President Kim B. Clark
President of BYU-Idaho
"Abound in Good Works"
Kim B. Clark
March 17, 2006
I am grateful for the opportunity to welcome this wonderful group of mothers to BYU–Idaho. I want you to know how much we love your children and how blessed we are to have them here on this campus. The light in their eyes and the quality of their lives reflects your love and spirit and faith. May God our Father bless you to know of His love for you as mothers in Zion.
I am grateful for the privilege of speaking to you today about the theme for Mother’s Weekend: Abound in Good Works. To abound is to be abundant, plentiful; to overflow; to burst forth; to multiply. Good works, of course, are those actions that bring souls to Christ, they are the things that He would do if He were here, they bring light into the world, and they establish righteousness. If one of our sisters abounds in good works, for example, it may be said of her that there is in her life an overflowing of Christlike service, an abundance of acts of kindness and love, a bursting forth of goodness that blesses all she touches.
In the Book of Mormon the Lord makes clear that such abundance of goodness comes through the grace of the Savior and the ministry of the Holy Ghost. Please turn to Alma 7:24, the source of our theme today: “And see that ye have faith, hope, and charity, and then ye will always abound in good works.”
It is important to note that this verse comes in a chapter in which Alma lays out very powerfully the doctrine of Christ’s Atonement. In Ether, Moroni clarifies the connection between faith, hope, and abounding in good works. Let’s look at Ether 12:4:
Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God (emphasis added).
Here we see that faith in the Savior’s Atonement leads to hope for a better world and, thus, to action—repentance, sacred covenants, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and good works that glorify God. Charity is central to this process of abundance. In Moroni 8:25-26, Mormon taught:
And the first fruits of repentance is baptism; and baptism cometh by faith unto the fulfilling the commandments; and the fulfilling the commandments bringeth remission of sins;
And the remission of sins bringeth meekness, and lowliness of heart; and because of meekness and lowliness of heart cometh the visitation of the Holy Ghost, which Comforter filleth with hope and perfect love, which love endureth by diligence unto prayer, until the end shall come, when all the saints shall dwell with God (emphasis added).
If we look at these verses very carefully, we can see in them the Lord’s plan for a life of abundance: The first principles and ordinances of the gospel bring about forgiveness, humility, and a newness of spiritual life. Through the Atonement we are made clean, our hearts are changed, and we receive the ministry of the Holy Ghost. Charity, or that “perfect love” which is Christ’s, comes as a gift of the Spirit. Coupled with faith in the Savior and hope for a glorious resurrection, there is in that love a powerful motivation to do good. And there is in the “endurance by diligence unto prayer” a persistent, growing abundance of good. Indeed, there is “abounding in good works.”
Such marvelous abundance does not come all at once. It is rather like a fruitful tree, requiring planting, and nurturing, and pruning. But with all of that, grace upon grace, comes “. . . much precious fruit” (Doctrine and Covenants 97:9).
I believe the Lord has provided a way for us to become fruitful and to abound in good works. There is in the kingdom of God three stages of personal development, each related to the other, that create what I would like to call the Path of Abundance:
- Membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
- Becoming a trusted servant of the Lord
- Being a light to the world
Let me take each of them in turn.
Membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Active membership in the Church brings with it many opportunities to do good. When we enter the waters of baptism, we make a covenant with the Lord to:
. . . bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;
. . . to mourn with those that mourn . . . and comfort those that stand in need of comfort . . . to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places . . . . (Mosiah 18:8-9).
The organizations in the Church—visiting teaching, home teaching, callings in the ward organizations, serving in the temple and on missions—create opportunities for us to fulfill our covenants. In all of these experiences, we learn both what we must do to bring about good works and what it feels like to do it. Though the work is organized and structured, yet it is real; the work is good and directed by the Spirit. We learn what the Lord’s work is and how He does it. Along the way we are tutored by our leaders, we see others and learn by example, and we receive inspiration and guidance from the Spirit. We grow in our spiritual capacity, and we learn to bring about righteousness. In its structure, in its processes, in its engagement of each of us, the Church is a marvelous school of good works.
Becoming a Trusted Servant of the Lord
The Lord’s work is not done only through the formal organization of the Church. As we grow in our faith and in our spiritual capacity, we may become a trusted servant of the Lord. The Lord’s trusted servants receive personal assignments from Him. This is why He said of His servants who would build Zion:
And they shall also be crowned with blessings from above, yea, and with commandments not a few, and with revelations in their time—they that are faithful and diligent before me (Doctrine and Covenants 59:4, emphasis added).
When He trusts us, when He knows that we will do what He asks us to do, He sends us on His errand. These impressions may be within the purview of our callings, but they may not be part of our formal assignments. We know from many examples in the scriptures that some of these assignments come from angels sent as messengers of the Lord. But many of them come as gentle whispers or impressions. They may send us to someone’s house with a loaf of bread; they may send us down the hall to talk with a struggling child; they may urge us to speak to the person next to us on the airplane; they may send us to find a document that opens the blessings of the temple to one of our ancestors; they may come in countless ways. If we learn to hear them, the Lord will use us to do His work. And we will become more abundant in good works.
A Light to the World
There are two scriptures that define the third stage on the Path of Abundance. The first is in the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 5:14-16 the Lord says:
Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.
Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
The second scripture is in Doctrine and Covenants 58:27-28:
Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;
For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves . . . .
In this third stage, the abundance of good works comes not only from formal organization, or from specific assignments from the Lord, but from the light and power of the Lord Jesus Christ that is in us. It comes from the total character of our lives. It comes because we put true principles into action in everything we do so that those around us may see the light of the gospel in action. It comes because we give our will to the Lord; take His yoke upon us; and, exercising our agency, do what He would do if He were here.
Let me share with you a story about two of our close friends that illustrates what it means to be a “light to the world.”
About two years ago, Steve and Margaret Wheelwright moved into a new house on a street in Belmont, Massachusetts, where they once had lived. They had known their next-door neighbor, Barbara, a bit and got to know her better this time. She was in her 80s. Although Barbara had been reared in the Church, she had not been actively involved since she left home at the age of 18. On their visits, Steve and Margaret grew to love Barbara and her family, including Barbara’s daughter Karen who was suffering from stomach cancer. On one visit, Steve talked with Barbara and Karen about priesthood blessings and asked if Karen might like a blessing. Karen was not a member of the Church, but she was grateful and asked Steve to give her a blessing. Not long after, Steve and the bishop of the ward administered to Karen.
Now, there is one thing you need to understand before I go on. About a year before this happened, Steve and Margaret returned from serving a mission in London where Steve presided over the England London Mission. They had a great experience in London and returned on fire!
It should be no surprise, therefore, that Steve and Margaret talked to Karen about learning more about the Church. Karen was interested, so they began to teach her. It was a glorious experience. It turns out that Karen and Barbara come from a long line of Mormon pioneers, including the Wooleys. She thrilled to hear of the Restoration and received a powerful witness of the truth of the gospel. At the time, she was in the end stage of terminal cancer and was in tremendous pain. But she came to Church and rejoiced with the Saints even though it was a physical ordeal. She told Steve and Margaret: “I want to know just as much about the gospel as if I had been raised in the Church all my life.” If you knew Karen, you knew what the scriptures mean when they speak of “hungering and thirsting after righteousness.” She was baptized in November of 2004. Karen was a professional musician and music teacher; she played the trumpet. Some of her LDS students joined her in playing God of Our Fathers with trumpet fanfare at her baptism. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room.
Karen died a few weeks after her baptism. Just a few weeks ago, Margaret did Karen’s temple work; Barbara wept at the news.
This is an example of two sweet people being a light to the world and bringing about much righteousness of their own free will. There was no formal assignment here. And while I believe the Lord sent Steve and Margaret to that neighborhood, it was the pure love of Christ in them, it was the light in their eyes and the spirit in their hearts, that touched Karen and helped her trust them and love them. They brought the gospel to Karen because she could feel its power in them. Steve and Margaret truly abounded in good works.
The Role of Mothers
The Path of Abundance is part of our Heavenly Father’s plan for us. He desires that all of us grow step by step, grace for grace, in spiritual strength and maturity, and thus in the abundance of good works in our lives. I believe that the best place to learn about the Path of Abundance and to see it in action is in our families. Indeed, I believe it is by divine design that fathers and mothers teach their children how to live the abundant life, a life abounding in good works. Listen to the words of the Proclamation on the Family:
. . . Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, to teach them to love and serve one another, to observe the commandments of God and to be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. . . (The Family: A Proclamation to the World, Ensign, Nov 1995, p. 102).
When we are little, our moms and dads establish standards, create structure, and define boundaries. They teach us about Jesus and the doctrines of salvation. They give us assignments and organize experiences in which we learn to do good works. When we are little, our parents are also growing and learning. As we grow older, our parents become examples to us and their personal values and behavior become influential in shaping our understanding of the gospel. When they become trusted servants of the Lord, we see it and feel it and recognize in our parents the abundance of good works. And there comes a time when we have grown and matured further that we feel and know of the power that is within them and the light that is in their lives. This is why the Lord has commanded parents to “. . . bring up your children in light and truth” (Doctrine and Covenants 93:40).
As I have reflected on the powerful impact of parents, I have been naturally drawn to the effect of my mother on me. I can see in her life the Path of Abundance.
From a very early age, my mother made sure that I learned discipline, hard work, and obedience. When I was five years old, she enrolled me in elocution classes. Every Saturday morning for five years I went to Grace Nixon Stewart’s School for Elocution. We learned poetry, scriptures, vocabulary words, and dramatic readings. There were assignments each week, and every morning my mother got me up early and made me practice my lessons. Remember, I am five years old when this is going on. There I was at 6 a.m. in my pajamas saying things like:
O, my love is like a red, red rose,
that’s newly sprung in June.
O, my love is like a melody,
that’s sweetly play’d in tune (Robert Burns).
My mother taught me to pray, to love the scriptures, to attend church, and to live the gospel in those early years.
As I grew older (and my mother grew older), I saw her become a trusted servant of the Lord. When I was 11 years old, we moved to Spokane, Washington. My mother was 42. Not long after we moved there, she became (in my eyes) a leader. For almost 15 years she served as stake Relief Society president. In that time my mother had many formal assignments, but she was always doing things for other people that had nothing to do with her formal calling. I did not understand it at the time, but my mother was a trusted servant of the Lord. He sent her on many, many errands. And so I learned through her example, and through her values, what it means to abound in good works.
Once I left home to go to college and then to serve a mission, I came to understand the great spirit that my mother created in our home. I recognized that my mother brought light to everything she did. I think I needed the distance from her to recognize and appreciate it. Looking back, I was privileged to be born to a mother who was a light to the world.
Later in their lives, my mom and dad served a mission in the Philippines. What a blessing my mom and dad were to the people in the Davao Mission. I have seen many pictures of my mom standing with the Saints in the Philippines, and there is a joy and a light in their eyes and in hers that is inspiring.
My mom was only five feet tall, but she was a spiritual giant. Many years ago I wrote a poem for her that I would like to read to you today. It captures how I feel about her even to this day. And I believe it will be a fitting conclusion to my talk about abounding in good works. As I read it, I hope each of you here today will reflect on your own mother and the love you have for her. Here is the poem:
When I was a boy I looked up at my mom
And thought of growing tall.
I stretched and grew and marked each spot
On the chart tacked on the wall.
“See, Mom,” I’d say with a wink and a grin,
“I’m about as tall as you.”
And she’d laugh and tell me, “Not quite yet.
You’re still two inches too few.”
Years came and went and I grew tall
While Mother stayed the same.
I used to look up but now I looked down
When we played our little game.
“Gee, Mom,” I’d say, “you’re kinda little.”
Her reply was to the point and quick:
“I’m taller than you think,” she’d say.
“You’re just using the wrong measuring stick.”
Now I’m a dad with little ones
Who measure themselves against me.
“Hey, Dad,” they say, “I’m almost as tall as you.
When I get old how tall will I be?”
“If you want it in inches, I have no idea.
Whatever will be will be.
But how tall inside you finally stand
Depends on the life you lead.”
For now I know what my mother meant
About measures of a different kind.
Stature is not measured in inches or feet
But is something in Heaven defined.
There’s no chart on the wall to
Measure the growth of each spiritual inch or two,
But, Mom, I just hope that someday I might
Stand as tall as you.
I love my mother very much. She passed away eight years ago, and I miss her still. I hope that in my life I may walk the Path of Abundance that she taught me. I hope that each of us may look within ourselves on this happy day, take our own measure, and resolve to abound in good works.
I leave you with my testimony. I know our Heavenly Father lives. I know He loves us. I know He gave His only Begotten Son to suffer and die that we might live the abundant life, forever. I love Him and honor Him and praise His name. This is His church and kingdom. The Path of Abundance is His path. I pray that we may walk it and serve Him all the days of our lives. In the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.
The Path of the Peacemaker
Audio of President Kim B. Clark's BYU-Idaho devotional address Winter 2009