Raising Expectations

Elder Henry B. Eyring
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

We share a consuming concern. Night and day we ask ourselves: What can I do better to strengthen the faith of young people? Some of us are teachers. Most of us are parents or hope to be soon. Some of us are grandparents or want to be someday. And all of us are concerned by the signs of the rapidly increasing and spreading wickedness in the world surrounding those young people we love and will love. Terrible evil we hardly knew existed when we were young is being presented every day on screens in almost every home, in what we used to think of as the safe “family hours” when little children could watch in safety. And because of the marvelous spread of technology, even those of us who live in places once largely shielded from the messages and images of evil now face what parents fought against in Sodom and Gomorrah. Now there seems to be no safe place and no safe time. And the tide of evil never seems to ebb, only to rise, and to rise rapidly. Now, we are not surprised by all this, since God for thousands of years has shown prophets the things that we now see.

Our concern is deepened by what we know it will take to be a missionary and a parent in the days ahead. It will take deep conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ. It will take the companionship of the Holy Ghost. And wickedness is the tool of the enemy against that conversion and that companionship. True conversion, where the gospel of Jesus Christ goes deep into the heart and changes it, brings the companionship of the Holy Ghost. One of the dangers of the times we are passing into is that we might be tempted to lower our expectations for ourselves and for those young people we serve. As the world darkens, even a partial conversion and a few spiritual experiences may seem more and more remarkable, compared to the world. We might be tempted to expect less.

The Lord has given another signal, clear and powerful. It is that we can expect more, not less, of youth. One example is the raising of the bar for the qualification to serve in the mission field. And another is the change in what is expected of the missionaries in teaching. No longer will they depend on memorizing words of a discussion. They will write their own lessons, and even those they will adapt to the needs of each person they teach. And that is only an example and just a beginning of the Lord’s rising expectations for spiritual power.

The prophets saw this part of our day, too. That gives us hope and direction. One scripture best captures for me a wonderful outcome which is sure. And from that prophecy we can see what to do. You have read it and heard it many times. But you may not have recognized that it is for us and in these times and that it is a call to courage. As you hear the words again, think of someone you love, someone you worry may not be able to weather the trials ahead, let alone rise to higher expectations. Think of them as you hear the description of the times we are in and those just ahead of us. These are words from Joel. It is a promise of an outpouring of the Spirit. It was quoted by Peter and by Moroni. And these words and this prophecy are for every young person you love. And they are for you and for me.

“And ye shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the Lord your God, and none else: and my people shall never be ashamed.

“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, [and] your old men shall dream dreams, [and] your young men shall see visions:

“And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.
“And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke.
“The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come.
“And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call” (Joel 2:27–32).

This is not poetry, nor is it allegory; it is description of reality as it will be. Some of it will happen so gradually that you may not notice it. Some has already begun across the Church and we may not have seen the blessing developing, or at least we may not have done what we must to help the Lord with these miracles.

That scripture does not say that your sons and your daughters may claim the gift of prophecy by the Spirit. It says that they will. It doesn’t say that your young men may see visions. It says that they will. And it will come because the Lord will pour out His Spirit upon all flesh. Not only will the youth you love and serve have the Spirit poured out on them, but so will the people around them and those who lead them.

The Spirit will be poured out, but it will wash over some and fall to the ground and fail to make a difference. The Spirit will be poured out, but choices must be made in faith to receive spiritual power. That is how we can and must make a difference. Whether or not that outpouring of the Spirit on all flesh brings prophecies and visions and safety to the young people we love will depend upon their choices. And you know the choices they must make that matter most. So you can make it far more likely that they will choose what will let them claim a constant companionship of the Spirit. That is what they can have. That is what they must have.

It begins with expectations, yours and theirs. If you expect little, they will feel your lack of faith in them and in the Lord’s promised outpouring of the Spirit. If you communicate, by word or action or even by your tone of voice, that you doubt their spiritual capacity, they will doubt it. If you see in them the potential Joel describes, they will at least have the chance to see it in themselves. Your choices of what you expect will have powerful effect on their choices of what to expect of themselves. Here are four choices they will make where you can make a difference by the expectations you raise in them.

The first choice they must make is to pray with faith that the gift of the Spirit will come beyond their human capacities. You will have opportunities, many opportunities, to show them you have not just the hope but the expectation that they can and will pray with that faith and that revelation will come. You will give a child or a student the chance to choose to pray in faith for that inspiration. You will find many opportunities to do that if you try and if you really believe they can do it.

I appreciate now how people did that for me long ago. I had a father who more than once treated me as if the words in the book of Joel were a reality which had already arrived.

I was not even 20, a college student. He was a mature and gifted scientist. As a lay member of the Church, he had been asked by a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to give him a brief summary of the scientific evidence about the age of the earth. Dad did not know the purpose of the request. But he did know that there were strong and sometimes differing opinions about how old the earth is. He did what he was asked to do. He always did what his leaders in the Church asked of him. He wrote the paper and had it typed.

I can still remember the afternoon when he came to me in our kitchen at home, this great scientist and high priest, who seemed to me so much wiser than I was. I do not remember his exact words, but he told me about the request and what the paper was he was handing me. When I had it in my hands, he said, “Hal, you will know better than I will whether this is what the Lord wants. You read it, and you will know what changes to make to get it right. I trust you will get an answer.”

He was treating me then, as he did other times, the way Jared treated his brother. You remember the words Jared said to his brother: “Go and inquire of the Lord whether he will drive us out of the land” (Ether 1:38). He expected with perfect confidence that his brother would do it and that God would answer.

A father was kind and wise enough to have that expectation for his immature son. He made me feel that he knew I would get the revelation that he needed about something that really mattered and was beyond human power. I don’t remember whether I made many suggestions, or if I made any. But I prayed in faith because I was treated as if that faith would surely be honored by God. I also don’t know much about the outcome either, except that a few weeks later I answered the phone at home and heard a voice, a soft voice, say: “This is David McKay. Is your father home? May I speak to him?” I learned later that President McKay had asked Dad to represent the Church at a conference held at a major university in the southern part of the United States on science and religion. I remember the sweetness of the prophet’s voice. And I can still feel what it meant to be trusted to be able to hear the voice of the Spirit.

I can’t imagine all the ways you will have the opportunity to treat a young person as if you were sure they had a right to the gift of prophecy. Those choices to trust will appear most often in your family setting. They may also come when you work with students. The Lord is doing it now in the mission field. He trusts 19-year-olds to teach by the Spirit. He expects it of them. And so they do it, and they will do it. Some, the lucky and the blessed ones, have felt that sweet expectation long before the mission field. More must. And more will. We will choose to show our confidence that they will choose to pray for revelation and that the revelation will come.

There is a second choice we can help them make which will move them along the path to the companionship of the Spirit. It is to choose to trust the scriptures which speak of spiritual gifts with the simple faith of a child. When we do it, it will set an unspoken expectation that they will read scripture that way, too. If we, on the other hand, qualify and shade the meaning of the words, we will miss the chance to help them.

The scripture from Joel we’ve shared today is an example. Such a sweeping promise needs to be left as it stands, not hedged. The scriptural stories of the prayers and personal experiences of the brother of Jared with the Lord is another. Yet another is the almost casual comment in Mormon about the three Nephites:

“And whether they be upon the face of the land no man knoweth.
“But behold, my father and I have seen them, and they have ministered unto us.
“And whoso receiveth this record, and shall not condemn it because of the imperfections which are in it, the same shall know of greater things than these” (Mormon 8:10–12).

The accounts of remarkable spiritual gifts in the scriptures are almost endless. We can choose to speak of them and teach about them as simple facts, always expressing gratitude, never surprise, and never the need to qualify them. That will communicate to them your expectation that such spiritual experiences are expected when we qualify for them. And that will lift their expectations for themselves.

The third choice we can help them make is to be obedient to the impressions of the Spirit when they come. When the Spirit confirms eternal truth, there is always something to be done about it. We can show that we always act upon revelation. And they will see that when we go and do, the revelation comes more often and more clearly. And when they see that in us, they will be more likely to be obedient to the inspiration when it comes to them.

Many of us have been blessed by such examples. Most of us have been shaped, perhaps more than we know, by obedient parents, spouses, bishops, mission presidents, and even missionary companions. I heard a story from young men returned from their missions to England long ago. The example of their mission president, conveyed to me in my youth, lifted my own determination and confidence to follow the inspiration of the Spirit whenever it came.

The incident they recounted was a simple one. A new mission president they did not know arrived in London. Without speaking with anyone who knew about the missionaries, he looked at the mission pictures on the wall. Then he got on a train on his first day in the mission, rode north to a city, went to the flat of two missionaries, found them still in bed in the middle of the day, and called them to repentance, and went back to London. The word spread across the mission. “Be careful. You can’t fool this man. He gets revelation from God and he acts.”

At least according to the elders who told the story to me, it did wonders for obedience in the mission. But the missionaries I met still chose to be obedient to the Spirit because they had seen from their president’s example that obedience invites the Spirit back again. What that mission president did set an expectation for me as well. To this day I try to rise to the expectation he set just by his example. You can set that example, too. And you must.

The fourth and perhaps most important choice anyone can make to invite the Spirit is to testify of the Savior and His Restoration of His true Church through His prophet Joseph Smith. When we set that example we set an expectation that others will be blessed by.

This is how it works. One of the offices of the Holy Ghost is to testify of the Savior and His work. There are many true things you can choose to say to your child or to your student. The Spirit testifies of all truth. And yet the surest way I know to have the Spirit come to verify what you say is to testify of the Savior. So, when the person you love and serve feels the Spirit as you testify of the Savior, it strengthens their faith. They then are more likely to choose to testify of their growing faith in Him and His works. And when they do, the Spirit will confirm what they say to those who hear them. And it will reinforce their own faith.

When you testify of the Savior you will often find yourself led to testify at the same time of the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the priesthood through the Prophet Joseph Smith. I will tell you why that is so for me. I have read many accounts and descriptions of the Savior in scripture. Yet for me, there is nothing which so warms my heart as to know that the Creator, the resurrected Savior of the world, our Redeemer, was introduced to a young boy by our loving Heavenly Father. The Lord taught the boy. The boy was trusted with spiritual duties beyond anything asked of any prophet before him. He was to be the human instrument, this young boy, through whom there would be a restoration of all things from all previous dispensations.

There is something else in the way the Savior trusted and treated Joseph that sets an expectation for young people. It is to realize that revelation comes at a price, a high price. It takes faith to go through tribulation and make sacrifices of all things. And disobedience to revelation from the Lord causes it to be withdrawn. Joseph learned that by hard experience. When we testify of Joseph’s mission and of what we owe him, we at the same time set a high expectation that paying the price for the revelation we need is always worth it.

Many of our youth are already familiar with that price. There are tens of thousands who have followed examples of young disciples of Christ centuries before them: They have read scriptures in the Book of Mormon which you have read. And they have believed like children in the price which must be paid for the gifts of prophecy and revelation.

“Now these sons of Mosiah were with Alma at the time the angel first appeared unto him; . . . for they were men of a sound understanding and they had searched the scriptures diligently, that they might know the word of God.

“But this is not all; they had given themselves to much prayer, and fasting; therefore they had the spirit of prophecy, and the spirit of revelation, and when they taught, they taught with power and authority [from] God” (Alma 17:2–3).

I am confident that the words from Joel are true. In the days ahead, the Lord will raise the spiritual bar again and again. And our youth will rise higher and higher to more than clear that rising expectation. They will make the choices to receive the promised spiritual outpouring deep in their hearts. Our sons and daughters will prophesy, and our young men shall see visions. The questions for us are these: Will those young people feel by what we have said and done that we expected it? And will the Lord say that we rose to the best we could be and that He expected of us to show them how? I have an assurance that we will rise to that expectation.

I leave you my love, to you and your families. I have felt the Lord’s love for you and for them. I know that God the Father hears our prayers, every one. I know that because of our faith in His Beloved Son, the Father can and will grant to us every righteous desire of our hearts. I testify that Joseph had his humble prayer to find the true Church of Jesus Christ answered. The Father and the Son appeared to him. And I know that he rose to their high expectations. And because of that, we and all the children of our Heavenly Father can have the full fruit of the gospel of Jesus Christ, to live in eternal life in families forever. I so testify, in gratitude, and in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.