Our son took a lovely young woman out on a date. It was the first date and the last, because a few mildly coarse words peppered her speech. It was a deal breaker for our son. I’ve been thinking lately about the need for refinement of speech. The selection of words spewing from our mouths reveals what we are inside. That is what the Savior Jesus Christ taught: “Those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man” (Matthew 15:18). And consider this statement: “Language most shows a man. Speak, that I may see thee” (Ben Jonson). How we speak reflects our true selves. Though I would not swear or use the Lord’s name in vain, I want to avoid even using alliterative, substitute words for the Lord’s sacred name. Also, I don’t want to use coarse or crude words—in surprise or exclamation, or in reference to body parts—even though these words are commonplace. How easy it is to become desensitized from hearing coarse and crude language in school, in the media, and in public everywhere. But this is no excuse to lower one’s personal standard. “Refinement of speech is reflected not only in our choice of words, but also in the things we talk about. Refinement of speech is more than polished elocution. It results from purity of thought and sincerity of expression” (Douglas Callister). When in doubt about the appropriateness of using certain words, I will remember the message of this simple child’s hymn: “If the Savior stood beside me, would I say the things I say…if I could see the Savior standing nigh, watching over me?”
Our one-year-old granddaughter played a game of hide-and-seek with her mommy recently. Rather than choosing an easy place behind the sofa, she crawled inside a cabinet, completely out of view. She forgot one minor detail though, and left the door ajar. This caused me to think about the analogy of God’s children foolishly thinking that they can hide sins from our omniscient Heavenly Father. Our choices in life do not constitute a game. They affect eternal life. Of course God sees when I make a poor choice. He prompts me through my conscience, which is the light of Christ, given to every man—to discern right from wrong. Conscience is light to our souls. Have you noticed that evil activities always lurk in dark places? Windows are darkened or shaded, lights are dimmed and raucous music deafens the inner voice of conscience. But, the door is always ajar. Our loving Heavenly Father will reach out to find us and guide us back if we want to be found. As we repent, the Atonement of Jesus Christ is activated, and we are cleansed. “I appeal to each [person] to ask himself: Where am I? Am I ashamed so that I want to hide, or am I where I should be, doing what I should be doing, and preparing to meet God? Let each of us determine to humble ourselves and repent, and prove ourselves worthy of the great promise that those who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads forever and ever” (N Eldon Tanner). What a Reason to Rejoice!
I looked out the window and saw a very long car pull up to our house. No one got out immediately. I waited and wondered who it was. Slowly, the driver’s door opened and an old man struggled to climb out, bracing himself with a cane. I grabbed a jacket and rushed out the front door. It turned out to be the oldest couple in our neighborhood. With great effort our aged friend hobbled up the sidewalk, teetering on his cane while balancing an enormous vase of flowers. It was my birthday. Tears gathered in my eyes at this generous demonstration of caring. The lovely bouquet stood on my kitchen table for days as a reminder that the most precious gifts are those hardest to give. Mother Theresa said, “You must give what will cost you something.” If we do not give when we have little, we are not likely to give when we have much. Action verbs from a favorite LDS hymn identify specific ways to serve: “I gave him all; I ran and raised the sufferer up; I flew; I revived…and supplied…and honored him. I roused…brought back…found him. I bid him welcome.” I will never forget the great lesson taught by my aged friend stumbling up the sidewalk on that windy October day. “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God” (Mosiah 2:17).
Some men tell themselves that religion is a good thing for women and children, but not necessarily for them. “Or some are convinced that their busy schedules or unique circumstances make them exempt from the daily acts of devotion and service that would keep them close to the Spirit. In this age of self-justification and narcissism, it is easy to become quite creative at coming up with excuses for not regularly approaching God in prayer, procrastinating the study of the scriptures, avoiding church meetings and family home evening” (Dieter F. Uchtdorf). I am grateful for the role of religion in my life. It is not just for women and children. It is the source of my identity, purpose, peace, and happiness. My primary goal has always been to enjoy a loving, eternal marriage, to teach my children to love the Savior Jesus Christ, and to keep His commandments. I want my children to access the power of the Holy Ghost for guidance in making good choices in life. It would be impossible to instill these values in my children without setting the example myself. It’s not enough to send them to church; I need to go with them, read scriptures together, participate in family prayer, and serve my fellowmen. I must also show the joy I feel from this chosen spiritual path. A complimentary goal is to have our family sealed together throughout eternity. My wife and I want all our children, along with their children, to be covenant keepers, sealing us as a family unit beyond the grave. Seeing the progress we are making as a family gives me many Reasons to Rejoice.
We were standing in the wind, rain, and cold at the end of a long queue to tour the Payson Temple open house on the busiest of days. Three teenage girls in front of us were shivering in short sleeves and bare legs—jumping up and down to generate heat. Finally, one girl said to her friends, “Ok, guys—enough of acting wimpy. We’ve gotta be tough. We can do this!” It made me smile—because I think she had heard these words many times before. Good parents teach their children to do hard things. They teach them to work, to endure, and to be “tough.” In this context, “tough” means to weather the storm instead of quitting. It means—no whimpering allowed! But how do parents teach this important skill when it’s our natural instinct to swoop down and pluck a child from distress? It’s a delicate balance to minister compassion while giving challenging responsibilities and accountability. A child will gain confidence when a parent says, “You can do this!” instead of rescuing. Does the Savior rescue us from every distress? No. He allows us to grow as we push through hard things, although He guides us to the finish line. He cheers us on and enables us to do what we could not do on our own. When our children were young, we gave them tasks to perform. If they complained—another task was immediately added, without scolding. Lessons were learned quickly this way. I want to be able to say these words at the end of each day: “I have fought a good fight; I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim 4:7).
The underground subway system in London, called the tube, posts frequent warning signs of dangers that might be encountered. One example is a sign reminding people of the gap between the train and the station platform. The sign reads, “Mind the Gap.” The purpose of this warning is to alert passengers of the need to step carefully onto the train, thus avoiding injury or lost objects. But to be protected, the passenger must obey the sign. I’m moving now to the analogy: “Mind the gap” can mean heeding God’s protective commandments to keep us from pain and injury. There is a difference between what we know and what we actually do. Merely reading the sign, “Mind the Gap” does not insure safety. I must obey it. Possessing knowledge of God’s commandments does not protect me if I don’t obey them. “If you keep your covenants, then your covenants will keep you through time and eternity” (Neal A. Maxwell). As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I want to become valiant in testimony and conversion by heeding the warning signs and obeying God’s commandments.
“Did you miss these little cuties?” This was spoken by our adult daughter while taking a hike with my wife and me in our nearby mountains. As we pressed up the hill, we noticed our daughter was lagging behind. Looking back, we noticed that she was bent over a bush with her camera close to the ground for a snapshot of a tiny new flower adjacent to the trail. I must have walked by that same plant ten times and never noticed it. Our daughter, with a photographer’s eye, was busy appreciating every point of beauty, from the sky to the ground and everything in between. Though her step was slow, she relished the beauty of God’s creations, while I blindly stomped past them to accomplish the goal of completing our hike. While leading her to the wild poppy patch now in bloom, I had stepped over some tiny wildflowers that she quickly noticed and photographed. “Did you miss these little cuties?” Lesson learned: Don’t be in such a rush that we fail to see and appreciate the beauty of nature and people all around us. “The quality of life is in proportion, always, to the capacity for delight. The capacity for delight is the gift of paying attention” (Julia Cameron). We should pay attention, and express gratitude to God for all His creations. These are Reasons to Rejoice.