Thank you for that gracious introduction. It is an honor to be with you.
When I was asked to speak, they said, “Don’t try to be funny, don’t try to be witty, don’t try to be engaging. Just be yourself.”
The last time I gave a speech, a fight broke out. Apparently, someone was blocking an exit.
Life is full of challenges. We overcome our challenges though faith, courage, and hard work. Also, sometimes a sense of humor can help us along the way. Humor can relieve tensions and stress. It can remind us to keep us to keep a healthy perspective, not to take ourselves too seriously, and to find enjoyment in life. Appropriate humor can refresh us, lift our spirits, and help us to face our challenges. Proverbs says, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine . . . .”
I would like to offer a few humorous observations about life. First, childhood. I grew up in a small town. It was so small that our Baskin-Robbins only had two flavors. Once a mudslide hit my town and caused three million dollars in improvements.
Also, my parents were overprotective. For example, my tricycle had seven wheels. And my parents wouldn’t let me swing. That was far too dangerous. They would set me on the swing, run back and forth past me, and say, “It looks similar to this.”
However, that changed. Have you ever noticed that parents are really strict with the oldest child, but they become increasingly lax with the younger children? I was the oldest child, and I had to do chores twelve hours a day. By the time the youngest child came along, the only family rule was: No automatic weapons in the living room.
When I was young I worked some odd jobs. Once I got a job as a proof reader in an M&M factory. I like to read. Groucho Marx said, “Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.”
I wasn’t very athletic. However, I played football in high school. They had a play designed especially for me. It was called “Pencilneck Right.” You know how BYU uses the run to set up the pass? Well, Pencilneck Right was used to set up the injury timeout. I could never figure out what the referee’s signals meant. For example, do you know what this means? “Whose tooth is this?”
When I was in high school I was in the chess club. I had a rook on my letterman’s jacket. Do you know what it says when you walk around campus with a rook on your letterman’s jacket? “Don’t mess with me, pal.” “Checkmate!”
When I was in high school, I didn’t have many friends. Once I told my dad that the other kids were giving me a hard time about my religion. My father sat down next to me, and, in his fatherly way, he said, “Son, it doesn’t matter what race you are or what religion you are. There will always be people who don’t like you. Because you’re irritating.”
Then I went to college. I had to choose a major. I was willing to try any major. I didn’t know the meaning of the word “fear.” I didn’t know the meaning of a lot of other words, either.
First I thought about majoring in economics. That way, if I couldn’t get a job after I graduated, at least I would understand why.
Then I thought I might major in physical education. I went down to the gym to lift weights, but the laughter made it difficult to concentrate.
I considered studying a foreign language. But then I thought, “If we were intended to learn a foreign language, then how come the Bible was originally written in English?”
I sampled some classes, but I didn’t always do very well. For example, I took a photography class. I just about went crazy trying to take a close-up of the horizon. The teacher in that class gave me an F-minus. He said that giving me an F would be unfair to the people who failed normally.
I studied chemistry, but I thought that there were only four elements on the periodic table: earth, air, fire, and water. I thought that fire had three electrons in the outer shell.
I also studied math. It’s been reported that sixty percent of Americans cannot do basic math. Sixty percent! That’s nearly half! But we shouldn’t laugh, and most of you didn’t, and I appreciate that.
Finally, I chose a major. Now, I went to college a long time ago. I majored in Hunting and minored in Gathering.
When I was in college, my wife and I got married. Recently I told my wife that she’s the best thing that ever happened to me. She replied that she’s the only thing that ever happened to me.
When we got married, we each contributed half of the money to buy an inexpensive used car. There was a photograph of our car in the dictionary, next to the definition of “breach of warranty.” However, I have to give credit where credit is due. Our car was voted the Car of the Year—by the American Association of Tow Truck Drivers.
After college I went to law school. Again, I didn’t do very well. In my first semester I got 4 F’s and a D. The dean called me into his office and said, “Kid, you’ve got to stop spending all your time on one subject.”
When I graduated from law school, I earned a juris doctorate degree. I asked one of my professors why lawyers aren’t called “doctor.” He said, “We’re not called ‘doctor’ because we never make anyone well.”
It’s true that lawyers have a bad reputation. However, I think it’s unfair to judge the entire profession by five or six hundred thousand bad apples. I recognize that the lawyers are criticized in the scriptures. However, I would like to point out that the scriptures were translated by non-lawyers. You don’t see many criticisms of monks in the scriptures, do you? Coincidence? I think not.
Another area where humor can help is in the family. My wife and I have nine children, and sometimes things can get a little crazy. Once when I went into the boys’ room, I didn’t know whether to vacuum or to rototill. One summer our house was vandalized, and it was six weeks before we discovered it. We had to put up a fence to protect the neighbors from our kids.
I’m a permissive parent. When a child misbehaves, I say, “Go to your room at your first convenience.” “Daddy’s going to count to 1500.” Also, I like to use humor. One day my son touched an electrical outlet. I said, “Oh, you’re grounded.”
I’m pretty lax. Once my daughter wanted some money. I said, “Okay, here’s ten dollars. Don’t tell your mother.” She said, “It’ll cost you more than that not to have me tell.”
Our children played a lot together. Of course, because of my legal training, we didn’t let them play cops and robbers. We made them play cops and alleged perpetrators.
Rearing children is wonderful, except that your children tend to be like you. I had a parent-teacher conference with my son’s teacher. She said, “He’s very bright.” I said, “Thank you.” She said, “He has a lot of potential.” I said, “Thank you.” She said, “But sometimes his mind tends to wander.” I said, [pause] “Excuse me?”
Once I was disappointed in my teenage son’s behavior. His room was messy, and he played too many video games and didn’t do enough homework to suit me. Finally, in exasperation I asked, “Do you know what Abraham Lincoln was doing at your age?” My son replied, “No, Dad, I don’t. But I know what he was doing at your age.”
Rearing children is a lot of hard work. But as someone once said about Wagner’s music, it’s not as bad as it sounds.
Part of family life is learning to budget. A while ago our checkbook was stolen. We were going to report it to the police, but the thief actually spends less than we do.
I try to be frugal. For example, it costs four dollars to get a shirt drycleaned. So I don’t pay it. When a shirt gets dirty, I give to Deseret Industries. They wash it, iron it, and put it on a hanger. Next day I buy it back for a dollar.
I heard about a couple who was very cheap. The husband died, so the wife called up the newspaper and asked, “What’s your lowest price for an obituary?” The editor said, ““For $15 you get six words.” She said, “OK. Write, ‘George died Tuesday.”” The editor said, “Well, you get six words. Do you want to write anything else?” She said, “Oh. Um. Yeah. Toyota for sale.”
Another part of family life is having pets. Once we thought about getting a dog. But it wouldn’t be right to keep a dog in a big city, cooped up in a tiny apartment. Then we thought, what are we doing here? We live in a place we wouldn’t let a dog live.
Now we have cats. I don’t mind feeding the cats, but I hate to set up that little buffet. I don’t know why they make so many different kinds of cat food. They all taste the same to me.
I looked at the label on a can of cat food. It said, “All natural cat food. Ingredient: horsemeat.” Is that the way it is in nature—the cat is right above the horse on the food chain? Do we take our cats down to the racetrack and let them stalk some thoroughbreds?
Having a sense of humor helps in life, even as we face challenges. Now I’d like to transition to the serious part of my talk. This is the signal that you can go to sleep.
I would like to encourage us to be faithful scholars. Faithful scholars are people who have both good hearts and good minds, people who understand gospel truths and secular truths, and people who use their talents to serve God and His children.
Faithful scholars understand the importance of both faith and reason. In Section 9 of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord told Oliver Cowdery:
Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.
But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.
Sometimes revelation just comes to us. However, sometimes it comes only after we study the issue out in our mind—after we do our homework. The Lord wants us to learn and grow. For example, the Lord could have told the brother of Jared how to provide light for the barges. Instead, the Lord asked him to propose a solution. The brother of Jared went to a mountain, created sixteen small stones, prayed, was humble, and exercised his faith. 
And then, he saw the Lord.  In addition, the Lord showed him “all the inhabitants of the earth which had been, and also all that would be; and he withheld them not from his sight, even unto the ends of the earth.” The brother of Jared wanted light for his barges, and he received it. However, because of his faith he also communed with the “light of the world.”
I believe that the gospel can help us in our learning and our scholarship. I’d like to mention two reasons. First, the gospel is true. If gospel principles guide us, our learning and scholarship are more likely to be true. Second, the Holy Ghost can help us to succeed beyond our natural abilities. In answer to my prayers, I have felt divine assistance to help me do better than I could have done on my own. Perhaps you have had the same experience. For example, my most productive period of scholarship occurred when I was a bishop–paradoxically, when I had the least time. The Lord blesses us as we seek his help.
There are two issues connected with learning about which we must be careful. First, we need to be humble. Learning can lead to pride. President Ezra Taft Benson taught: “Pride is the universal sin, the great vice. . . . The antidote for pride is humility—meekness, submissiveness. It is the broken heart and contrite spirit.”
Humility opens our hearts and minds to learning. By contrast, thinking that we already know everything impedes our learning. King Benjamin taught that a person needs to become “as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.”
We need to be able to accept counsel and correction. Valuable instruction and suggestions can come from leaders, teachers, family members, and others. Our view of ourselves may differ from how others perceive us. The Scottish poet Robert Burns wrote:
O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
Thankfully, there is such a “Power.” The Lord said, “[I]f men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness.”
Second, we should expect that at times apparent conflicts may arise between our academic disciplines and the gospel. Sometimes secular disciplines approach issues differently than the gospel does.
We know that the gospel encompasses all truth. Brigham Young taught:
It embraces every fact there is in the heavens and in the heaven of heavens—every fact there is upon the surface of the earth, in the bowels of the earth, and in the starry heavens; in fine, it embraces all truth there is in all the eternities of the Gods.
President George Albert Smith said:
I want to say that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints accepts all that is true in the world from whatever source it may come, with the knowledge that it originated with the greatest of all scientists, our Father in Heaven.
When human knowledge and the gospel appear to conflict, we should remember that human knowledge is limited. Eternal truth is not limited, but our understanding of it is incomplete. Eventually, if we are worthy, we will understand all truth. The 101st section of the Doctrine and Covenants says:
Yea, verily I say unto you, in that day when the Lord shall come, he shall reveal all things—
Things which have passed, and hidden things which no man knew, things of the earth, by which it was made, and the purpose and the end thereof—
Things most precious, things that are above, and things that are beneath, things that are in the earth, and upon the earth, and in heaven.
Meanwhile, in this life we seek answers to faithful questions. We study, ponder, pray, and have patience. We exercise faith in God. He blesses us with greater knowledge, understanding, and peace in our lives.
Elder Neal A. Maxwell wrote:
In my own education . . . I found that the basic gospel truths . . . could be harmonized with the great secular truths. [And] those gospel truths which, for the moment, could not be harmonized could . . . be regarded expectantly, for, ultimately, all truths belong to the gospel. Not all theories . . . but all truths. To so realize was an emancipating feeling then, and is now, for the feeling has never diminished, only increased.
Our need for humility and the fact that apparent conflicts may arise between our academic disciplines and the gospel mean that we should be humble about what we know and what we do not know. An angel appeared to Nephi. Nephi wrote, “And he said unto me: Knowest thou the condescension of God? And I said unto him: I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.” We do not know the meaning of all things, but we do know that God loves His children.
God’s wisdom supersedes human knowledge. Elder Dallin H. Oaks wrote:
We are commanded to seek learning by study, the way of reason, and by faith, the way that relies on revelation. Both are pleasing to God. He uses both ways to reveal light and knowledge to his children. But when it comes to a knowledge of God and the principles of his gospel, we must give primacy to revelation because that is the Lord’s way.
We should also remember to put the gospel, not our academic discipline or other perspective, first in our lives. Jesus said, “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.” He also said, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” We should view our academic disciplines through the lens of the gospel, and not the other way around.
Sometimes we learn about things that present or past Church leaders or members have reportedly said or done, and we have questions about them. Here are some thoughts that help me.
First, only the Savior was perfect. He uses imperfect people to carry out his work. For example, Joseph Smith said, “I never told you I was perfect; but there is no error in the revelations which I have taught.” The gospel helps us to overcome our weaknesses and to improve. The atonement allows us to be forgiven of our sins.
The brother of Jared was “a man highly favored of the Lord.” Like all of us, he was imperfect. One time the Lord chastened him for not praying. He repented, and the Lord said that he would forgive him. Then, the brother of Jared accomplished amazing things: he led his people in building barges, he saw the Lord, and he and his people successfully crossed the ocean to the promised land.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said:
So be kind regarding human frailty—your own as well as that of those who serve with you in a Church led by volunteer, mortal men and women. Except in the case of His only perfect Begotten Son, imperfect people are all God has ever had to work with. That must be terribly frustrating to Him, but He deals with it. So should we.
Second, sometimes our understanding of events is inaccurate or incomplete. There may be two or even more sides to a story. Also, sometimes we can’t ascertain people’s motives. An action accompanied by a good motive might be understood quite differently than one accompanied by a bad motive.
Third, we should be careful about judging historical events based on current cultural values. Like all people, we are shaped by the time and culture in which we live. We hope that future generations will interpret our actions with charity. While we recognize progress that has occurred, we should interpret the actions of our forebears with charity.
Fourth, we need to forgive others, just as we ourselves need forgiveness.
Fifth, scripture study and prayer bring feelings of peace and reassurance regarding the truthfulness of the gospel. Reading the scriptures gives us an eternal perspective. It reminds us of the Lord’s commandments, the covenants that we have made to keep them, and the wonderful blessings of the gospel. Studying the scriptures also invites the Holy Ghost, which helps us to learn and speaks peace to our soul.
Regarding questions, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf has said:
It’s natural to have questions—the acorn of honest inquiry has often sprouted and matured into a great oak of understanding. There are few members of the Church who, at one time or another, have not wrestled with serious or sensitive questions. One of the purposes of the Church is to nurture and cultivate the seed of faith—even in the sometimes sandy soil of doubt and uncertainty. Faith is to hope for things which are not seen but which are true.
Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters—my dear friends—please, first doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith. We must never allow doubt to hold us prisoner and keep us from the divine love, peace, and gifts that come through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
A book I like is Chaim Potok’s novel, The Chosen. In the book, Reb Saunders, a Hasidic rabbi, had a brilliant son named Danny. Danny had “a mind like a jewel,” “like a pearl.” Reb Saunders explained:
[W]hen my Daniel was four years old, I saw him reading a story from a book. And I was frightened. He did not read the story, he swallowed it, as one swallows food or water. . . . It was a story in a Yiddish book about a poor Jew and his struggles . . . . Ah, how that man suffered! And my Daniel enjoyed the story, he enjoyed the last terrible page, because when he finished it he realized for the first time what a memory he had. He looked at me proudly and told me back the story from memory, and I cried inside my heart. . . . “A mind like this I need for a son? A heart I need for a son, a soul I need for a son, compassion I want from my son, righteousness, mercy, strength to suffer and carry pain, that I want from my son, not a mind without a soul.”
In order to serve, Danny needed both a good heart and a good mind.
It is my prayer that we will be strive to be faithful scholars—to have good hearts and good minds, to understand gospel truths and secular truths, and to use our talents to serve God and his children.
Thank you very much.
Q: Are you embarrassed in any way for being associated with a law school named after one whose views were anti-Semitic? Am I judging from current views?
A: OK, so the law school is named after J. Reuben Clark and I have studied the life of J. Reuben Clark. There are a couple of biographies that I’ve read. One of them I’ve read twice carefully. And J. Reuben Clark was an astonishing person. He went to law school at age 30. He grew up in Grantsville in a pioneer community. He went to law school after he was married, in Columbia. People didn’t do that, you know, you didn’t leave Utah, leave a farm or a small town and go back to New York and work. And he did so well in law school that he became an assistant to one of his professors who worked in the Department of State. And four years after he had graduated from law school he became the solicitor in the State Department. OK? So this kid – he wasn’t quite a kid then – who’d grown up on this farm, or in a rural environment anyway, in Grantsville, had become, four years out of law school, the leading international lawyer in the world. OK? He had political views. OK? And he expressed those views from time to time. I’m not familiar with anti-Semitic feelings that he may have had. I don’t doubt that he may have had them. You know, I think of my grandparents, OK, who are lovely, salt-of-the-earth people and are products of the time and culture in which they live. It’s easy [sic] for me to see that about them than it is to see that about me. Right? But I’m sure that my grandchildren will see that about me and they will say, you know, he was wrong about this or he was wrong about that. I hope they will think about it with charity and will try to look at the whole person, the strengths as well as the limitations. I certainly have many limitations myself. OK. So no, I’m not embarrassed about the name J. Reuben Clark. He’s a person whom I admire.
Q: If you ever lose your job as an assistant to the BYU President or as a law professor or as a lawyer, you could make millions as a standup comic.
A: OK, well, thank you, that’s … [applause] … that’s very kind … and this says “thanks”. That’s a very kind thing to say. And I just want to say, when people say “you’re a funny person” my answer is “well, looks aren’t everything.”
Thank you very much.
Assistant to the President for Planning and Assessment, and Marion B. and Rulon A. Earl Professor of Law, Brigham Young University. Apologies and thanks to Vern Baugh, Johnny Carson, C. Douglas Floyd, Michael Goldsmith, Bruce C. Hafen, Marion D. Hanks, H. Reese Hansen, Rex E. Lee, Jay Leno, Rita Rudner, Bob Thaves, Tom Thaves, and others.
 Proverbs 17:22.
 Doctrine and Covenants 9:7-8.
 Ether 2:22-25.
 Ether 3:1-5.
 Ether 3:13.
 Ether 3:25.
 See John 8:12; John 9:5.
 Ezra Taft Benson, Beware of Pride, Ensign, May 1989, at 4, 6 (internal citation omitted).
 Mosiah 3:19.
 Ether 12:27.
 See Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young 2, 3 (selected by John A. Widtsoe, 1941); Henry J. Eyring, Mormon Scientist 60 (2007); Bruce C. Hafen, A Disciple’s Life: The Biography of Neal A. Maxwell 167 (2002) (quoting Elder Cecil O. Samuelson about Elder Neal A. Maxwell’s views).
 Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young 448 (selected by John A. Widtsoe, 1941).
 George Albert Smith, Groundbreaking Ceremonies, Physical Science Building, Brigham Young University, May 11, 1948, at 2, 4-5 (posted on the fifth floor of the Harold B. Lee Library at Brigham Young University).
 Doctrine and Covenants 101:32-34.
 Bruce C. Hafen, A Disciple’s Life: The Biography of Neal A. Maxwell 166 (2002).
 1 Nephi 11:16-17.
 Dallin H. Oaks, The Lord’s Way 72 (1991).
 Mark 12:30.
 3 Nephi 13:33.
 Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith 368 (Joseph Fielding Smith, ed. 1938).
 Ether 1:34.
 Ether 2:14.
 Ether 2:15.
 Jeffrey R. Holland, “Lord, I Believe,” Ensign, Apr. 2013.
 Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Come, Join with Us, Ensign, Nov. 2013.
 Chaim Potok, The Chosen (1967). I thank John S. Tanner for this example.