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Life's small hinges

Gates to future swing open: prepare, perform and serve

PROVO, Utah — There are constancies amid the changes of the times, President Thomas S. Monson said Nov. 14 during a BYU devotional assembly.

"The past is behind — we must learn from it. The future is ahead — we must prepare for it. The present is now — we must live in it."

President Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency, addressed several thousand students in the Marriott Center on the Provo campus. Seated on the stand were BYU President Cecil O. Samuelson of the Seventy and his wife, Sharon; and other Church leaders.

In his address during the weekly devotional assembly, President Monson, speaking with his customary humor and warmth, said that years ago he discovered a thought which is true, and in a way prophetic. It is this: The gate of history swings on small hinges, and so do people's lives.

"Today I have chosen to discuss three gates which you alone can open. You must pass through each gate if you are to be successful in your journey through mortality:

• "The Gate of Preparation."

• "The Gate of Performance."

• "The Gate of Service."

President Monson expounded on the three gates. "First, let us speak of the Gate of Preparation. The Lord has counseled, 'If ye are prepared ye shall not fear.' Fear is the enemy of growth and accomplishment."

President Monson counseled: "Let me share with you this time-honored advice, which has never been more applicable than it is right now: it is not the number of hours you put in, but what you put in the hours that counts.

"Have discipline in your preparations," he continued. "Have checkpoints where you can determine if you're on course. Study something you like and which will make it possible for you to support a family."

Explaining that this counsel has relevance to young women as well as young men, President Monson added, "Business in the new economy, where the only guarantee is change, brings us to serious preparation."

Urging students to not procrastinate, President Monson related the account of a professor at an ecclesiastically oriented college who taught a course called Religion 1. For 21 years, he asked one question for the final exam, "Describe the travels and teachings of the Apostle Paul." Knowing this, students would come on the first day of class and then skip the rest of classes until that final exam, having prepared for that question.

One semester, however, he changed the question to "Criticize the Sermon on the Mount." Three young men present for the exam were unprepared. Two got up and left. The third, however, wrote: "I will leave it to someone far more knowledgeable and experienced than I am to criticize the greatest sermon from the greatest life ever lived. As for me, I would prefer to describe the travels and teachings of the Apostle Paul."

He got an A on the exam and in the course.

"May I now turn to the Gate of Performance," President Monson continued, after the laughter had subsided.

"Remember that the mantle of leadership is not the cloak of comfort, but the robe of responsibility. Accountability is not for the intention but for the deed. You must continue to refuse to compromise with expediency. You must maintain the courage to defy the consensus. You must continue to choose the harder right, instead of the easier wrong."

As an example, President Monson related a son's tribute given during the funeral of General Authority H. Verlan Andersen. Years earlier, the son had borrowed the family car for a special date on a Saturday night. His father consented but reminded him he needed to fill the car's gas tank that night before coming home as the following day was Sunday, when no purchases would be made. After a fun-filled night, the son returned home, forgetting to fill the gas tank.

The next morning, the son saw his father place the keys to the car on the table. The son related: "I saw my father put on his coat, bid us goodbye, and walk the long distance to the chapel, that he might attend an early meeting."

President Monson, in relating the incident, added, "Duty called. Truth was not held hostage to expedience."

Continuing with the Gate of Service, President Monson shared the tender account of his dear friend, Louis McDonald, who had a crippling disease and had never known a day without pain or loneliness. Visiting his friend one day, President Monson noted that his home was chilly because of lack of funds to heat the whole home. In addition, repairs were needed.

His friend's bishop was consulted and a miracle occurred. Members of the ward, particularly the young adults, repaired his home, filled his cupboards and began bringing in a hot meal every week. "A month later, my friend Louis called and asked if I would come and see what had happened to him.... No longer was the home chilly and uninviting. It now seemed to whisper a warm welcome."

President Monson added, "All who participated in this moving drama of real life had discovered a new and personal appreciation of the Master's teaching: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive."'

Encouraging the students to seek heavenly help to know how to serve others, President Monson said, "There is no feeling so gratifying nor knowledge so comforting as to know that our Father has answered the prayer of another through you."

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