Elder Graham W. Doxey
Former Member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy
Elder Graham W. Doxey
November 5, 2002
I am told that the majority of the student body are in the age range of 18 to 19. I have been thinking of you and endeavoring to place my mind into your circumstances, to see from your perspective. I have prayerfully sought to say things here today that will be of help to you, that will be relevant to you. Although this is a challenge for a man who is so much older, don't "turn off" too quickly. Consider the truth that at one time I was where you now are - that I was once seeing life through the eyes of an 18 year old. However, although you have experienced much in your years, you have never seen life through the eyes of a 75 year old. It is my prayer that these 56 years of additional experience will have provided me with some insights and lessons and perspectives, that will be a blessing to you.
I am told that there are over 3,600 students on this campus who are returned missionaries. I have been thinking of you as well. Missions and mission life has been an important part of my life. First, as a 16 year old, when my father was called to preside over the East Central States Mission, headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky. Next, after my military service in the Navy, I served as a missionary in Virginia and North Carolina. In 1973 my wife and family of nine children were called to preside in the Missouri Independence Mission. More recently, as a General Authority, in Area Presidency assignments, we toured many missions in the U. S. and in the Europe North Areas. I desire this to be relevant to you missionaries as well.
I have determined that I will ask each of you, all who hear my voice, myself included, to personally, and privately, respond to this question: Where in the world am I? The answer we need to study is not one of geography - we know Idaho, we know Rexburg, , we know Taylor Chapel and Kirkham Auditorium and Manwaring Center. The answer we need cannot be found by Satellite locators. We need to know Where we stand in the World of Ideas! With introspect and with honesty we must make this determination. This is done by careful and objective examination of, Where, in Me, is the World? 18 year olds, Returned Missionaries, 75 year olds, we all need to open our awareness to see the areas where, "the ideas of the world" have been affecting our attitudes, have intruded into our lives..
Let us start by reviewing a few scriptures. 1 John 2:15-16. "Love not the world, neither, the things of the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world - the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life - is not of the Father, but is of the world."
John identifies these three attributes as being of the world. (First) the lust of the flesh. I read this to be referring to sexual appetites. Is this common in our society? Is this not a most prominent theme coming out of the so called, world of Entertainment? Do you see it evidenced in printed media? Do you see it's influence in fashion and dress? I submit that it surrounds us, that it is almost everywhere present. (Second) the lust of the eyes. I read this to be referring to coveting. Coveting is defined as "desiring something that you don't have, something that belongs to another". If you think about it, is not the basis for most, if not all, of the advertising to which we are exposed? The advertiser tries to make his product appear to you to be irresistible. Again, this attribute is everywhere present and to some degree is affecting each of our lives. (Third) and the pride of life. Prophets through the ages have warned us against pride. President Ezra Taft Benson gave a stirring and definitive sermon entitled, Beware of Pride. He declared it as being "the universal sin". He said that there is no such thing as righteous pride. He warned that it was pride that destroyed the peoples of the Book of Mormon. He said that this important message of the Book of Mormon is a warning to us, and further he declared, "I know the Lord wants this message delivered now". (April General Conference, 1989).
We must each objectively consider ourselves and determine to what degree pride is affecting our willingness to be "meek and submissive". Mosiah teaches that meekness and submissiveness are essential. They are the opposite of pride. (Mosiah 3:19) There are many whose level of submissiveness, of meekness, are suffering as the result of pride; be it conscious pride, or unconscious prideful attitudes.
If these three characteristics are in truth: "..not of the Father, but... of the world" then to the degree we possess them, we have identified, "Where, in me, is the World."
Note other cautions from John. "But I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you" (John 15:19). "I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil" (John 17:15). The Lord designed this mortal life for his Spirit Children, to confront us with the challenge of making choices, between good and evil. We are here, in this estate, to be tested and to be proven. As described in "…to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord, their God, shall command them" (Abraham 3:25). To the obedient the Lord promises, "…glory added upon their heads for ever and ever" (Abraham 3:26). He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world, shall keep it unto life eternal.( John 12:25).
I ask that you review yourselves on the question, "Where do you stand on some of the common and popular ideas of the World?" For example, on conformity vs. diversity, on freedom of choice, on rights. I ask you to consider if there are wrongs against God's commandments, which are being committed today, in the name of and under the innocuous label of, rights ? I ask you to consider carefully the very popular concept that everything is relative, that there are no absolutes. Many today rationalize that there is nothing that is always and absolutely wrong, just as there is nothing that is always and absolutely right. They argue that there are no verities. The dictionary defines verities as being, "a permanent truth". They say that everything is to be judged relative to its time and circumstance and by the opinion of the majority. I testify to you that there is danger in this, that there is subtlety and deception in progress. I testify that there are verities. Our creator, the creator of Heaven and of Earth, our Eternal Father, God, does not change according to the reasoning and rationalizations of man's mind. He did not give to Moses and to His children, "The Ten Suggestions". In His infinite wisdom, and in love for His children, He gave "The Ten Commandments". He has never rescinded nor altered them. He does not permit us to modify or interpret them according to the circumstances of our time or popular opinions of the day. Knowing that every one coming to earth will make mistakes, will sin, he has provided us with the principle of repentance. He has provided us with a Savior, who is His Only Begotten, Jesus Christ. It is he who has made the Atoning Sacrifice, whereby we can correct our mistakes and receive forgiveness. In the vast Eternal Plan of Happiness it is our mortality that is intended as the great testing and growing experience which will prepare us for an eternal life of joy. In contrast, a mortal life consisting of fun, or "doing our own thing", will not accomplish God's purposes. Here is a vivid example.
There was a 17 year old boy who lived in this world many years ago. Some aspects of his world were very different than ours. He was born in 1745 BC, when his father was 91 years of age. He was number 11 of the 12 sons of Jacob - his name was Joseph. Joseph's mother died giving birth to Joseph's younger brother Benjamin. Unlike you, Joseph never saw a television screen. He attended no college classes nor did he surf the web. The conditions of his life were very different than anyone of you here. Conditions of his family relationships were also different, although it is possible that some of these may exist for individuals today. He had 10 half brothers and several "step mothers". Being number 11 of the 12 boys in the family, he was near the bottom of the 'pecking order' among his siblings. To make it even harder for him, from his birth, his father had designated that Joseph was his favored son. This was a mixed blessing for Joseph. On the one hand he had special tutoring and closeness to his father, but at the same time, the older boys were fired with envy and jealousy. Their mothers were likewise driven. There had been no tender arms of a mother to comfort Joseph or to protect him. If his father was busy managing business affairs and his large family, Joseph was on his own. Life for him had some of the characteristics of a "broken home". By today's standards, a Social Worker might conclude that Joseph was an "abused child".
I have prepared three clips from a movie made in Hollywood, entitled Joseph. These short snippets will give you a little more of the realism of Joseph's circumstances. It starts with a 3-minute segment describing Joseph after his brothers had cast him into the pit. His cries are mournful, he pleads with his brothers to help him. Notice their attitudes and their rationalizations in dealing with the dilemma they found themselves in. They could neither agree to kill him nor could they agree to set him free.
For this 17 year old, to have been brutalized by his own brothers and then sold by them into a life of slavery, might have appeared to Joseph to be a fate worse than death. Think of his plight, dropping from the status of favored son in a noble house, to being a slave, mere chattel. It would cause anyone to despair. It would challenge anyone's faith in a living, loving God. Compounding that, Joseph was taken a great distance from his home, with no hope of ever returning. He was taken to a Pagan land. His only hope for survival was to work earnestly to please his master and hopefully to avoid his wrath; with luck, to enjoy the meager "perks" that a satisfied master might bestow on a faithful slave. Joseph's 17 years of knowing love and the religious teachings of his father were at this point, to him, as if from another world. He might well of asked, "What has happened to me?". "Where In The World Am I ?"
And then, 'the plot thickens', as they say. I calculate that Joseph was in this condition for approximately 10 years. Think of ten years in your life, at your age, it could appear to be a lifetime. Many of the most important things that will happen in your entire life will happen in those 10 years. During those pivotal years for Joseph, in that hostile environment, he demonstrated managerial skills that won him favor with his master. During those years he also attracted the eye and captured the fancy of his master's wife. She, "lusted after the flesh", as John expresses it. If relativism, if man's reasoning, if circumstances, could warrant a change from "Commandment" to "Suggestion", then surely Joseph could qualify himself. After all, she too was his master. His duty was to obey and to do what she commanded. Disobedience could mean his death. He might have rationalized that what she asked would be an indiscretion against some teachings given him in his youth, in another time, in another world. It was that world that had rejected him, had discarded him. Why should he continue to regard it? He might have rationalized, "It is a small thing she asks, in comparison with what handsome rewards she could and would bestow upon me, in this world, in which I am now living."
After having endured and rejected her pleadings, her commands, for an extended time, he was forced to act. She caught hold of him. Notice his response. His words ring with power and inspiration, they are classic. He said, speaking of his master, "…neither hath he kept any thing back from me, but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God? He defines it. She was asking Joseph to both betray the trust of his master, and to sin against his God. In spite of all the adversities that he had suffered, in spite of his being separated those many years, the religious teachings of his youth and his integrity remained strong and firm. Wonderfully, There were some parts of his World, that he had not allowed to be in him. But his test continues. Potiphar's wife made false accusations and Joseph was cast into a horrible prison. There he languished for over two very long and painful years. Abandoned and rejected, first by his family, and now, undeservedly, by his master. Listen to his anguished cries
Oh God, My God, Why hast thou forsaken me?"
I insert here a statement that gives us perspective. "What to the caterpillar, is the end of the world, the Creator calls a Butterfly." Remember this during your trials.
An objective observer could conclude at this point, that Joseph's integrity and his obedience to the commandments of his God, had caused his conditions to worsen. Now in his late twenties, he had dropped from being a trusted slave in the house of his master, to being a helpless, hopeless, prisoner, in a filthy prison.. To his questioning at this point of, Where In The World Am I?, Joseph might rightly conclude, "About as low as one can get". However to the question of, Where, in me, is the World?, observe that he has bravely resisted, "the attitudes of the world." Regardless of his circumstances, he has been true to those standards, which are the verities. He has shown himself to be as one spoken of by John. "But I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. John 15:19
And now he faces the third big test. After abandonment and rejection, after betrayal and the filthy hopeless prison, Joseph is challenged with wealth and success. You might wonder how these conditions could be a challenge. He has been miraculously catapulted from the depths of prison to the heights of the World in which he lived; which was the great kingdom of Egypt. He becomes second only to the Pharaoh, in authority and in wealth and in power. It was an unbelievable transformation. He is at this time 30 years of age. He has been completely separated from his family for 13 years. It is interesting to note the dichotomy. It was his unyielding faith in the teachings of his God that sent him to prison. It was also his unrelenting faith in his God, that had opened the windows of inspiration and vision, which thereby first opened the doors of the prison and then the heart of the Pharaoh and ultimately the kingdom's treasury. It was the faith, Joseph had learned as a youth, at his father's knee, which was planted so deeply that, "the things of the world", could not dislodge it. Regardless of "Where in the world he was", regardless of what adversities the world threw at him, his faith remained anchored and the World was not in him.
Joseph's final and ultimate victory came in the way he received his brothers. All 11 of them had come to Egypt to buy food from the only available source. Their families were facing starvation in Canaan from the extended period of drought.. Their lives were in his hands. Listen to this last segment and feel the emotion when the most powerful man in all Egypt, save only for Pharaoh himself, stood before the brothers who had endeavored to destroy him. Can you imagine a more poignant moment for revenge, for satisfaction? Can you imagine the trauma in the heart of Reuben or of Judah, of all the "brothers", as he first announces to them, "I am Joseph, I am your brother."
Vengeance, anger, retribution, these were warranted, according to the standards of the world, in consequence for what Joseph had suffered at their hands. In contrast, Joseph said, "Fear not, for am I in the place of God?" He could see, then, how he had been a trusted instrument in the hand of God, to literally save his family and following generations. He had been so refined in this 'fiery furnace' that he became worthy to be the father of the tribe of Ephraim. Here, in this audience today, there are many of you who have received Patriarchal Blessings. With few exceptions you have been told that you are of the Tribe of Ephraim. That prophetic declaration means that this noble and faithful Joseph, is your father.
Having this in your mind, listen to this statement from the Washington Post about families.
How well we do is determined not just by our
Gifts and grit, but also by social background,
Network, family connections and - powerfully
By how well our parents did.
Life is not merely a footrace, but a relay race.
It matters a lot how much headway the previous
Runner has made when he hands you the baton.
I want you to realize that the baton is now in your hand. Joseph ran a courageous race. Now, how much headway you make, with the baton he has handed you, will have great consequence to the race your posterity will yet run.
May I give one final illustration, regarding verities or standards and performance.
President Spencer W. Kimball illustrated it very clearly with this demonstration. As I stated earlier - the Lord has set the standard. It is we, with our agency, that determine the level of our performance. When performance is below the level of His standards, many will try to justify and modify, to bring the standards down to their level of their performance. The name for this is rationalizing. On the other hand, when we bring our performance up to the level of His standards, this is called repentance. The second principle and ordinance of the gospel is not, rationalize. Alma did not wish to be an angel so that he could, "speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry rationalization, unto every people" (Alma 29:1).
Our Challenge! : We must find something in our pattern of living, wherein the the ideas of the world have entered in. Review the commandments, avoiding every rationalization.. They cover Sabbath Day observance. They cover following the gods of money, of material things, of prestige. They cover moral issues of honesty, and of sexual purity and of pornography.. They cover coveting. They cover honoring father and mother. Objectively review and discover where the ideas of the world have infiltrated you. There isn't a person whose life hasn't been affected.. Identify even a small one of these and then determine to NOTCH UP. Raise your performance. Resist the temptation to rationalize it away.. Exercise faith unto repentance. Even from a very small thing, in repentance you will find that you have increased power, you will feel a spiritual strength and new joy in your life. It is an experience you will want to repeat. By so doing, you will be growing closer to your Father in Heaven. You will be rising. You will be passing with honors, the tests that qualify you and your posterity, to have, "glory added upon your head forever and ever".
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The Path of the Peacemaker
Audio of President Kim B. Clark's BYU-Idaho devotional address Winter 2009