Spoken Word Messages

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If you’ve ever been to a talent show, you may have noticed that certain talents are easier to notice—and easier to “show”—than others. The talents that get the most applause tend to be talents in music, dance, or visual arts. Those who are skilled in sports and academics are also well recognized. If we lack such wonderful abilities, we may conclude that we simply are not talented.

When we look at other living things, we expect that they will grow and change over time. No one assumes that a seedling will stay small and fragile—we know that it is destined to grow into a strong and mighty tree. When we see a calf or a cub, we also see its potential to become a full-grown animal.

Most of us want to love our neighbor. And yet, for some reason, it often seems easier to do that when the “neighbor” lives far away, perhaps in another country. But what of the neighbors who live close by, even in our own household? In many cases, that’s where our love is needed the most—and where it can do the most good.

Today, we begin our 94th year of continuous weekly broadcasting with an observation about the way each of those weekly broadcasts ends. For nearly all its history, Music & the Spoken Word has concluded with a signature theme, performed by the organist. The tune was written by Joseph J. Daynes, a tabernacle organist who began playing for the Choir when he was just 16 years old and accompanied the Choir for 33 years in the late 1800s.  

The story of the good Samaritan was first told as an answer to a question. A certain lawyer, who seemed to want clear lines marking the boundaries of his moral obligations, asked Jesus of Nazareth, “Who is my neighbour?” Jesus’s answer was the now-familiar story of a traveling man who “fell among thieves,” was robbed and beaten, and was left “half dead” by the side of the road.

For over 40 years, Richard L. Evans was the voice and writer of Music & the Spoken Word. In 1959, he delivered a message that, today, feels as timely as ever. He began by quoting a line from a well-known patriotic hymn: “Confirm thy soul in self-control, Thy liberty in law.”[1] He then made keen observations about the relationship between self-control, liberty, and law:

Years ago, a man learned a life-changing lesson after starting a new job. He wanted to connect with some of his coworkers, particularly with a group of employees who seemed friendly and fun. One day, someone in this group invited the new hire to join them for lunch, and soon he was a regular in their lunchtime conversations.

Perhaps the best-known prayer ever uttered, the Lord’s Prayer, begins: “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name” (Matthew 6:9). To hallow is to make sacred or holy, to revere and respect, so the prayer opens in reverence for the name of God. There are many names and titles we can use to refer to God, all of them hallowed and worthy of reverence, but it’s significant that the name we’re invited to use in this prayer is “Father.”

Long ago, a lawyer asked Jesus which of the commandments is the greatest. He certainly had many to choose from, among hundreds of decrees from scripture and the law. With clarity and wisdom, Jesus responded: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:37–39).

Because God loves His children, He has filled this world with goodness and beauty that proclaim His love. Among those good and beautiful things are the kind acts of caring people and the simple and majestic wonders of nature. All of this brings hope and joy to life and encourages us to live with confidence and contentment, without fear.

Dale Adams has an unusual hobby—one that has brought meaning and perspective to his life while also honoring those who have gone before. Dale reads and preserves obituaries.

Not long ago, a university researcher decided to conduct an experiment on gratitude. But her motives weren’t purely academic. This researcher is also a mother of four teenagers. She explained, “I wanted to learn more about how I can raise my kids to be more grateful in an era of entitlement.”

God gives each of us a limited supply of time, and for the most part, we choose how to use it. The writer E. B. White once said, “One of the most time-consuming things is to have an enemy.”1 And yet, we get very little good in return for nursing a grudge or ruminating over a past offense. Surely there are many more positive and productive ways to spend our time. 

A novel by French writer Victor Hugo tells of a small group of soldiers who met a starving woman and her children in the woods. Moved with compassion, the sergeant handed her a piece of bread from his rations.

Events in life sometimes come at us so rapidly and randomly that it can be hard to find any meaning in them. So much of life can seem like a series of unrelated accidents, tied together with nothing more meaningful than mere coincidence. 

Sissel, the Choir, and the Orchestra have just performed a heavenly song based on these words from the 46th Psalm: “Be still, and know that I am God” (verse 10). It’s an invitation to peace and reassurance that resonates through the ages.  

Early in His ministry, Jesus had only a handful of followers, most of them members of a small fishing community near the Sea of Galilee. But they were eager to spread His transcendent message to others. Among these early followers was Philip, who, soon after meeting Jesus, went to his friend Nathanael and excitedly declared, “We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth.”

Sometimes we see things so often that we don’t really look at them anymore. When was the last time you stopped to watch a beautiful sunset, gaze at a canopy of clouds, or look up in wonder at a cluster of stars? We are surrounded by the natural world, but we can only understand our place in it—our connection with all of creation—when we take the time to reflect on the beauty around us.

Jesus of Nazareth once gave this bold invitation: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Matthew 7:7). The message seems to be that God has more to give us—faith to impart, comfort to bestow, blessings to pour out. He wants to give more, but He waits for us to ask, seek, and knock.  

When he was nearing 80 years old, Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa was asked in an interview, “Have you found that your relationship to God has changed as you’ve grown older?” This deeply spiritual man, who has since passed away, thought for a moment and said: “Yes. I am learning to shut up more in the presence of God.”

Hundreds of years ago, Shakespeare wrote this timeless wisdom: “They do not love, that do not show their love.”[1] Yes, love is a feeling, an emotion, a noun. But even more, love is a verb, an action, a decision. Feelings may come and go, but actions—serving, sacrificing, expressing love—can support those feelings as the years unfold. Our actions show the depth and meaning of our love; they give substance to our feelings. And they help us remain steadfast and true.

On a Sunday nearly 400 years ago—August 10, 1628, to be exact—not far from here at the navy shipyard in Stockholm, the mighty Swedish warship Vasa set sail. Built by command of the king, the ship was to be the mightiest of the sea—a proud symbol of the nation’s wealth and military strength.

For two years, the pandemic has given us something this world has rarely faced—a common hardship. While everyone’s experience has been different, no person, no corner of the world, has been left untouched by this modern-day plague. The world feels different now; jobs and schools and so many other things have been forced to adapt. And yet, in the midst of all this change and instability, we’ve also rediscovered some things that never change—everlasting things that we value, now more than ever before. 

In one of George Bernard Shaw’s plays, a successful young woman challenges the idea that we are victims of our circumstances. “I don’t believe in circumstances,” she declares. “The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them.”1 

A young man once asked Warren Buffet, one of the world’s foremost investors, what advice he would give on how to be successful. He might have expected tips on how to invest his money wisely or what career to pursue. Instead, Buffet, in his mid-80s at the time, shared with the young man these words of wisdom: “Hang out with people better than you,” he said. “Pick out associates whose behavior is better than yours and you’ll drift in that direction.”1  

For many people, life is filled with busyness. There’s nothing inherently wrong, of course, with being busy. But it’s also not inherently a virtue—especially when the pursuits that keep us so busy do not reflect our deepest values. Religious leader Thomas S. Monson once said: “Were we to step back … and take a good look at what we’re doing, we may find that we have immersed ourselves in the ‘thick of thin things.’…. Too often we spend most of our time taking care of the things which do not really matter much at all in the grand scheme of things, neglecting those more important causes.”1

Here at Copenhagen’s City Hall Square, on one of the city’s busiest streets, stands an impressive bronze statue. The street is known as H. C. Andersens Boulevard, and the statue honors one of Denmark’s favorite sons: a national treasure, a storyteller beloved around the world.

Have you ever felt like you needed a miracle? In the midst of calamities global and local, shared, and private, we wish we could change the world—or at least some small part of it. But big problems can make us feel small, powerless to help.

A few years ago, executives at a large theme park hired consultants to help them understand how to capture the attention of small children. The consultants spent a few hours in the park, observing the children to see what most interested them. What they learned surprised them: the children seemed to be most captivated not by the exciting rides, the costumed characters, or the colorful displays but, instead, by “their parents’ cell phones, especially when the parents were using them.”

We live in what some have called a “consumer society,” a society focused on buying and selling—then buying and selling some more. Such a society thrives on discontent, inadequacy, competition, and comparisons, because that drives us to make more purchases. The late British rabbi and writer Jonathan Sacks observed: “A consumer society … encourages us to spend money we don’t have, on products we don’t need, for a happiness that won’t last. … In a consumer society,” he explained, “we act to be envied rather than admired.”[1]