Tuesday, April 26, 2011


I’ve already written about the scripture just before this which reads:
“And I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do.”  (I Nephi 4:6)
But now I’d like to focus on the four words that follow this scripture.

“Nevertheless, I went forth.”

I don’t believe there’s a better call to action than these four words.  They speak about being diligent, obedient, fearless, and true.  How many times in your life have you been asked to do something you knew you should do, but really didn’t want to?  I’m sure there have been many times, perhaps even just this week, when you may have felt this way.  But Nephi set a great example for each one of us.  He didn’t procrastinate – he didn’t question – he didn’t complain – he just “went forth.”

I’m sure there have been many who have been influenced by Nephi’s example of obedience and diligence.  One I’d like to focus on today is a World War II hero.  (As many of you know, I love World War II history and the many brave stories that have come from it.)

By way of background to this story; not long ago we were visiting the Salt Lake City cemetery to pay our respect and love at the graves of my mother-in-law and sister-in-law.  (I love visiting cemeteries.  They are so full of history, memories, and stories for the ages.)  While we were there we stopped by President Hinckley’s grave site to remember him and his great example.  Immediately to the west of President and Sister Hinckley’s graves I noticed a group of graves from the family of J. Rueben Clark.  President Clark was a counselor in the First Presidency when I was born.  He served in the First Presidency for nearly 29 years as a counselor to President Heber J. Grant and President David O. McKay.  (Now that’s a lot of background information to the “rest of the story.”

Buried among the President Clark’s family members in that section of the cemetery is his son-in-law, Mervyn Sharp Bennion. I’d like to share with you the heroic story of Captain Mervyn Bennion - how he diligently filled his duty andwent forth.”

Captain Mervyn Sharp Bennion, US Navy

On the night of December 6th, 1941, U.S. Navy Captain Mervyn Bennion of the USS West Virginia enjoyed dinner at the home Ralph Woolley, relatives of his wife, in Oahu, Hawaii.  Ralph Woolley was serving as Stake President of the Oahu Stake in Hawaii.  As the evening came to a close, the Woolley’s invited Captain Bennion to stay the night in their home so he wouldn’t have to travel back in the morning to attend Sunday School and Fast & Testimony meeting.  Captain Bennion, being the diligent and dedicated leader he was, declined saying he felt he needed to be on the ship with his men  He graciously said he would return in the morning to attend church with them.

The next morning, December 7th, 1941, just before 8 o’clock in the morning Captain Bennion was shaving in preparation to go to Oahu for church.  Suddenly, a sailor on watch on the bridge rushed to inform the Captain that they were under surprise attack by the Japanese.   Captain Bennion immediately called his men “to Battle Stations.”  The attack of Pearl Harbor had begun.
The first wave of torpedoes and bombs had caused major damage to the USS West Virginia.  The USS Arizona, just astern of the West Virginia had taken a bomb directly in the ammunition hold and exploded, instantly dooming over 1,200 sailors to death.
Following the first intensive wave, Captain Bennion left the conning tower on the flag bridge to get a better look at the damage and to give orders to his men.  Just as he stepped out of the doorway he was viciously hit with a splinter from an exploding bomb.  The splinter ripped into his abdomen and through to his spine and hip.  Collapsing on the bridge he courageously held his hands to his gaping wound while a pharmacist mate attempted to ease his pain.  It was immediately and undoubtedly clear to Captain Bennion that he had no hope of surviving this mortal wound.  But he never once indicated this to the pharmacist mate and quickly sent him to attend to the other wounded men of the West Virginia.  He continued to give orders to his well-trained crew reminding them of their duties.  Courageous until his last moment of consciousness, Captain Bennion was diligent to the very end of his life.
The USS West Virginia under attack at Pearl Harbor
December 7, 1941

The official report of the Secretary of the Navy honored Mervyn Bennion with these words:

“The dying captain of a battleship displayed the outstanding individual heroism of the day. As he emerged from the conning tower to the bridge, the better to fight his ship, his stomach was laid completely open by a shrapnel burst. He fell to the deck. Refusing to be carried to safety he continued to fight his ship.”
President Franklin D. Roosevelt posthumously awarded Captain Bennion the highest military honor possible.  The Medal of Honor.  The citation read:
For conspicuous devotion to duty, extraordinary courage, and complete disregard of his own life, above and beyond the call of duty, during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor, by Japanese forces on 7 December 1941. As Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. West Virginia, after being mortally wounded, Capt. Bennion evidenced apparent concern only in fighting and saving his ship, and strongly protested against being carried from the bridge.
Captain Mervyn Sharp Bennion was laid to rest in Honolulu with many other brave men who were killed at Pearl Harbor that morning.  His funeral services were conducted by his friend, President Ralph E. Woolley of the Oahu Stake.

Despite the opportunity to be in a safer place, Mervyn Bennion filled his duty to be with his men.  It was that duty and diligence that put him in command of his ship when it was needed most.  Despite the severe damage to the USS West Virginia, only Captain Bennion and one other shipmate were killed on board the battleship that day.  Under the direction of Captain Bennion, even while mortally wounded, the West Virginia shot down between 20 and 30 Japanese planes during the attack.

I pray that when the most important times come in our lives that we will be ready to go forth. It may be a time when you are thinking about a friend and feel impressed to check in on them.  It may be obeying your parents.  It may be following the teachings of the Prophet to prepare for a mission or stay away from pornography.  It may be not dating until you're 16 or not going to inappropriate movies no matter what they are rated.  It may be as simple as getting up and going to Church on Sunday.  Whatever it may be, I pray that we will have the courage shown by Captain Mervyn Bennion and that we will follow the example of Nephi, who didn’t shrink from his duty, but diligently, obediently, fearlessly and truthfully, went forth.”

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Here’s a very little talked about scripture in First Nephi, but one that I think tells a very interesting story.

“And it came to pass that they did worship the Lord, and did go forth with me; and we did work timers of curious workmanship … “ ( I Nephi 18:1)

And later it reads;

“And it came to pass that after I had finished the ship, according to the word of the Lord, my brethren beheld that it was good, and that the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine; wherefore, they did humble themselves again before the Lord.”  (I Nephi 18:4) 

Do you notice anything unusual here?  Here’s what struck me.  Laman and Lemuel were supportive and helpful to Nephi in these verses.  That’s something you seldom read about in their relationship.  Most of the time we read that Laman and Lemuel are sitting around complaining and figuring out ways to get rid of Nephi.  But that’s just it … in the times they are complaining they are usually not working.  Isn’t it interesting that when they are working together for a cause they are not only supportive of Nephi but humble before the Lord.   

I think this is a great lesson for our lives.  You’ve heard the phrase “busy hands are happy hands.”  I also believe busy hands are righteous hands because when we’re “doing” we’re usually “doing good.”

This great lesson also appears later in the Book of Mormon in Alma chapter 50.  At this time Captain Moroni is leading the people in fortifying their cities against the Lamanite armies.  The people are busy working to protect their cities.  While doing this there are others among the Nephites who are building new cities to the north.  They are a very busy people working together for the good of everyone.  This is how they are described: 

“And they did prosper exceedingly, and they became exceedingly rich; yea, and they did multiply and wax strong in the land.” (Alma 50:18) 

But I believe the best description of their state of mind while working to build their cities is found in verse 23: 

“But behold there never was a happier time among the people of Nephi, since the days of Nephi, than in the days of Moroni.” (Alma 50:23) 

Never was a happier time.”  Can you imagine saying that about your life today?  I think the secret is asking yourself; “Am I working hard today?” 

In my own life I learned this lesson when I was 19 years-old.  On August 28, 1974 I was standing in the Salt Lake International Airport waiting to board my very first airline flight.  I was going to England to serve my mission.  To say I was “scared” would be putting it mildly.  I wasn’t scared of the flight, I was scared because I had no idea what the next two years of my life would bring.  I stood in the “A” concourse surrounded by a supportive family and girlfriend, but still I was more nervous than I had ever been in my life.  As I was giving my good-bye hugs I came to my dad and he said something to me at that moment that I’ve never forgotten.  These were his words: 

“Son, give it a hundred and ten percent.” 

I suspect that because my nickname around the house was “Mr. Play” he was concerned that I might not take my responsibilities as a missionary as seriously as I should.  (Given my past history, it was probably a valid concern.)  But his words have rung in my mind many times since then and they were a constant reminder on my mission that I needed to work hard to be happy.  (My dad was so wise and I miss being able to call him on the phone for advice, even today.)   President Ezra Taft Benson also knew work brings happiness when he said: 

“If a missionary works he will get the Spirit; if he gets the Spirit, he will teach by the Spirit; and if he teaches by the Spirit, he will touch the hearts of the people and he will be happy.  Work, work, work: there is no satisfactory substitute, especially in missionary work.”   

When I arrived in England the next day I was determined that I was going to work hard.  So I did work hard.  Now I have to say my first companion, and he was a great guy, but he wasn’t the hardest worker.  Being the junior companion I felt the best way to encourage hard work was to show I was always ready.  There were many mornings when I would sit on my bed at 9:30 am (the time we were supposed to leave the “flat” or apartment) fully-dressed and reading my scriptures or studying the discussions.  Often times he wouldn’t be ready until after ten o’clock.  But I never wanted to be the cause for us not working hard or giving it a hundred and ten percent.  ( After the first six weeks of my mission I was made a trainer and we made it a point to be out by at least 9:30 every morning.) 

My first day of tracting as a missionary in England

One thing I remember about working hard on my mission was how tired I would be at the end of the day.  One October night after an appointment we were waiting at a bus stop as a fine mist fell from the sky.  I leaned up against the light pole to rest and closed my eyes.  The next thing I remember finding myself in a heap at the base of the pole.  I had fallen asleep standing up and my legs had collapsed beneath me.  Another time later in my mission I was kneeling by my bed to say my nightly prayer.  I was fully dressed in my suit and tie.  The next thing I remembered was waking up to my alarm at 6:30 am – the next morning - lying on my bed –  still fully dressed in my suit and tie.  I had fallen asleep during my prayer and had not woken up all night.  (I know it doesn’t say much about the effectiveness of my prayer that evening.) 

But back to my dad’s parting words to me.  The best part of this story didn’t happen until two-years later when my Mom and Dad came to England to pick me up from my mission.  I met them at Heathrow Airport in London.  Like most travelers who arrive in England after an all night flight from the United States, they were pretty tired.  But I met my dad with great big hug and the first thing I said to him was;

            “Do you remember what you last told me before I left for my mission?”  

I think it caught him by surprise because he told me he couldn’t recall what that was.  I reminded him of his last words to me two years earlier and then I was able to give him a report of the previous two years.

“Dad, I have given it a hundred and ten percent.”

Me, my Mom and Dad in London 1976

 I want each of you to know how happy I was to be able to give that report to my dad.  I believe at that time I learned for myself that when you’re working hard for something you believe in, you will never be happier.

I promise each of you that same happiness as you work as hard as you can for the things you believe in.  Please put this promise to the test.  Now get out there and work!

Monday, April 11, 2011

I NEPHI 16:29 By Small things the Lord Brings about Great Things.

The most famous sculpture I have personally seen and one of my favorite pieces of art is called “The Pieta”  by Michelangelo.   This famous sculpture sits in the Vatican’s massive St. Peter’s Basilica in the Rome.  It’s a larger than life rendition of the crucified Savior in the arms of His mother, Mary.  If you were to look closely at the sculpture you may think it impossible for such an beautiful work of art to be created with only a chisel and a mallet … but it was, over 600 years ago, in 1499.


I appreciate great art, but I certainly have to talent in sculpture.  I can’t even imagine where I would begin if all I were standing in front of a huge piece of marble holding only a chisel and mallet. But Michelangelo obviously had a vision for this slab of marble and could see what he wanted the final product to be … and then he began - one mallet stroke at a time - over and over and over again.  Out of each of those small mallet strokes slowly came one of the greatest works of art known to mankind.

I believe that’s the secret behind “small things becoming great;” those small things need to have a larger vision behind them.  For Michaelangelo it was being able to see the beauty and emotion of the “Pieta.”  For Nephi and his family the goal was to journey to a land promised them by the Lord.

This same sentiment was expressed anciently by Lao Tzu a Chinese philosopher and founder of Taoism when he said:

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

I think this is a great lesson in life.  We can only reach our most important goals by doing the small details along the way.

In I Nephi Chapter 16 Nephi and his family were in the wilderness striving to reach the Promised Land.  In order to reach this goal the Lord provided for them a small "compass" or "ball" which Lehi found outside his tent one morning.  Later in the Book of Mormon it's referred to as the "Lihona."  I can imagine Nephi's brothers looking at this small ball "of curious workmanship" and wondering how in the world this little thing could lead them across all of their known world and on to a new one. 

Much like Nephi, we too are striving to reach the “promised land.”  The ultimate Promised Land we’re hoping to attain is a return to the presence of our Heavenly Father.  An important immediate goal we need along the way is the guidance of the Holy Ghost.  These lofty spiritual desires, like Nephi's journey, are also accomplished by many small steps along the way.

I’d like to share with you some of those “small” things I believe we need to include in our lives in order to be successful in our spiritual journey.

1)   Read the Scriptures.  I know you’ve heard this over and over and over again, but it’s so true.  Just as water will always freeze at 32 degrees and boil at 212 degrees … Just like bread needs yeast to rise and we need air to survive … our spirit needs continual doses of the scriptures to keep it strong and vibrant.
2)   Prayer.  Prayer is another small thing that needs to be done constantly.  The scriptures don’t say “Pray every once in a while when you feel like it.”  The scriptures are filled with the admonition to “Pray always.”
3)    Attend your Church meetings.  Even though this is just once a week, the strength we can receive from partaking the Sacrament each week and promising to be disciples of the Savior by taking upon us His name will carry us through our trials and temptations.

The secret of the success of these “small things” is consistency.  As many of you know, I was recently in New Zealand.  While I was there I met an amazing church member by the name of Paora Winitana.  Let me tell you a little about Paora.  (You can also "Google" him to learn more about his career.)

Paora didn’t start playing basketball until he was in High School.  In his first game he scored 96 points … all by himself!!  As you might imagine, there were many colleges who wanted him to play basketball for them – both in New Zealand and the United States.  He turned down a full-ride scholarship at a University in the U.S. so he could serve a mission in Brisbane, Australia.  When he returned from his mission quickly earned a position as a shooting guard in the New Zealand NBL (National Basketball League) where he was rookie of the year.  He later became a starter for the “Tall-Blacks,” the New Zealand National Team.  He’s played in Olympic competition against LeBron James and Dwayne Wade.  He’s been the New Zealand MVP and 5-time All-Star.  You can probably tell, he’s very good.


I had the privilege of spending a couple of days with him and his family.  The nickname the announcer’s have for him when he is on the basketball court is, “The Bishop,” because until recently he served as Bishop.  He’s only 34 years-old and has a lovely wife and three athletic boys.  We filmed him working out on the court and going through his weight training.  It was impressive.  While he was training he told me he feels very strongly that “it’s more important to do little things consistently than bigger things occasionally.”  He felt that’s where he found success in all aspects of his life … professionally as a basketball player, spiritually, emotionally, and perhaps most importantly as a husband and father in his family.

I believe both Michaelanglo and Paorda Winitana learned what Nephi taught us all those years ago … that by small things great things are made.

I promise as you do the small things spiritually, educationally, physically and in your family you will see great things happen.  I promise that as you read the scriptures, pray, and attend your church meetings constantly and consistently you will be creating a “great soul” in the sight of our Heavenly Father … and best yet, that you will find yourself heading towards the promised blessing the Lord has for you.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


“ … I did liken all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning.”
I Nephi – 19:23

I’m sure there have been many scriptures you’ve read that you’ve felt were written just for you.  I believe Sister Elaine Dalton, General President of the Young Women, said it well:

“Everything in the scriptures is applicable to our lives. The scriptures answer our questions, they provide role models and heroes, and they help us understand how to handle challenges and trials. Many times the scriptures you read will be the answer to your prayers."
("Believe!" Ensign, May 2004, 111)

I’m sure that many of you can select your favorite scripture stories and apply them to your life today.  I’d like to share one with you that has always helped me “press on.”  It’s the Story of Joseph in Egypt found in the Old Testament in Genesis, chapters 37-46.  I love this story.  Here’s Joseph, a young man who was sold by his brothers as a slave because of their jealousy of him  (I’m sure there are many of you who would like to give their siblings away, but you have to admit this was pretty mean of his brothers).  So, Joseph is forced to start a new life in Egypt as a slave;  the lowest of situations.  But here’s where we learn about the character of Joseph.  We can tell from the story that he didn’t sit around feeling sorry for himself.  I imagine he decided to make the best of the situation – he would make something of himself no matter what.   Well, in time Joseph worked his way to the prestigious title of “Ruler” in the house of Potipher, one of Egypt’s most influential men.   Can you imagine the work and energy it would take to go from a lowly slave to “ruler” in an influential household?  It sounds like the ultimate “rags to riches” story. 

Joseph's example of persistence was very helpful to me when I was in High School.  When I was that age I loved basketball.  (I still do, although now I like playing tennis better.)  In all my spare time you could find me playing basketball.  In Junior High I started for our school's team.  As a sophomore I worked back from a knee operation and into the starting line-up at the end of the season.  My great dream and expectation was to make the Varsity team the next year.  I worked hard and played a lot of basketball.  The tryouts came and went into them with confidence.  Just as I expected, I made the first several cuts and was feeling good about my chances of making the team.  On the day of the last cut I hurried to the gym to look for my name on the list of the final team.  I scanned down the list and didn't see my name.  I thought "There must be a mistake" so I checked again ... no mistake … I had been cut.  I was devastated.  It was as if my whole world had fallen in on me.  Now what was I going to do? 

Well, as a sophomore I had started to High Jump a little on the track team and discovered I was pretty good (not real good, just pretty good).  I noticed that the school record was not all that high at 6’ 1”.  It was the very day I was cut from the school basketball team when I determined that before I graduated I would break our school record in the high jump.  It took a lot of work and persistence.  During the winter months instead of practicing basketball after school I went down into the school basement and worked alone trying to get better at the high jump.

My senior year came and I was determined to make my goal a reality.  Several meets went by when I would clear 6 feet.  Many others came where I would actually clear 6’1”, but that only tied the record.  My goal was to beat the record.  The last meet of my high school career was our regional meet held at Hillcrest High School.  I knew this meet would be my last shot at reaching my goal.  While at this meet I did something I probably should have been doing all along … I focused.  Between jumps I stretched my leg muscles and watched the other jumpers, but mostly I visualized clearing the next height.  Well, the bar kept going up and the number of jumpers kept going down.  The bar was placed at 6”1’ and I realized I would need to tie my personal best to continue.  On my first jump at that height I cleared it easily.  There were several jumpers who failed at that height.  That left only six jumpers.  The bar was raised to 6’2” … a height that would break the school record and a height I had never cleared, even in practice.  On my first attempt I did something that probably wasn’t too bright … I walked up to the landing pit and under the bar.  It was higher than my head.  But based on my clearing the previous height I looked up at the bar and felt good about my chances. 

On my first attempt at 6’2” I felt really good about the approach and the jump.  I went up, turned backwards in the air, arched my back and then barely caught the bar with my hips.  The bar wiggled enough to fall into the landing pit.  I knew I had only two more chances.  I went back to where I was warming up and started to focus even more on my goal.  My name was again called and I was ready for my second attempt.  I approached the bar with great energy and again thrust myself up and backwards across the bar.  This time my shoulder’s cleared the bar, followed by my hips and finally I kicked my legs upward … all without touching the bar at all.  As I lay in the landing pit I stare up at the bar.  It was not moving … I had done it.  I had reached my goal.  Now, I wasn’t the best in the region that day … in fact I placed 6th.  The winner jumped 6’8”.  But I seldom think of that.  What I think about is that I set a personal goal and worked long and hard to reach it.  I had succeeded because I hadn’t let the failure of being cut from the basketball team define my high school experience.  

So … back to the story of Joseph.  Starting out as a mere slave, he didn’t let being sold by his brothers define what his life would be.  And his life wasn’t easy.  In time, Joseph was elevated to become the master of the house of Potipher, a powerful man in Egyptian society.  This was wonderful until a bit later when he courageously refused the advances of Potipher’s wife.  After refusing to compromise his morals she falsely accused him of taking advantage of her.  Potipher sided with his wife and had Joseph thrown into prison.  But rather than sulking because “the world was against him” Joseph again showed persistence.  Soon he worked to gain the trust of the prison keeper and in time was given responsibility over all the prisoners.   We all know the “rest of the story.”  Joseph was called from the prison to interpret Pharaoh’s dream about the seven years of plenty followed by the seven years of famine.  He worked hard and gained the Pharoah’s trust and confidence.  During this time Joseph rose to the Number Two man in all of Egypt.  In today’s society he would have been the Prime Minster of his country.  This persistence and dedication brought Joseph from the life of a slave to become the Prime Minster of all Egypt.

As I have gone through difficult times in my life and felt like the world was against me, I’ve recalled Joseph’s incredible story pondered his character and persistence.  As I have “likened this scripture unto myself” it’s given me greater strength to press forward and not give up. 

I hope after reading this you’ll recall and ponder one of your favorite scripture stories or verses and ask the Lord how you can “liken it unto yourself.”  I promise as you do so the answers will give you greater strength, courage, and confidence to face your challenges, no matter what they may be.  My prayers are with you, too.