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President J. Lawrence Richards

President J. Lawrence Richards

22 Jul. 2015

Transcript

As a Child of Abraham

 
Thank you, choir. That was wonderful. I’m not having a good day. All weekend I worked on the talk, and I had these slides that I was going to prepare. I even came home from Bear Lake on Sunday to finish some church assignments and did the slides, put them on a flash drive, and left them in my house, went back up to Bear Lake. I’ve got some allergies this morning, so I sound like Orson Welles or Barry White, if any of you remember. 
 
I lost the key to my office this morning; couldn’t get in. I went to pick my wife up, parked in the Church parking so she wouldn’t have to walk. There are no parking spaces in the Church plaza this morning that I am authorized to park in. I fully suspect that when I leave there will be a note on my window that says something close to the Biblical handwriting that told King Nebuchadnezzar the he had been “… weighed in the balance and found wanting.” I’m prepared for that, because it’s just one of those days. I woke up with a headache. I still have it. 
 
And then Brother Morales prays and thanks Father in Heaven for a beautiful day. My goodness, it’s raining. I’m losing my voice and I don’t have my keys. And Brother Morales is thankful for a beautiful day. I think there’s a lesson in that, and I’m going to invite one of you to stand up just right where you are and tell me the lesson that you’ve just learned in the last three minutes. Stella.
 
Now Stella says, “Be thankful for whatever situation you might be in.” Stella, may I be personal with this congregation? Turn around so they can see you. How many of you know Stella? Thanks, Stella, you can sit down, because I’m going to talk about and I hope you are not embarrassed.  I want to do it because Stella is a very special woman who I greatly admire.  How many of you know that Stella has a little situation that causes frequent seizures at the College?  And here’s a woman who just stood up and said, “Be thankful for whatever condition you have and whatever situation you are in.”
 
Oh, brothers and sisters, hooray for Stella. Hooray for all of you who have come today or any day to the College, with things weighing on you that are far more important than whether you have allergies or lost the key to your office.  Bless you who carry those burdens and are willing to pray and be thankful for who you are, the situation you may be in, knowing the Lord loves you and will never give you a trial or a challenge that is beyond your capability, to deal with it, unless of course it is a trial that you’ve brought on yourself by transgression. 
 
Now, Emanuel stood up and talked about feelings of inadequacy. How many of you, on any given day of the week, feel inadequate? Manifest by the uplifted hand. So what are we to make of the fact that every one of you in this room we were born of the spiritual lineage of Abraham, and therefore entitled to all the blessings and responsibilities that come with being of the lineage of Abraham. And it includes the promised blessings the kingdom is yours. Why? Because you’re special? Maybe not, so much. It just happens that you were born through that line. And with that line comes the great challenge to proclaim the gospel. That responsibility is on your head. It is on your head to become what Father in Heaven would have you become as Abraham’s seed, and upon your shoulders is the responsibility to gather the House of Israel by proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ.
 
Now given the last 30 seconds, how many of you feel even more inadequate? Please signify. You have come to this earth with blessings upon your head and responsibilities upon your shoulders. And Father in Heaven, in some way I don’t understand blessed you, maybe your Mother in Heaven was there standing near, probably weeping because of the momentary separation between you and Her and Them. And in my mind’s eye, hands may have been laid upon your head. It is not doctrine, but in my mind’s eye—and you were blessed. You were blessed with all of the capabilities, knowing what Father in Heaven would have you experience in this life, and all of the potential character traits necessary for you to fulfill the mission you have been commissioned to fulfill, as a child of Abraham. 
 
So, as Elder Bednar says, if you are 65—none of you…well a few in the room are 65—and you are thinking, and you’re retired and you’re thinking about serving a mission, Elder Bednar says you have already made that decision before you came here, because that responsibility of proclaiming the gospel was upon your shoulders. He also went on to say, “Does a young man who” is physically, mentally, and emotionally capable of serving a mission, does he have to think about whether he should serve or not? Elder Bednar says he has already made that decision, before he came to this earth. Because of the blessings of Abraham on his head, and the responsibility of proclaiming the gospel upon his shoulders. (David A. Bednar, “Teach Them to Understand,” Ricks College Campus Education Week Devotional, June 4, 1998)
 
Now sisters, are you exempt from that proclaiming? Well, you don’t have the same responsibility young men do. If not a mission, your proclaiming is in the households you will fashion, in the Relief Society work that you will do, in the work that you do in the community, and in the service that you will render.
 
And so, how do we proclaim that gospel? One is by the way we choose to live and who we choose that we may become. And the other, if necessary, is to open your mouth. So here we are. And we heard from someone today from Mexico; we’ve heard from someone today from Zimbabwe. As they were speaking, I looked out over you and a clear thought came to my mind. I want to share it with you. I’m going to read out of the book of Isaiah, also in 2 Nephi. When I heard this young priesthood man pray today and thank Heavenly Father for a wonderful day,  and then listened to Emanuel talk about feelings of inadequacy that we all may have and how we may be uplifted, from these students from these two countries, here’s what came to my mind: “And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.
 
“And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths.” (Isaiah 2:2-3; 2 Nephi 12:2-3)
 
And then, over in verse 5: “O house of Jacob, [ye house of Jacob, descendants of Abraham] come ye, and let us walk in the light of the Lord.” (Isaiah 2:5, 2 Nephi 12:5)
 
Now I think I have said it before—maybe not to this group—have you thought about it? There are only four places on the face of the earth where there is a temple to the Most High God, and an institution of higher education in the same spot. There are only four of them in the entire world. You are in one of them. Now I’d like to invite someone else to stand up and share the thought you have right now about the fact that there are four places on the face of the earth in which there are institutions of higher education, a temple, and that you’re in one of them. That means something to someone here, and we would all benefit if you were brave enough to stand up and share it. Will you do that?
 
Daniel says he forgets how blessed he is, and (Student voice) “the opportunity that we have here is very special and very sacred, and I hope that I can continue to remember these things, and I hope that if I don’t, someone will remind me.”
 
Thank you. So here you are, and you have come from the four corners of the earth, up to the mountain of the Lord’s house, and here you have the opportunity to connect secular learning with spiritual truth, and have the tithe payers of the Church support you more than you are supporting yourself in that endeavor. 
 
And so as Daniel said, sometimes we forget. Sometimes we get a little calloused to it. When Sister Richards and I used to live in the upper Sugarhouse area and I was the bishop, we religiously went to the temple every month. When we moved downtown where we could see the temple from our home and pass by it every day coming to work, where the number of steps from our home to the temple is shorter than the number of steps from here back to the College, how often do you think we are going to the temple? No, not as often as could. And so we have to be reminded every once in a while about the blessing of being where we are, learning what we are learning.
 
Now, I had a talk, and may give portions of it. Part of the talk had to do with these three points that you see on the screen: to learn by faith, to lift where you can, and become what you must. So maybe we’ll just summarize a bit in the time we have left.
 
All of you know the admonition in the scriptures to learn by study and by faith. (See Doctrine and Covenants 109:14) Right? You’ve got that; you know the principle. What you probably don’t know really well is how to do the second part of that, to learn by faith. You’ve got the study part down; I hope you do.  But this issue is learning by faith.  
 
I hope you will discover this semester and during your time at LDS Business College how to do it. Learning by faith is a revelatory experience. Elder Oaks says that when we learn by study we learn by reason. He also said that when we learn by faith, we learn by revelation.1 Now, if we are to learn by revelation, here’s the question: what do we need to do to prepare ourselves to learn temporal things by revelation? Somebody stand up and give us an idea. Your name and where you’re from? You’re from Brazil? And your name? 
 
Wonderful. Now, so far we’ve got Mexico, Zimbabwe and Brazil. Stella, where are you from? Kentucky. And Daniel—from California. Can you see the partial fulfillment of Isaiah’s words?
 
Give us one clue about how to learn something temporal by revelation. Can you give us an example, or one thing that you’ve learned that would be helpful to the rest of us?
 
Oh, did you get that one? You have to endure the things that would usually make you give up. Wonderful. Thank you. In the book of Hebrews we learn that faith is the—what?—“substance,” but Joseph Smith changed it. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen. Joseph Smith also wrote that faith is a principle of action and power. Notice the sequence—action, then power.
 
Elder Bednar also said that there are three faces to faith: there is a forward-looking faith; there’s a present-looking faith; and a backward-looking faith.2 Here’s how it would apply. A forward-looking faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the things you desire to achieve as a result of your efforts and God’s enabling power. You come to the College with a hope and a desire to accomplish some outcome. You haven’t seen it yet. You hope that it exists for you, whether it’s a good grade, or finding a spouse, or deepening your testimony. Whatever it is, you have come with the intention, the hope for achieving something you do not yet see. Forward looking faith.
 
1 See “Alternate Voices,” April 1989 General Conference. https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1989/04/alternate-voices?lang=eng  
 
2 Bednar, David A., “Seek Learning by Faith,” Ensign, September 2007.
 
 
Present-looking faith is the action you take in order to achieve the hope  you have. So you work hard and endure things that are not easy with patience. You make choices about whether to study and how to study, or whether you go do something else. Present faith is the action that we take to accomplish what we cannot yet see.
 
Backward-looking faith is when the semester is over and you look back and you see what was accomplished. Three faces of faith. Here is a scriptural application, according to Elder Bednar: The children of Israel have come into the Promised Land. They need to cross the River Jordan. It is in flood stage. There are literally only a handful of people on that point who saw the Red Sea part under Moses’ staff. They have a forward-looking faith, the hope that by their fasting and prayer the River Jordan will part as it had done in their record. Forward-looking faith.
 
Present-looking faith—the actions that they took. Before the River Jordan parted, what had to happen? The priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant had to step into the water. Then it parted. And when they crossed over, they put an Ebenezer there and looked backward—their backward-looking faith—to see the evidence of what was accomplished under the hand of the Lord.
 
Now brothers and sisters, I invite you to study and learn by faith. It is a revelatory experience.  I would be careful, when you study, what’s playing on the buds that are in your ear? Do you hear me? No pun intended, but do you hear me? You have to put yourself in a position to have a revelatory experience to learn anatomy and physiology or economics or whatever. And when you pray and read your scriptures first, so that you are comfortable with hearing the voice of the Lord, and then pick up something temporal to study, I promise you two things: the words on the page will have more meaning to you, number one. And number two, because it is a revelatory experience, you will find connections within a subject you are studying and between different courses you are studying that are meaningful to you, and valuable to you.
 
I promise you that if you do this, it will be like your experience reading the scriptures, where as you read, having prayed first, and you find cross-references and you say, “Oh, my goodness, look! This connects with that. And when you ponder those two things connected, your understanding of that scripture will be deeper and more meaningful. That, brothers and sisters, is revelatory. It’s a gift. Why? Because of the blessings on your head and the responsibilities on your shoulders.  I invite you to change your habits, that you may be entitled to revelatory experiences as you study—to find the connections important to you, the ones Heavenly Father wants you to know, that you may fulfill the mission He has commissioned you to fulfill.
 
What’s my point, brothers and sisters?  What you are learning today under the inspiration of the Spirit? Elder Bednar says, the Holy Ghost fuels curiosity. The Holy Ghost fuels inquiry, he said. What you are learning today, Father in Heaven will tailor it for you if you will let Him do it by receiving it and acting on it.
 
Now, we have a few minutes left. Let’s talk about lifting where you can. Part of being of Abraham is the responsibility to lift and to give service. Now the service I am talking about  has nothing to do with some service project from the Relief Society or the elders quorum. It doesn’t have anything to do with cookies that are dropped off or a note that you write to somebody else. The lifting I am talking about today is the lifting you have opportunity to do at least 20 times a day at the College It is simply to acknowledge people you pass by. 
 
It can be a simple but not trite “Hi, how are you?” And when someone says that to you, here is my recommendation, no matter what kind of day you’re having—lost keys, rain, laryngitis and I can’t find spot to park. If you respond to people who say, “Hi, how are you?” and you say, “I’m happy. How are you?” After about the fifth time, trust me, you will feel happier. Your simple acknowledgement of other people lifts them. I know it by personal testimony because you lift me. It is wonderful to be the president of this College. It is not easy. And when I walk the halls and you say hello to me and you smile, it lifts me.
 
Brothers and sisters, lift where you can, in simple, spontaneous and impromptu ways. And because you are of Abraham, you will bless lives and bring joy. It is in your spiritual DNA to do it. There are people who sit in your classes, who you pass by, that are having a worse day than I am having. 
 
About two years ago I was sitting in my office busily doing something, and a prompting came to me “just go walk the halls.” And it was like, I have this document to prepare. “Just go walk the halls.” I’ll do it later. “Go walk the halls now.”
 
And so I started on the 10th floor, and walked down the stairs, because I’m old and I don’t start at the bottom and walk upstairs anymore. I went to the 9th floor and said hello to some folks, and 8th floor and 7th floor, 6th floor. And on the 5th floor I came out of the east stairwell and the hallway was empty. At the far end of the hall, I watched a young man come out of the door and lean against the wall. . And he was just leaning there, and I’m all the way at the other end of the hall. And so I walked up to him, and I said, “Hi. How are you?” 
 
And he looked up at me with eyes that were in pain, and he said, “President, I just flunked college algebra for the third time.” And so we talked. I don’t know if I made his day any better, but we talked, spirit to spirit, brother to brother. And in my own feelings of inadequacy, I tried to lift. My words were stumbling, my thoughts disconnected, but in that moment, in a small way, I think I was a son of Abraham.
 
Now here is the last point: if we learn by faith and lift where we can, we must become what Father in Heaven wants us to become. And we can fight it, brothers and sisters, and we can try and do our own thing, and we can say I’ll do it some other time in my life later. I have these passions of the flesh and things I want to do and  I’ll repent later. You can repent; there is always a way back. But you can’t often make up for lost opportunities—opportunities that the Lord would have had you fulfill because you are of Abraham and because you have learned important things by faith that are needed to lift up someone else, but you weren’t prepared to do it. So Father in Heaven had to raise up somebody else, perhaps.
 
You can always repent. The Atonement is real. And the Atonement is all about our becoming. But I implore you not to waste your time, not to do the silly things of youth that you don’t need to do. You know better. The Lord will help you.
 
Now, one other connection I want to make. We learn by faith, we lift where we can to become what you must. Here is the silver thread. The becoming that I am talking about has nothing to do with your career, your degree, what job you have, what car you drive, what house you live in. The becoming I am talking about are the character traits that people will talk about when they describe you at your funeral.
 
Elder Oaks told us charity is not something you do; it is something you become. He said it is a state of being.  Isn’t that interesting? Now he said we get charity through a series of acts, but he said it’s a conversion, and therefore charity is a state of being.3 I see it every time I am with the Brethren. I could keep you here another half hour telling you about stories just on the trip to Hawaii, watching Elder Nelson and Elder Oaks be charity.
 
The traits that people will talk about—the traits of the becoming that I’m talking about, the worthwhile traits—here’s the thread—are only developed through the way we interact with others. I invite you to read Mosiah 3:19 and connect it immediately with Doctrine and Covenants 4, and read it as one continuous thought, and see what new connections the Spirit gives you. All of those traits that are mentioned in those two scriptures are only accomplished by the way we interact with other people.
 
And so in conclusion, brothers and sisters, this gospel is for real. This is no game. This is good stuff. It feels good. It tastes good. It pays good dividends. It makes you feel in ways that you can’t feel any other way, because it is a gift of the Spirit. I pray that Father in Heaven will bless you today that you will ponder even more deeply than you ever have before what it means to be of the lineage of Abraham. And the blessings of eternal lives that are upon your head if you will proclaim the gospel by the traits you develop, the life that you live, and when all else fails, something you may say in declaration of your faith.
 
3 “The Challenge to Become,” General Conference October 2000. https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2000/10/the-challenge-to-become?lang=eng

You are here for reasons far beyond what you know, whether you are students, faculty or staff. It is part of the Lord’s plan for you. It is individualized. It is based upon the spiritual gifts and talents that He has blessed you with, that He needs you here to develop. Why? That we may be part of carrying off the kingdom triumphantly.
 
And so we pray as Joseph did in the Doctrine and Covenants, may the kingdom of God roll forth, that the kingdom of heaven may come. And cherished will be the day for me, when I stand in the line of Abraham with you. And my faith about you will be filled when I look back and see, in that day, what you have accomplished in preparing the kingdom of God that it may receive the Savior.
 
May the Lord bless you to know. May He bless you with the energy, the wisdom, endurance and the attitude to have a great day when it’s raining, that you may not be cumbered by feelings of your inadequacies. You have everything it takes to make it is my prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

[1] See “Alternate Voices,” April 1989 General Conference. https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1989/04/alternate-voices?lang=eng

[2] Benar, David A., “Seek Learning by Faith,” Ensign, September 2007.

[3] “The Challenge to Become,” General Conference October 2000. https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2000/10/the-challenge-to-become?lang=eng