Elder Alan C. Batt
Elder Alan C. Batt was born in Idaho Falls, and lives in the Rigby, Idaho area. After graduating from Rigby High School, he attended Ricks College.
Elder Batt worked as a building contractor for several years and was president of Batt Construction, Inc.
From 2008-2011, Elder Batt presided over the Brazil Fortaleza Mission. Prior to that, he served as a stake president, bishop, counselor in a stake mission presidency, high councilor, stake Young Men president, and missionary in the Brazil South Central Mission. He currently serves as an Area Seventy, a position to which he was sustained at the April 2013 General Conference.
Elder Batt and his wife, Millie, are the parents of four children and have four grandchildren.
While serving a mission in Brazil, I attended the baptism of a man who had been preparing for eight months to be baptized. He told me he had decided to change his life one night while partying and drinking with his friends when the thought came to him, "Is this what you want your life to be?"
This is a question each of us can ask ourselves: "Is this what we want our lives to be?"
If we continue on the path we are on, will it lead us to where we really want to go?
President David O. McKay said, "Next to the bestowal of life itself, the right to direct that life is God's greatest gift to man" (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: David O. McKay , 208).
Agency is the ability and privilege God gives us to choose and act for ourselves. Those choices are an essential part of the plan of salvation--the plan for our salvation.
A story is told of a large banquet held in the state capital. Those in attendance were in a line being served their dinner. A woman who was serving gave each one in line a piece of chicken. One man came by and said, "I'd like two pieces of chicken." She said to him, "I'm sorry, but it's just one piece of chicken per person." He said, "I don't think you understand who I am. I'm the governor of this state, and I want two pieces of chicken." She replied, "I don't think you understand who I am. I'm the lady in charge of the chicken."
Brothers and sisters, we are in charge of the chicken. We determine who we become. Some might say, "But you don't understand. I grew up in a broken home; my father was an alcoholic," or "I'm the only member of the Church in my family." I know things like this affect us, but ultimately each of us has that God-given right to choose for ourselves. With the help of a loving Heavenly Father, we can make wise decisions that lead to happiness. What is important is not our circumstances or who we are right now but who we can become.
It can be difficult to make wise choices in the world in which we live. Sometimes we feel lost and alone as we strive to choose the right, but we are never alone. We have family and friends who love us, leaders who teach us, and a Father in Heaven who is always there to help if we'll just listen and pay attention.
One Sunday morning last December, I was in Idaho Falls doing some Church work. I turned down a street behind a pickup truck pulling a livestock trailer. As the driver made the turn, the side door of his trailer swung open, and an old Holstein cow rolled out and landed in someone's yard. It sat there for a second and then got up and bellowed in disbelief. The truck driver didn't stop, so I thought I'd better catch him and tell him his cow had fallen out. I honked my horn, flashed my lights, and waved my arm out the window, but he just wouldn't stop. It was slick with snow and ice on the road, so I couldn't get too close. So I just kept following him. I followed for almost 15 minutes, trying to get his attention. Finally he pulled into his farmyard. When he stopped, the trailer door swung open again and out came three more old cows. I said to him, "Hey, you lost one of your cows back there!" "Oh," he said, and counted "one, two, three" as the cows walked away. I said, "If you want, I'll go back with you to show you where it fell out". He said, "Oh, I think I know. Was it where you started honking your horn and waving at me?"
Are we like the man who lost his cow? Are we not paying attention to those who are trying to help us?
The world is a noisy, confusing place. We are pushed and pulled in every direction. We are told that good is bad and bad is good. It's easy to be confused and distracted, or even deceived. We can be swept away in a tidal wave of uncertainty if we don't choose wisely.
Sometimes what appears on the surface to be real is not.
While serving with my wife in Brazil, we were blessed to have Elder Holland visit our mission. We were able to have a picture taken of Elder and Sister Holland with all of our missionaries. At the end of our mission, one of the stake presidents that we served with gave us a large framed copy of that picture. As I looked at everyone in the picture, I noticed the stake president in the left corner next to the missionaries. I said, "President, thank you so much for this beautiful picture, but I don't remember you being there". He said, "I wasn't, but I wanted to be, so I just Photoshopped myself into the picture." If you just looked at the picture and didn't know better, you would think he was there, but he wasn't. What appeared to be real was not.
As a side note, we can't Photoshop ourselves into the celestial kingdom. If only it were that easy. Only wise choices will get us there.
In the Book of Mormon, we read of Lehi's dream of the great and spacious building: "And I also cast my eyes round about, and beheld, on the other side of the river of water, a great and spacious building; and it stood as it were in the air, high above the earth" (1 Nephi 8:26).
The great and spacious building appeared "as it were in the air." Was it so because it represents something that is not real? Was Lehi trying to tell us that it was a mirage? That it had no foundation? I think he's telling us that there is no real satisfaction in the things of the world and continually seeking these things will never bring true happiness. We will find that we never have enough and we can never be enough.
To understand what is important and what choices will bring us closer to our Father in Heaven, we must have more faith in what we feel and what we know to be true than the things we see or hear in this confusing world. A while back, while searching the Internet, I found one of my favorite quotes from President Abraham Lincoln. The quote is, "Don't believe everything you read on the Internet." Sometimes we hear or see things that are contrary to what we have known most of our lives. As we seek answers, we must know that we will never find light and truth in the dark corners of the Internet.
When seeking truth, we must seek it where there is light, where we can feel the Spirit.
My older brother played high-school basketball, and our family loved to watch his team play. We went to all of the home games but hardly ever went to the away games. Maybe it was the cost or maybe the distance, but we just didn't go. Even though we couldn't attend the away games, we never missed listening to them on the radio. The only problem we had was that we couldn't receive the radio signal where we lived. All we got was static, so every night there was an away game, we got in our car and drove ¼ mile down the road and parked in front of the neighbor's house. There, we could get a signal and could clearly hear the game. Just driving ¼ mile down the road made it possible to hear.
Brothers and sisters, we have to put ourselves where we can feel the Spirit. If we don't feel the Spirit in our lives and struggle to make wise decisions, we need to determine why. We need to think about what we are doing or where we are. Often all we need to do is put ourselves where we can feel the promptings of our Father in Heaven. Maybe we have a special place, maybe just being alone in our car or apartment, or going to the temple. Wherever it is, we need to take the time and make the effort to get in tune and receive personal revelation that will help us make wise choices.
Then, when we've received our answer, we must have faith in what we know and feel.
In this past general conference, Elder Ballard said, "Sometimes we can learn, study, and know, and sometimes we have to believe, trust, and hope" ("To Whom Shall We Go?" Ensign, November 2016)
There are questions that may never be answered and things we may never fully understand, but we should never doubt what we know to be true. What is true is true. What we know we know. What we have felt we have felt.
We will make many choices throughout our lives. Today I'd like to talk about three choices that can help us find the joy Heavenly Father wants for each of us.
The first choice is, choose to share the gospel.
Sharing the gospel will bring a sweet spirit into our lives. When we testify of the truth, our testimonies are strengthened. Sometimes we get discouraged because every experience doesn't end with what we see as success. Every missionary experience may not be successful as we see it, but each one will be worthwhile. All the Lord expects is that we do our part.
We should remember that those we work with are precious sons and daughters of our Eternal Father and deserve respect and understanding. People should never be considered a project. We should never abandon someone because they don't respond or accept our invitation.
When we try to encourage someone to come back or learn about the gospel and they respond, "No, thanks," often they are really saying, "Just give me a little more time. Don't stop loving me. I'm not ready yet. Don't give up on me."
I visited a 16- and 17-year-old Sunday School class one Sunday morning. When the teacher came into the classroom, he wrote on the chalkboard, "The Plane Truth." P-L-A-N-E. I thought to myself, "I wonder where he went to school? I hope it wasn't BYU-Idaho." I soon learned what this meant. Two young people came to the front of the class and sat in two chairs and then began to role-play sharing the gospel to someone sitting next to them on an airplane. They did a great job.
It made me think of a story I'd recently heard of a lady who was sharing the gospel with the person sitting next to her on a flight. The person she was talking to became very interested in knowing more, and the member of the Church said, "Oh, I wish I had a Book of Mormon to give you. I usually have one with me when I travel, but I forgot this time." Just then, someone in the seat behind her reached over and handed her a Book of Mormon. I'm not sure if it was a good member who had overheard the conversation trying to do their part or someone trying to get rid of a book they had just received.
These experiences inspired me to want to share the gospel the next time I was on an airplane.
A few weeks later, I flew to area council meetings, and I got my chance. On the way home I committed myself to share the gospel with the person sitting next to me on the plane. If those kids could do it, so could I. On the first flight, I sat next to a young man who had no interest in hearing about the Church. All he wanted to talk about was all of his girlfriends, his pickup truck, and how much beer he could drink. I was so discouraged I wanted to jump out of the plane.
On the second flight, I waited anxiously to meet my next flight companion. He was from Germany. He spoke English pretty well, and I talked to him about the Church. He said that he had never heard of the Church and changed the subject but was still friendly and wanted to talk. I asked where he was staying and offered him a ride to his hotel when we arrived in Idaho Falls. I asked him why he was going to Idaho. He explained that he was going to ride horses and herd cattle at a nearby ranch. He said he had received information telling him that he needed a hat. I said, "That's a good idea. It's hot there. You'll get a sunburn without one". "How about cowboy boots?" he asked. I thought to myself, "Please don't do this to me. It's Saturday night, and I'm sure you're going to want me to help you buy boots on Sunday." So I told him, "If you buy new boots and wear them for five days straight, you'll probably never walk again the rest of your life. But I have a pair of boots in my closet at home that are a little too small for me. They are in good shape, and you can have them if you want." I asked, "What size do you wear?" He told me some European size, and I said, "Oh, I'm sure they'll fit."
When we arrived at the hotel, he said "Oh, what about the boots? When can I get the boots?" I said, "I have church tomorrow, so after church I'll..." Then I thought to myself, "You big chicken! If those kids can do it, why can't you?" So I said, "Or, if you'd like, you can go to church with me, and I can give you the boots then." He said, "Okay." I was a little shocked and pleased, but having been a missionary, I knew he might not be there when I went to pick him up.
The next morning, when I went into the hotel lobby to meet him, he wasn't there. As I went outside to leave, he came running around the building and said, "I was looking for you." I could hardly believe it! He got in the car, and we headed for church. When we arrived, I introduced him to a few members of my ward. Everyone that spoke one word of German, had ever seen a German movie, or even eaten sauerkraut surrounded him. He felt so welcome. I had copied off some Church materials and talks in German for him the night before, mostly stuff by President Uchtdorf. He really seemed to enjoy his time there. When we got in the car to go back to the hotel, he thanked me for inviting him to church and said, "I go to church almost every Sunday in Germany, but I have never felt what I felt today." I had come so close to not letting one of Heavenly Father's children feel His Spirit. And to think that I almost missed this wonderful opportunity to share the gospel.
The second choice is, choose to be clean.
A missionary who was sent home early from his mission told me in an interview that he had never once in his life felt clean.
It made me sad to think that, with the Atonement of Jesus Christ available to all of us, he had never felt clean--that he had never had the peace and strength that comes from being forgiven.
In contrast to this experience, I once interviewed a young man for a temple recommend as he prepared to be married. As I asked the questions, I asked him if he lived the law of chastity. He told me that he had never, in any way, violated any part of that commandment. I said, "That's wonderful. How did you do it?" He told me that, as a young deacon, he was taught the Lord's moral code and that he had decided to live it.
He succeeded because he had decided what he wanted his life to be.
One day, a missionary came in for his scheduled interview. He explained that he had a problem. I said to him, "Elder, I just can't help you." "What do you mean you can't help me? You're the mission president!" I said, "Every time we meet, we have this same discussion. I can't help you because you don't want to stop doing what you're doing." "But President, I can't stop doing what I'm doing." I responded, "Then maybe I should call your girlfriend, that sweet girl who's at home waiting for you, and tell her you are having problems so she can start looking for someone else." Some of the color left his face. "Or maybe it would be better to call your mother and let her tell your girlfriend." The rest of the color left his face. "Or maybe if you have this problem again, we could just send you home." He said, "President, maybe I can change. You know, I'm sure I can." I said, "Elder, I know you can. You just have to want to change."
Change is not something that happens without an effort on our part. We have to decide and choose to change. Then we can go to Heavenly Father for help. Through faith in the Atonement of Jesus Christ we can be helped and healed.
Remember, we're in charge of the chicken. It's our choice. Satan can't force us to sin. The only power he has is what we give him.
I've never done anything wrong in my life that I didn't know was wrong the moment I did it. As a mission president, I interviewed many people who had serious problems before they were baptized--people who were as spiritually depleted as anyone could be. As we discussed the things they had done, not one of them ever said to me, "I didn't know it was wrong." They often told me, "I knew when I did it that it was not right. I felt it."
We know when we're not square with the Lord. We know by the way we feel. We should recognize our sins and weaknesses and be honest with ourselves and not use excuses like, "It's not my fault," "I didn't know it was wrong," "Everybody is doing it," "Times have changed." This is what Satan wants us to believe and say.
Satan is a master of deception and will do all in his power to impede our efforts to be clean. He will tempt us always and poison us slowly if we listen to his lies. Sometimes he does it so cunningly that we hardly know it's happening.
One of my childhood friends had a pigpen located under some large shade trees behind his house. In the pen there was every kind of pig--big ones, little ones, sows, boars, weaner pigs, and feeder pigs. The pen was filled with mud, manure, and pigs. We didn't have color TV or video games, so sometimes we would just go sit on the fence and watch the pigs. This might seem like odd behavior, but really it wasn't much different than watching reality TV today. We watched the pigs fight, root around in the mud and manure, and do whatever pigs do. One day my friend's father pulled into the yard with his pickup overflowing with some of the most wonderful things my eyes had ever seen. It was filled with donuts, bread, cupcakes, and Twinkies that had passed their expiration date. He backed up to the pigpen and shoveled his cargo into the muck. The pigs began to devour their food, wrappers and all. Each mouthful was filled with cupcakes or Twinkies, plastic wrappers smeared with mud and manure. It was awful and disgusting. It made me sick to my stomach. Over the next few weeks, each time we watched this happen, it started to be a little less repulsive and became a little more entertaining. What had seemed so foul and ugly became something we looked forward to. One day I told my friend that I had heard that Twinkies never expire, so if we could figure a way to get some of the Twinkies out of the pigpen without the pigs attacking us, we could have free treats. We couldn't go into the pen, so we took a rake and pulled a large blob of mud, manure, and Twinkies from under the fence. We washed the wrappers off with water and, after checking for holes or tears, sat on the fence and ate Twinkies with the pigs. Isn't this exactly how Satan works? He takes something that is dirty, foul, and disgusting, and over time we start to accept it as entertaining, desirable, and good. The next time you think of doing something foolish, imagine yourself sitting on a fence eating Twinkies with the pigs.
If we have found ourselves in the mud and made mistakes that make us feel unworthy, remember what President Boyd K. Packer has said: "Save for the exception of the very few who defect to perdition, there is no habit, no addiction, no rebellion, no transgression, no apostasy, no crime exempted from the promise of complete forgiveness. That is the promise of the atonement of Christ" ("The Brilliant Morning of Forgiveness," Ensign, November 1995, 20).
No matter where we've been or what we've done, we can be clean. It is our choice.
The third choice: Choose to be happy.
Even when we make right choices, our lives don't always turn out like we imagined, planned, or even worked to achieve. We might have health trials, children or spouses might have a crisis of faith, marriage might end in divorce, or we might remain single.
When we look at the life of Christ, we see that even though He was perfect, the path He walked took Him through many of the same challenges we face in life. Jesus encountered disappointment, temptation, and pain.
There are things in our lives that are not in our control, so the only thing we can do is try to control how we react to them.
Emily Kingsley wrote an essay where she compared her unexpected challenge, having a disabled child, to getting on a plane for a vacation to Italy she had planned and looked forward to for years, but instead she landed in Holland. Then she has this imaginary conversation:
"Holland? What do you mean, Holland? I signed up for Italy! I'm supposed to be in Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy."
"But there has been a change in the flight plan. You've landed in Holland, and there you must stay."
But then you meet others that have been to Italy, and they are all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And you say, "Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned."
But if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to go to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things about Holland. Accepting the unexpected realities that happen in our lives can free us from despair and allow us to rejoice in the life we have.
Through righteous living, our happiness can be complete as we embrace life in its full, unpredictable way.
Happiness does not come from what we have, what world status we might attain, or having all go as planned. It comes from understanding who we are and making choices that draw us closer to the Savior. It comes from the knowledge that our personal weaknesses do not define us. It comes from listening to those who build, lift, and encourage us so we can understand better our divine nature.
In the first interview with each missionary, I liked to help them see their talents, build them up, and encourage them. Before new missionaries arrived, I read all the information on their applications to get to know them a little. I was a little concerned about one of the new elders. He was relatively new in the Church and came from difficult circumstances. I worried that he might lack the experience and background to be an effective missionary. As this young elder sat before me, I wanted to say something to encourage him, but I just couldn't think of anything I could tell him without giving him false hope. What could I say? Finally I said, "Elder, I have a feeling that you are going to be a great missionary. You are going to be such a blessing to our mission and a great blessing to the people here." He looked at me like, "What did you just say?" I thought to myself, "What did I say?" A few weeks later, I received a letter from him. He wrote, "President, I've been thinking a lot about what you said in my interview. I even wrote my mother about what you told me. We think you might be right."
Our mission was split soon after, and I never saw this elder again. Later, however, I met his new president at a training meeting. He asked me, "Do you remember Elder So-and-So?" I wanted to say, "Hey, I only had him for a while, so whatever he's done has nothing to do with me." He said, "Elder So-and-So is an amazing missionary; he has been such a blessing to our mission and to the people he has taught." As I thought about what I had told him in that first interview, I realized that the words I had spoken had not come from me. Those were the words of a loving Heavenly Father telling his son, "I love you. You can be great. You can do it."
Brothers and sisters, as we ask ourselves the question "Is this what you want your life to be?" I pray that we will have the courage to have faith in ourselves, faith to be clean, and faith to choose wisely so we might have eternal happiness. This is what our Father in Heaven wants for all of us. He loves us. He wants us back. He's telling us we can do it.
I testify that God lives and knows each of us, and through the Atonement of His Son--our Savior, Jesus Christ--we can return to Him. I know this to be true. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.