Troy and Allison. They are actually balancing on a big rock. Poor photography. Sorry.
Last Sunday I gave a talk in church. I'm just posting it for any who would like to read it.
Building Our Lives, Marriages, and Families on the Foundation of Christ
“Dwindling Happens, but There is Always Hope Through Change and the Atonement”
Rexburg 10th Ward September 2012 High Council Talk – Greg Hazard
I attended church in Texas this summer where a high councilor was speaking and told this story. He said he was really nervous to speak in front of people. But he prepared because it was his calling. One Sunday after he’d given his talk, a little boy made his way to the stand and shook his hand and said “Mister, that was the worst, stupidest, most boring talk I’ve ever had to sit through.” The High Councilor was devastated.
The Bishop who’d overheard what the little boy had said, in an effort to console, put his arm around the High Councilor and said “don’t listen to him, he’s just little and too young to know what he’s saying.” So, the High Councilor felt a little better. Then the Bishop continued, “He only repeats what he hears his parents say.”
My assignment today is to speak on building our lives, marriages, and families on the foundation of Christ.
Think back through your life, and especially think back on your relationships with yourself and with those who mean the most to you. Have you ever been unhappy? Have you ever been discouraged with your life? Have you ever been dissatisfied with your marriage? Have you ever been disappointed with your family? Have you ever wished you had different parents? Have you ever wished you had different children? Have you ever wished your spouse had been smart enough not to marry you? Have you ever just wanted to quit everything? Have the storms and challenges of life ever beaten you down to almost nothing?
Everybody in this room and everybody on the planet has a Divine Destiny. Each of us is a son or a daughter of our Heavenly Father and He wants us to be happy and successful. I testify that we are each unique and different, but that we all share equally in the love that God has for us. He knows us as individuals, and He blesses us as individuals with what will benefit us the most as we make our journey back to His presence.
Our family has been in this ward for 16 years, and has been blessed beyond our wildest dreams by interacting with you and seeing your examples, your lives, and your love. You have made our family better. You are like family to us.
However, I really only know what happens within the walls of my own home, so I’m speaking from that perspective. If what I say resonates with you, that’s wonderful, if it doesn’t that could be a good thing too. I don’t know who, but somebody needs to hear and think about what will be said.
The First Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles have said, “The family is ordained of God, and happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
To you young and single people, I’d like to change that a bit and say that happiness in your personal life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. And to you married people, I’d like to change that a bit and say that happiness in your marriage is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.
At a hard time in his life, Nephi the son of Helaman, remembered what his dad told him and his brother. “And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fail. (Helaman 5:12)
I’ve shared before that as a boy growing up in San Jose California, my family would often go to San Francisco at Christmas time. We’d walk around and watch the street performers. There were mimes, musicians, and jugglers. It was magical. We’d go to Fisherman’s wharf for sourdough bread and to Ghirardelli square for chocolate. The giant Christmas tree in, I think it was, Macy’s was supposed to be a big deal, but I was never really that impressed. I liked watching the people.
Anyway, as we walked around the city, there were always new buildings being built. It was fun to walk on temporary wooden sidewalks and past plywood barricades. We’d look down through cracks in the plywood into huge holes where men and machines were working on the foundational system of future high-rise-skyscrapers. It was especially captivating to me because at the time, the children’s book “Mike Mulligan’s Steam Shovel” was big in my life.
Years later, Nancy and I stayed in a high rise hotel in the middle of downtown San Francisco. We were in our room on about the 17th floor when an earthquake hit. It was scary and fascinating to look out across the city and watch enormous high rise buildings swaying back and forth. It was even more fascinating to feel the swaying of our own building. We saw firsthand how critical the foundation of a building was to its structural integrity and success.
The savior taught how to build our own foundations when he was talking to a group of people just after he had chosen the apostles. He said:
47. Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like:
48. He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock; and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock.
It’s very clear that challenges and hard things still come even if our foundation is built on Christ. Everybody has struggles. The storms will still come. That’s one of the purposes of life. We are here to learn, and hard things help us grow and learn, and can be great blessings if we see them from the right perspective. It’s not the challenges or struggles we face, but rather how we respond to them that characterize who we are. When our foundations are built on the gospel of Jesus Christ (the rock), our responses are much more positive and peaceful because we have an eternal perspective, and the comforting influence of the Holy Ghost.
A foundation on Christ creates an attitude of hope. When loved ones get sick or die . . . there is hope. When jobs are lost . . . there is hope. When trusts are broken, or relationships damaged . . . there is hope. When marriages wear down . . . there is hope. Whatever the disaster or storm . . . there is always hope in our Savior Jesus Christ.
Our lives, our marriages, and our families might sway back and forth, sometimes violently, or vehemently as the Savior said in Luke, but if our foundations are strong, we will be okay. To paraphrase President Hinckley “In the end, everything will be good, and if it’s not, then it’s not the end.” Keep going.
Personally, I’ve had a bit of a problem with the whole foundation analogy because it seems so permanent. Once a building is built it’s hard to go back and change the foundation even if you want to. But, with the miracle of the atonement, we can always change and improve our personal foundations and the foundations of our marriages and our families. We can become kinder, more charitable, and more generous with our forgiveness. So, it’s really not about who we are, it’s about who we can become. Remember it’s about our divine journey and destiny.
Ours is a religion of faith, hope, and optimism. In our entry hall we have a quote by President Hinckley that says “Life is to be enjoyed, not just endured.”
Sports, music, entertainment, reading, the outdoors, education, work, and even money among other things, are all worthy pursuits, and we should build these things into our lives, but they should not be our foundation, and they should not be what define us. There have been times in my life when rock climbing, river running, and sports defined me. There have been times when friends have defined me. There have even been times when the church, not the gospel, has defined me. I freely admit that I’ve been happy when defined by some of these things.
AND,we all know that people of other faiths, both Christian and non Christian can be extremely happy, successful, and fulfilled as well. AND we must respect the agency of others to build their foundations on whatever they choose. BUT, I testify that the happiest I’ve ever been is when I’ve been able to honestly say that my foundation was built on Christ.
This is why I am so thankful to have the blessing of the sacrament every Sunday. It reminds us to remember that our lives should be built on Christ. And we should do our part to build our lives, the our marriages, and our families on Christ.
Might I be so bold as to suggest that some of you are like me. At times, we deceive ourselves. We say, and we even believe our foundation is built on Christ, but if we’re honest, it really isn’t. We’re not vile sinners, but we forget the basics, and we become complacent.
We forget daily personal, family, and spouse prayer; we don’t have time for daily scripture study; we’re so busy doing good things and fun things that we don’t have time to eat dinner together as a family; family home evening becomes something to check off if we have it at all; attending the temple together with our spouse is not a priority; and a weekly date with our spouse becomes an annual event, service to others becomes an obligation rather than a joy; we pay our tithing last instead of first; sometimes we are too tired to be kind; and forgiveness . . . forgiveness becomes something we feel entitled to rather than something we seek to extend to others. We forget that the Lord will forgive who He will forgive, but of us, it is required to forgive all men . . . and women. We become selfish. In short, as Nephi puts it, we dwindle in unbelief.
(1 Nephi 12:22)
I think a great Two-word Mormon bumper sticker would say “Dwindling Happens.” The other ten words that wouldn’t fit on the bumper sticker, but are significantly more important would say, “But there is always hope through change and the atonement.”
We should always evaluate and rebuild, and as the sacrament prayers say . . . remember. And when we really remember, we remember that we can change and the atonement gives meaning to our change. Knowing that our change means something creates hope for a better life, hope for a better marriage, and hope for a better family experience.
In 1853, six years after arriving in the Salt Lake Valley, the Church began building the Salt Lake Temple. Nine years into the project, in the summer of 1862, the foundation was complete. Then Church leaders performed an evaluation and concluded that the temple’s foundation stones would not be adequate to sustain the weight of the temple over time. President Brigham Young determined to replace the massive foundation. This would be no easy task, for the foundation was sixteen feet (five meters) deep and sixteen feet wide, and the temple dimensions were 186 by 99 feet (57 by 30 meters). In explaining his decision, President Young said that he expected this temple to stand through the Millennium. The Saints then set about to complete the task.
The Salt Lake Temple is an important place and I’m glad the saints reevaluated and made the needed changes to the foundation to insure that it would last through the millennium, but each of us is infinitely more important than the Salt Lake Temple.
It’s our challenge today, that we honestly evaluate the foundations of our lives, our marriages, and our families and set about completing the task of making any needed changes to be sure that our foundations are built on Christ, so that our relationships will stand through the millennium and through eternity.
I testify again that God knows each of us and loves each of us and wants us to be happy and successful. I also testify that the best happiness, including eternal happiness, is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. I promise that as we build our foundation on Him, we will have hope and life will be better.