Raising the Bar
Elder L. Tom Perry
Of the Quorum of the Twelve

All photographs Copyright 2007 Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved. Elder L. Tom Perry

[Our son] Lee was a member of his high school track team — he both sprinted and high-jumped. During the 1968 Summer Olympic Games held in Mexico City, the world became enamored with a little-known jumper named Dick Fosbury. He had experimented with a new high-jumping technique that involved sprinting diagonally toward the bar, then curving and leaping backwards over the bar — what came to be called the Fosbury flop.

Like many others, Lee was intrigued by this new technique, but until the new school year started, he didn’t have a place to practice it. I came home one evening to find him practicing the Fosbury flop in our basement. He had set up two makeshift standards by stacking chairs, and he was jumping over a broomstick set on the chairs, using a sofa to cushion his landing.

It was very clear to me that the sofa would not hold up under such treatment so I called a halt to his indoor jumping. Instead, I invited him to go with me to a sporting goods store where we purchased some foam padding to use for landing, and high-jumping standards so he could move the activity out-of-doors. After experimenting with the Fosbury flop, Lee decided to return to the western roll technique that he had used previously. Still, through the end of the summer into the fall, he practiced high-jumping for many hours in the backyard.

One evening as I returned home from work I found Lee practicing his jumping. I asked, “How high is the bar?”

He said, “Five feet, eight inches.”

“Why that height?”

He answered, “You must clear that height to qualify for the state track meet.”
“How are you doing?” I asked.

“I can clear it every time. I haven’t missed.”

My reply, “Let’s raise the bar and see how well you do, then.”

He replied, “Then I might miss.”

I queried, “If you don’t raise the bar, how will you ever know your potential?”

So we started moving the bar up to five feet, ten inches; then to six feet, and so on, as he sought to improve. Lee became a better high jumper because he was not content with just clearing the minimum standard. He learned that even if it meant missing, he wanted to keep raising the bar to become the best high jumper he was capable of becoming.

Remembering this experience with my son brought to mind the message Elder M. Russell Ballard gave at the priesthood session of the October 2002 General Conference, in which he challenged the young men of the Church to become the greatest generation of missionaries. He announced that the bar, the minimum standard for missionary service, had been raised. He instructed the young men of the Aaronic Priesthood to prepare themselves more vigorously to reach this new and higher minimum standard.

Blessed are All the Pure in Heart
Elder L. Whitney Clayton
Of the Quorum of Seventy

Elder L. Whitney Clayton

Walking down a beach in the Caribbean one sunny morning some years ago, my wife and I saw several small fishing boats that had been pulled up onto the sand. When we stopped to look at the boats, I learned something about fishing that I have never forgotten.

Instead of using nets, lines, or hooks, the local fishermen used simple traps made of wire mesh. Each trap was shaped like a box. The fishermen cut vertical openings about eight inches long on each side of the trap and then bent the cut wires inward, creating narrow slots through which fish could enter.

You can probably guess how a trap worked. The fishermen took a baited trap out to sea and lowered it to the bottom. When a dinner-sized fish came near the trap and sensed the bait, it would fin an opening on the side of the trap and swim in, just squeezing between the cut wires. Then, when a trapped fish tried to swim out, it would discover that it was one thing to squeeze past the cut wires to get into the trap, but it was an entirely different thing to swim against those sharp ends to get out — it was caught. When the fishermen returned, they hauled the trap out of the water and the trapped fish soon became a fresh seafood dinner.

There’s an account in the Old Testament about someone who fell prey to a similar trap. That man was mighty King David, and what happened is one of the saddest stories in the scriptures.

And it came to pass … at the time when kings go forth to battle, that David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they [fought against Ammon]. But David tarried still at Jerusalem.

And it came to pass in an eveningtide, that David arose from off his bed, and walked upon the roof of the king’s house: and from the roof he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon. (2 Samuel 11:1-2).

David learned the woman’s name was Bathsheba. Her husband, Uriah, a soldier, was away fighting the Ammonites with the rest of the army, where David, their king, should have been. David had Bathsheba brought to the palace. They committed adultery, she became pregnant, and David began to fear that their adultery would be discovered.

Hoping to cover his sin, David ordered that Uriah be sent back to Jerusalem. Uriah returned, but refused on principle to go to his home to visit Bathsheba. David then arranged for Uriah to be slain in battle. This series of dreadful decisions brought death to Uriah and misery to David, Bathsheba, and eventually the entire kingdom. With rich understatement, the Bible says, “…the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.” (2 Samuel 11:3-27)

Do you see how David got caught in this trap? He was on a rooftop courtyard of his place and below in a neighboring yard he saw something he never should have seen. That was the adversary’s bait. Modesty, chastity, and good judgment required that David turned away immediately and not watch, but he didn’t do either thing. Instead, he allowed his mind to turn to forbidden fantasies, those thoughts led to actions, and things quickly spiraled downward from bad to worse to fatal. David was trapped, and for him the consequences were eternal.

There’s a spiritual snare today called pornography, and many, allured by its provocative messages, enter this deadly trap. Like any trap, it is easy to enter but difficult to escape. Some rationalize that they can casually view pornography without suffering its adverse effects. They say initially, “This isn’t so bad,” or “Who cares? It won’t make any difference,” or “I’m just curious.” But they are mistaken.

The Lord has warned, “And he that looketh upon a woman to lust after her shall deny the faith, and shall not have the Spirit; and if he repents not he shall be cast out (D&C 42:23). That’s exactly what happened to David; he looked at Bathsheba, lusted after her, and lost the Spirit.

How different the rest of David’s life might have been if he had just looked away.

Now is the Time
Elder Donald L. Hallstrom
Of the Quorum of the Seventy

Elder Donald L. Hallstrom

When our oldest child (who is now a father of three and sits in this priesthood congregation this evening) was 11 years of age, he was given an assignment, along with the other sixth graders of his school, to submit his favorite family recipe. As its contribution to a large spring fair, the sixth grade was producing a cookbook that would be distributed throughout the community.

When the teacher announced the project and a deadline of a week from Friday, our son Brett immediately concluded there was plenty of time to later get the job done and dismissed it from his mind. Early the next week, when the teacher reminded the students of the Friday deadline, Brett decided he could easily complete the required task on Thursday night and until then he could occupy himself with other more enjoyable matters.

On the appointed Friday morning, the teacher directed the students to pass their recipes to the front of the class. Brett’s procrastination caused him to forget the assignment and be completely unprepared. Flustered, he turned to a fellow student seated nearby and confessed his problem. Trying to be helpful, the classmate said, “I brought an extra recipe, if you want, use one of mine.” Brett quickly grabbed the recipe, wrote his name on it and turned it in, feeling he had escaped any consequences related to his lack of preparation.

One evening several weeks later, I arrived home from work to freshen up before going to my evening Church meetings. A few days prior, I had been called as a stake president after serving several years as a bishop. We were somewhat known in our community as members of the Church who tired to live the tenets of our religion.

“There’s something you need to see” my wife, Diane, said as I walked through the door. She handed me a bound book with a page marked. Glancing at the cover titled Noelani School’s Favorites 1985, I turned to the identified page and read “Hallstrom Family, Favorite Recipe — Bacardi Rum Cake.”

Many of us place ourselves in circumstances far more consequential than embarrassment, because of our procrastination to become fully converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ. We know what is right, but we delay full spiritual involvement because of laziness, fear, rationalization, or lack of faith. We convince ourselves that “someday I’m going to do it;” however, for many “someday” never comes, and even for others who eventually do make a change, there is an irretrievable loss of progress and surely regression…

One of President Spencer W. Kimball’s effective encouragements was the succinct “Do It.” He later expanded this to “Do It Now” to pointedly teach the need for timeliness.

Today is the Time
Elder Walter F. Gonzalez
Of the Seventy

Elder Walter F. Gonzalez

When President James E. Faust informed my wife and me that we would be transferred to Lima, Peru, we had no clue that on August 15, 2007, only a few days after our arrival, we would witness a devastating earthquake. More than 52,000 houses were destroyed by its sheer strength. Worse yet, it left more than 500 dead. Nine of them were members of the Church. Members in the Ica and Pisco stakes and the Canete and Chincha districts suffered the brunt of the tremor’s aftermath.

The Church provided immediate relief to its members and those of other faiths. The morning after the quake, our members in the disaster area were receiving food and clothing, and before noon, the Church was donating humanitarian aid to the nation’s Civil Defense. Many members who were left homeless were sheltered in our meetinghouses. Despite how unexpected the catastrophe was, the priesthood organization functioned very well to bring relief to those less fortunate.

Stake and district presidents along with bishops went out to help their members only minutes after the earthquake. The terrible situation in which these priesthood leaders went out is worth highlights: it was nighttime; the lights were out; destruction abounded, and the earth would not stop shaking. These magnificent priesthood leaders left their families secured and walked out into the darkness, among people who wept surrounded by destroyed houses.

Thus our leaders went out during the night and the following days, facing frequent, strong aftershocks and a tsunami warning. They searched among the rubble, in the midst of commotion, risking their own lives to get to all the members. A bishop declared: “Without as much as a second thought, I ran in search of my Church brothers and sisters and leaders.” He found them. That’s how he spent most of the night.

A bishop promptly gathered his Aaronic Priesthood youth to go visit the families, assess the damage, and help where possible. Other bishops used priesthood quorums and the Relief Society to help the most needy. A stake president spent several sleepless nights in a small tent on the church’s grounds comforting members and coordinating relief efforts with the area office in Lima.

What motivated these leaders to go out and help others, even to the risking of their own lives? Certainly it was their great faith in the Savior and His Church. It was their understanding of their calling as leaders in the priesthood. It was gospel principles engraved in their lives before the earthquake, not during the crisis, engraved not with ink, but with fire by the Spirit in the fleshy tablets of their hearts (See 2 Corinthians 3:3)

A Royal Priesthood
President Thomas S. Monson
Of the First Presidency

President Thomas S. Monson

Times may change, circumstances may alter, but the m arks of a true holder of the priesthood of God remain constant.

May I suggest that first of all every one of us develop The Mark of Vision …The second principle I should like to emphasize as a characteristic of a true priesthood holder of God is The Mark of Effort.

The third principle I would like to emphasize is The Mark of Faith. We must have faith in ourselves and faith in the ability of our Heavenly Father to bless us and to guide us in our endeavors.

Many years ago, the writer of a psalm wrote a beautiful truth. He said, “It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes.” In other words, let us put our confidence in the ability of the Lord to guide us. Friendships, we know, may alter and change, but the Lord is constant.

Shakespeare, in his play King Henry the Eighth, taught this truth through Cardinal Wolsey — a man who enjoyed great prestige and pride because of his friendship with the king. When the friendship ended, Cardinal Wolsey was stripped of his authority, resulting in a loss of prominence and prestige. He was one who had gained everything and then lost all. In the sorrow of his heart, he spoke a real truth to his servant, Cromwell:

O Cromwell, Cromwell!
Had I but serv’d my God with half the zeal
I serv’d my king, he would not in mine age
Have left me naked to mine enemies.

I trust we shall have The Mark of Faith in every heart represented here tonight.

President Gordon B. Hinckley
Of the First Presidency

President Gordon B. Hinckley

A proverb in the Old Testament states: “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city” (Proverbs 16:32).

It is when we become angry that we get into trouble. The road rage that affects our highways is a hateful expression of anger. I dare say that most of the inmates of our prisons are there because they did something when they were angry. In their wrath they swore, they lost control of themselves, and terrible things happened, even murder. There were moments of offense followed by years of regret …

A small publication that came to me some years ago carried the following:

Once a man who had been slandered by a newspaper came to Edward Everett Hale asking what to do about it. Said Hale, “Do nothing! Half the people who bought the paper never saw the article. Half of those who saw it, did not read it. Half of those who read it, did not understand it. Half of those who understood it, did not believe it. Half of those who believed it are of no account anyway.”

So many of us make a great fuss of matters of small consequence. We are so easily offended. Happy is the man who can brush aside the offending remarks of another and go on his way.

Grudges, if left to fester, can become serious maladies. Like a painful ailment, they can absorb all of our time and attention. Guy de Maupassant has written an interesting chronicle that illustrates this.

It concerns Master Hauchecome, who on market day went to town. He was afflicted with rheumatism, and as he stumbled along, he noticed a piece of string on the ground in front of him. He picked it up and carefully put it in his pocket. He was seen doing so by his enemy, the harness maker.

At the same time it was reported to the mayor that a pocketbook containing money had been lost. It was assumed that what Hauchecome had picked up was the pocketbook, and he was accused of taking it. He vehemently denied the charge. A search of his clothing disclosed only the piece of string, but the slander against him had so troubled him that he became obsessed with it. Wherever he went he bothered to tell people about it. He became such a nuisance that they cried out against him. It sickened him. “His mind kept growing weaker, and about the end of December he took to his bed.

“He passed away early in January and, in the ravings of [his] death agony, he protested his innocence, repeating: ‘A little bit of string, a little bit of string. See, here it is, Mister Mayor” (Guy de Maupassant, ‘The Piece of String,” Short Stories of De Maupassant, 34-38, [1941].