The Sunny Side of the Street

Elder Quentin L. Cook

 Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
26 Jan 2021 - Devotionals

 

My Dear Young Friends,

Mary and I are grateful to be with you virtually. We have treasured the times we have spoken to BYU-Idaho students in the past. In our mind’s eye we can imagine you in that magnificent conference center. We are confident you will be able to assemble physically in the not-too-distant future. We are grateful for our association with President Henry J. and Sister Kelly Ann Eyring; they are dear friends and have our love and admiration.

Mary and I both turned 80 last year and on November 30 we celebrated our 58th wedding anniversary. It seems like yesterday when we were your age. One of the surprises in life as we age is that most of the time, we do not feel any different than we did in the past. My mind tells me that I can still throw perfect passes in football and accomplish all the physical feats of youth. That, of course, is not true, and I have realized it. Throwing a first pitch at a Los Angeles Dodgers baseball game a few years ago, I learned that if I did not want to throw the ball into the ground, I had to aim above the catcher’s head, not his mitt. I no longer had the arm power to throw the ball in a straight line. But to be honest, I do not feel any different in terms of basic things that matter most at age 80 than I did when I was your age.

Perhaps one of the reasons I feel this way is that my beautiful wife, Mary, is as wonderful and righteous as ever. Let me reminisce a little about her; it will lead into the message I want to leave with you.

I first saw Mary when we were in 7th grade at Logan Junior High School. She sang on a talent assembly. When she walked on the stage, she had a big smile, blonde, almost white hair, and bright blue eyes. She looked like she would have a soprano voice. Our entire class was surprised by her rich, mature, alto voice, and her incredible rendition of a favorite popular song. The title was On the Sunny Side of the Street. That is the title of my message today.

The principal words of the song were:

Grab your coat, and grab your hat.

Leave your worry on the doorstep,

Just direct your feet

To the sunny side of the street.

Can’t you hear that pitter pat?

And that happy tune is your step,

Life can be so sweet

On the sunny side of the street.

I used to walk in the shade—

With the blues on parade—

But I’m not afraid

This rover crossed over.

If I never have a cent

I’ll be rich as Rockefeller,

Gold dust at my feet

On the sunny side of the street. [1]

Our entire class loved her performance, and we learned that Mary did try to live on the sunny side of the street. She was warm, kind, friendly, and righteous; we all deeply admired her. It was many years before I had a first date with her. But as I observed her in those pre-date years, I came to realize that the song in a sense described her life. The words, “If I never have a cent,” reflected to a certain extent, her family. They had very little temporal substance in their lives. Through her youth they rented various homes and moved often. Her father, though capable and a good man in many respects, had an alcohol problem for many years that adversely affected her parents’ relationship. Her parents were separated for two years during Mary’s grade school years. During that period, she, her mother, and siblings lived with her grandmother. I noticed in high school that she wore clean, pressed, and modest clothing, but could not afford expensive stylish clothes. It became evident that she was as friendly with those who were poor and down-trodden as with the most popular girls.

It would be fair to say, like the words of the song she sang, that she did not have a cent, but she tried to live on the sunny side of the street. She modeled her life, then and now, on the righteous principles taught in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Through those years I considered her a good friend. She was always happy and optimistic. She was a diligent student and excelled in many activities. While I was still on my mission in England, Mary graduated from Utah State University as valedictorian of her college and scholar of the year. I admired her before I fell in love with her. We were married soon after I returned from my mission. She is the love of my life. I am pleased to report that many years after we were married, her father had resolved his issues and had become active in the Church. Mary and a beloved sister joyfully joined their parents to be sealed together as an eternal family in the Logan Temple.

In Mary’s honor and because I think it is an important message for you, I want to share some thoughts on living on the sunny side of the street. I want you to be optimistic, joyful, of good cheer, and also to be united in and through the gospel of Jesus Christ to be one with the Savior.

President Dallin H. Oaks at our last General Conference titled one of his talks, “Be of Good Cheer” based on the Savior’s admonition that we read in John 16:33, “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” President Oaks’ wonderful message declares, “ Our unshakable faith in the doctrine of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ guides our steps and gives us joy.” [2]

President Henry B. Eyring has counseled members to be a “wise optimist in tumultuous times.” [3] We live in a time that is as ‘cast down,’ uncivil, negative, angry and tumultuous as any time in my life. Many people across the world seem despondent and discouraged. Part of this is because of the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, but part is deeper and of more concern.

My desire today is for you to understand how seminally important it is for you to both seek the sunny side of the street and also to be united with our Savior.

Being optimistic and being of good cheer is a decision each of us can make. This attitude usually begins with being grateful. I am thankful that President Russell M. Nelson chose gratitude for his message to the world last November. He had received heavenly guidance to teach this profound principle. Gratitude is the first step towards optimism and good cheer.

For you marvelous students, there is much for which to be grateful. We live in the final dispensation and have the restored gospel of Jesus Christ to not only guide us now, but also to provide us with a bright and glorious future hereafter.

This great university exists in a great country with a marvelous past. Many who are despondent and discouraged want to use a restricted and narrow lens to judge our early U.S. Founding Fathers. While they were far from perfect, they were inspired to bring forth constitutional documents which have blessed and supported the host country of the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. These seminal documents were monumental and essential in leading to the establishment of religious freedom. The founding history we celebrate is not some great national myth.

The doctrine and culture of the gospel of Jesus Christ is optimistic. The Plan of Happiness is the plan of a loving Father in Heaven to bless all His children. There are no racial or cultural limitations in this all-inclusive plan.

It is my personal prayer that we can share the gospel more fully with all of our Father’s children. It is also my prayer that we can be unified with diversity and that we can be one with the Savior.

In the summer of 2019, I addressed some Jewish and Latter-day Saint scholars at the BYU Center in Jerusalem. A few of us visited some of the sacred sites important at the close of the Savior’s mortal life. Visiting the upper room which may have been the site where He washed His apostles’ feet, I was deeply touched and thought of how He commanded them to love one another. Then we reverently visited the eternity shaping Garden of Gethsemane.

I love the Savior’s pleading intercessory prayer in our behalf. It occurred in literally the closing hours of His mortal life as recorded in the Gospel of John. [4] The Savior acknowledged that the Father had sent Him and that He, the Savior, had done what He was sent to do. His message, ministry, and example were behind Him. His atoning mission was still starkly ahead. He prayed for His apostles including that they might be sanctified through His truth. He also prayed for those who would believe in Jesus Christ through the words of His apostles. That prayer directed to followers of Christ, including us, was the Savior’s petition to His Father: “that they may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us.” In the following verse the Savior continues, “And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one.” [5] Oneness is what Christ prayed for prior to His betrayal and crucifixion.

A profound challenge for our dispensation is set forth at the beginning of the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. [6] The pathway of righteousness is established by the Lord upon simple, but eternal principles. We are to esteem our brothers and sisters as ourselves. [7] We are to practice virtue and holiness. We are to be one. If we are not one, we are not His. [8]

To be one we can learn from the past and prepare for the future. Many years ago, some of my younger cousins had an inspiring experience with our grandfather, Crozier Kimball. 

Their mothers had assigned them to do a ‘service project’ at grandpa’s farm. They were promised that they would be rewarded with grandma’s [9] fabulous homemade cake. My cousin, Kathy Galloway, who shared this account with me was about 14 at the time. She told me the cake was not her favorite dessert, but she said, “The brown sugar and butter frosting was better than amazing…and grandma would NOT let me eat it out of the bowl…much to my dismay…so it was worth putting up with the cake to be able to eat the frosting!!!”

They ate sack lunches and worked all day. Kathy worked in the house and was “highly motivated by the smells coming from the kitchen.” When they had completed their tasks and were heading to the kitchen for their reward, the door was blocked by Grandpa. He sat down on a piano bench and invited the cousins to sit on the floor. He thanked them for their hard work and then said, “Before we eat cake, there is something I need to say to you. I do not believe any of you is old enough to understand what I am going to tell you, so I command your spirits to remember this information, because there will come a time in your lives when you will need to know and act on what I am about to share with you. My grandfather, Heber Kimball, and other of your pioneer ancestors faced physical challenges that you cannot imagine…even in your wildest imaginations. Thankfully, you will never know what they endured as they crossed the plains. And they learned one thing really fast: either they worked together…and loved and strengthened and nourished and supported and sustained each other…or no one survived. This is one of the great legacies they left to you!”

Tears began to roll quietly down his cheeks. He took out his handkerchief and wiped his eyes and continued. “In my calling as a patriarch and as your grandfather, when I look down the corridors of time…when you…will become parents and grandparents in Zion, my heart aches for you. You will face emotional and spiritual challenges that most of your pioneer ancestors could never have imagined in their wildest imaginations. Your generation simply refuses to honor the great legacy of love and service they left to you…and so many of you will fail because you will not be able to survive on your own.” Then with big tears in his eyes, and a spirit-to-spirit connection, he concluded: “We need each other. In addition to sharing our testimonies of the gospel with one another, our duty is to love and serve and strengthen and nourish and support and sustain each other…especially in our family. Please remember that in the last days, your very survival may depend on your willingness to work together, to love and serve. Now, let us go eat cake.” Kathy says she can still feel his hug as she walked into the kitchen.

What are some of the ways that we can find peace in this divisive and contentious world? We can be in the world, but not of the world. We can be determined not to let the world’s wickedness, contentions and divisions invade the sanctity of our united effort to follow and worship the Savior in our homes and families. We can live on the sunny side of the street as we stay firmly on the covenant path. While we cannot control others, we can achieve the peace that comes from personal righteousness. [10]

It will assist our effort if we understand, appreciate, and learn from our scriptures and Church history. [11] The narrative book, Saints, is the marvelous account of the Restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the history of the saints from all over the world. The first volume covering the period from 1815 to 1846, is titled The Standard of Truth. [12] It is a great blessing to the Church. The second volume, titled No Unhallowed Hand, [13] covers the period from the Nauvoo Temple to the Salt Lake Temple from 1846 to 1893. It commences with the remarkable exodus from Nauvoo, the inspiring travails of crossing plains and mountains, and the founding of vigorous and thriving communities.

The example of our ancestors in all lands overcoming hardships, making sacrifices, and building their faith in order to be one with each other and the Savior is an inspiration to each of us as we face hardships and challenges. [14] We are blessed in this new year to have as our Come, Follow Me curriculum both at church and in the home: Church History and the Doctrine and Covenants.

Our home-centered, Church-supported focus to study the word of God has been well received by our members. There are remarkable reports on Come, Follow Me indicating the efforts and spiritual successes of individuals and families who have followed the counsel to have personal and family gospel study, particularly in the difficult period we have recently experienced. One article captured the feeling of many when it beautifully taught, “Come, Follow Me is not a title or a program—it is an invitation from the Savior…. The invitation…is to know the Savior Jesus Christ, understand His atoning sacrifice and feel His redeeming love in [our] lives.” [15] Scripture study in the home is a great blessing for individuals and families.

We can be one in our congregations wherever we live. The Apostle Paul was aware that the callings, service, and contributions of the members were dramatically different, but equally important. He emphasized to the Corinthians the diversity of spiritual gifts such as faith, wisdom, and healing explaining that the manifestation and gifts of the Spirit blessed everyone. [16] He also compared the parts of the individual human body to the body of the Church. Each part of the body is important to the whole body. Paul noted, “The eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you…. [but] those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary.” He concludes, “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.” [17]

Some members have challenges in feeling they are important and necessary to the body of the saints. The Apostle Paul’s point was that each member is both necessary and important.

Other members feel their calling is not significant enough or the mission where they are called to serve is not dramatic enough. Our doctrine is clear: “In the service of the Lord, it is not where we [you] serve, but how,” [18] we serve that is important. In addition, sometimes we all feel we are not capable of the callings we are given.

Feeling less capable to undertake our calling is not unusual. Every apostle that I know, including myself, experienced this feeling of inadequacy when called to the apostleship. Whatever our calling, we know that we do not have all the qualities and gifts that we think are needed. Over time we realize that any one person, like the eye or the hand of the body, does not have every quality necessary to accomplish the Lord’s purposes. But as a ward or branch, or quorum, we in a cumulative way have all the gifts and qualities necessary to bless our own lives and achieve the purposes the Lord has in store for us.

In conclusion: If you focus your life on the Savior, you will find yourself on the “Sunny Side of the Street” and have joy.

As President Nelson has eloquently taught,

Life is filled with detours and dead ends, trials and challenges of every kind. Each of us has likely had times when distress, anguish, and despair almost consumed us. Yet we are to have joy?

Yes! the answer is a resounding yes! Saints can be happy under every circumstance. We can feel joy even when having a bad day, a bad week, or even a bad year!...

The joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives. [19]

That focus is the Savior!

I testify that if we are determined to live on the sunny side of the street, with the light of the Savior as our focus and our guide, we will be on the covenant path. As we love, follow, and worship the Savior, we will have peace in this world and eternal life in the world to come. [20]

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Notes:

[1] Song: Music by Jimmy McHugh, lyrics by Dorothy Fields, c. 1930 by Shapiro, Bernstein and Co., Inc., New York, NY, c. renewed 1957.

[2] Conference Talk: Dallin H. Oaks, “Be of Good Cheer,” Ensign, October 2020, 70.

[3] Article: Julie Dockstader Heaps, Church News, 1 November 2007, reported on talk by Henry B. Eyring, “Wise Optimism in Tumultuous Time,” given during a multi-stake conference at the Dee Events Center, Weber State University, Oct. 28, 2007.

[4] Scripture: John 17

[5] Scripture: John 17:3, 20-23.

[6] Scripture: D&C 38:27 At the beginning of the Restoration in 1831 in a revelation through the Prophet Joseph Smith Jesus Christ acknowledged wickedness, wars, and the challenges of our day. He declared to all who would follow Him, “I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine.”

[7] Scripture: D&C 38:24-25.

[8] Scripture: D&C 38:27.

[9] Family History: Crozier Kimball’s first wife, Mary Lenora Roberts, passed away and his second wife, Clara, was a cousin of his first wife. The children called her “Aunt Clara.” The grandchildren called her “Grandma.”

[10] Scripture: D&C 59:23.

[11] Circular: The First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah Territory, July 11 th; 1877. P. 5. President Brigham Young and his counselors in a directive to the entire Church dated July 11, 1877, counseled parents to pay constant attention to assisting children in “…gaining a sound and thorough education, and especially in the principles of the gospel and the history of the Church.”

[12] Book: See Saints: The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days, vol. 1, The Standard of Truth, 1815-1846 (2018). 

[13] Book: See Saints: The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days, Volume 2, No Unhallowed Hand, 1846-1893 (2020).

[14] Article: “General Conference”, Deseret Evening News, Apr. 4, 1892, 4-5; Apr. 5, 1892, 4. President Wilford Woodruff, at the April 1892 General Conference urged the Saints to stop bickering because of differences on political matters between those who were Democrats and those who were Republicans.

[15] Article: Boyd Matheson, “‘Come, Follow Me’ is more than a course of study,” Church News, week of July 21, 2019, p. 20.

[16] Scripture: 1 Corinthians 12:1,7-11.

[17] Scripture: 1 Corinthians 12:15-27.

[18] Conference Talk: Boyd K. Packer, “Called to Serve,” Ensign, October 1997. See also, Conference Report, Apr. 1951, 154.

[19] Book: Russell M. Nelson, “Daily Joy,” Deseret Book Co., 2020, p. 388.

[20] Scripture: D&C 59:23.

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This Speech has been Translated by
Katherin Sandoval & Natalia del
Villar