Monday, December 4, 2006 Observation:
As a 17-year-old boy I left my home in Ruth, Nevada and with my good friend, Mel Walker, drove to Provo, Utah to begin my freshman year at BYU. We moved into a room in Allen Hall, BYU student housing, near the pizza parlor now known as the Brick Oven. My dad always wanted to know where in the "hall" I lived and what in the "hall" I was doing. Well, I was living on the top floor and was associating with young men that in retrospect impacted my life for good in an eternal sense. Living on the ground floor were three Callister brothers from Glendale, California. Their grandfather was Elder LeGrand Richards who during the two years we lived in Allen Hall would come and speak to us occasionally on a Sunday evening as a favor to his grandsons. These were good boys who loved the Lord and whose example was worthy of emulation. The youngest brother was named Doug and was my same age. Doug is now Elder Douglas L. Callister of the first quorum of the 70. After he visited and spoke in our stake a few years ago I approached him and, I'm sure it was because of the wheelchair and his having heard of my accident, recognized me and we shared a few memories of our days living together in Allen Hall.
Because of that little relationship with Elder Callister, I eagerly listened to the talk he delivered at the BYU student devotional on September 19, 2006. The talk is entitled "Your Refined Celestial Home". I am probably somewhat prejudiced, but I think this talk should be required listening or reading for every family in the church -- especially those with children still living at home. You can find it by clicking on BYUbroadcasting.org and then clicking on "find a talk" and typing in the name, "Douglas L. Callister".
It is not my purpose to give a review of Elder Callister's talk, but I think I can share the essence of what he had to say through an experience Joseph Fielding Smith had with his father Joseph F. Smith many years ago. Having recently returned from a mission to Great Britain, young Joseph Fielding Smith was looking for some kind of employment to sustain himself and his young family. One of the positions he was offered was a "... permanent government position as an inspector of pool halls, bawdy houses and other places that sold beer and liquor, and to collect excise taxes, his territory to include Utah, Idaho and Wyoming. The job paid quite a handsome salary and was respectable enough in nature even though it would bring him into contact with some unsavory characters... The good salary would certainly help Joseph to get a house built. Joseph mulled the offer in his mind a few days... he conferred with his father about it before making a firm decision. His father advised him to decline the offer. "Remember this, son," he said, "the best company is none too good for you." So Joseph declined the job, and a few days later he received an offer he liked much better: Anthon H. Lund offered him a staff position in the Church Historian's Office." ( Joseph Fielding Smith, John J. Stewart, Life of Joseph Fielding Smith, 125-126.)
I am going to take some license with Joseph F. Smith's counsel to his son. I think Joseph was not just referring to the "company" of other people, but also to the full spectrum of the human experience. As sons and daughters of God "the best" in friends, education, vocation, music, the written word, the media we permit to come into our homes and minds, and a host of other things that could be mentioned are "none too good for us!" Choosing "the best" will bless our lives in mortality and prepare us one day for our eternal destiny to become as our Heavenly Father and to feel comfortable in and enjoy our "Refined Celestial Home."
In concluding his talk, Elder Callister related the following story to summarize his message to the BYU student body: "In a make believe kingdom a make believe King and his Queen, after many years, finally had a beautiful baby boy born into their family who would be the heir to the throne. Not wanting to spoil the boy, and hopefully to prepare him to be a good and just King, they secretly took him to the countryside for a peasant couple to raise. They were to tell him nothing of his birth and who he really was. When the boy was 18 years old the King and Queen went to the countryside to bring their boy home to become the next King inasmuch as his father was growing older and would soon pass on. To their dismay they discovered that their 18 year old son had become expert at plowing, planting, harvesting, and taking care of livestock, but he was ill-prepared and had no vision of who he really was, and what it would take to rule a kingdom, command armies, and meet the needs of his subjects. Their beloved son had been raised as a peasant and had become a peasant in spite of the royal blood that coursed through his veins."
We have temporarily been sent away by our Heavenly Father and King -- not to be raised as peasants -- but as princes and princesses, being refined in every way to one day inherit our own kingdoms. During this period of training and probation which we call mortality, truthfully, "The best... is none too good for us!" I am afraid that in many of our homes we are raising too many "peasants" with no vision of who they are and of their eternal potential. A "peasant" perspective regarding life seems to dominate our culture. You can observe it in our language, our dress, our music, the media, and what we choose for recreation. We have been plummeting downward from the "best" to the "mediocre" at lightning speed. Eric Anderson spoke a profound truth when he said: "The most insidious influence on the young is not violence, drugs, tobacco, drink or sexual perversion, but our pursuit of the trivial and our tolerance of the third rate."
Maybe it's because I am getting older and out of touch with reality, but I don't enjoy much of the music I hear that has recently been written and recorded. Does anybody like Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, and Chopin anymore? Are our kids being raised on musical french fries and hamburgers having their musical pallets paralyzed, resulting in no taste for the gourmet music of the Masters? What I'm saying about music can be applied to the media, literature, art, architecture, and dress of our times. Listen to President Hinckley:
"Let there be music in the home. If you have teenagers who have their own recordings, you will be prone to describe the sound as something other than music. Let them occasionally hear something better. Expose them to it. It will speak for itself. More of appreciation will come than you may think. It may not be spoken, but it will be felt, and its influence will become increasingly manifest as the years pass." (Be Thou an Example [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1981], p. 56.) "Enjoy music. Not the kind that rocks and rolls, but the music of the masters, the music that has lived through the centuries, the music that has lifted people. If you do not have a taste for it, listen to it thoughtfully. If you do not like it the first time, listen to it again and keep listening. It will be something like going to the temple. The more often you go, the more beautiful will be the experience. (Ellen Pucell Unthank Monument Dedication, Cedar City, Utah, August 3, 1991.)
"I believe in the beauty of good music and art, of pleasing architecture, and of good literature untainted by profanity or verbal filth. ("This I Believe," BYU 1991-92 Devotional and Fireside Speeches, March 1, 1992, p. 78.)
I believe what President Hinckley believes and what Joseph F. Smith taught his son -- "The best... is none too good for you!"