Sunday, December 15, 2013


During the last few weeks I have been reading in the Old Testament historical books of Samuel, Kings and Chronicles. One of the continuing themes which occurs as the Lord struggles to keep David’s posterity upon the throne, is what seems to be an overwhelming need of successors to make themselves great by destroying all traces of predecessors.

Israel does not stand alone in this practice. We see incumbent Pharaohs chiseling the names of fathers and mothers off of all monuments and obelisks in the kingdom. The Babylonians were especially skilled in the art of erasing opposition, destroying conquered nations so extensively that they were assured that that enemy would never again be able to rise from the rubble to threaten.

Today the tide of thinking one can become great by undercutting and destroying the opposition seems to be rising in an ever threatening wave in all levels of society and upon all nations of the world. Children bully children on playgrounds and computers. Gangs roam streets seeking to eliminate any who might dare to invade their territory wearing another color. Careers are founded not on ability, but by pulling down those who preside. Leaders spend their days in efforts which will undermine the position of opponents rather than advancing principles which will benefit and strengthen.

No matter how long it has been going on nor how wide has been the proliferation of the practice of rising upon another’s rubble, we should have learned long ago,that this practice will always end in the self-destruction of the destroyer.

Just as ancient as this practice of self-punitive elimination, there has always existed a counter philosophy to this human caused plague. In its simplest form it is expressed as the development of self-mastery. Although it has been long taught and recognized as an essential element in the culturalization of societies, it still remains today as one of the most difficult of life’s characteristics to conquer.

There is a special kind of self-mastery which allows us to be inwardly confident, in such a way that we have no need to build our mansions on a foundation formed from the ashes of a destroyed predecessor.

In the kingdoms of the world we see that insecurity is the basis which causes one to believe that they gain strength from making others weak. However, in the Kingdom of God it will not be those who go about snuffing out the candles of others who will triumph, but those who add illumination in the world by shining their meager light on others, calling attention to the brightness emanating from another and as much as they possibly can allowing the light of Christ to shine through them to bring greater light to a world dimmed by the insecure-ness which results from the desire for self-aggrandizement.

At times it seems difficult to remember that our small glimmer will only have significance when it is united with others’ to bring a lasting glow to a world which is “walking in darkness at noon day.” Can we not learn the simple truth that there will never be an increase in illumination if we are continually extinguishing our neighbor’s candle? In a world where stewardships and responsibilities are continually being shifted and changed from one person to another as generations quickly crowd upon one another, it should be self-evident that advancement can best be accomplished by adding upon what was built before rather than tearing down and starting anew. Can we not see that generations rise higher by building on foundations rather than rubble?

Joshua, who once stomped hay into straw to make bricks for the Pharaoh of Egypt, became a mighty warrior-leader of Israel. As he succeeded Moses, Joshua counseled his officers, “Remember the word which Moses, the servant of the Lord commanded you…” Joshua felt no need to attempt to glorify himself by diminishing the glory of Moses. Interestingly, the men of Israel responded to Joshua, “According as we hearkened unto Moses in all things so will we hearken unto thee.” Seemingly, what would seem ironic to the snuffers of light who try to lead today, Joshua won acceptance more fully and sooner by honoring the revered leader whom he succeeded.

It seems righteous self-mastery imbues us with the ability, when we are entrusted with some form of leadership, to take the time necessary to get the ‘feel’ of our new station and to allow others to get the ‘feel’ of their new guide, without having to drag the names and reputations of previous holders of the position through the quagmire or destroy them completely.

Some years ago I received the counsel of a respected shepherd who had just called me to a new stewardship. He reminded me that I wasn't called to begin a revolution and correct all the mistakes of those who had previously held this position, but I was called to be responsive to the whisperings which would augment all that had gone before.

Hard though it might be, as we find ourselves being shifted with the sands of time, I think our torches will burn more brightly if we put upon ourselves the confidence of righteous self-mastery. Hopefully, we will have our vision somewhat unclouded by the flickerings of self-mastery and thereby more frequently see ourselves as others see us, sometimes more clearly see ourselves as we really are, and catch glimpses of what we have the potential of becoming without having to apply the snuffer’s tool of destruction.


  1. I suppose there might be a level of understanding in stomping out those who have invaded your homeland; but in the political arena it is resorted to mostly because you have nothing to put on the alter. It is the ultimat sign of weakness.

    Thanks for your thoughts

    Paul Hansen

  2. Dear friend,

    I want to thank you for your "thoughts" each week. I look forward to reading them on Sunday morning. These days I am serving in Primary and I don't get Sunday School or Relief Society lessons. I enjoy reading other "grownups" comments and opinions!!

    This week's was wonderful...and so true to our lives in many ways.

    Words from Wendy Cecil

  3. Muchas gracias por su somos mejores que nadie

    clarita torres gonzales

  4. Brother :) Bill, (the following, though sensible to me will probably be to jumbled for you. However with my dearth of self-esteem I'm sending it.)
    "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:" [thus spoke God through the mouth of a preacher.] [so there are those who speak to us (or me) for or from God! :-)]
    To deny that eternal truth, however idealistically motivated, is to deny these, our lives, as God granted for us to experience and live them.
    More later.
    Bill, the "more later" that I promised never developed. What I wanted to speak to was the issue you advanced about self-mastery and the special form of self mastery; the first being appropriate to this world ("the kingdom of the world" as you called it) not only demonstrated by men like Euclid, Da Vinci, Milton, Bach, etc; but also by men such as Stalin, Mao and Hitler. The second to "The Kingdom of God." Then I wanted to speak to problems we have when our natures tend us towards conflagration of these such that we create fog in our own clarity of thought and befuddle our apprehension as we apply lessons and concepts appropriate to the "time and season" for one to that of the other. But it just never came together.

    So what have we learned (again)? A promise means little until fulfilled.

    Paul Hansen

  5. Que lindo! Que Dios los bendiga!!!
    Gracias por estos mensajes tan hermosos
    que llegan a el corazón!

    Angela María Stuart.

  6. Count away! My birthday is Jan 6 and I always felt honored to be born on a day of great significance in the Christian world. I hope this means I can ignore the nastty letter from the HOA if I don't take down my Christmas lights by April 6.
    Merry Christmas to you!!!!

    Joyce Woolf

  7. Gracias por sus pensamientos cada semana y feliz navidad.

    zarahemla wheeler osorio

  8. Read this and celebrate justice restored then weep with me for the thousands of unfortunates who yet remain victims of the dark side of our white system of "justice".

    Then on this Sunday morning before Christmas day we go to church to celebrate the gift of Love God has granted us through our "belief" in our Lord and Savior.

    Thus freed from moral dissonance, I remain

    Resolutely Yours,

    Paul Maddox

  9. Que la felicidad les acompañe !!!

    Jenny Henao

  10. Y yo esperaré la continuación del relato que tanto me impacta-como tantos que he recibido de vuestra buena voluntad- tratando de comprender más cabalmente el significado de esta natividad, a la vez que deseo tanto o más buenos augurios para ustedes dos. Feliz Navidad!!!!

    Y todo mi amor...

    Julio Medina

  11. Loved your statement "to be responsive to the whisperings which would augment all that had gone before."

    It will be used more than once in stake reorgs to come. Thank you for your ongoing inspiration!

    May your Christmas be filled with joy--

    Doug F. Higham

  12. Muchas gracias Presidente Riley. Me encantan sus mensajes.

    He usado apartes de sus "pensamientos" en algunos discursos en la capilla.

    Muchas felicidades para usted y su familia en Navidad y en el próximo año.

    Un gran abrazo,

    Juan C. Borja

  13. God has granted us this, another day. Let us celebrate this gift together, on this special day; and the One who alone could give it.

    Paul Maddox