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President Larry Richards

President Larry Richards

24 Apr. 2017

Transcript

Farewell: My Prayer for You

President Larry Richards:

I’ll tell you how Tyler hurt his foot. I gave him specific instructions on how this meeting was to go, and he’s violated every one of them. So I kicked him. And Howard Collett, wherever you are, I’m grateful for that slide show. That, too, violated my instructions. And so, you’re fired.

I brought Julie to the pulpit with me today because she doesn’t really like talking to crowds; she just likes giving hugs to individuals. And she wrote a little message that she wanted to share. We’re going to let her share that, and then I will let her sit down, and then I’ll talk to you about my wife for a minute. Then she will kick me. But because of eternal covenants, she can’t fire me.

Sister Richards:

I told him I really did not want to talk, but I do have these words to say to you. I want to thank you all who have been of help and service to me while we have served here. You have become my friends, and I love you.

President Larry Richards:

Okay, here is your book, in case I say something you want to remember. Not really sure about that. Brothers and sisters, my wife, Julie is the reason I am here. Fifteen years ago—it was a Saturday—I was sitting on the couch, and I was reading the sports section of the Saturday paper, and my wife was reading the Church News—which should tell you something about my wife.

And there, at the time, was a little ad at the bottom of the page that said LDS Business College was looking for someone to come and to teach in the business department. She brought that little page from the Church News over, and she set it down in front of me, and then all she did was just [point at it and tap, tap, tap.] And then she walked away.

I looked at it. A few years prior, under the supervision of Tyler Morgan, I had been an adjunct faculty member and taught a couple of classes in the evening—economics and business law. I looked at that page, and I thought, “Well, that would be kind of fun. I’m tired of being in banking.” So I made a phone call.

The next thing you know, they said, “Why don’t you send us a résumé?” The problem was when we received the call that we should send a résumé, we were in the middle of the Caribbean Sea on a cruise with my sister and her husband. This was 15 years ago, people. Can you imagine? In the middle of the Caribbean Sea, how you even find your résumé and get it transmitted, before all of the technology we have now? But somehow, we did, and I was invited in to give a teaching demonstration, which I did. It was about chickens without any bones. I gave a whole lesson on a hypothetical business that had figured out how to grow chickens without bones. I’ll just let you ponder the image of that for a minute.

When it was over, a couple of days later, I received a phone call. They said they wanted me to come go to work here, and then they told me what the pay was. After all the deductions for taxes and retirement and Social Security and everything else, I said to my wife, I said, “Julie, we paid almost half that much in tithing last year. I’m not sure I can keep you in the manner that I found you. I just don’t think we can do it.”

She said, “Larry, make me one promise, please. Will you go to the temple before you say no?” Now, brethren, that ought to tell you something about the woman that you want to marry—number one, that she reads the Church News on Saturday, not the sports page. And number two, that she tells you to go to the temple, which I did. And it became clear that this is where I was to be. So, I am grateful for my bride of—40 years? 41 years. I knew that; I just didn’t know if she remembered that.

Well, today I just want to thank three groups of people. I want to thank the faculty, I want to thank the staff and administration, and if I have control of my emotions, I want to thank you students. This will not be easy for me; I am just a big boob about things and people that I love. And though Tyler has mocked me today, I love you more than I can express.

So, to my colleagues on the faculty that are here today, I am very grateful to you. I am grateful for you making me feel a part of you. I am grateful that you have taught me how to teach better than I ever could have done had I not associated with you. My heart has always been with those that have been in the classroom, and who teach. It is a very hallowed position, a hallowed place. It is a place where testimonies are strengthened, where conversion is deepened. It’s a place where we build confidence. It’s a place where students develop their capabilities to try things they never thought they could try and accomplish things they never thought they could accomplish.

You students have seen that in your teachers and faculty members, both full-time and part-time, who have created an environment in which that could take place—for which I am grateful, and for which students are grateful. So are their parents and the generations that will follow our students, because of your impact in the classroom. You have been entrusted to teach in this temple of learning, and it is a sacred and spiritual endeavor. It is very different than other places at other universities. We teach in a different way. We teach with different priorities and different objectives. And you do it with the Spirit.

We were with a young woman at conference this past weekend, and she said, “The thing that was just amazing to me was that in every class, there was a way the professor found a way of bringing the gospel of Jesus Christ into very temporal things.” And she gave me about three examples. I felt like saying to her, “Yes, but what did you learn about social media marketing?” She said, “I don’t know, but let me tell you about Joseph Smith and how that relates to social media marketing.” So, I am grateful.

Several years ago, President Henry B. Eyring spoke on the campus, and on that occasion, he turned my heart to the 43rd section of the Doctrine and Covenants, verse 16. And ever since then, I have thought about that within the context of teaching and our responsibilities as teachers, whether here at the College, or in your student ward, or in your family ward. We will all be teachers, and the Lord has been clear about the way we should teach. Let me share with you the 43rd section of the Doctrine and Covenants, verse 16: “And ye are to be taught from on high. Sanctify yourselves and ye shall be endowed with power, that ye may give even as I have spoken.”

And on another occasion, then Elder Eyring said, “We are not in the business of education. We are not in the business of granting degrees. We are in the business of empowering students.” And what is that power? Brothers and sisters, it is the power to know. It is the power to do. It is the power to change. It is the power to become. It is a gift of the Spirit when we learn and study by faith.[1]

About seven years ago, I was at a New Student Orientation. That particular fall semester, we had a whole bunch of parents come in. We were in a classroom on the fifth floor; we filled the whole classroom. These were not helicopter parents; they love you. And they came to see what the College was all about, and we filled the room, and they were standing up and were in the back. We had a couple of students come in and explain their experience about the College, and how it impacted them, and how they felt about this institution.

When they were finished, a woman, a mother on the first row, with tears in her eyes looked up and me and said, “Do you mean that my daughter, in two years, can be like them?”

And I said, “Yes, because this is a temple of learning, and the Spirit of the Lord is here.” And she wept, and I wept, and the people in that room knew how important it is for you to be here. So, my prayer, brothers and sisters who teach, is that you will never forget the classroom priority of strengthening testimony and deepening conversion. And if, along the way, these wonderful students pick up some marketable skills that help make them more serviceable in the kingdom, all the better. But let not one of them on our watch lose their testimony and their conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I pray that you who sit in classrooms who are teachers, that you will have the spiritual eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to know and feel.[2] I’ll tell you one story. I’ll call it, “The Pancake Lady.”

There was a good woman that came and decided she would start in our entrepreneurial program. Her son had come to the College. She had been divorced; it was a terrible situation. She and her son and another child had lived in their car for about three weeks. And in her divorce, she learned from her husband that she was no good. She even tried college once, and in her mind, she was told by a faculty member that she couldn’t learn.

And so, she came here, and she sat in the back row in the very corner of some classroom, again, on the fifth floor. But an astute faculty member had eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart that knew how to feel. And after about the third or fourth day, he could tell that this woman in the corner needed some help. So he reached out to her and began a dialogue, and the faculty member learned the story of this woman’s life, and learned her aspiration and her dream and her desire, which was this: she had a pancake recipe from her grandmother that she said was really good. And what she wanted to do was to figure out a way, by coming to the College, that she could get that recipe packaged up and that she could sell it. But she had zero confidence to do it.

So, that good faculty member got another faculty member involved. They kind of coached her and helped her a little bit, told her how to make the pitch to the Lehi Roller Mills down in Utah County. She went down and made her pitch, they practiced her, and they said no. She came back with her tail between her legs a little bit. These two good faculty members dusted her off, propped her up, gave her a little more confidence, tuned up her presentation, and sent her back. This time she came back with an order.

Then she figured out how to go get Costco to sell it and how to get a couple of other grocery store chains to sell it. And this woman, who thought she was worthless because the world and loved ones had told her so, became a blossom. She became our best spokesperson. We put her in front of donors and alumni to speak and to tell her story. She volunteered to do anything the College wanted her to do.

Dear faculty members, there are those in your classroom today who are the equivalent of the pancake lady. I pray you will find them, for I was one who lacked confidence about school, and I am eternally grateful for a teacher who saw in me what I could not see in myself and knew how to nurture the seeds that he saw, that Heavenly Father had planted in me. He helped me find myself, helped me find my soul, and I am eternally grateful to him for that.

We have some students, faculty members, that attend our classrooms from families that are well-off; they have wonderful traditions of education in their lives, and they come from families that have prominent service responsibilities and achievements in the world. And yet those very students from those very families may not know the next steps in their life. And you encourage them, and you help them learn how to act and not be acted upon,[3] as we read in the Book of Mormon.

And then there are students in your classroom who are “poor as to things of the world,”[4] but they are rich in their hopes and their desires and in their dreams. And many of them have come here with only that. And you help them. I’ve often been touched by a little quote from William Butler Yeats. It applies to a different situation in the context of which it was written, but I think of it as students speaking to you who teach—students who may be poorer in talent or in spirit or in capabilities or abilities or background. Let me read to you what these students say to you as faculty members:

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,

Enwrought with golden and silver light,

The blue and the dim and the dark cloths

Of night and light and the half-light,

I would spread the cloths under your feet:

But I, being poor, have only my dreams;

I have spread my dreams under your feet;

Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.[5]

My prayer to you as my beloved faculty members, is you will rise to the divinity that is within you and the calling that is yours here. I have sat in meetings now with the First Presidency of the Church, and I heard those Brethren and sisters who are on the Board of Trustees of this institution—apostles, prophets, general auxiliary leaders of the Church—those who you and I esteem as prophets, seers, and revelators. I have heard them pray for you, faculty members, that you will be about the Lord’s work, doing the Lord’s business in His way. And so, to you who have the mantle of the sacred trust to teach, you who at times stand at the crossroads with fellow travelers to show them a better way, you who build bridges and span the gap between the temporal and the divine, I will dearly miss you and I bid you farewell.

Now, to my colleagues on the staff and administration, you who I have lovingly teased. I only tease, Sister Carey, those I love. And so, if you have been the recipient of my teasing, I love you. If you haven’t, I just haven’t gotten around to it. Give me another week; I’ll get there, and I’ll tease you. I’m grateful that we have laughed together until we have cried. I’m grateful that we have broken bread together, sat in the boardroom casually, dreaming dreams about this College, where the Lord might want it to go.

Years ago, President Eyring at this institution described this place as “a gem in the crown of Church Education.” And you who are a part of the administration and staff and senior management at the institution are charged with the brightness and clarity and maintaining of that gem. You are living examples of what Elder Bednar said. Listen: “Ordinary people who faithfully, diligently, and consistently do simple things that are right before God will bring forth extraordinary results.”[6] I have seen it in you. You have seen it in each other. It is a mark of the Lord’s responsibility that He has laid upon your shoulders, and the blessings that accompany that.

You have exhibited remarkable ability to do more with less and accomplish great things that have moved this temple of learning forward to position it for the next chapter in this College’s long history. And you will illustrate and color the pages of those chapters, of that next chapter, by what you do.

So, what of the next chapter? What will be the next chapter under Dr. Kusch’s leadership? Heaven has helped us discover here some principles of how to teach, how to learn, and how to administer programs, and how to facilitate all that is done here at the College. I will tell you this: the principles that we have discovered are more important than the practices that we have used to implement them. I firmly believe that if we could look forward three years to see where this College will be, we will not recognize it by its practices. Rather, we will recognize it only by the true principles and guiding principles that we have acted upon today.

The practices cannot be the same. This institution will have a worldwide footprint to bless tens of thousands of members of the Church. All of the changes that we have experienced from 2009 when I became president, brothers and sisters, and the administration, the faculty, and staff, and you students should know it—they have been like practice runs preparing us for the next step, the next chapter that Heavenly Father has in store for this College. And it will not be simply a pivot or an inflection on a curve. It will be a transformation. And you will be part of it. You will see it happen, and you will know that the Lord’s hand has been in it.

I would encourage you as a staff and administration, not to hold on to old practices because they are comfortable. There is always a better way, and the Lord needs you to find it, that we might carry off what Heavenly Father wants us to do here. Every student that comes here deserves your very best. Every student counts. Every interaction counts. Every day here counts, because believe me, it will come to an end—your time here—sooner than you hope, sooner than you desire. Trust me, especially if your heart is consecrated to this work.

I’ve got to get to you students. I want to tell you a story—I think the first piece of revelation I ever got about you students. At New Student Orientation in the fall, we used to put you all in buses, take you up to the base of Ensign Peak where there is a monument, and we would all gather round. We would have a member of the institute faculty talk about that place and what happened on day three when Brigham Young was here, took eight brethren, including my great-great-grandfather, up to the top of Ensign Peak. He picked up that walking stick, tied a yellow bandana around it, and waved an ensign to the nation. I said that I had a relative that went up there—he weighed 300 pounds. I feel sorry for the horse.

I think it was the first Fall semester after I had been appointed president. In that location there are some granite blocks, and I was sitting up high so I could look down to the students, and I had an insight about you and every student that has come since then. I looked down upon you, and what came into my mind was the book of Isaiah. And I wept because I understood it. Let me share it with you now:

And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the tops 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.[7]

Now, you and I know that that has to do with the temple of the Most High God, but I will tell you that on that occasion and ever since, it is you—it includes you, in this temple of learning. That is why we meet here on Temple Square. It is why every floor in our building is open to the temple. There are only four places on this planet where there is a Church institution of higher education and a temple to the Most High God, and you are in one of them. I pray the day will come when you will see that and the meaning of that fully in your life.

Now, to you students. I love shaking your hands. Today we made a line, out the door, and it was cold. Tough. I was going to shake your hand. I enjoy you asking me how I am because my response every time you do that it is, “I’m happy.” And I say it enough times when I shake your hands in the halls and see you, I convince myself I really am happy. And I am. Your smiles light my life because in your faces I see the spirit of Father in Heaven. I see your grand desires. I see your cleanliness. I see your hopes for the future. I have considered it a sacred trust that you are here under our collective responsibility.

I have four quick things to share with you students. Number one: these are your days. I pray that you seize them. Elder Neal A. Maxwell said you should count your blessings, but you should also make them count.[8] It’s a blessing for you to be here at this institution. Live for that blessing. Like Oliver Cowdery, for you these can be “days never to be forgotten,”[9] if you will live for it, if you will pray for it, if you will study hard for it.

Of the Lord’s blessings to you, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said this: “You can have what you want, or you can have something better.”[10] And President Russell M. Nelson, when he was Elder Nelson, said this: “The Lord has more in mind for you than you have in mind for yourself.”[11]

So, brothers and sisters, for whatever reason you have come to the College, I pray earnestly and sincerely that you will recognize that the Lord has something more for you here, in addition to whatever reason you thought you came. It is here for you, and it is important to you. It is important to you now, it’s important to your family, and it is important to the work of the kingdom of God.

Listen to this. Elder LeGrand Richards said this:

If the veil could be parted and you could see who you were then, then have a . . . vision of what awaits you—what the Lord had in mind for you noble and great ones who have come forth in this day and time—I do not think . . . you would want to [pass your time away in a leisurely manner]. You would want to make sure that you are using those gifts [and blessings] and talents that God has endowed you with for [His honor and His glory], and the blessing of his children.[12]

I pray you will have a vision for yourself, and when you do—Elder Dallin H. Oaks said that when you have a vision for yourself, your power to do and to become increases significantly.[13]

There is a little quick story told about a camel who had a friend who was an ant. And the camel had on his back this big load that he was carrying, and he felt weighed down by it. But he saw his little buddy the ant, who was carrying in his beak—I don’t know, do ants have beaks? Whatever an ant has—pinchers, a piece of wood that was ten times the weight of the ant. And the camel said to his friend the ant, “I feel so weighed down with this, and look at you. You are scurrying about and running about with this piece of wood that is ten times your weight. Why do you do that? How do you do that? I can’t do it.” And the ant said, “Well, for you it’s a burden; for me it is part of the vision of what I am building. Therefore, I don’t feel the weight.”

Brothers and sisters, you are here to be stretched, to feel the weight a little bit. But if you have a vision of who you are, and what you can become, and what God in heaven would have you do, the weight will be borne and you will scurry about building what Heavenly Father wants you to build in your life.

Second, I pray that you will have an insatiable desire to learn and that you will seek God’s hand in the world around you and daily in your life. Listen to the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning:

Earth’s crammed with heaven,

And every common bush afire with God:

But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,

The rest sit round it, and pluck blackberries.[14]

Number three: life is meant to be a challenge. I pray you will understand the purposes of those challenges. This is a place to take an intellectual risk. It’s a place to explore your talents and to try them out, to fail. What better place is there to fail in trying something new that is worthy and uplifting than here in a temple of learning where we are brothers and sisters in the gospel of Jesus Christ? This is the time; this is the place. It is your day. I hope you’ll take advantage of it.

Emerson wrote, “Be not a slave [to] your . . . past.”[15] Be not a slave to your past. Whatever your past has been, the gift of the Savior’s Atonement promises you a future with blessings that you can hardly imagine. Think of it—if the greatest need you and I had was information, God would have sent us an educator. If the greatest need we had was technology, God would have sent us a scientist. If the greatest need we had was to have pleasure, God would have sent us an entertainer.

But the greatest need that we have in this life is forgiveness, and so God sent you a Savior. And it is through that Atonement, and your alignment with Him, that your power to do and become will increase. I promise you that. I have seen it in those who have come before you, for 15 years. I speak the truth and bear testimony of it.

Well, we are almost to the end. Here’s number four, for you students: I pray you will be faithful to what you know is true. And when there may come those moments of doubt, when you are not sure and doubts about eternal things creep into your heart, I give you the words of William Shakespeare. He said, “Go to your bosom; knock there, and ask your heart what it doth [believe].”[16]

Seek counsel, my good young friends, from those that have your best interests at heart. Those that feign love only want your association, and ultimately, what you can do for them. True love comes from those who seek your eternal well-being and would never ask you to compromise your standards or weaken your testimony, or do anything like it.

Well, I must end, for the time is gone. Let me just add this. From the musical play Wicked, there are two expressions that capture my heart today, and I share them with you, about the College and being here for the past 15 years, and the last eight being here as president. Here are the lines from Wicked:

I’ve been changed for the better . . .

Because I knew you . . .

It may well be

That we will never meet again

In this lifetime

So let me say before we part

So much of me

Is made of what I learned from you

You’ll be with me

Like a hand print on my heart

And now whatever way

Our stories end

I know you have rewritten mine

By being my friend[17]

I’ve taken good counsel the last few weeks from Dr. Seuss, who is attributed to have said this: “Do not cry because it is over; smile because it happened.”

So, brothers and sisters, today I smile—through some tears, yes—but I smile nonetheless because you have made this sacred and treasured chapter of my life happen. And so on this day, I share with you some words contained in two Primary songs that sink deep into my heart, and I hope they sink deep into yours. You are “a child of God, and he has sent [you] here.” He will “lead [you], guide [you], walk beside [you],” and “help [you] find the way.”[18]

“I know [your] Father lives and loves [you] too. The Spirit whispers this to me and tells me it is true. . . . He sent [you] here to earth, by faith to live His plan. [His] Spirit whispers this to me and tells me that [you] can.”[19]

Brothers and sisters, God lives. Jesus is the Christ. He lives. He knows you. He cares about you. He has, as the scriptures say, “graven [you] upon the palms of [His] hands.”[20] He has provided a way that you may know Him, that you may believe Him, and follow Him, and receive the greatest of blessings that He has in store for you, if you are willing to do that which is necessary to receive those blessings.

Let me end with some words that were really first spoken by President Gordon B. Hinckley in 2001. But today, they are my words because they express better than I can the words and the feelings of my heart. They’re my words. He said them; they’re my words today:

The Lord has given us the goal toward which to work. That goal is to build [the kingdom of God], which is a mighty cause of great numbers of men and women of faith, of integrity, of love and concern for mankind, marching forward to create a better society, bringing blessings upon ourselves and upon the heads of others. . . .  

May the Lord bless [you]. May He make [you] strong and mighty in good works. May [your] faith shine . . . as the sunlight of the morning. May [you] walk in obedience to His divine commandments. May He smile with favor upon [you]. And as [you] go forward, may [you] bless humanity with an outreach to all, lifting those who are downtrodden, [depressed,] and oppressed, feeding and clothing the hungry and the needy, extending love and neighborliness to those about [you]. . . . The Lord has shown [you] the way. He has given [you] His word, His counsel, His guidance, yea, His commandments. [You] have done well. [You] have much to be grateful for and much to be proud of. But we can do better, so much better.[21]

How I love you, my brothers and sisters in this great cause. I love you for what you have become, and I love you for what you are becoming. That is the great work of our Savior, Jesus Christ—your becoming. I pray the blessings of heaven upon you as I express my love to you and now bid you farewell, in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.

 

[1] See D&C 88:118.

[2] See Thomas S. Monson, “The Call to Serve,” Oct. 2000 General Conference; Thomas S. Monson, “Be Thou an Example,” Apr. 2005 General Conference.

[3] See 2 Nephi 2:26.

[4] Alma 32:3.

[5] W. B. Yeats, ed. by Richard J. Finneran, “He wishes for the Cloths of Heaven,” Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats. Collier Books: New York (2008).

[6] Melissa Merrill, “Elder Bednar Teaches Women the Spiritual Pattern of Small and Simple Things,” Church News, May 4, 2011.

[7] Isaiah 2:2–3.

[8] See Neal A. Maxwell, “Apply the Atoning Blood of Christ,” Oct. 1997 General Conference.

[9] Joseph Smith—History 1:71, note.

[10] Jeffrey R. Holland quoted in Donald L. Hallstrom, “I Am a Child of God,” Apr. 2016 General Conference.

[11] Russell M. Nelson, “The Lord Uses the Unlikely to Accomplish the Impossible,” BYU—Idaho Devotional, Jan. 26, 2015.

[12] LeGrand Richards, “A Constructive Life,” New Era, Jun. 1976.

[13] See Dallin H. Oaks, “Desire,” Apr. 2011 General Conference.

[14] Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Aurora Leigh: A Poem J. Miller: London (1864), reprinted: Academy Chicago Printers: Chicago (1979), http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/barrett/aurora/aurora.html.

[15] Ralph Waldo Emerson, sel. By Joel Porte, Emerson in His Journals, Harvard University Press: (1982), pp. 189.

[16] See William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure, act 2, scene 2, http://shakespeare.mit.edu/measure/measure.2.2.html.

[17] Stephen Schwartz, “For Good,” Wicked.

[18] “I Am a Child of God,” Hymns, no. 301.

[19] “I Know My Father Lives,” Hymns, no. 302.

[20] 1 Nephi 21:16.

[21] Gordon B. Hinckley, “Living in the Fulness of Times,” Oct. 2001 General Conference.