“Establishing Eternal Patterns,” Liahona, Oct. 2004, 20
There are some decisions that we need make only once. Having made the decision, we no longer need to wonder how we will act in that particular situation in the future. Decisions develop habits or patterns. The word pattern best describes the counsel I wish to give the young adults of the Church. It is important that you know, at your age and experience in life, how to establish patterns that lead to eternal happiness.
Many of you have probably used a pattern for making a new dress or a model airplane. Pattern can also mean to match or imitate or follow a prescribed route or format.
The Lord used the word pattern in a revelation given to the Prophet Joseph Smith in 1831: “And again, I will give unto you a pattern in all things, that ye may not be deceived; for Satan is abroad in the land, and he goeth forth deceiving the nations” (D&C 52:14).
At the time this revelation was given, the Church was barely one year old, and there were certain manifestations of false and deceiving spirits. Accordingly, the Lord gave clear instructions in this section that there is an established pattern that all procedures, ordinances, and activities should follow. This pattern would help the Saints do things the Lord’s way.
Our challenge is to know, understand, and follow the Lord’s way. He has established proven patterns that, if followed, will help us find happiness in this life and also help us qualify for eternal life. The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “God dwells in eternity, and does not view things as we do.”1 If we can begin to view things as our Heavenly Father views things—and this comes about by studying the scriptures, following the prophets, and receiving personal revelation—we may follow the Lord’s patterns and avoid some of the misfortune that could come into our lives.
Let us examine six divine patterns the Lord desires us to follow.
Be clean. For more than a decade the First Presidency has encouraged the youth of the Church to follow the precepts of a wonderful pamphlet entitled For the Strength of Youth. This booklet contains standards that will keep your minds and your bodies clean from the sins of the world.
While this booklet is directed toward the youth, it would be well for each of you young adults to continue to follow its counsel. Let me relate a personal experience I had with For the Strength of Youth.
Sister Tingey and I were living in Africa. I was sent to a little country by the name of Burundi in east-central Africa. Several faithful families had been holding Church services in their homes, and they desired to have missionaries assigned to help them.
I met with a fine gentleman who represented the government. I explained who we were, what we taught, and how establishing our Church in his country would bless the lives of the people. When I finished, he said, “I do not see where anything you have told me is any different from what is currently available in our country. I see no reason to approve your request to bring missionaries into our country.”
I was devastated. My meeting was almost over, and in a moment I would be ushered out. I prayed secretly in my heart for something to say. In an instant a thought came to my mind. I reached into my wallet and pulled out a little copy of the For the Strength of Youth booklet, which I have always carried. In the remaining moments of our visit, I quickly shared with him how each of the young people in our Church had a copy of this pamphlet. I read some of the topics and explained that we teach our young people these patterns.
“You mean to tell me you expect the youth of your church to live these standards?” he asked.
“Yes, and they do,” I replied.
“That is amazing,” he said. “Could you send me some of these booklets so that I could distribute them to the youth of my church?”
I returned to Johannesburg and sent about 500 copies of the pamphlets in French and English. A month or so later we received official recognition from the government of Burundi, authorizing our Church to be established in that country.
I do not know the significance of my participation in that event, but I definitely know that the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet was quickly recognized by this good man as something of great value and was likely instrumental in our securing official recognition.
I counsel each of you to obtain your own personal copy of this booklet and follow the precepts and standards outlined in it to enjoy the following blessings promised by the First Presidency:
“We promise that as you keep these standards and live by the truths in the scriptures, you will be able to do your life’s work with greater wisdom and skill and bear trials with greater courage. You will have the help of the Holy Ghost. You will feel good about yourself and will be a positive influence in the lives of others. You will be worthy to go to the temple to receive holy ordinances. These blessings and many more can be yours.”2
Keep the Sabbath day holy. Now is the time to put in place a habit that will become your pattern for the rest of your life. The pattern of the Sabbath day was clearly established in the Ten Commandments (see Ex. 20:8–11).
The Lord repeated this counsel in a revelation given through the Prophet Joseph Smith in these days:
“And that thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day;
“For verily this is a day appointed unto you to rest from your labors, and to pay thy devotions unto the Most High” (D&C 59:9–10).
In today’s world, with the heavy emphasis on commercialism, it is sometimes hard to distinguish Sunday from any other day of the week. If you are not careful, you will find that quietly you begin to violate the sacred Sabbath and soon establish your own pattern—which will not be the Lord’s pattern and over time will be difficult to break.
You students might consider what should be your standard in regard to studying on the Sabbath. I speak from experience, having attended three universities, which included law school and earning an advanced master’s degree in corporation law. During part of that time I served as bishop and worked in New York City as an attorney. I had every temptation and opportunity to study on the Sabbath day but made it a simple matter of faith and principle that I would avoid studying on Sunday. I feel that the Lord honored my commitment. I was able to complete all that I attempted educationally and excelled where I needed to excel.
The Sabbath day can become a wonderful day to do good. You can attend your meetings, partake of the sacrament, fast, study the gospel, visit those in need, write to missionaries, read good books, and take time to contemplate and ponder and analyze where you are going and what you are making of your life.
Elder Mark E. Petersen (1900–84) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught: “Our observance or nonobservance of the Sabbath is an unerring measure of our attitude toward the Lord personally and toward his suffering in Gethsemane, his death on the cross, and his resurrection from the dead. It is a sign of whether we are Christians in very deed, or whether our conversion is so shallow that commemoration of his atoning sacrifice means little or nothing to us.”3
Pay your tithes and offerings. It is important that each of you establish a pattern whereby you take one-tenth of your increase and pay it as tithing. You should also attend tithing settlement so that a clear record of your offering is written in the official records of the Church.
Many of you have very little income while you are students. Others of you are beginning to earn a significant income. In either case, it requires great faith to pay your tithing. I bear humble witness that establishing this pattern now will bless your life. You cannot possibly contemplate what good will come to you eternally as a result.
Many of you have not established the pattern of paying fast offerings. Many of you had parents who paid fast offerings as you were growing up. As you become a “family” or a “household,” you should develop the pattern of paying an honest fast offering so the bishop or branch president can properly attend to the poor and needy of the Church.
Serve in the Church whenever you are called. This Church has the pattern of lay leadership, where every person has a calling in the kingdom. President Gordon B. Hinckley has identified having a responsibility as one of the essential ingredients to retaining newly baptized members.
My counsel is to accept whatever callings come to you—and serve well. I share a personal experience that illustrates how blessings can come to those who serve in the Church.
Following my graduation from law school I had a military commitment of three years. My wife and I left Utah and eventually ended up at a military installation in New York. Near the end of my three-year military obligation, as we were preparing to return to Utah, I was called as bishop of the Manhattan Ward in New York City.
At that time we had three of our four children. It was a completely unexpected and faith-testing call. I would have to take the New York bar exam in order to practice law in New York. We would have to move our children into a very congested New York City environment, which was a type of living foreign to us.
Nevertheless, having always been counseled to accept Church callings and feeling I should accept this one, I became bishop of a large ward of approximately 1,000 members.
After serving as bishop for nearly seven years, I was extremely concerned because we had now been married for ten years, we had a family of four children, and we were still living in a rented apartment. Thinking that we might be better served to start building equity in a home, we were contemplating a move from the city to a suburb.
The small two-bedroom apartment we were living in was in a large building in downtown New York City. At that time that building was converted from an apartment building to a “co-op” building, which meant the apartments became the equivalent of condominiums. The law provided that any occupant of an apartment could purchase the co-op apartment at less than market value and resell it at market value.
With the savings we had accumulated over the years, we purchased our co-op apartment and resold it. The profit on the sale was nearly equal to our monthly rental payments for the seven years we had lived there. As I discovered that fact, I remembered my concern about not having developed equity in a home during that long period of time. I realized that I could not have done a better job of managing my monies than the Lord had done. Our faithful service during those seven years was rewarded in a way we could not have envisioned.
I offer this testimony not to draw attention to our circumstances but to help you realize that the Lord knows you and He knows of your faithful service. Serve with enthusiasm, and He will bless your efforts.
Excel in education. When you students graduate and move into employment, your opportunities will be based, to a great extent, on your grades and ability to work.
It is easy, on occasion, when you’re engrossed in the busyness of college life, to lose sight of the fact that you are in school to get a quality education. The social aspects of a university are important, but be careful that they do not overshadow the key purpose of your being there—to secure a good education. Be serious. Study hard and learn the material.
Develop a pattern that will lead you to accept the blessings and responsibilities of celestial marriage. The most important pattern you can establish in your life at this age is one that will lead to celestial marriage.
The doctrine of the Church is very clear: Individuals should be worthy to marry in the temple and strive to rear a righteous family as guided by scripture and “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.”4
The doctrine of celestial marriage is:
“In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees;
“And in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage];
“And if he does not, he cannot obtain it.
“He may enter into the other, but that is the end of his kingdom; he cannot have an increase” (D&C 131:1–4).
Speaking of the obligation of men to marry, President Joseph Fielding Smith (1876–1972) taught, “Any young man who carelessly neglects this great commandment to marry, or who does not marry because of a selfish desire to avoid the responsibilities which married life will bring, is taking a course which is displeasing in the sight of God.”5
Now young people, it is important that you establish a pattern whereby you are open and willing to move forward into this wonderful association of husband and wife and that you be sealed in an eternal relationship.
Establishing eternal patterns in your life will lead to eternal happiness. The patterns include (1) be clean; follow the precepts of For the Strength of Youth, (2) keep the Sabbath day holy, (3) appreciate the blessings that come as you pay tithes and offerings, (4) serve faithfully in the Church, (5) excel in your education and prepare yourself for the future, and (6) accept the blessings and responsibilities of celestial marriage.
Your generation holds great promise for the future of the Church. We believe in you. You have many challenges, but we know you can successfully overcome these challenges. Be worthy and receptive to receiving personal inspiration. You must be willing to move forward in faith so that the eternal purposes of the Lord can be carried out throughout the world. We know you can do it.