I’m going to start by taking you back sixteen years ago to 2007. Veronica and I were both students at BYU. I was entering my senior year, and was preparing to apply for medical school. I was focused and dedicated to getting into medical school. To compete you have to have good grades, volunteer experience, a good personal statement, but most of all, you need a good score on the MCAT. The MCAT is a rigorous all-day examination that tests your abilities in a broad array of the basic sciences. I had to know physics, chemistry, biology, psychology, and physiology. I spent a year preparing for this test. I took board preparation courses, read through and marked up study manuals, and did hundreds and hundreds of practice questions. My test was scheduled for May 16, 2007. This was the latest test available for me to get the results in time to apply to medical school that year. I had an added pressure, because Veronica was expecting our first child who was due later in the month. I felt the gravity that my ability to provide for my family depended on my performance on this test. Despite the significant stress and pressure of this situation, because I had spent so much time and effort on preparation, I knew that I was prepared to do my best. I had everything planned out. I planned my bedtime, when I would wake up, what I would eat for breakfast, and what I would pack for lunch and snacks to help me finish the test. We went to bed early, around 10 PM. Veronica was uncharacteristically quiet, but I thought maybe she just wanted to make sure I got a good night’s rest.
As I started to wind down and doze off, she said “Hunny?...” I rolled over and said “Yes dear?”. She said “I think my water just broke…” I said “Say what?....” We both said “What are we supposed to do?!?!?”
It’s now around 11 PM, and we went to the hospital. They confirmed that her water broke and start to admit her to the labor and delivery unit. It was around 1-2 AM by the time we got situated. She wasn’t having contractions, and it didn’t look like she was going to have the baby any time soon. We both knew that if I didn’t take the test, I would have to wait another year before applying to medical school. I didn’t want to leave her alone and miss the birth of my first child, so we had to make a hard decision. Veronica told me to just go and do it. Her family was in town and would be able to be with her. The nurses showed pity on me and gave me an empty hospital bed to try to sleep. I only got an hour or two of fitful sleep. In the morning, Veronica again reassured me that I could leave and go take the test, that she would be ok.
Running on pure adrenaline, I went to the testing center with everything that I had prepared. Because I had spent so much time preparing, I found that I was able to face the challenges of the test with confidence. During lunch I called Veronica and she told me there was no baby yet and she was doing fine. One of the testing proctors chastised me for using the phone in the testing center, and said I didn’t have an exception to the rule even if my wife was at the hospital about to give birth. I powered through the second half of the test, then rushed back to the hospital to be with Veronica. Now that I was back, they tried to accelerate the labor. I finished my big test, and now it was Veronica’s turn for hers. From the time her water broke until Jocelyn was born, it was over 30 hours. We both were sleep deprived, physically and emotionally spent. Of course the birth of Jocelyn brought so much joy into our lives and we love her and all of our children so very much. Sixteen years later, I have so much fun with my oldest daughter. Last night I took her and Veronica to a concert where grown men dressed
up like dwarves out of a fantasy movie and sang heavy metal anthems about mining and going into battle. It was ridiculous and so much fun to have the support of the love of my life and eldest daughter.
Thinking of my experience with the MCAT and Jocelyn’s birth reminded me of the scripture in D&C 38:30 “If ye are prepared ye shall not fear.” I prepared diligently for the test. Veronica was prepared for the birth, she was healthy, had everything ready to receive a baby.
Jesus taught the parable of the fig tree: “When its branches are yet tender, and it begins to put forth leaves, you know that summer is nigh at hand”. Similarly, we know the signs for when a woman is going to have a baby soon, but we don’t know the exact day and time.
I was asked to talk about how I can personally be ready for the Savior’s second coming.
In the gospel topics resource on the church website it says “When the Savior comes again, He will come in power and glory to claim the earth as His kingdom. His Second Coming will mark the beginning of the Millennium.
The Second Coming will be a fearful, mournful time for the wicked, but it will be a day of peace for the righteous.”
Elder Dallin H. Oaks said in a 2004 general conference talk “What if the day of His coming were tomorrow? If we knew that we would meet the Lord tomorrow—through our premature death or through His unexpected
coming—what would we do today? What confessions would we make? What practices would we discontinue? What accounts would we settle? What forgivenesses would we extend? What testimonies would we bear?”
“If we would do those things then, why not now? Why not seek peace while peace can be obtained? If our lamps of preparation are drawn down, let us start immediately to replenish them.”
If I’m being honest, I’ve often struggled with understanding the Second Coming of Christ and applying this principle in my life. It seems so theoretical and far away. Obviously it is important, but it can be hard to think about something like this when we are focused on the here and now.
An author named Patrick Rothfuss I am really in to right now has said “everyone tells a story about themselves inside their own head. Always. All the time. That story makes you what you are. We build ourselves out of that story.”
I got thinking that the Second Coming of Christ is like the final climax and ending of a great story. I love stories, especially fantasy novels, science fiction and superhero movies. I always tell my kids that I don’t want to hear any spoilers about how a story ends! I love the surprise and excitement that comes with not knowing how things will be end. The scriptures have are full of spoilers! We already know how it’s all going to end. In Matthew 24 we read that “the sun [shall] be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in
heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” When I read this, it sounds just like an epic climax from a blockbuster movie or novel.
So sorry if you haven’t heard this spoiler, but Jesus Christ will be victorious over evil. The ending of the story has already been written. Why is it important that we know the ending? How does knowing the ending affect your life and your preparation for the ending?
Through my professional and personal life, I’ve had to learn principles of personal leadership. Stephen Covey, author of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, teaches the core principle of beginning with the end in mind.
He says “To begin with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination. It means to know where you’re going so that you better understand where you are now and so that the steps you take are always in the right direction.
It’s incredibly easy to get caught up in an activity trap, in the busyness of life, to work harder and harder at climbing the ladder of success only to discover it’s leaning against the wrong wall. It is possible to be busy--very busy--without being very effective.”
In my professional life I had very clear objectives to become a doctor. Go to a good college, get a good score on the MCAT, get into medical school, get into Residency, get into Fellowship. Graduating and starting my own academic practice was a difficult transition. My story was no longer as clear and straightforward. I see patients with 50% of my time, but the other 50% is reserved for research and administration. My days could easily get filled with busywork. No one tells me what to study, what to focus on. I have had to develop my own vision and make sure my daily work is moving me in the right direction. I can no longer depend on others to create a framework of success for me to follow. I have to forge my own path based on what I think is most important to improve the lives of people with cancer.
My personal, family, and spiritual life is the same. Growing up I had milestones set by the church organization: get Aaronic priesthood, learn duties of a deacon, teacher, priest, Elder, go on a mission, get married. The farther you get in this progression, the more you realize how important it is to have a clear vision. I’m so busy all the time, but I have to constantly course correct and make sure what I’m spending my time on is in line with my values and what is most important.
Stephen Covey said “How different our lives are when we really know what is deeply important to us, and, keeping that picture in mind, we manage ourselves each day to be and to do what really matters most. If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster. We may be very busy, we may be very efficient, but we will also be truly effective only when we begin with the end in mind.”
Now to come back to our life story. We know the ending. We know the Savior will be victorious. If we know and truly believe that this is the end of the story, are we spending enough time preparing ourselves? In the Book of Mormon Alma 34:32 Amulek teaches “For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors.”
When I was preparing for the MCAT I was focused, I worked tirelessly for a year to be ready for that test, and I was successful despite the challenges that arose. If we have that same focus on preparing for the Savior’s second coming, how would that change how we spend our time? If you knew that you had a year to prepare to meet Christ, what would you do differently? Our lives might be filled with so many “good” things, but are we spending time on the “better” and “best” things as Elder Oaks has taught us?
Come, Ye Children of the Lord
Oh, how joyful it will be
When our Savior we shall see!
When in splendor he’ll descend,
Then all wickedness will end.
Oh, what songs we then will sing
To our Savior, Lord, and King!
Oh, what love will then bear sway
When our fears shall flee away!
Studying this topic has helped me to consider my goals and vision for my life. I hope to always keep the Savior in focus and spend my efforts preparing to meet Him.