Criticism, faultfinding, evil speaking—these are of the spirit of the day. To hear tell, there is nowhere a man of integrity holding public office. All businessmen are crooks. The utilities are out to rob you. Even on campus there is heard so much the snide remark, the sarcastic jibe, the cutting down of associates—these, too often, are the essence of our conversation. In our homes, wives weep and children finally give up under the barrage of criticism leveled by abusive husbands and fathers. Criticism is the forerunner of divorce, the cultivator of rebellion, sometimes the catalyst that leads to failure. In the Church, it sows the seed of inactivity and finally apostasy.
I come to you tonight with a plea that we stop seeking out the storms and enjoy more fully the sunlight. I am suggesting that as we go through life we try to "accentuate the positive." I am asking that we look a little deeper for the good, that we still our voices of insult and sarcasm, that we more generously compliment virtue and effort. Now I am not asking that all criticism be silenced. Growth comes of correction. Strength comes of repentance. Wise is the man or woman who can acknowledge mistakes pointed out by others and change his or her course.
What I am suggesting is that you turn from the negativism that so permeates our modern society and look for the remarkable good among those with whom you associate, that we speak of one another’s virtues more than we speak of one another’s faults, that optimism replace pessimism, that our faith exceed our fears. When I was a young man and was prone to speak critically, my wise father would say: "Cynics do not contribute. Skeptics do not create. Doubters do not achieve."
No matter the circumstances, I encourage you to go forward with faith and prayer, calling on the Lord. You may not receive any direct revelation. But you will discover as the years pass that there has been a subtle guiding of your footsteps in paths of progress and great purpose.
If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.
It's not who we are that holds us back, it's who we think we're not.
The Lord has probably spoken enough such "comforting words" to supply the whole universe, it would seem, and yet we see all around us unhappy Latter-day Saints, worried Latter-day Saints, and gloomy Latter-day Saints into whose troubled hearts not one of these innumerable consoling words seems to be allowed to enter. In fact, I think some of us must have that remnant of Puritan heritage still with us that says it is somehow wrong to be comforted or helped, that we are supposed to be miserable about something.
Consider, for example, the Savior's benediction upon his disciples even as he moved toward the pain and agony of Gethsemane and Calvary. On that very night, the night of the greatest suffering the world has ever known or ever will know, he said, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you. . . . Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" (John 14:27).
I submit to you that may be one of the Savior's commandments that is, even in the hearts of otherwise faithful Latter-day Saints, almost universally disobeyed; and yet I wonder whether our resistance to this invitation could be any more grievous to the Lord's merciful heart. I can tell you this as a parent: As concerned as I would be if somewhere in their lives one of my children were seriously troubled or unhappy or disobedient, nevertheless I would be infinitely more devastated if I felt that at such a time that child could not trust me to help, or should feel his or her interest were unimportant to me or unsafe in my care. In that same spirit, I am convinced that none of us can appreciate how deeply it wounds the loving heart of the Savior of the world when he finds that his people do not feel confident in his care or secure in his hands or trust in his commandments.
Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that a man could take his life on it a thousand times.
We must follow that same principle as the Lord gathers more and more people who are not like us. What will become more obvious to us is that the Atonement brings the same changes in all of us. We become disciples who are meek, loving, easy to be entreated, and at the same time fearless and faithful in all things. We still live in different countries, but we come into the Church through a process that changes us. We become by the gifts of the Spirit what the Apostle Paul saw:
“For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.
“Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God.
I know this now. Every man gives his life for what he believes.
Every woman gives her life for what she believes. Sometimes
people believe in little or nothing, yet they give their lives to
that little or nothing. One life is all we have and we live it as
we believe in living it. And then it is gone. But to sacrifice what
you are and live without belief, that's more terrible than dying.
Much of the world's counsel and solutions to the communication problems between people - and the strife in families, between husbands and wives and parents and children - are superficial. They are not based upon a fundamental understanding that transgression lies at the root of stife and the only way to work upon that root is through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repentance, covenant making in the waters of baptism, at the sacrament table, and in the temple where there are several essential covenants - each one, in turn, giving power to obey the higher one. If one is obedient to a lower covenant, more light and power is given. Then comes a higher covenant, until eventually a person is taught how he can return to the presence of God and how he can commune with him here and now.
Not what, but Whom, I do believe,
That, in my darkest hour of need,
hath comfort that no mortal creed
To mortal man give;--
Not what, but Whom!
For Christ is more than all the creeds,
And His full life of gentle deeds
Shall all the creeds outlive.
Not what I do believe, but Whom!
Who walks beside me in the gloom?
Who shares the burden wearisome?
Who all the dim way doth illume,
And bids me look beyond the tomb
The larger life to live? --
Not what I do believe,