Talk given by Bishop James Patterson

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Alpine North Stake Conference


            I am honored and humbled to speak to you in Stake Conference today. This is a 1st for me. I know few ever receive the opportunity to speak in a meeting such as this and realizing I will probably not have this chance again, I pray to say something that will bless and better your lives. I pray the Holy Ghost to be with us. 

The Stake Presidency has asked me to give a bishop’s perspective on raising righteous families –and to feel free to talk about marriage relationships. What I will say here today could be applied to every relationship we have in life: from work and business, to schooling and friends, and most certainly to family and marriage. I’ve shared this with my ward before, yet, I believe it is worthy of being said again and again.

I’ve now been a bishop for nearly five years and the more I see family relation problems between husbands and wives or between parents and children the more I have come to realize a common element.  Each has allowed something to come into their relationship that should never have been allowed.  In fact, I am convinced this thing is one of Satan’s most powerful tools and that in time it will destroy every kind of relationship if it is allowed to exist.  What is this thing?  It’s called enmity.

We read of it all the time in the scriptures.  We hear it every time we go to the temple – and most of us see it every day of our lives.  It was God, speaking to Satan who said, “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, between thy seed and her seed” (Moses 4:21). Satan knows the great and damaging effect of enmity.  It’s so powerful and so destructive that in the temples we learn that Satan takes this enmity and buys up armies and navies and even priests – who hold the priesthood – and then he reigns with blood and horror on the earth.  In our families it’s blood called tears.  And so it is, Satan subtly and carefully puts enmity between a husband and wife or between a parent and a child to destroy our marriage and our family and even our relationship with God. 

            What is enmity?  Webster defines it as; “a mean deep-seated dislike.  A positive hatred – showing itself in attacks or aggression.  A repugnance, suggesting a clash of temperaments.  An intense ill will and vindictiveness that threatens to kindle hostility.  It is especially applied to bitter brooding over a wrong.”

            This is enmity.

            I’ve thought much of this and I’ve pondered – what wrong could cause enmity so great that it attacks and destroys family relations?  What wrong causes so much bitter brooding that a husband is willing to leave his wife and children and sometimes even the church?  What wrong kindles hostility so great that a parent is willing to kick a child out of their house?  Or what wrong would cause “a clash of temperaments” so great that a child is willing to leave family and home and live out on the street?  Paul warned us of such saying “the carnal mind is enmity … for it is not subject to the law of God” (Rom. 8:7).

            As a bishop I’ve seen the destruction first hand.  And as I’ve watched I’ve felt much like a young boy who once said, “my mind was called up to serious reflection and great uneasiness … [and] I often said to myself: What is to be done … and how shall I know?” (Hist. of JS 1:8, 10). 

            Brothers and sisters, after serous reflection, I have come to know what causes enmity.  It’s caused by something so little, so simple – but if left unchecked it creates and then feeds what the scriptures describe as “a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and …which was ready … to devour …as soon as it was born” (Rev. 12:3-4).  And yet it’s born of something quite simple. Enmity is caused by – unmet expectations.  

            We all have expectations in life … of work and business, of schooling and friends, of marriage and families.  We have expectations of spousal relationships, of intimacy and sexuality.  We have expectations of how our children should behave; grades they should receive, and respect they should show.  As children we have expectations of our parents. We have expectations of certain lifestyles – of the homes we live in and of the cars we drive.  We have expectations of spiritual things – of family prayer, family home evening, scripture study, missions and even temple service.  We even enter into and have “expectations” of God and of His relationship with us (D&C 132:7).  The Psalmist said it best, “My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him” (Ps. 62:5).

            Our expectations are us – our hopes, our desires, our wants and our needs.  They make us what we are and even motivate us in life.  Some expectations are so basic to our makeup that the scriptures explain how these “expectations … shall not perish forever” (Ps. 9:18).  As well, our expectations are created from life’s experiences – our upbringings, our parent’s teachings and even gospel teachings.  There is nothing wrong with expectations.  Most of us have good expectations.  We’re taught to do so and to set high and lofty goals.

            But Satan knows about enmity – and he knows about our expectations.  And he knows he can create enmity when life or others do not meet our expectations.  The saying of old comes to mind, “if you have expectations of others, you had better warn your victim!”  For, if you are not so careful, in time all will be your victims – even God.  Lest we (as the Apostle James said) have “enmity with God … [and become] the enemy of God” and others (James 4:4), we must keep our expectations in check.

            You see, Satan knows that if our expectations are unmet long enough – especially so important to us, and ones that are so ingrained in us that they “shall not perish” (Ps. 9:18) – then our relationships will be strained.  It’s then we become discontent, dissatisfied, and unhappy.  “Hearts [will be] hardened” (Morm. 4:11), contention soon arises, blame is placed and soon communication ways and so does love – and then the dragon called enmity is born in our lives.  And once this dragon is alive and growing, and it becomes so difficult to slay.  And surely every time the dragon breaths there will be an explosion of fire in our home whenever there’s just the smallest strain on those relationships.

            Couples and families must realize the great danger they are in when they allow Satan to use this subtle but powerful tool.  We need to look no further than with Lehi’s family of Laman and Lemuel.  Soon life was not at they had expected.  They left all that they had, their home became a tent, and their younger brother became their ruler.  They had unmet expectations, that was sure, and from that moment enmity was born in their lives and it grew until there was nothing but blood and horror for generations to come.  Mormon later wrote, “it is impossible for the tongue to describe, or for man to write … of the horrible scene of the blood and carnage which was among the people, both of the Nephites and of the Lamanites; and every heart was hardened” (Morm.4:11).

            In time, it will be no less for us if this dragon is allowed to exist in our relationships for it “will put enmity between thee and [your spouse and], between thy seed” and in time it will not only “bruise thy head” but it will crush your family (Moses 4:21).  Surely then we will come to learn that enmity is, as the prophet Ezekial said, “the great dragon that lieth in the midst of his rivers, which hath said, My river is mine own, and I have made it for myself” (Ezek 29:3).  Be assured if we have enmity in our lives, it is of Satan and of our own doing – because we have not dealt with these unmet expectations in our own lives.  It’s when we meet a person with a lot of enmity,  we have met a person with a lot of unresolved expectations.

            Brothers and sisters, what is to be done so as to keep this terrible dragon from entering our homes and our marriage and family relations?  What do we do when we have unmet expectations?  For therein lies the danger!  I believe 3 things must be done to “fight against the dragon” (Rev.12:7) called enmity.

            # 1: We must rid ourselves of unrealistic expectations:  The scriptures explain how, when Christ’s disciples of old had an unmet expectation, they “began every one of them to say unto him, Lord, is it I?” (Matt 26:22).  We too, every time we have an unmet expectation (which we all have) must first humble ourselves and ask “is it I?” Is my expectation realistic?  And then – is it worth the enmity?

            For example: If I have the expectation that my home should always be clean with 8 children it would be an unrealistic expectation.   Also, it would be unrealistic to expect my children ranging from 21 to 3 to be at every family prayer or at every family home evening.  As well, with some of my children it would be an unrealistic expectation that they would get straight A’s.  With at least one of my teenager it would be unrealistic – at least at this time of their life – to keep their room clean. To expect these things would only create enmity between me and them.  It’s not worth the battle – nor the enmity.

            Perhaps we have unrealistic expectations in lifestyles, from the car we expect to drive or the home we expect to live in. We must be careful, for unrealistic expectations can create a lot of heartache called debt.

            We have expectations about intimacy – of how it should be, or of how often.  Are they realistic? Therein lays the danger of pornography.  It ruins a sacred and special relationship causing unrealistic expectations that could never be met – nor ever should be met. 

            As well, our children too must ask if their expectations of parents and life are realistic. We must help them have such.  Most of us must caution our children that if they ever expect to live in a home like the homes they’ve grow up in, it would be an unrealistic expectation.  It is nothing to ever be expected in this life.  As well, if a teenager expects to have his own car or a cell phone or of being able to go out late every night, they too have unrealistic expectations. 

            Sometimes even good expectations are unrealistic.  For example if a young man wants to go on a mission, but expects to be an Assistant and baptize thousands, it might be unrealistic. Or if he wants to play football, but expects to play in every down and score in every game - he surely has unrealistic expectations. 

            Its one thing to have a goal or desire – and quite another to expect it.  It’s then we have only set our-selves up for enmity in our lives, and with those we associate, and perhaps even “enmity with God” (Js 4:4).

            Brothers and sisters, we must examine our unmet expectations.  If they are unrealistic, then we need to change them and get real.  And what is the test by which we may know if they are realistic?   We have the scriptures and the prophets who speak to us of such things.  We have the light of Christ and the Holy Ghost in our lives.  We may seek Parents, Grandparents, men of God or even professional counselors, all of whom can give us a reality check.   It’s then, some need serous repentance and while others need serious counseling – others - just simply need this reality check.

            But, when it’s all said and done, the trouble is most of us believe that our expectations are realistic. You see, my expectations are realistic. “Lord, it’s not I.  It’s Judas”… or so we tell ourselves and others – it’s my wife, my husband, my children or my parents that have unrealistic expectations.   And so if we believe our expectations are real and yet unmet, “what [then] is to be done?” (JS 1:10) to keep enmity from our lives.  

            # 2: We must communicate our expectations and problem-solve them when there is love and before enmity is born our relationships.  Communicating and acting (in love) will generally stop and resolve enmity from entering our family relations.   Couples must remember this.

            Think about it.  For our spouse or children or parent there should be nothing we wouldn’t do to see to their needs and realistic expectations.  That’s the job and goal of every spouse, every parent and every child.  And it’s when there is love it’s not a job, it’s a joy.  It’s then when a spouse comes and communicates a certain need or expectation one does all they can to see to their happiness. Why?  Because there is love.  Wise is the spouse and happy is the marriage when both constantly seek out these unmet expectations – especially when they have been communicated it in sincerity and in love.

President Hinckley re-emphasized this saying, “If every husband and every wife would constantly do whatever might be possible to ensure the comfort and happiness of his or her companion, there would be very little, if any, divorce. Argument would never be heard.  Accusations would never be leveled. Angry explosions would not occur. Rather, love and concern would replace abuse and meanness” (Oct. CR 2004) and certainly enmity would cease. 

God has promised that He will honor  “all … [righteous] expectations … entered into … [with] him … both as well for time and for all eternity” (D&C 132:7).   Should it be any less for us in honoring reasonable and basic expectations of our spouse whom we are to love “with all thy heart, and .. cleave unto … none else” (D&C 42:22).  The First Presidency cautions us, “The phrase ‘none else’ teaches that no person, activity, or possession should ever take precedence over your relationship with your spouse” nor their expectations (True to the Faith 2004 pg. 100).  Yet, too often “all else” gets one’s attention, focus, and expectations. Such “are the pitfalls that destroy marriages” (SWK).

            Married couples must remember this and be so careful and should “constantly where ever possible ensure the comfort and happiness of his or her companion” because there is none more important than our mate.  President Hinckley further cautioned, “remember that the friendship and love between you and your spouse should be your most cherished earthly relationship. Your spouse is the only person other than the Lord who you have been commanded to love with all your heart (D&C 42:22).  Because marriage is such an important relationship in life, it needs and deserves time.  Do not give higher priority to less-important commitments.  Take time to talk together and to listen to one another.  Be thoughtful and respectful.  Express tender feelings and affections often” (True to the Faith 2004 pg. 100, italics added) for these things will stop enmity and bring unimaginable love.

            Again, the examples are many: If I have the expectation that my home should be clean, then I should discuss this with my wife and my children what I can do to help it be so. I should expect no less of myself than in helping in the cleaning.  I too can mop floors, do laundry and change diapers.  If we are in a financial position to do so then I should perhaps hire someone to help in the deep cleaning of the home.

If there is an unmet expectation in intimacy, then I need to communicate with my wife in what I can do to relieve her stress, getting her more rest, planning time alone or a getaway now and then.  And if this is done when there is love – and before enmity is born – then a wife or a husband would do all they could to see to the happiness of their spouse with their expectation of intimacy – or of anything else. 

            As well, if there are unmet expectations between children and parents then we must communicate and facilitate a realistic solution to a realistic expectation.  There will be “gives and takes” but resolutions will be made if it is done when there is love in the home and before enmity has been allowed to exist.

            But what if we have communicated in love our realistic expectations and they are still unmet?  Until now I have only mentioned trivial examples of unmet expectations which in time can be the most dangerous of all – for they create the seeds of enmity.  Sadly I will never understand why, when a husband or a wife have the capacity and the opportunity to have the joy of meeting or exceeding their spouse’s need or expectation – but will not.  What do we do then? Or worse what do we do when our spouse chooses a different path than righteousness?  Or what do we do when our daughter or son chooses to not keep the commandments and now will not marry in the temple or ever serve a mission?  Or what do we do when the illness will now be debilitating for life or there is death of a child.  Who would have ever expected this even from God?  What then of these unmet expectations– especially after a life of hope and righteous expectations?  Are we then justified to rant and rave and scorn those we love and even God.  Can we now divorce our spouse or put the child out?  Do we now stop praying and thanking God?  “What [then] is to be done” (JS 1:10) to keep enmity from destroying our family, our marriage and even our relationship with God?  

            # 3 Each of us must realize that none of us get all of our expectations in this life – and that’s ok – because God has provided a way that will never fail.  And because of this way we must be thankful, have trust and patience in God and those we love.  And what is the way?  We must have just the opposite of enmity.  It’s called charity. 

            And what is charity?  Moroni defines it saying, “charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity, … beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, [and] endureth all things [even unmet expectations]” (Moroni 7:45).    This is charity.

            Here is a truism.  Without unmet expectations, we could never have charity in our lives.  We would never even know the meaning of the word.  But because each of us have experienced unmet expectations, we are given the opportunity to demonstrate charity, the true love of Christ, in our lives. Brothers and sisters, charity is the only way to truly overcome unmet expectations and to keep enmity from destroying our relationships. 

            As well, it’s then an amazing thing happens.  It’s then we come to understand the great charity Christ has for us.  Brothers and sisters, Jesus Christ has such love and such great expectations for us – so much so that He was willing to suffer His life for such.  And what are His expectations?  That we will “love [God] and keep [His] commandments” (John 14:15).   And thank God, when we fail His expectations that He does not cast us out. Rather it’s then we see the true love of God, in so much that He “suffereth long” in the Garden of Gethsemane and He “endureth” our unrighteousness and He “bearing all things”— even all our sins that we might have “immortality and eternal life” (Moses 1:39).  Be assured that the love of Christ, even charity, will never fail us.  It will not.  We have God’s word on it and thus we can have faith that “with God all things are possible” (Mark 10:27).  Let us likewise demonstrate this charity for our families.  

            Brothers and sisters, we all have difficulties and unmet expectations in our lives.  It’s to be expected.  That is the one expectation most people miss!  But life is not over, nor is eternity. We’ve only just begun. And so today I would say as Moroni said, “Wherefore my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love… that we may have this hope” (Moroni 7:48) – even the hope of our righteous expectations.

            We cannot change others, but we can change our hearts from enmity to charity. Prayer is key to being “filled with this love.”  And so when we feel enmity we must “pray with all the energy of our heart.” 

            I bear testimony that when we have charity it will be as the scriptures say, “thou brakest the heads of the dragons” (Ps. 74:13) “and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet” (Ps.91:13). 

            I testify if we have charity – having hope and faith in God and those we love, we will receive far more than we ever expected – even in this life and surely in the life to come. (see Proverbs 24:14).  The Book of Mormon promises us so, saying “charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail— But charity … and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him” (Moroni 7:46-47).

            Brothers and sisters, three years ago I had great expectations that my youngest daughter Aspen would be healed from leukemia and grow up in our home.  But today we visit a grave and realize it will never be.  I will never understand it and I have conceded that that’s ok.   Because we’ve had charity for her and in our home and who would have dreamed that we’d have another son to bring us joy and hope.  And who would have ever expected that we’d have the miracle of a year ago when his lifeless body was pulled from our pool and when “this my son was dead, and is alive again” (Luke 15:22-24) and today walks the halls of our home and the halls of this very church. 

            And so it is for all of us here today. Who would have dreamed (or ever expected) that you and I would have the unimaginable blessings we enjoy today.  We have the gospel of Jesus Christ in our lives and the gift of the Holy Ghost.  We have the prophets in our midst and the priesthood in our homes. We have the scriptures and even the Book of Mormon.  We have food on our tables and things most of the world can’t even dream of.  Be assured that a loving Heavenly Father wants each of us to “have joy” (2 N 2:25) and our righteous expectations and that He will bless us far beyond these if we will but have charity (see Proverbs 23:18).

            The Lord Himself has promised that someday enmity will end.  He has said when He comes “in that day the enmity of  … all flesh, shall cease from before my face” (D&C 101:26).  And so that we may be with Him when He comes, and so that we may be with and enjoy the presence of our families in this life and in the life to come, we must (as the Apostle Paul explained), “abolish … enmity … to make [ourselves] … a new man, so making peace ….that [we] might [be] reconcile … unto God …having slain the enmity thereby” (Eph.2:15-16 italics added).   Brothers and sisters we must slay the dragon – and now you have three weapons that will never fail you as you go into battle against one of Satan’s most powerful evils. Use them well, my brothers and sisters, in your personal battles against this great dragon called enmity. 

            That enmity will cease in our lives – and that charity, the true love of Christ, will abound in our lives and in our homes – is one bishop’s prayer and testimony, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.