It’s good to be here with you today. I have the pleasure of addressing you this morning on a broad subject. I pray that I might have some assistance in effectively communicating this message in a manner that provides instruction, clarity and revenance.
I work in IT. For the most part, I always have. I started out as most people do in the field. Answering phones, moving hardware, getting people to read instructions, and finally, turning things off and on. Early on, I loved it. I got to play with technology, learn valuable skills and do a job that I loved. However, as I progressed in my career, things began to get more complicated. I moved on from support to system administration, staff management, product ownership, development, and the dreaded project management.
Project management is an interesting field. Done right, it can transform organizations and accomplish wonders. Done wrong, you can quickly find yourself ostracized by your team, made the scapegoat and run out of town looking for work. Perhaps most unfortunately however, even though you may have the project management role or title, you may not have any means whatsoever to ensure success. It’s a delicate balance of perception, guidance, hard work, and luck.
Over the years, I’ve found one of the most effective tools in the project management field is the 5 whys. The 5 whys is an iterative process exploring the cause and effect relationships behind a particular situation. The goal is to determine a root cause that can ultimately be addressed. Often times, this uncovers reasons that surprise you. Take for example, the following story.
A newlywed couple moved in to their first house. Several months later, the husband noticed that when his wonderful wife was preparing his favorite meal, roast beef, she cut a small amount off each end and threw it in the trash. The husband watched this curiously and eventually asked why? His wife replied that was the way that her mother prepared the roast and that it was her secret to ensuring a tender result. Some months later, the husband had occasion to mention this to his mother-in-law who repeated essentially the same story. That her mother had taught her this trick and it made for beautiful meals. Finally, at the next family get-together, the husband asked his wife’s grandmother about it. She laughed and finally cleared up the mystery. It turns out, she had a narrow roast pan and cut the ends off to make the roast fit. Only 3 whys necessary for that one.
Questions related to spiritual matters can be addressed in a similar fashion. However, we often lack the context and perspective to see the vast link of chain and effect that we witness each day. I’m going to make a declarative statement here. All things point back to the love that our Heavenly Father has for us. No 5 whys analysis is necessary. Let me expand on this a bit.
We exist because of our Heavenly Father. We are here because He loves us and wants us to succeed. Everything points back to this single fact. It’s really that simple.
As the prophet Joseph F Smith taught, “Man, as a spirit, was begotten and born of heavenly parents, and reared to maturity in the eternal mansions of the Father, prior to coming upon the earth in a temporal [physical] body”. Every person who was ever born on earth is our spirit brother or sister. Because we are the spirit children of God, we have inherited the potential to develop His divine qualities. Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we can become like our Heavenly Father and receive a fulness of joy.
A veil covers our memories of our premortal life, but our Father in Heaven knows who we are and what we did before we came here. He has chosen the time and place for each of us to be born so we can learn the lessons we personally need and do the most good with our individual talents and personalities.
Our Heavenly Father knew we could not progress beyond a certain point unless we left Him for a time. He wanted us to develop the godlike qualities that He has. To do this, we needed to leave our premortal home to be tested and to gain experience. Our spirits needed to be clothed with physical bodies. We would need to leave our physical bodies at death and reunite with them in the Resurrection. Then we would receive immortal bodies like that of our Heavenly Father. If we passed our tests, we would receive the fulness of joy that our Heavenly Father has received.
Our Heavenly Father called a Grand Council to present His plan for our progression (see Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 209, 511). We learned that if we followed His plan, we would become like Him. We would be resurrected; we would have all power in heaven and on earth; we would become heavenly parents and have spirit children just as He does
We learned that He would provide an earth for us where we would prove ourselves (see Abraham 3:24–26). A veil would cover our memories, and we would forget our heavenly home. This would be necessary so we could exercise our agency to choose good or evil without being influenced by the memory of living with our Heavenly Father. Thus we could obey Him because of our faith in Him, not because of our knowledge or memory of Him. He would help us recognize the truth when we heard it again on earth
At the Grand Council we also learned the purpose for our progression: to have a fulness of joy. However, we also learned that some would be deceived, choose other paths, and lose their way. We learned that all of us would have trials in our lives: sickness, disappointment, pain, sorrow, and death. But we understood that these would be given to us for our experience and our good. If we allowed them to, these trials would purify us rather than defeat us. They would teach us to have endurance, patience, and charity.
At this council we also learned that because of our weakness, all of us except little children would sin. We learned that a Savior would be provided for us so we could overcome our sins and overcome death with resurrection. We learned that if we placed our faith in Him, obeying His word and following His example, we would be exalted and become like our Heavenly Father. We would receive a fulness of joy.
Elder Uchtdorf expounded on this topic in his October 2009 General Conference address:
“Think of the purest, most all-consuming love you can imagine. Now multiply that love by an infinite amount—that is the measure of God’s love for you.7
God does not look on the outward appearance.8 I believe that He doesn’t care one bit if we live in a castle or a cottage, if we are handsome or homely, if we are famous or forgotten. Though we are incomplete, God loves us completely. Though we are imperfect, He loves us perfectly. Though we may feel lost and without compass, God’s love encompasses us completely.
He loves us because He is filled with an infinite measure of holy, pure, and indescribable love. We are important to God not because of our résumé but because we are His children. He loves every one of us, even those who are flawed, rejected, awkward, sorrowful, or broken. God’s love is so great that He loves even the proud, the selfish, the arrogant, and the wicked.
What this means is that, regardless of our current state, there is hope for us. No matter our distress, no matter our sorrow, no matter our mistakes, our infinitely compassionate Heavenly Father desires that we draw near to Him so that He can draw near to us.
Heavenly Father’s love for His children is the core message of the plan of happiness, which is made active through the Atonement of Jesus Christ—the greatest expression of love the world has ever known.
How clearly the Savior spoke when He said that every other commandment hangs upon the principle of love. If we do not neglect the great laws—if we truly learn to love our Heavenly Father and our fellowman with all our heart, soul, and mind—all else will fall into place.
The divine love of God turns ordinary acts into extraordinary service. Divine love is the motive that transports simple words into sacred scripture. Divine love is the factor that transforms reluctant compliance with God’s commandments into blessed dedication and consecration.
Love is the guiding light that illuminates the disciple’s path and fills our daily walk with life, meaning, and wonder.
Love is the measure of our faith, the inspiration for our obedience, and the true altitude of our discipleship.
Love is the way of the disciple.”
Elder Groberg (of The Other Side of Heaven fame) spoke on this matter as well, relating his well-known experience as a missionary after a natural disaster:
“After a few months our island was struck by a powerful hurricane. The devastation was massive. Crops were ruined, lives were lost, housing was blown away, and the telegraph station—our only link to the outside world—was destroyed. A small government boat normally came every month or two, so we rationed our food to last four or five weeks, hoping the boat would come. But no boat came. Every day we became weaker. There were acts of great kindness, but as the sixth and seventh weeks passed with very little food, our strength slipped noticeably. My native companion, Feki, helped me in every way he could, but as the eighth week commenced, I had no energy. I just sat under the shade of a tree and prayed and read scriptures and spent hours and hours pondering the things of eternity.
The ninth week began with little outward change. However, there was a great inward change. I felt the Lord’s love more deeply than ever before and learned firsthand that His love “is the most desirable above all things … yea, and the most joyous to the soul” (1 Ne. 11:22–23).
I was pretty much skin and bones by now. I remember watching, with deep reverence, my heart beating, my lungs breathing, and thinking what a marvelous body God has created to house our equally marvelous spirit! The thought of a permanent union of these two elements, made possible through the Savior’s love, atoning sacrifice, and Resurrection, was so inspiring and satisfying that any physical discomfort faded into oblivion.
When we understand who God is, who we are, how He loves us, and what His plan is for us, fear evaporates. When we get the tiniest glimpse of these truths, our concern over worldly things vanishes. To think we actually fall for Satan’s lies that power, fame, or wealth is important is truly laughable—or would be were it not so sad.
I learned that just as rockets must overcome the pull of gravity to roar into space, so we must overcome the pull of the world to soar into the eternal realms of understanding and love. I realized my mortal life might end there, but there was no panic. I knew life would continue, and whether here or there didn’t really matter. What did matter was how much love I had in my heart. I knew I needed more! I knew that our joy now and forever is inextricably tied to our capacity to love.”
I’ve found it difficult to reconcile such a perfect plan constructed by a perfect Heavenly Father with perfect love with imperfect intermediate outcomes. Joining the Church was an easy choice for me but that is not to say it was without consequence. A good majority of my family has chosen not to associate with me. With time, I’ve come to understand and accept that. It’s not easy. My mother, for reasons I do not know, has recently made this choice as well. It’s difficult to bear at times. Watching our children grow up without knowing their grandmother is not something I thought I’d have to endure. Nevertheless, I know the truth and understand the plan. Understanding that the symptoms of agency are a result of the root cause of Heavenly Father’s love makes the difference to me. And I know that any imperfection in the process experienced in this mortal life will be addressed in the life hereafter and through the Atoning sacrifice of our Elder brother, Heavenly Father’s Son Jesus Christ.
I’m grateful for this Church and for the lessons it has taught me. I’m grateful to have the understanding of the larger goal in mind. And while tragedy and agency complicates the journey, our final destination is worth the work and the sacrifice. I’m honored to have had this opportunity and leave my testimony of Heavenly Father’s immeasurable love for each and everyone of us in the sacred name of His Son, even Jesus Christ the Savior. Amen.