January 15, 2007, Observation:
Well, the college football season is finally over. I must say that I enjoyed it immensely which I always do when BYU defeats the University of Utah. This year it was interesting to me that a mediocre University of Utah team came within several seconds of almost defeating a great BYU team in Salt Lake City. More startling than that however, was that sad day in the Rose Bowl when UCLA -- having a bad year -- rose up and struck down mighty USC, thus denying them the opportunity of playing for the national championship against Ohio State in the Tostitos Bowl. And then wouldn't you know that USC, contrary to the expectation of most experts, just romped over the University of Michigan in the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day. To make everything even more topsy-turvy, unappreciated and largely unknown Boise State defeated one of the great football programs in the United States, Oklahoma. Defying all odds, the University of Florida just destroyed previously undefeated Ohio State in the Tostitos Bowl championship game.
This, of course, is not the only year that underdogs have defeated highly ranked and touted opponents; it really happens frequently. In thinking about this phenomenon I think I have at least a partial answer that makes some sense to me. I believe it boils down to "desire". Desire gives birth to action, and if desire is strong enough, one's actions can become incredibly potent and focused. The dictionary lists "desire" and some of its synonyms as follows: "Desire, wish, want, crave, and covet -- all mean to have a longing for. Desire stresses ... strength of feeling and often implies strong intention or aim. Wish sometimes implies a general or transient longing especially for the unattainable. Want specifically suggests a felt need or lack. Crave stresses the force of physical appetite or emotional need. Covet implies strong envious desire." [Merriam-Webster dictionary]
Of the five words, all meaning to have a longing for, only "desire" stresses strength of feeling and implies strong intention or aim. The other words are more passive. To me, "desire" is a power word that is at the heart of every great endeavor, surpassing wishing, wanting, craving, and, coveting in describing to have a longing for something.
I have read books about the building of the Transcontinental Railroad, the Panama Canal, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the Wright Brothers desire to fly and achieving what then was considered by most to be an impossible task. I have read of Magellan circumnavigating the earth and of the Lewis and Clark expedition to the Pacific Ocean. I have read of Thomas Edison's invention of the incandescent light bulb. I could go on and on with example after example, but it seems to me that all of these great endeavors and countless others have been achieved by men and women who had burning in their hearts, "desire".
Where does desire come from? By observing society it is apparent that one can have positive, righteous, desires, but on the other hand one's desires can also be negative, unrighteous, and downright evil. Why is there an Osama bin Laden whose "desire" is to destroy Western civilization as we know it through horrific terrorist tactics? Why was there, on the other hand, a Mother Teresa who desired to do everything in her power to save life and bless the suffering and poor of India?
I don't know that I have the complete answer to my question. I know that we come into this world "innocent" because of the atonement of Christ, and have within us the power to ultimately become very good or very evil or somewhere in between. Parents have a great responsibility, I believe, to attempt to cultivate within the hearts of their children, before they become very old, a "desire" for that which is hopefully "lovely, virtuous, and of good report".
At the end of the day all of us are known by our works and actions which are born of desire. In commissioning the three witnesses to the Book of Mormon to assist in selecting the original Quorum of the 12 Apostles in this dispensation the Lord told them: "And by their desires and their works you shall know them." [Doctrine & Covenants 18:38] The Lord further emphasized this eternal principle when he said: "For I, the Lord, will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts." [Doctrine & Covenants 137:9]
The Lord makes great promises to those who love him because their desires are righteous. "Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart." [Psalms 37:4] "... the desire of the righteous shall be granted." [Proverbs 10: 24]
Alma profoundly understood how potent a part our desires play in our eventual destiny when he recorded, "... for I know that he granteth unto men according to their desire, whether it be unto death or unto life; yea, I know that he allotteth unto men, yea, decreeth unto them decrees which are unalterable, according to their wills, whether they be unto salvation or unto destruction." [Alma 29:4]
Desire may be called by some, "motivation", but I believe that desire goes beyond motivation. Desire is at the core of our being and is the vital driving force in our lives. It is inextricably a part of all our actions. We may try to "instill" certain desires in the hearts of others, but true desire is born from within. Alma taught a profound truth regarding desire to the Zoramites when he told them, "... if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words." [Alma 32:24]
Much as he would have liked to, Alma couldn't inject a desire to believe and to have faith into the hearts of the Zoramites. They had to muster up the "desire to believe" and then let that desire work in them before they could begin to believe and have faith in the words of Alma. Based on my own experience I believe the desire to serve the Lord and to accomplish significant and positive things can be cultivated through intense prayer, fasting, Scripture searching, and service to others.
At one time in my life I felt I had lost everything and because of it I lost the desire to even live. The desire to live, to be productive, and to accomplish positive things, only came after the passage of time and much pondering and soul-searching, accompanied by prayer, fasting, and Scripture searching.
As important as "desire" is in achieving significant things like defeating the University of Utah in football, it can become the driving force that will ultimately result in our receiving from the Lord his greatest gift -- even the gift of eternal life.