Tuesday, September 11, 2018

President Dallin H. Oaks on having a proper perspective on adversities

President Dallin H. Oaks (born August 12, 1932) served as president of BYU from 1971-1980.  He was then appointed as a justice of the Utah Supreme Court, and resigned when he was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 1984. He became President of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles and also 1st Counselor in the First Presidency in January 2018.
"I recall a memorable lesson I learned from Chicago Daily News columnist Sydney J. Harris. He wrote:
"I walked with my friend, a Quaker, to the newsstand the other night, and he bought a paper, thanking the newsie politely. The newsie didn’t even acknowledge it.
"'A sullen fellow, isn’t he?' I commented.
"'Oh, he’s that way every night,' shrugged my friend.
"'Then why do you continue to be so polite to him?' I asked.
"'Why not?' inquired my friend. 'Why should I let him decide how I’m going to act?'
"As I thought about this incident later, it occurred to me that the important word was act. My friend acts toward people; most of us react toward them. He has a sense of inner balance that is lacking in most of us; he knows who he is, what he stands for, how he should behave. He refuses to return incivility for incivility, because then he would no longer be in command of his conduct. ['Do You Act—Or React?' condensed from the Chicago Daily News]
"I like that example because it challenges each of us to focus our attention on the individual responses each of us must make to the individual personal adversities that are sure to hound us throughout our lives. Our responses will inevitably shape our souls and ultimately determine our status in eternity.
"We can take comfort in the fact that because opposition is divinely decreed for the purpose of helping man to grow, we have the assurance of God that in the long view of eternity, opposition will not be allowed to overcome us. We will prevail. Like the mortal life of which they are a part, adversities are temporary. What is permanent is what we become by the way we react to them."
- Dallin H. Oaks, "Adversity," BYU Devotional January 17, 1995
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

The story President Oaks quotes from Sydney Harris is one that has been quoted a number of times by speakers in our various meetings. It presents a great message, summarized in the title of the article from which it was taken: do we act, or react? Do we use our agency to pursue the course we think is right, including how we behave, how we treat others, how our moods and attitudes are determined? Or do we allow outside influences to unduly modify or manipulate our responses and choices? It's a great message to ponder.

And more specifically, President Oaks applies that concept to the adversities that will come to us in life. We can allow them to manipulate and demoralize us, or we can keep them in perspective and rise above them:

What a great and important thought: adversities are temporary, but what we become through how we respond to them is permanent.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2018)

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