Here is a talk that I gave today at church today.
Our talks today are based on the talk by L. Tom Perry entitled “Let Him Do It with Simplicity” which was given in the October 2008 General Conference.
This is the time of year when life starts to feel a little more hectic for people. Children return to school, sports teams begin to practices, and so on. As our schedules fill-up I tend to miss the less regimented days of summer. In preparing this talk, it has been a good experience to contemplate how to simplify my own life and not get caught up in things that don’t matter in the long run.
Elder L. Tom Perry shared that since he’s been around a long time, he has learned to recognize “certain patterns in life’s test.”
He said, “There are cycles of good and bad times, ups and downs, periods of joy and sadness, and times of plenty as well as scarcity. When our lives turn in an unanticipated and undesirable direction, sometimes we experience stress and anxiety. One of the challenges of this mortal experience is to not allow the stresses and strains of life to get the better of us—to endure the varied seasons of life while remaining positive, even optimistic.”
Elder Perry suggests that when difficulties and challenges strike, we should think of the hopeful words of Robert Browning: “The best is yet to be.”
Not one of us can predict all the struggles and storms that will happen in life. But through hope and faith we can know of a surety that the gospel of Jesus Christ is true and the best is indeed yet to come.
Elder Perry shared a story about a stressful time in his life. He was having employment troubles and at that same time his wife was diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. He felt like the adversary was attacking his family full-force.
He and his wife found a way to help relieve their stress. They drove to a place just a few miles from their home to get away for a few moments to talk and comfort each other. Their special place was Walden Pond (not Walton Pond!), a beautiful little pond surrounded by trees. Walden Pond was their special place to pause, reflect, and heal.
As an English major I had read all about Walden Pond in the writings of Henry David Thoreau. Thoreau had separated himself from worldliness for a period of years. In March 1845 Thoreau decided to move out on the banks of Walden Pond and spend two years trying to figure out what life was all about. He settled on a piece of property owned by his good friend Ralph Waldo Emerson. He constructed a small cabin which he made from an old shanty and some lumber from the woods. He kept meticulous financial records, and he concluded that for a home and freedom he spent a mere $28.12. He planted a garden to help sustain his simple life. He planted two and a half acres of beans with the intent of using the small profit to cover his needs.
Thoreau lived independent of time, having neither a clock nor a calendar. He spent his time writing and studying the wonder of nature that surrounded him, including local plants, birds, and animals. He did not live the life of a hermit—he visited the town of Concord most days, and he invited others to come into his cabin for enlightening conversations. When the two years ended, he left his cabin behind without regret. He considered the time he had spent there a proper amount of time to accomplish his purpose—to experience the spiritual benefits of a simplified lifestyle. He felt he had other life experiences ahead of him and that it was time to move on.
From his experiences at Walden Pond, Thoreau determined that there were only four things that a man really needs: food, clothing, shelter, and fuel. I am going to discuss three of these necessities and Thane will cover the fourth in his talk.
The first requirement is food.
We all know that we need to eat food to live and that we need to take good care of our bodies. I read a quote once that said, “If I had known I was going to live this long I would have taken better care of myself!”
In Doctrine and Covenants 88:15 we learn that “The spirit and the body are the soul of man.”
In order to care for our “soul” we need to appropriately nourish both our body and spirit. The Lord has given us the Word of Wisdom to bless us both physically and spiritually.
President Ezra Taft Benson taught us that “Healthful foods, proper rest, adequate exercise, and a clean conscience can prepare us to tackle the trials that lie ahead.”
In the booklet For the Strength of Youth, President Benson’s statements are reiterated:
“The Lord has commanded you to take good care of your body. To do this, observe the Word of Wisdom, found in Doctrine and Covenants 89. Eat nutritious food, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep. When you do all these things, you remain free from harmful addictions and have control over your life. You gain the blessings of a healthy body, an alert mind, and the guidance of the Holy Ghost.…”
I know it is a challenge for many of us to find time to prepare healthy meals, exercise, get enough sleep, etc. But it is important for us to do these things. A Spanish proverb reads, “A man too busy to take care of his health is like a mechanic too busy to take care of his tools.”
The booklet further reads: “Any drug, chemical, or dangerous practice that is used to produce a sensation or ‘high’ can destroy your physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. These include hard drugs, prescription or over-the-counter medications that are abused, and household chemicals.”
Many of you know that Thane lost his job in April due to company lay-offs. This was quite a stressful time for us as we began to make a plan for living without his income. We had no idea how long it would take to find another job and we were worried about making ends meet if the unemployment continued for an extended amount of time.
As we shared this news with our children, what a relief it was to be able to tell them that we would have enough food because of our food storage. I had collected a three month supply of everyday type foods and a year supply of cannery food little by little. This brought great peace of mind to our family. Our children learned firsthand that there is safety and peace as we follow the prophet’s counsel. It has been a great lesson to our children and us to have to distinguish between needs and wants. Suddenly that special IPOD that Zach had been saving money for became a less important in his mind and he decided to hold on to his money in savings. We all went on a financial diet and have come out stronger. We continued to pay our tithing and fast offering knowing that great blessings come from obedience. Luckily Thane was able to find another job quickly. But that storm in our life has changed the way we spend money and has solidified our testimony of preparedness.
A while back Elder L. Tom Perry taught: "Acquire and store a reserve of food and supplies that will sustain life. . . . As long as I can remember, we have been taught to prepare for the future and to obtain a year's supply of necessities. I would guess that the years of plenty have almost universally caused us to set aside this counsel. I believe the time to disregard this counsel is over. With events in the world today, it must be considered with all seriousness."
President Clark said: “When we really get into hard times where food is scarce or there is none at all, and so with clothing and shelter, money may be no good for there may be nothing to buy, and you cannot eat money, you cannot get enough of it together to burn to keep warm, and you cannot wear it.”
Another basic necessity is our clothing.
Elder Perry reminds us in his talk that we should wear simple and modest clothing. How we dress sends a message to others about who we are.
I remember when Elder Perry talked about how “many fashion designers appear to be trying to make two or three dresses out of the amount of fabric necessary for one.” He said, they are taking too much off the top and too much off the bottom of women’s clothing, and occasionally they scrimp in the middle too. In addition he mentioned that “men’s fashions are also adopting extreme styles” which in his day would have been “called sloppy and inappropriate.”
Elder Perry stated that “Very casual dress is almost always followed by very casual manners.”
He further proclaims that “In the Book of Mormon story of the tree of life, it was the people whose “manner of dress was exceedingly fine” who mocked those who partook of the fruit of the tree. It is sobering to realize that the fashion-conscious mockers in the great and spacious building were responsible for embarrassing many, and those who were ashamed “fell away into forbidden paths and were lost” (1 Nephi 8:27–28).”
Clothes were provided by God to shield and protect us against not only the harsh elements of nature but also the temptations of our fallen natures, which the adversary seeks to exploit.
John H. Groberg wrote a great article in the New Era in 1992 entitled, “Right for the Climate.”
He wrote: “What you wear and when you wear it may have a lot to do with your spiritual comfort.” Imagine you are in a courtroom. All of the attorneys and officials are dressed in their finest clothing. Then the judge enters wearing a T-shirt and shorts!
You certainly are more likely to take the judge seriously when he dresses to fit the occasion. The way the judge is dressed says a lot about the climate of his courtroom and about the type of behavior expected there. Similarly, the way you dress may say a lot about you.”
I think it is true that people do tend to act according to how they are dressed.
On page 8 of the booklet For the Strength of Youth, published by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve, we read the following:
“Servants of God have always counseled his children to dress modestly to show respect for him and for themselves. Because the way you dress sends messages about yourself to others and often influences the way you and others act, you should dress in such a way as to bring out the best in yourself and those around you.”
The booklet also warns against wearing immodest clothing: “If you wear an immodest bathing suit because it’s ‘the style,’ it sends a message that you are using your body to get attention and approval, and that modesty is not important.
“Immodest clothing includes short shorts, tight pants, and other revealing attire. Young women should refrain from wearing off-the-shoulder, low-cut, or revealing clothes. Young men should similarly maintain modesty in their dress. All should avoid tight fitting or revealing clothes and extremes in clothing and appearance.”
Dressing modestly is a mark of spiritual maturity. I know I am grateful that our kid’s friends dress modestly and it causes me to respect them more. Learning to dress modestly in their youth means they will have fewer clothing conflicts when they finally receive the privilege of wearing temple garments.
The scriptures also give us advice about clothing. In 2nd Nephi they indicate that costly apparel can be a source of evil pride. The scriptures tell us that the main purpose of clothing is to cover our nakedness. They indicate our responsibility to provide clothing for the needy. And Alma 1:27 tells us that the good Church members “did not wear costly apparel, yet they were neat and comely.”
The scriptures also talk about being clothed with righteousness, light, charity, and glory. To me this means that what we ARE is much more important than what we WEAR.
I think it is significant to note that when the Savior appeared after his resurrection, he was simply attired. “They saw a Man descending out of heaven; and he was clothed in a white robe.” Jesus could have worn anything he desired, but he chose a plain, white robe.
This teaches me an important lesson. Just as we can be too casual in our clothing, we can also be too pompous. The Savior didn’t need to impress anyone by what he wore. In following the Savior’s example we too can remember that we don’t need to impress people with overly expensive clothing.
In the temple, everybody dresses in white. It is the right clothing for the spiritual climate. And it reminds us that there is no social status before our Father.
Now let us turn to Thoreau’s third requirement, that of shelter. It seems like we are surrounded by reports of the current housing crisis. Throughout the years church leaders have encouraged us not to live beyond our means. Elder Perry said, “Our income should determine the kind of housing we can afford, not the neighbor’s big home across the street.”
President Heber J. Grant once said: “From my earliest recollections, from the days of Brigham Young until now, I have listened to men standing in the pulpit … urging the people not to run into debt; and I believe that the great majority of all our troubles today is caused through the failure to carry out that counsel.”
One of the better ways to simplify our lives is to follow the counsel to live within our income, stay out of debt, and save for a rainy day. Members of a well-managed family do not pay interest; they earn it.
Once again reflecting on our recent loss of employment, I was incredibly grateful that we had saved for a rainy day. I thought to myself that I would rather have money saved up to pay my mortgage than to have extra stuff.
In college I learned about credit card debt the hard way. I was short on money, as every college student seems to be. My roommate let me in on her secret. She said to just charge all your expenses on a credit card and then pay it back later. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of that myself so I began to charge and charge. Eventually I couldn’t even afford to pay my monthly minimum due. I lay awake at night wondering how I could ever dig myself out of from under my pile of debt. I finally told my parents of my dire situation and they offered to give me a loan so that I could pay the creditors and then we agreed on a repayment plan. It took me a while, but after a few years I was able to pay them back in full with interest. But the first year or two of marriage was painful as all our extra money went to paying back my parents for bailing me out in my foolishness. Let's just say that I still use credit cards but that I pay off the balance in full every month no matter what. I realize now that credit cards can be used for convenience, but not to buy things you cannot afford.
True to the Faith, a Church publication, gives the following additional counsel regarding debt:
"Some forms of credit, such as credit cards, have particularly high interest rates. Once you are in debt, you find that interest has no mercy. It continues to accumulate, regardless of your situation—whether you are employed or jobless, healthy or sick. It never goes away until the debt is paid. Do not be deceived by credit offers, even if they make debt seem attractive by promising low interest rates or no interest for a certain period of time.
"Look to the condition of your finances. Discipline yourself in your purchases, avoiding debt to the extent you can. In most cases, you can avoid debt by managing your resources wisely. If you do incur debt, such as a reasonable amount in order to purchase a modest home or complete your education, work to repay it as quickly as possible and free yourself from bondage. When you have paid your debts and accumulated some savings, you will be prepared for financial storms that may come your way. You will have shelter for your family and peace in your heart."
In 1976 Elder Neal A. Maxwell made this prophetic statement at a BYU devotional: "I fear that, as conditions worsen, many will react to the failures of too much government by calling for even more government. Then there will be more and more lifeboats launched because fewer and fewer citizens know how to swim."
I testify that now is the time for each of us to prepare for the storms that will inevitably arise. We need to learn how to figuratively “swim” by ensuring that we can care for the basic needs for our own families.
It is my prayer that each of us can seek ways to simplify our lives as we contemplate how to secure our basic needs of food, clothing, shelter and fuel which my husband will talk about in a minute.
I say these things, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.