I come to you this morning with much fear. As I look into the faces of this vast congregation I feel a desperate dependence upon the Lord. I don't know where on earth one would face a congregation of this kind. As I've thought of these lovely girls seated behind me, and of my standing here, there has flashed into my mind only one title: Beauty and the Beast.
I talked with a young man a little bit ago who is going to this school and I said, "how are you getting along?" With a great smile on his face he said, "I am getting along wonderfully. I'm back at the Y. I have a good place to live, nothing fancy but decent, comfortable and fairly cheap. I got the classes I want from the teachers who know their stuff, and I have my eye on a wonderful girl." And then with consummate satisfaction he said, "How lucky can you be!"
How lucky can you be? In that question, which I suppose your english teachers would classify as slang, I find the text for some of the things I'd like to say. If I repeat a thought or two that I spoke at the last general conference I hope you'll forgive me. I've been under terrible pressure since then.
The notes of this talk were prepared last night while riding a plane six hundred miles an hour between New York and Salt Lake. We left Kennedy Airport at six in the evening, rose faster than any bird could ever fly to an elevation of thirty-five thousand feet, passed over the great cities of the east, and landed in Chicago an hour and forty-five minutes later. After a brief pause we headed west again, out into the blackness of the night across the great Mississippi lowlands, then over the vast prairies relentlessly driven by the great jet engines flying at thirty thousand feet to take advantage of a tailwind that carried us to Salt Lake in less than two hours and a half from takeoff to touchdown. The air was smooth. The seats were comfortable. The food was delicious.
Many of you have had similar experiences. This kind of everyday miracle has become commonplace to us. Like so many other marvelous things, we take it for granted.
We passed over [*Des Moines*] and skirted [*Omaha*] and flew high over the river beside which a sentry ago our forefathers drove their oxen, traveling fifteen miles a day. In my mind's eye I saw below the long wagon trains, dust rising with each turn of the great wooden spoked wheels. I saw the wagons circled in the evening, the oxen turned out to feed and water, the burdensome preparation of course food eaten with thanksgiving, the nursing of the sick, the burial of the dead among those who were leaving persecution to lay the foundation for all that we enjoy.
In imagination I saw my own grandfather, a young man who had been orphaned by a plague of smallpox of the kind that in those days periodically swept the land when there was no vaccine, no medicine, no hope, only fever and fear and death and loneliness. With his brother and grandparents he left Michigan, had gone to Springfield Illinois, Abraham Lincoln's town, and then onto Nauvoo. There, as a boy, he met Joseph Smith, the man who changed his life and the lives of all the generations to follow him. He witnessed in Nauvoo the resurgence of the old, ugly hatred culminating in the death of the prophet Joseph Smith. He saw Nauvoo threatened, then attacked, burned, and emptied of those who owned it. He, with his young bride, started across Iowa then followed the long trail up the Elkhorn, and the [*North Platte*], in the direction of Fort Laramie. His wife grew pail and sick, and died. With his own hands he chopped a tree beside the trail, made a coffin, dug a grave, and left his sweetheart in a place he never again visited, and carried a three month old baby to the Salt Lake Valley.
I thought of him last night as we flew smoothly more than seven hundred miles above Nebraska and Wyoming, and I reached in my case and took out my Bible, and turned to the twenty-forth chapter of Joshua, and read these words of the Lord given to an ungrateful Israel: "I have given you a land for which ye did not labour, and cities which ye built not, and ye dwell in them; of the vineyards and oliveyards which ye planted not do ye eat." And I thought of how appropriately that might be applied to our own generation. You and I live in a marvelous land for which we have not labored, and we dwell in cities which we built not, and eat of vineyards which we have not planted. How thankful we ought to be for the magnificent blessings we enjoy. Our society is afflicted by a spirit of thoughtless arrogance unbecoming those who have been blessed so generously. If I have any desire in my heart, it is a desire to build in the lives, and hearts of the young people of this land, and of this church, a spirit of gratitude. Gratitude is a divine principle. The Lord has declared through revelation, "Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things… And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things…"
Absence of gratitude is the mark of the narrow, uneducated mind. It bespeaks lack of knowledge and the ignorance of self-sufficiency. It expresses itself in ugly egotism, and frequently in malicious conduct. We have recently witnessed the senseless destruction of millions of dollars of property by mobs of resentful, unthankful people who's only evident aim was to destroy the fruits of other men's labors. We have recently read accounts of hundreds of college youths littering beaches and spoiling public playgrounds. I have recently seen thousands of upon thousands of acres of forests, magnificent land, burned by the carelessness of smokers who's only concern had been the evidently selfish pleasure gained from a cigarette. This month's issue of readers digest carries a provocative article on wild youth, and speaks of the perils of affluence, pointing out that these […] trouble makers do not come from the lower economic strata of society, but rather from affluent homes.
Where there is appreciation there is courtesy, there is concern for the rights and property of others. Without it there is arrogance and evil. Where there is gratitude there is humility as opposed to pride, there is generosity as opposed to selfishness. How thankful we ought to be for the land in which we live!
While riding in the plane last night I watched the moon. As it hung in the southern sky it seemed almost within reach, and then I thought, this is the same moon that hangs over China where there is hunger and oppression. I have seen the lean, frightened faces of the few fortunate refugees who by some miracle were able to get into Hong Kong. I have seen the children described by an English newspaper as children who's eyes stare if blind, who's legs and arms are like sticks of licorice, who neither cry nor laugh, and who weigh ten pounds at the age of ten years.
I saw last night the same moon that shines over India where the per capita income per year is seventy dollars, and where hunger stocks the land and men die young, the same moon that shines over Korea where hangs the ever-present threat of war, where poverty is the rule rather than the exception, where the cold Siberian wind sweeps with misery and suffering.
I returned yesterday from a conference in New Jersey where we met in comfort, and I thought of a conference we held a year ago in [*Sole Korea*] when during all the hours of our meetings the temperature in the old hall never rose above twenty-six degrees.
How magnificently we're blessed. How thankful we ought to be.
I have here a bulletin of the Royal Bank of Canada. It deals with hunger in the world. It says, among other things, and I'd like you well-fed, handsome, young people to hear this, "it is difficult for North Americans to understand the plight of people in underdeveloped countries because we have never been desperately hungry. No one here dies of starvation. Elsewhere, more than fifteen hundred million people go to bed hungry every night. The fact is…" and listen to this, "The fact is that not more than one in a hundred of the people in underdeveloped countries will ever in all his life have what a North American family would consider a good square meal." — Reflect on that my dear young friends, and then get on your knees and thank the Lord for his bounty. And to you young men and women for whom education is so relatively available, let me quote further… "In the world today only about one person in eight between the ages of five and twenty receive some form of formal education. About seven hundred and fifty million persons at or over school age cannot read or write." I ask you to think of this as you go about this magnificent campus with this great field-house, its marvelous teaching theaters, its great laboratories, its comfortable dormitories, the broad lawns, and the beauty and the splendor of it all. How lucky can you be? I ask that earnestly, "How lucky can you be?"
Cultivate a spirit of thanksgiving in your lives. Make it of the very fiber of your beings. It will impart an added dimension to your characters that will give depth and strength. The Lord has said the meek shall inherit the earth. I cannot escape the interpretation that meekness implies a spirit of gratitude as opposed to an attitude of self-sufficiency. […skip-in-recording...] …a recognition of a greater power beyond one's self who is the giver of every good gift, a recognition of God. This is the beginning of wisdom.
I return to those stirring words of Joshua spoken to the tribes of Israel assembled at [*Shekem*], "I have given you a land for which ye did not labour, and cities which ye built not, and ye dwell in them; of the vineyards and oliveyards which ye planted not do ye eat. Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in truth…" This is my plea to you today in this devotional service. Walk with thanksgiving before God and with appreciation before your associates, and add to your spirit of thanksgiving a great spirit of service that you might bring to others the marvelous blessing which you yourself enjoy. As you look forward to your lives, as you prepare for the future, think of serving those beyond yourself. Reach out in service to others.
I picked up a book which was published on this campus a year or two ago and read a statement which has impressed me tremendously. It's found in the forward to that book. It comes from Charles Malik, former president of the general assembly of the United Nations. Said he, "in this fearful age it is not enough to be happy and prosperous and secure yourselves. It is not enough to tell others, look at us, how happy we are, just copy our system, our no-how, and you will be happy yourselves. In this fearful age you must transcend your system. You must have a message to proclaim to others. You must mean something in terms of ideas, and attitudes, and fundamental outlook on life, and this something must vibrate with relevance to all conditions of man." In my judgment, my young brothers and sisters, the greatest need of the world today is a generation of men of learning and influence who can, and will stand up and go forth, and in sincerity and without equivocation, declare that God lives and that Jesus is the Christ, and that all men are brothers with an obligation to serve one another.
This is the message I would like to leave with you this day. How lucky can you be? How thankful you ought to be. How determined you ought to be to use your lives in the service of others, and in so doing serve your God, of who's living reality I testify as I invoke his choice blessings upon you, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.