Monday, October 26, 2015

Favorite Hymn

Corey spoke in sacrament meeting at church today. He was asked to speak about his favorite hymn. Hard to choose just one, so he spoke about why "Nearer My God To Thee" is his current favorite hymn. He gave a few insights into his business, thus I've posted below for your enjoyment and posterity's sake. After his talk was done he and Melodie played it as a flute duet. It was a very nice meeting.

He was sitting up on the stand and his BFF Sophi was missing him very much. So after the talk and duet were over, I relented and let Sophi go up on the stand to sit on his lap. Natalie, not one to be left out, wanted to go up too. She did okay walking up there until she lost eye contact with him as she got closer to the stairs. Then she just stood there with her fingers in her mouth looking lost. Luckily a sister sitting on the front row helped her out. And thus Corey resumed his usual and favorite sacrament meeting pastime of being a throne for his two little queens. :)

Nearer My God to Thee - Oct 25, 2015

Good morning Brothers and Sister’s, I’ve been asked to speak about my favorite hymn, which currently is “Nearer My God to Thee”. Here’s how I got there.

Years ago I came across a comparison that had a strong influence on my career choices. In 1989 a man who worked in finance named Michael Milken pled guilty to securities fraud and was sentenced to ten years in prison, fined $600 million, and permanently barred from the securities industry. His critics said he was epitome of Wall Street greed during the 1980s, and he was nicknamed the "Junk Bond King". A “junk bond” is kind of like the pay-day-loan business of Wall-Street, and Milken was a pioneer.

Contrastingly, Mother Teresa ministered to the poorest of the poor one-at-a-time in selfless acts of pure Christian love. Despite Mother Teresa being motivated by charity, and Milken by greed, the comparison I read pointed out that Milken actually did far greater good to mankind and reduced suffering and want much more than did Mother Teresa. For example, technological innovations such as early cell phones were financed by Milken, as were companies such as Chrysler, Mattel, Barns & Nobel, and many, many more. One financial publication put it this way: ‘Milken created wealth, jobs, incomes, and new products for millions of people, while Mother Teresa redistributed wealth donated by others.’

Because I had a sincere desire to make the world a better place, and believing business has a greater positive financial impact than charity, I decided to follow my head and go into business rather follow my heart and work for a non-profit. I’ve seen how economic opportunities have blessed the lives of others financially, and I get some satisfaction knowing that the people that work at my business are better off than they would have been otherwise. Yet, even believing that profitable businesses can have such a positive impact on reducing poverty and suffering, I’ve struggled to understand why it felt wrong to view building wealth as noble or even righteous.

For years I’ve labored on a business that promised immense material prosperity, and did so with good intentions of using that wealth to be a force for good in the world. But it has been very, very hard, has taken way longer than I had anticipated, and we’re still not rich yet. It has felt multiple times as though the Lord hasn’t wanted me to miss any learning experiences along the way. I didn’t start the business for the personal growth, and yet nearly every day is a struggle against adversity, discouragement, and other challenges – all while some peers seem to coast into financial prosperity without learning nearly as much as I get to! Yet, I’m grateful for the learning and realize much of it couldn’t have come by any other way.

After getting into business, I started to notice something while meeting with some very wealthy individuals. Often, I found myself coveting the things these people had, while simultaneously not wanting to be like them. I wanted their wealth, not their character. I wondered whether it was even possible to have what they have without being how they are. Through the years I’ve learned to see a big difference between having and being. There are multiple ways to have: you can find things, inherit things, or work to have things. The best-case in business, is to have great wealth without expending much effort for it – that is called a good return on investment. However, there is only one way to truly become – and that path includes adversity.

During a recent Family Home Evening I asked my kids questions like these: Would you rather have a big trophy or be really good at something? Would you rather be really smart, or have good grades? Would you rather have lots of money, or live a rich and rewarding life? During our discussion, my kids all picked the “right” answers – they chose being over having. However, I’ve noticed that in practice, when their choice of being requires effort, they’d much rather simply have. They sometimes groan about doing homework, practicing their music, cleaning their rooms, or being patient with a sibling.

When it comes to people close to me, I want them to be – not just to have. I am far more interested in my children’s personal growth, for example, than what they get for Christmas and birthdays. Likewise, I want the people I hire at work to be capable, qualified, honest, and hard-working – not just lucky enough to have a great job they may be unqualified for. But when it comes to myself, I find I’d usually prefer just take the shortcut to having things rather than passing through the more difficult way of becoming. But there is no other way to personal growth – the only path is to endure adversity.

In the last days of Elder Henry B. Eyring father’s struggle with cancer, he was suffering in immense pain and cried out “I have always tried to be good. How could this happen?”. The answer he received in prayer was that God wanted him to learn to be brave. Elder Maxwell spend the last eight years of his life suffering from leukemia. He plead with the Lord to know why he was to suffer and was given the answer “I have given you leukemia that you might teach my people with authenticity.” So cancer can teach bravery and leukemia can teach authenticity. I’ve found that struggling financially has taught me charity. When my heart has been broken and I’ve felt my shortcomings in starting a business and supporting a large family, I find that I have charity for others who struggle for long periods of time or feel like a failure.

So what does all of this have to do with Mother Teresa and a guy named Michael Milken? Who did more good for the world? I think its undisputable that Michael Milken created more wealth; he helped many more people to have. But having isn’t becoming – and is not the purpose of our mortal life. Only having is a shallow victory – and no amount of having can satisfy. Because of her years of service, Mother Teresa became Christ-like. Her one-on-one service also directly impacted the character of those she ministered to. They were being built up, and they felt it.

As Elder Neil A Maxell has said:

God is infinitely more interested in our having a place in His kingdom than with our spot on a mortal organizational chart. We may brood over our personal span of control, but He is concerned with our capacity for self-control. Father wants us to come home, bringing our real résumés, ourselves!"

Our real résumés consist of our character and even the stories that shaped that character development. Everyone loves to hear a great story, and a great story must always include enduring or overcoming trials. Consider these two stories:

First story: Rich kid inherits a lot of money and buys whatever he wants. Not really inspiring, right?

Second story: Sedrick Tshiambine grew up in the city of Luputa, Democratic Republic of Congo where he joined the church. A few years ago he was one of 45 young men in the Luputa district who was working to save money for a passport to go on a mission. In DR Congo a passport costs $250, which is about two-thirds the cost of building a house. The Church missionary fund would cover the rest of the cost. His family had no money to help him, but he was lucky in that they did have a bicycle. Sedrick became an entrepreneur and decided to gather and sell bananas. He would push his bicycle each day, laden with 200 pounds of bananas, for hours to get from small villages where he purchased the bananas and then travel to the market. Each week he traveled about 112 miles.

He would sell the bananas for the best price he could, then ride back for another load. He would make about $3 a trip. From that would buy his food, repair his bicycle and save for his mission. For his efforts Sedrick saved about $1.25 a week, or $65.00 a year. It took him four years to save enough to purchase his passport.

Which one is the better story? Which person do you admire more? Which personal résumé is stronger?

Consider the icons in the church that we admire and seek to emulate – we know their stories and they suffered immensely! Joseph Smith, the Apostle Paul, Spencer W. Kimball. Our Lord Jesus Christ who we admire most, correspondingly suffered the most. Many of the early pioneers weren’t exactly “saints” until they sanctified themselves with consecrated lives. If they were more concerned with having, they should have kept moving west. California was easily a more prosperous land to settle than Utah. Brigham Young explained why the pioneers settled in Salt Lake this way:

We wish strangers to understand that we did not come here out of choice, but because we were obliged to go somewhere, and this was the best place we could find. It was impossible for any person to live here unless he labored hard and battled and fought against the elements, but it was a first-rate place to raise Latter-day Saints...It is but seven years since we left Nauvoo, and we are now ready to build another temple. I look back upon our labors with pleasure. Here are hundreds and thousands of people that have not had the privileges that some of us have had. Do you ask, what privileges? Why, of running the gauntlet, of passing through the narrows. They have not had the privilege of being robbed and plundered of their property, of being in the midst of mobs and death, as many of us have.

No wonder Brigham Young felt that “Every time you kick ‘Mormonism’ you kick it upstairs” – he seems always on the lookout for personal growth both for him and The Kingdom.

Brothers and Sisters, my message today is that we should not resist, resent, or run away from adversity. It is the only way that we can grow into the saints our Heavenly Father wishes us to be.

Elder Orson F. Whitney of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has said: “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 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”

So that is why my favorite hymn is currently “Nearer My God to Thee”. The first line reads

1. Nearer, my God, to thee, Nearer to thee!
E'en though it be a cross That raiseth me.

It is my hope that we can recognize that the personal crosses and adversities we have are the instruments of our exaltation in the Lord’s hands.
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