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I clearly remember that day back in the summer of 1968. My husband and I were sitting in Sacrament Meeting in our student ward at BYU when we received counsel that has profoundly affected my life. 

Our Stake President was speaking, and what he taught us is one of the few life lessons I still remember from our four years of university life. It has influenced countless decisions that my husband and I have made, prevented us from making unwise decisions, and given us the strength to hold on just a little longer when we were about to say something we should not have said. I have, on occasion, wondered how different our lives would be if we had been out of town that weekend and had missed his guidance.

We were in what we called a newlywed ward, as most of us had only been married for about a year, and all of us attended BYU.

President Callister had come that day with a firm and clear message – to give us advice on a principle that he declared would bless our lives. Much of his counsel was fundamental, gospel-centered advice – regarding regular church attendance, temple attendance, paying our tithes and offerings, and regularly studying our scriptures. 

He told us that during the time he had been our Stake President, he had seen couples get into serious financial trouble by making rash decisions on purchases, which led to even more serious problems in their marriages. Many students seemed to have a propensity to buy things they could not afford. With 25,000 students in the area, student housing was a treasure-trove to vendors selling all manner of items to unwary students – items such as encyclopedias, cookware, vacuums, and even tools. 

He went on to describe some of the vendor’s sales tactics, which was a rather unusual thing to be hearing about in church. Many salesmen were well-spoken and could make you feel that if you did not purchase the encyclopedias, or vacuum, or tools for your small family that very day, then you were leaving their future education and even their health to chance. They convinced these newlyweds, (many who still had over 2 years of education ahead of them) that for a small down-payment and only $8-10 a month, they could secure their children’s future. For those newlyweds living in basement apartments with ancient wallpaper and no furniture to speak of, the thought of acquiring something right now to improve their family life was too good an opportunity to pass up. So, they bought the encyclopedias, the vacuum, and the pots and pans and were soon paying $40 a month (or more) out of a $250 budget, to purchase what should have been put off for a few years longer.

And then the message the President had come to deliver came – like a bolt of lightning out of a clear blue sky – The 72 Hour Rule.

President Callister had some advice for us that morning, and he promised that if we heeded his counsel, our lives would be blessed, and we would not find ourselves in the financial or emotional bondage that so many students were in.

He counseled us to never make an immediate decisions on a significant purchase or take action on an emotional issue until we had thought about and prayed about it for a full 72 hours. He said that too often, students with little furniture would go into a furniture store to just ‘browse’ and look at what they might be able to purchase someday. Before they knew it, they were walking out the door having just purchased a living room full of furniture on a payment plan.

He said there would be times when we felt that our decision would be the same after waiting out the three days and that in the interest of time, we could just proceed. But he admonished us not to give in on these sudden decisions – not after 24 hours or even 48 hours, but to wait out the full 72 hours, thinking and praying about it. He told us that salesclerks would often pressure us to close the sale that very day, knowing if we waited, we would usually change our minds. 

He spoke with such conviction that it wasn’t long before my husband and I determined that very afternoon that we would follow his counsel. It was about a year before our resolve was tested.

A young man our age showed up at our basement apartment door one evening almost a year later. He said he had a small gift for us if we would listen to his presentation. He added that he was just getting started in business and needed someone to practice his sales pitch on. He assured us that the gift would be ours to keep, regardless of our decision to purchase, so we let him come in. 

He was selling books, and they came as a large set. Part of the collection were encyclopedias; others were classics, books of poetry, medical guides, and children’s books. He gave us several books to look through, and they looked well-made and exciting. I thought they would be a worth-while purchase and said something to that effect. He immediately began writing up a sales statement when I stopped him. I told him we had to wait for 72 hours before we could enter into a contract.

He must have thought we didn’t have enough for the down payment and needed three days for our paycheck to arrive because he said that wasn’t a problem–we could sign the paperwork that night, and he would come back for the down payment three days later. I explained that we couldn’t even sign the paperwork without waiting for the full 72 hours. He looked confused, and so I told him of our Stake President’s counsel. I assured him we wanted the books and would buy them after the 3 days had passed. Before he even realized what he was saying, he gave away one of his most powerful techniques when he said, “No, you won’t. If you don’t sign tonight, you will never buy the set.” He then packed up his books, gave us a paper with his name and phone number on it, and left. We never bought his set of books.

As the years went on, the 72-Hour Rule became part of our way of life, and we were blessed countless times for heeding that advice. There were many times that an incident occurred that left me emotionally upset, and I wanted to go and talk to someone about it. But as I learned to wait, and pray for counsel and understanding, the anger would always subside. There were other times when, after waiting the 72 hours, I could follow through on my original plan. But even then, I felt in control of my emotions and words.

About 25 years ago, while attending an educational conference, I learned about the difference between the functions of the brainstem and the frontal cortex of the brain in how they processed information, as related to behavior. The instructor explained that the purpose of both areas of the brain are vital for human survival. We learned about the features of the frontal cortex, where our thinking and problem-solving skills are developed. We learned that the frontal lobes are involved in motor function, problem-solving, judgment, and impulse control.

We also learned about the brainstem – where our fight or flight instinct is centered. The sympathetic nervous system prepares the body for sudden stress, like if we were in a car accident. When something frightening happens, the sympathetic nervous system makes the heart beat faster so that it sends blood quickly to different parts of the body that might need it. It also causes the release of adrenaline, a hormone that helps give extra power to the muscles for a quick getaway. This process is known as the fight or flight response, and we may discover that in times of emotional distress, the added adrenaline causes us to fight with our words and actions as well. It can take hours for our body to return to normal after such an experience.

It was years before I began to see the correlation between what I had learned about brain function and what our Stake President had counseled us to do so long ago. We need to be sure we are in the frontal cortex before attempting to make decisions, solve problems, or have difficult conversations. I was never more grateful for the 72 Hour Rule than the day I became so upset over something that I almost ignored my resolve made many years earlier.

An off-hand comment was made about one of my children. The comment was made publicly in a church setting, and although the person who said it meant it as a joke, it gave many in our congregations a false impression about this child. Several of our older children were shocked that someone would say something like that, even as a joke. I was not amused in the slightest. I felt the integrity of our child had been maligned. I tried so hard to get past it, but I couldn’t. Days went by, and I found myself consumed by my anger. Finally, one evening, I called a friend and shared with her my struggle. I seriously expected her to tell me to just get over it, but she didn’t. She thought it would be appropriate for me to write a letter to the person who had made such a thoughtless remark. I worked hard on the letter. It was carefully worded and explained the backlash from such an idle comment. It was kind, yet firm, voicing my indignation in a powerful, yet compassionate way. I thought it was quite well written and decided I would mail it in the morning.

But by morning, I remembered the 72-Hour Rule. I almost decided to ignore the rule this time, because I KNEW that this was one letter that was going to get mailed. But following our practice of many years, I decided to wait out the 72 hours and put the letter in the top drawer of my dresser. 24-hours later, I was still upset and still determined to mail it. But I had finally reached the point where I could begin to pray about it. I asked my Father in Heaven to take the anger out of my heart and mind so that I could look clearly at this situation and know what to do. 

48 hours came and left, and I had not changed my mind and thought that I might as well stamp the envelope. And then it happened. Somehow, in the time between 48 and 72 hours, a miracle occurred in my heart. It started while reading Doctrine and Covenants: 98: 23.

“Now I speak unto you concerning your families – if men will smite you, or your families, once, and ye bear it patiently and revile not against them, neither seek revenge, ye shall be rewarded. But if ye bear it not patiently, it shall be accounted unto you as being meted out as a just measure unto you.”

When I awoke on the third day, I realized there was not a trace of anger left in my heart. It was completely gone. I tore the letter up and threw it away. As the day went on, I felt a little foolish for having gotten so upset and angry over the whole thing, and I have been grateful to the Lord from that day until this that I did not send that letter. That person has become very dear to me, and had I sent that letter, it could have forever tarnished our friendship. 

We are blessed beyond measure to have church leaders who lead us and guide us to live in a more Christ-like way. I have no idea where President Callister learned about the 72-Hour Rule, but I have been grateful for over fifty years that he followed the inspiration he received and shared it with us.

My children have teased me many times over the years that I have buyer’s remorse in reverse. I will see something I want to purchase that feels like it is way beyond our budget and then begin the 72-hour process. On occasion, by the time I have decided it would be okay to proceed and purchase it after all, the item is gone. But I can live with that because of the many, many times when it has protected me from myself and led me to take a higher road.