Psychology Faculty Member
Samuel Clay was born and raised in Mesa, Arizona. He joined the church after graduating from high school and later served a full-time mission to the Peru Lima North mission.
He graduated with a Bachelor's of Science degree in accounting from Arizona State University. He graduated with a Master's of Science and Ph.D. degrees in psychology from BYU.
He met and married the girl of his dreams, Myrlene Remington Clay, while attending BYU. They are the parents of five sons.
Brother Clay currently serves as a Sunday school teacher in his ward.
Good afternoon brothers and sisters. What a tremendous, spiritual feast we experienced this past weekend. How blessed we are to listen to and learn from our dear prophet1 as well as from the other general authorities and auxiliary leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
I am humbled by this opportunity to speak to you today and I express my gratitude for your attendance. I wish to express my appreciation for the inspiring music that we just heard as well as for the music we are blessed to hear at every devotional. I am so grateful for those who have developed this particular talent that touches the innermost parts of our souls,2 and oftentimes bring me to tears. I would also like to thank those who work behind the scenes to make the devotionals a spiritual feast for us all. Now I invite us all to pray for and invite the Holy Ghost to teach us today so that we can all be uplifted and edified3 while we are here together.
What a new convert needs
President Gordon B. Hinckley said "Bring people into the Church. Bring them in with love. Bring them in with kindness. Bring them in with the example of your lives. So live the gospel that they will see in you something of wonder and beauty and be encouraged to inquire, study the gospel, and join the Church."4
Tomorrow marks the 37th anniversary of my convert baptism and confirmation in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Although I had been in contact with members of the Lord's church as I grew up in Mesa, Arizona, I had no particular interest in religion. But a simple5invitation from a courageous young woman changed all of that. I remember very well Colette Christensen6 asking me what I was doing while I was standing outside waiting for the lunch bell to ring. After I told her I was waiting to eat a second lunch, she simply said, "Why don't you come to seminary with me?" To be honest, she was cute and so were the other young ladies I saw going to seminary, so I said okay. The next day, she invited me to go again, and I went. I went almost every day that year because she or someone else invited me to go. Sometime during the very first week of seminary, the teacher showed the movie, The First Vision.7 This was the first time that I had ever seen this movie, and I was riveted. As I watched the portrayal of the Prophet Joseph's experience, the Holy Ghost bore witness to me that it was true; that God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith to usher in the restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in its fullness. And I testify to you that it is still true today!
Despite the fact that I knew the First Vision was true, it took me a while to join the church. I received a lot of pressure from others not to join; and I also did not think that I could live up to those covenants that we make in the waters of baptism. I didn't think that I could change. I didn't think that I could put off the natural man.8 What I didn't realize was that the church is like a hospital, as Elder Dale G. Renlund9 reminded us, and that we are all sick and need help; or as President Dieter F. Uchtdorf10 taught, that the church is like a service center and we all need a little maintenance. At first, I needed a lot of repair work (I still do today). Fortunately, members of the Lord's church have always left the lower lights burning11 for each of us.
For example, immediately after being confirmed a member, bishop Doug Holladay of the Mesa 16th Ward asked me to speak in church. I protested because I had never spoken in front of a large audience before. He persisted, and I thought he had lost his mind; I mean, my hair wasn't even dry yet. I told him that I couldn't speak in church. He then said you can bear your testimony. I told him no again. To this day, I am amazed that he was able to persuade me to bear my testimony on that Sunday because I was terrified. Yet, these opportunities to serve continued - I was assigned as a home teacher. I remember calling my first home teaching companion, and after exchanging the normal courtesies I told him the purpose of my call. He, in essence, commended me for doing my duty, but said that he wasn't interested in doing home teaching. As I hung up the phone, I had a little bit of anxiety because even though I had never had home teachers, nor had I been home teaching, I knew that wasn't the way it worked. So I reported to my Elder's Quorum President what had happened. A change was made and I was given a new companion: Daniel Zimmerman. He taught me what it was like to be a true and faithful home teacher - we made appointments in advance, we prayed for our families prior to the visit, we visited with the families, we delivered a message, and we left with a prayer. I am grateful to have passed this pattern on to my own sons.
As I learned more about my duties12 in the church, I was called to serve a mission. At first, I resisted the promptings to serve a mission because I thought I was too inexperienced to serve. One day as I was rationalizing my decision not to serve a mission to a friend of mine, J.C. Jackson, he merely said, "President Kimball has said that every worthy male member of the church should serve a mission." A short time later, I was called to serve in the Peru Lima North mission. When I opened my call, my mother asked me where that was, and I replied that I did not know. She said, "Well, you aren't going because I don't know where it is." So, a friend of mine who was there when I opened the letter found Peru on our globe, and then my Mom said, "Well, you still aren't going because that is too far away." I said, "Mom, this is from President Kimball." She said, "I know. But you still aren't going." At that point I started to wonder about serving a mission because things weren't starting off very well. So, I called my home teacher, Gil Greer. Come to find out, he had served in the exact same mission! I testify that the Lord is involved in the very details of our lives.13 Brother Greer came over later that evening and reassured my mother that her son would be okay as he served the Lord as a full-time missionary.
President Hinckley said that "every new convert needs three things: a friend, a responsibility, and nurturing with the 'good word of God.'"14 These rank and file members of the church certainly provided that for me then, and I continue to feel that support today.15 As a matter of fact, I have had so many friends, both of our faith and of other faiths, uplift and edify me since I have joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that I cannot possibly thank them enough. I would also like to add that I am grateful for the love and support that I have felt and continue to feel from my parents,16 my sister, and other extended family members, who, although not of our faith, continue to support my church activity. My parents, in particular have supported my family in simple, yet remarkable ways. For example, even though they could not come inside the Salt Lake Temple when I was blessed to be sealed to my wonderful, beautiful, eternal sweetheart, my parents drove up from Arizona and patiently waited outside, on a very cold day in late December. Likewise, they have supported our five sons in their academic and athletic activities, and most impressively, on their baptisms, ordinations, missionary farewells and reports, as often as they could. I cannot adequately express the love and gratitude in my heart that I have for them. I testify that we need each other, that we need responsibilities, that we need to be nurtured with the good word of God, as President Hinckley taught; and most importantly, we need the Savior's atonement, while we deal with life's challenges as we seek to become more like the Savior and Our Heavenly Father.17
The Challenge to Become
Elder Dallin H. Oaks taught that in the gospel of Jesus Christ, we are not only supposed to be knowledgeable, but more importantly, we are to become something.18 In the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord said "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;"19 Likewise, Elder Neal A. Maxwell said: "Part of discipleship should be to become high-yield, low-maintenance members of the Church. These members are not high profile; they won't be on the six o'clock evening news when they die. But they have done what Heavenly Father has wanted them to do meekly and humbly."20 The implication of this challenge to become high-yield, low-maintenance, is that people can change. When all is said and done, changing and helping each other improve so that we can build Zion is what this work is all about;21 hence, the admonition to "ponder the path of our feet."22
One of the stories of latter-day prophets that I have enjoyed that illustrates the principle of becoming is that of President Heber J. Grant. In his talk, "The Power of Self-Mastery," President James E. Faust23 related how President Grant had started off as a less-than-stellar baseball player, yet through deliberate practice, he progressed enough until he played on the team that won the championship of the Territory of Utah. Likewise, President Grant's handwriting was so bad that his friends made fun of him. So, again, he engaged in deliberate practice sufficient enough that he later taught penmanship at the University of Utah.
Quoting directly from President Faust: "Singing was another challenge for President Grant. As a small child, he could not carry a tune. When he was 10, a music instructor tried to teach him the simplest song and finally gave up in despair. At age 26, when he became an Apostle, he asked Professor Sims if he could teach him how to sing. After listening to him, Professor Sims replied, 'Yes, you can learn to sing, but I would like to be forty miles away while you are doing it.' This only challenged him to try harder. By practicing all of his life he made some improvement in singing but perhaps not as much as in baseball and penmanship, which he mastered. President Grant had a favorite quotation . . . which he lived by: 'That which we persist in doing becomes easier for us to do; not that the nature of the thing itself is changed, but that our power to do is increased.'"24 In reality, most of the improvements that we make in life will typically come in the form of "line upon line, precept upon precept"25 experiences.
Of course, with the challenge to become there will be opposition as father Lehi taught.26 There will be difficulties for various reasons throughout our mortal journey. As we learn from scriptural accounts, sometimes the thorn in the flesh is not removed;27 similarly, we are given weakness so that we may be humble; . . . and if we humble ourselves and exercise faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, He will make weak things strong unto us.28 Indeed, sometimes the Lord chastens us in order to try, test, and stretch us.29 The Lord said, "We must needs be chastened and tried, even as Abraham, who was commanded to offer up his only son."30 But we also must remember that whosoever puts their trust in the Lord will be supported through their trials and will be lifted up at the last day.31 Our burdens may not be removed, but the Lord will strengthen us sufficiently so that we can endure faithfully to the end.32 Elder Orson F. Whitney taught that "No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God... and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire and which will make us more like our Father and Mother in heaven."33 Indeed, there is hope smiling brightly before us34 if we are true and faithful.35
When others are experiencing their trials in life, we are commanded to "succor the weak, lift up the hands that hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees."36 President Spencer W. Kimball taught, "The Lord answers our prayers, but it is usually through another person that he meets our needs."37 There are many ways in which we can meet the needs of others. One of the ways in which we do this is by fast offerings - this is a picture of two of our sons; Caleb, the handsome dark-haired young man with his younger brother Hunter, the handsome red-haired young man. This was Hunter's first time collecting fast offerings, and who better to show him the ropes than his older brother. It is vitally important that we teach our children, at an early age, the importance of looking after others because we truly are, fellowcitizens with the saints.37
Help from beyond the veil
Not only are we fellowcitizens on this side of the veil, but the tender mercies39 of our Heavenly Father are extended to us from beyond the veil. If you remember the account found in the sixth chapter of 2 Kings, the king of Syria wanted to defeat the Israelites. But the Syrians were thwarted because the prophet Elisha had counseled the king of Israel on how to defend themselves against the warring Syrians. Of course, the King of Syria wanted to rid himself of this prophetic problem.
"Therefore sent he thither horses, and chariots, and a great host: and they came by night, and compassed the city about. ...(They) compassed the city both with horses and chariots." (2 Kgs. 6:14-15.)
In reference to this scriptural account, when he was serving as the commissioner of the Church Educational System, Elder Jeffery R. Holland taught the following:
If Elisha is looking for a good time to be depressed, this is it. His only ally is a boy who in modern times might be the president of the local teachers' quorum. It is one prophet and one lad against the world. And the boy is petrified. He sees the enemy everywhere—difficulty and despair and problems and burdens everywhere. He cannot leave... With faltering faith the boy cries, "Alas, my master! how shall we do?" (2 Kgs. 6:15.)
And Elisha's reply?
"...Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha." (2 Kgs. 6:16-17.)
Elder Holland continues with these powerful words: "In the gospel of Jesus Christ you have help from both sides of the veil, and you must never forget that. When disappointment and discouragement strike—and they will—you remember and never forget that if our eyes could be opened we would see horses and chariots of fire as far as the eye can see riding at reckless speed to come to our protection. They will always be there, these armies of heaven, in defense of Abraham's seed."40
Let us also remember that while we are nurturing each other along the path toward perfection, that at one time or another, we will be like President Grant with his singing - we are making improvements, but we have a long way to go before we attain mastery. All of us fall short in one respect or another.41 Sometimes we do things that annoy, frustrate, anger, and disappoint others - and vice versa. In fact, some of our greatest joys and challenges in life come from other people. We would be wise to stop and consider the other person's perspective before we rush in to correct42 or help; if we could take some time to think through situations so that we can see things a bit more clearly, we can avoid a lot of heartache, not only for ourselves, but also for others.
Social perception has been one of my favorite things to study and I really like what the Lord is teaching us through the prophet Samuel. I am sure you remember the story; Samuel was sent by the Lord to the house of Jesse to anoint the new King of Israel. He calls Jesse and his sons to the sacrifice, and Samuel sees Eliab and thinks that Eliab will be the new king. "But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart." More recently, our beloved prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, reminded us that we need to be very careful with how we view each other.43 Let us view a Mormon Message, "Looking through Windows," that is based on his talk, "Charity Never Faileth." Let us review some of what he is teaching us. He asks if we are looking through dirty windows as we perceive others. He asks if we are making judgments when we don't have all of the facts. Likewise, President Uchtdorf taught us a similar lesson about dandelions in our neighbor's yard.44 Whether we are looking at others' so called dirty laundry or dandelions, we need to remember what President Monson taught "there is really no way we can know the heart, the intentions, or the circumstances of someone who might say or do something we find reason to criticize."45 Hence the importance of the Savior's lesson about beams and motes: "Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? ... First cast out the beam of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye."46
In this context, the Savior is using the Greek words that are translated as "mote" which is a tiny speck, and "beam" which refers to a large wooden beam used in the construction of houses. In essence, He is teaching us to focus on our own faults, not the faults of others.47 48
And there is good reason for this lesson because there are several processes involved in social perception, and I will mention those that I consider to be relevant for us to remember:
- Attention - this is when we focus on certain aspects of the environment, others, or ourselves. Our attentional capacity is very limited. Additionally, we are primed to attend to certain aspects of a situation or a person due to what is salient to us.
- Interpretation - this is where we give meaning to what we are experiencing; it is important for us to remember that most social situations can be interpreted in multiple ways.
- Evaluation - this is where we use information to form impressions and make decisions based upon what we are experiencing.
- Memory - this refers to what we remember from the past, and how what we remember influences what we attend to, as well as how we interpret the situation.49 I would also add that researchers have established that human memory is best considered a reconstructive process, not a perfect videotape of the past.
In addition to these processes, we must remember that there are sociocultural influences as well as our current emotional state that can affect how clearly we see things. Many, if not most of us in our culture, are more likely to focus on the characteristics of an individual, and ignore the situational factors that are involved and commit what is referred to as "the fundamental attribution error."50 I hope that we will be more mindful of the challenges involved with perceiving things as they really are,51 particularly when we are interacting with each other.
In a similar vein, let us be kind to those around us. President Monson taught that love is the essence of the gospel52 and I am indebted to the author who penned these words:
I have wept in the night
For the shortness of sight
That to somebody's need made me blind;
But I never have yet
Felt a tinge of regret
For being a little too kind.53
I am so grateful for Jesus Christ and His restored Gospel. I testify that He is our Lord, our Savior, and our Redeemer; that through His atonement, if we build our foundation upon Him,54 not only will we be able to faithfully endure our trials together, we can also become more like Him and our Heavenly Father, and regain their presence.55 I so testify in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
1. "Come, Listen to a Prophet's Voice," Hymns, no. 21.2. Boyd K. Packer, "Reverence Invites Revelation," Ensign, November 1991.3. D&C 50:22.4. Gordon B. Hinckley, "Stand a Little Taller," 2001, p. 235.5. Alma 37:6-7; 41; D&C 64:33-34.6. Her married name is now Colette Christensen Connolly.7. Joseph Smith-History 1:1-20; "Joseph Smith's First Prayer," Hymns, no. 26.8. Mosiah 3:19.9. Dale G. Renlund, "Latter-day Saints Keep on Trying," Ensign, May 2015.10. Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "On Being Genuine," Ensign, May, 2015.11. "Brightly Beams Our Father's Mercy," Hymns, no. 335.12. D&C 107:99.13. D&C 59:21.14. Gordon B. Hinckley, "Every Convert is Precious," Liahona, February 1999; see also Moroni 6:4.15. I am grateful to those individuals who provide kind fellowship and help us all learn our duty.16. My father passed away on March 26, 2015.17. Matthew 5:48; 3 Nephi 12:48.18. Dallin H. Oaks, "The Challenge to Become," Ensign, November, 2000.19. D&C 58:27.20. Neal A. Maxwell, "The Holy Ghost: Glorifying Christ," Ensign, July 2002.21. Gordon B. Hinckley, "Stand a Little Taller," 2001, p. 245.22. Thomas S. Monson, "Ponder the Path of Thy Feet," Ensign, November 2014; Proverbs 4:26.23. James E. Faust, "The Power of Self-Mastery," Ensign May 2000.24. Teachings of the Presidents of the Church, Heber J. Grant, 2002, p. 35.25. Isaiah 28:10; 2 Nephi 28:30; D&C 98:12.26. 2 Nephi 2:11.27. 2 Corinthians 12:7-9.28. Ether 12:27.29. Mosiah 23:21; Abraham 3:25.30. D&C 101:4.31. Mosiah 23:22.32. Mosiah 24:14.33. Orson F. Whitney, in Dennis D. Flake, "Orson F. Whitney's Philosophy of Education," p. 96; see also Spencer W. Kimball, "Faith Precedes the Miracle," p. 99.34. "We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet," Hymns, no. 19.35. D&C 90:24.36. D&C 81:5.37. Richard P. Lindsay, "Ye Have Done It Unto Me" Ensign, May1990.38. Ephesians 2:19.39. 1 Nephi 1:20.40. (Jeffrey R. Holland was Commissioner of the Church Educational System of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when this devotional address was given at Brigham Young University on 18 March 1980; see also "For Times of Trouble," Liahona, January 1982.).41. Romans 3:23.42. Let us always remember and follow the Lord's way of correction found in D&C 121:41-44.43. Thomas S. Monson, "Charity Never Faileth," Ensign, November 2010.44. Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "Lord, Is It I?" Ensign, November 2014.45. Thomas S. Monson, "Charity Never Faileth," Ensign, November 2010, p. 122.46. Matthew 7:3-5.47. See the "New Testament Student Manual," chapter 3, Matthew 5-7.48. See also, Dallin H. Oaks, "'Judge Not' and Judging," Ensign, August 1999, 9-12).49. Adapted from Kenrick, Neuberg, & Cialdini, "Social Psychology," 2015, 6th edition, p. 72-74.50. David G. Myers, "Social Psychology," 2013, 11th edition. It is also referred to as the "correspondence bias" because we so often see behavior as corresponding to a disposition (p. 103).51. Jacob 4:13.52. Thomas S. Monson, "Love - the Essence of the Gospel," Ensign, May 2014.53. Author unknown, in Richard L. Evans, "The Quality of Kindness," Improvement Era, May 1960, 340.54. Helaman 5:12.55. "O My Father," Hymns, no. 292.