My brothers and sisters, I appreciate very much this great privilege of having some part with you and with the activity of this wonderful University. Not only do I always get a thrill when I come on this campus, but I get a thrill when I even think about the great numbers of you who have this wonderful privilege of coming here and spending part of your lives in studying, thinking, and enjoying the association of each other and the leadership of the wise teachers that you have here. This is a place where you can come to pray and live and enjoy the wonders that have been provided for you in this most important dispensation.
I would just like to say to you that you live in the greatest age that has ever been known in the world. Your forefather's lived on a flat, stationary earth and plowed their ground with a wooden stick, whereas you live on an earth of power steering and jet propulsion where all kinds of knowledge explosions are constantly taking place. We need to develop a character and a personality to match the times.
You live in the greatest nation that has ever been known since creation. How grateful we ought to be that we did not have in our Founding Fathers the kind of leadership that used Stalin blood purges, Hitler gas ovens, and Castro indignities as the instruments of government! Just think what a different kind of people we might be and what a different nation this would be if we had had the leadership of men other than those that God raised up to write our Constitution and to establish this nation upon Christian principles.
You live in a time when the knowledge of medicine gives us strong bodies and clear minds. If you had lived in Jerusalem nineteen hundred years ago, your life expectancy at birth would have been nineteen years. This means that of the people who lived and died in that period some lived to be ninety, I suppose, and a great many died at birth; but the average span of life then was nineteen years. If you had been born in George Washington's day in America you would have had an expectation of life of thirty-five years. When I was born it was forty-eight years, but the baby that was born in the Provo hospital today has a life expectation of seventy-five years. That is a very long period of time, and I know because that is just the period that I have been here. (Somebody once asked a man, "Have you lived here all your life?" And he said, "Not yet.") But I am very grateful for those twenty-seven years of life that have already been given to me above the promise that life made to me when I was born. How grateful we ought to be that God and our civilization are adding to our life expectation to give us more time to make more out of this all-important period of our second estate!
If any of you plan to remember anything that I am going to say to you tonight, I would just like to have you write in your notebook that--and I am sure of this--the one business of life is to succeed. I am absolutely certain in my own mind that God did not go to all the trouble of creating this beautiful earth, with all of its utilities and beauties and opportunities, without something very important in mind for those he expected to live here upon it. And I am even more sure that he did not create us in his own image and endow us with these potentially magnificent brains, miraculous personalities, and fantastic physical bodies and then expect us to waste our lives in failure.
Yet I am also sure of this: that the greatest waste there is in the world is not the devastation that goes with war, nor the cost of crime. It is not the erosion of our soils, nor the depletion of our raw materials, nor the loss of our gold supply. The greatest waste there is in the world is that human beings--you and I--live so far below the level of our possibility. Compared with what we might be, we are just partly alive. That is, we sometimes become guilty of the great sins of fractional devotion and marginal morals, and we turn our lives into a minimum performance. What good does it do to live in this great nation and possess this magnificent earth on which we live if we do not live our lives at the top of our condition? What good does it do for us to come here and accomplish things that might just as well have been done at other, less abundantly blessed times?
We have these longer lives, and medicine gives us the clearer minds and stronger bodies. The gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored in a fullness never before known in the world. The pathway to eternal life is now brilliantly lighted and perfectly marked so that no one need get off that straight and narrow way except by his own choice. But none of this helps us very much unless we make something out of it above what was made out of it in other times. We live in a very important period; and you have the extra favorable opportunity of coming to this great University where you may have those possessing the greatest intelligence as your teachers and where you may have the most profitable information that has ever been developed in all of the world for your benefit.
One of the problems that I would like to talk over with you tonight is that great power of evil in our lives that we sometimes call inertia. There is a tendency in nature for things to remain inert; for example, the stone rests on the mountainside for a thousand years, having no power within itself to move. But this is a power that influences nature. A bullet fired from the most powerful rifle, as soon as it uses up its momentum derived from its source of power, soon stops and comes to a complete rest. An automobile being driven comes to a complete rest. An automobile being driven down the highway, unless constantly receiving new fuel from the gas tank, will run out of power, wear out its momentum, and stop.
Human beings also tend to be like that; we have a natural instinct within us to be inert, to be inactive. We have a powerful appetite to come to rest. Like the stone on the mountainside, we have a tendency to remain where we are rather than doing the things that we ought to do or being as active as we ought to be. Given a push over the cliff, the stone on the mountainside will roll down the hill, but as soon as it wears out its momentum it will come to a stop. Somebody wrote a poem about this as it applies in human life. I do not know who the author was, but this is what he says:
I wish I was a little rock,
A-sittin' on the hill,
A-doin' nothin' all day long
Except just sittin' still.
I wouldn't eat, I wouldn't sleep,
I wouldn't even wash.
I'd sit and sit a thousand years
And rest myself, by gosh.
Now, isn't that an inspiring poem? Doesn't that just get you all excited so that you want to go out and turn the world over, do a lot of wonderful things, and be helpful in the community?
While we are on the subject of great poems, some time ago I was down in Louisville, Kentucky, when the Kentucky Derby was being run; and because I like to investigate success I thought I would like to find out why it was that one of the jockeys in this race could get his horse to run around the track faster than anybody else could get his horse to do it. Aristotle once said that one never knows a thing until he knows it by its causes--that is, every success has a cause, and every failure has a cause. Indigestion has a cause; overweight has a cause. If one can find out what causes failure, the cause can usually be eliminated. In the same way, if one can find out what causes success that cause can be reproduced.
Since I knew that someday you would invite me to come down here and talk to you, I thought you would like to have me bring some success facts along to help you with, so I checked up and discovered an interesting thing. This jockey won the race by reciting poetry to his horse! I had never heard of anybody doing that before, so I checked into it a little further, since I knew that you would want to know what the poem was; and I am prepared to leave a copy of it here with you if you would like to have it. This is what the jockey said to his horse as they went around the race track--these are the words which inspired the horse to do his best. The jockey kept repeating this poem over and over again so that the horse would be sure to understand it. He said:
Roses are red and violets are blue
And horses that lose are made into glue.
And that so inspired the horse that he won the race.
But life has also written some glue poems for us. We think of the Master as a very kind-hearted, gentle, fine person, and I am sure he was; but the Lord sometimes said some rather severe things to certain people who did certain things. I checked through all the works of the Bible and a few other places to find out what seemed to me to upset the Lord the most. The Lord was kind to the repentant adulteress, and he had a sympathetic interest with the thief on the cross who wanted to do better; but to the lazy man who said, "I was afraid so I hid my talent in the ground and have brought forth nothing," the Lord said: "Thou wicked and slothful servant." Now, he was a servant--not an enemy, not a traitor, but a servant. I suppose he was a member of the Church, but he was inactive and did not do his job. Then the Lord said to those who were with him,
Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. . . . And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. [see Matthew 25:14–30]
But this devastating inactivity is a common fault.
I heard a member of the genealogical committee say recently that all the genealogical work of the Church is done by two percent of the members. Two percent do the work; and under that two percent are eight percent who do the praying and bear their testimonies about genealogical work but do not do any. Then there are ninety percent that do not even bear their testimonies or say prayers about it. There is too small a percentage that do all of the things the Lord asks--such as pay the tithing, do the missionary work, and provide the leadership.
Do you remember the vine dresser who said to his sons, "Go work today in my vineyard," and one said, "I will not go," and the other said, "I go, sir," but went not? In other words, one of the sons was disobedient and the other was irresponsible. To those who are in the class of the one who promised to go and did not go, Christ said, "The publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you" (see Matthew 20:28–31). That is, he put the publicans and harlots in line ahead of those who promised to do the work of the Lord and did not get it done.
Finally, you remember his promise for our own day, that when he comes he will divide the people into two great groups. In one group will be those who have done as he asked us to do. They are the doers of the word, the ones who live these great principles that we came here to understand and know something about, and to them he is going to say: "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." It would be wonderful to be in that group. And then he will say to those on his left hand, "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire. . . . I never knew you" (see Matthew 25:31–46, 7:21–23). I cannot find anything that was written by Jesus in the Bible or anyplace else where he takes such a harsh attitude as with somebody who merely talks about religion and does not live it, or is not a doer of the word.
For the most part, we are not bad people. As one great sales manager said about his salesman, "There are no lazy salesmen; there are just salesmen who lack motives." All of us have this power of inertia fastening itself upon us to keep us at rest. But the Lord has given us other powers to fight against inertia--that we might call initiative or motivation--by which we can overcome it and become doers of his word and sharers of his excellence. The thing that pleases him most is living righteous principles and obeying the word of the Lord. The greatest success formula that has ever been given in the world, no matter what one is trying to accomplish, is simply to keep the commandments and to do what the Lord says we ought to do. There is nobody in any business organization that would rather have somebody who violated the Word of Wisdom or broke the Ten Commandments or did not understand the beatitudes or did not know the Articles of Faith. Everyone who gets married wants the same kind of person as the Lord wants in the Church--someone who will keep the commandments.
I would like to talk to you about this idea of motivation, of overcoming the pull of this destructive dead weight that we call inertia or lack of initiative. There might be many instruments of motivation, but I am just going to mention six here. First, however, I would like to give you an illustration of what I am going to try to say; and although this illustration actually comes from an evil source, the principle itself is still a good one.