Elder Shayne M. Bowen spoke to students at a Brigham Young University campus devotional on Tuesday, Nov. 13, in Provo, Utah. In his address, Elder Bowen urged students to become their “best” selves by developing and personifying three key attributes — character, honor and integrity — and shared two stories to illustrate his point:
When the wind blows
Sharing a story of a farmer named Smith who lived in England many years ago, Elder Bowen told of how the old farmer went to a fair to find a hired hand to help work his farm. As he scanned the crowd and approached various young men to inquire about their skills and what they might have to offer his farm, one young man stood out to him. The young man had piercing grey eyes and when the farmer asked him what he had to offer, the young man’s reply seemed strange to the old farmer.
“I can sleep when the wind blows,” the young man said matter of factly.
Although the farmer was somewhat bothered by the young man’s unusual answer, he decided to take a chance on the boy and took him home to work.
Several weeks later, the old farmer awoke one night to a terrible storm. The wind was howling and lightning and thunder shook the house. In a panic, the farmer rushed outside to find his hired hand and make sure the various parts of the farm were secured against the storm. When the farmer found the young boy sound asleep in his attic bed, he was bothered that the boy would not wake up, despite his many efforts to rouse him from his slumber.
Irritated, the farmer went out to the farmyard alone to check on the animals and hay storage. The cows were sitting peacefully in their milk barn, undisturbed by the storm raging outside. The farmer discovered his hired hand had chinked up the cracks in the barn and reinforced all the doors and hinges to ensure the safety of the animals within. He also found that the same was true of the pigpen. The haystacks, too, had been secured from the elements with extra wire and weights held down their protective covers.
In a moment of revelation, the farmer’s mind recalled the words of the young man from weeks before: “I can sleep when the wind blows.”
The young man personifies character, honor and integrity, Elder Bowen said as he concluded the short story.
“Without being flashy, he knew exactly who he was, and when the test came, he didn’t need to question what he would do,” Elder Bowen said. “He had already made the decision in his life. Regardless of the circumstances, he would be prepared. His word was his bond.”
Returning again to stories of his own past, Elder Bowen discussed how, during his time at BYU, he became aware of the value of those three characteristics and urged students to follow the example of the young farm boy.
“In all of your dealings with others, decide today to do the right thing for the right reason. If you wait until the moment of necessity to make that life-changing decision, you will often make the wrong choice,” Elder Bowen said. “Prepare in times of peace, and you will be prepared for the heat of the battle. In those intense moments, you will act instinctively, because that is who you are.”
Developing these three attributes requires great self-discipline, hard work and determination, Elder Bowen explained, noting that the natural man likes to rebel against such difficult processes.
“Many times, as we go through life, we lose track of who we are and the magnificent potential we have within ourselves. We spend our lives looking for happiness just around the next corner, buying things we can’t afford, trying to impress people we will never see again. Sometimes we allow pride to be our guide, when serving others should be our daily focus,” Elder Bowen said, cautioning students to not allow the world to sway their actions and choices. “Often, we try to shape our lives and our bodies to meet the expectations of others and to impress the world, which is impossible to impress because it is ever changing. Sometimes in this madness, we forget what really matters.”
Sharing another short story, by Jules Feiffer, Elder Bowen emphasized the danger of simply following others.
The story goes:
Ever since I was a little kid, I didn’t want to be me. I wanted to be Billie Widdledon and Billie Widdledon didn’t even like me. I walked like “he” walked. … I talked like “he” talked. … I signed up for the high school “he” signed up for.Which was when Widdledon changed. … He began to hang around Herby Vandeman. … He mixed me up! … I began to walk and talk like Billie Widdledon walking and talking like Herby Vandeman. And then it dawned on me that Herby Vandeman walked and talked like Joey Haverlin and Joey Haverlin walked and talked like Corky Sabison. … So here I am walking and talking like Billie Widdledon’s imitation of Herby Vandeman’s version of Joey Haverlin trying to walk and talk like Corky Sabison.And who do you think Corky Sabison is always walking and talking like? Of all people—Dopey Wellington. … That little pest who walks and talks like me!
As sons and daughters of God, each individual has the ability to become like their Father in Heaven, Elder Bowen said.
“He loves you. He created you. … He wants you to be your best you, and He will help you find and become that person,” he said. “I can promise you that all who develop in this earthly existence character, honor, and integrity and receive and keep all of the covenants God has made available to His children will inherit eternal life. This is our end goal. It is also the great test of this life.”
In developing these attributes, Elder Bowen expressed the importance of seeking the guidance of the Holy Ghost and reminded that receiving the companionship of the Holy Ghost is a lifelong process and not a singular event.
“Remember that your actions, thoughts, and words will determine if He will be invited to teach you the truth of all things,” he said. “He is the perfect gentleman; He comes only when invited. So listen to the still, small voice of the Holy Ghost. He will guide you and direct you.”
Each individual is free to act for themselves, but when the storms of life come — and they will come, Elder Bowen said — those who have developed a sense of self and can act as persons of character, honor, and integrity will be those who weather the storms by staying true to themselves and the Lord. By so doing, they will be those who can “sleep when the wind blows.”