LIFT AND ENCOURAGE EACH OTHER. DON’T FORGET THAT SATAN WANTS
“ALL MEN TO BE MISERABLE LIKE UNTO HIMSELF.” JESUS ON THE OTHER HAND,
WANTS MEN AND WOMEN TO RECEIVE A “FULLNESS OF JOY.” IN SUMMARY:
JESUS VOTES FOR US, SATAN VOTES AGAINST US,
AND WE CAST THE DECIDING VOTE. IT IS MY PRAYER THAT EACH
OF US WILL USE OUR AGENCY TO CHOOSE HAPPINESS. I BEAR MY WITNESS THAT
OUR FATHER IN HEAVEN LOVES US AND WANTS US TO BE HAPPY,
EVEN AS HE IS HAPPY. IN THE NAME OF
JESUS CHRIST, AMEN.>>THIS DEVOTIONAL MESSAGE WITH
ELDER LARRY R. LAWRENCE
WAS GIVEN ON MARCH 8, 2016.

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