It is a delight for me to be with you this morning. As I prepared this talk I could feel something about how much the Lord loves you. That He knows you, that He wants to speak to you today and I felt Him guiding me to see what I can do to make that happen. As I came and shook your hands I felt that even more, that the Lord has even more great things for you to do. You all, each one of you, has an important mission for which you came to earth. I can feel your faith, and the faith of your mothers and fathers—faith that has caused you to come to this unique institution of higher learning—the LDS Business College. Each of you are here because of that faith.
Unlike many other educational institutions, in addition to helping you obtain an education and a transferable degree, it also focuses on deepening and strengthening your discipleship in Jesus Christ. It is committed to creating an environment of deeper learning, where you can not only receive information you need, but you can learn how to learn. And to develop the capacity to be constantly and continuously learning throughout every day of your life. What a blessing to be a part of an institution with that focus.
You have a team of exceptional leaders. I have known and loved Alynda and Bruce Kusch for many years. Every time I talk with President Kusch he is talking about how wonderful you are. I know how committed he is to helping you succeed. He knows one thing that we all know: you are the future. You are the future of the church; you are the future of the world. We are committed to do everything in our power to help you have a bright, happy and fulfilling future. With that, I pray that the Spirit will be with us today, that we can learn the things that will help you move toward that great future that the Lord has prepared for us.
Good learning and good decisions are inseparably connected. You cannot make good decisions if you are not learning well. Good learning is essential to our growth and progression on earth. We are on the earth today because of the growth and progression that we experienced in our pre-mortal life. Our progress there came because of the things we learned from our Heavenly Parents and the decision we made to choose our Father's plan. His plan was to come to this earth.
We have now changed worlds because we made that choice and chose that plan. We are now here on the earth with mortal bodies prepared for us by earthly parents. The immortal spirit that lived with Him, now is living in this body of flesh and bones. That spirit, that we each bring, brings with it the knowledge and all of the experience we gained in our pre-mortal life. It also brings with it the characteristic traits we developed by living the truths we learned there. The challenge and adventure of mortality is to continue the process of learning, growth and development.
There is a pattern that the pre-earth experience teaches us. It is a pattern of continual growth and progression.
It is said that God's course is one eternal round (see D&C 3:2). There is this pattern, or cycle. It involves the principles of agency, knowledge and choice. Those are the foundations of that pattern. The pattern is this: God places us in a situation with conditions specifically prepared for us. There are no accidents. Each of us is placed here on earth in the circumstances that are the most important for us. And as we are baptized and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost and seek God’s guidance, He will place us in those circumstances to help us get to where He needs us. He permits us in that circumstance to exercise our agency to seek knowledge and make decisions to act or not act on the truths we learn. As we act in obedience, we gain experience and make progress. The Lord explained it this way to the Prophet Joseph Smith: “That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light growth brighter and brighter until the perfect day” (D&C 50:24).
In our pre-mortal life, we were placed in a situation where we could learn truth from Heavenly Parents. We chose to act in obedience to those truths and for that reason were given the opportunity to come to earth to grow. That was our first cycle of growth. It was there but now we are here on earth and we are each in a cycle here on earth.
Each of us was born to mortal parents. Initially, they nurtured us and made every decision for us: what we ate, when we went to bed and what we wore. That was necessary until we could gradually obtain the knowledge and capacity to make choices of our own. Overtime, we developed the ability to act as our own agents. Now, most of you have left home and have become responsible for every aspect of your daily lives. Do you remember that first day you left home? You said, “What am I going to eat tonight? Who is going to fix it? Why aren’t my clothes washed?” We have to accept responsibility for all of those aspects of our life. And we are going through that process of learning. How to seek knowledge. How to exercise judgment. To use our agency to make the decisions that will give us the growth and happiness that we want.
As you learn how to effectively navigate the circumstances of your current situation, the Lord will stretch you by adding new dimensions to your growth and experience. Perhaps they will come in the form of a calling, an educational opportunity, getting married, the establishment of a family or a job. In each new circumstance or situation, you will be given the opportunity to struggle and work to learn and apply the principles of truth that pertain to your new situation. So long as you continue acting as an agent in your efforts to learn and choose well, the Lord will help you continue to grow and develop. This pattern of continual learning and becoming will be repeated many times throughout your mortal lives. Indeed, the richness and fulness of our mortal experiences will be determined by how well we use each new circumstance we are placed in in mortality to increase our knowledge of truth and act to apply it in our lives.
That is the pattern that the Savior understood and followed perfectly during His mortal life. "And I, John saw that he received not of the fulness at the first, but received grace for grace... Until he received a fulness" (D&C 93:12-14). He obtained a perfect knowledge of the truths applicable to each situation he was placed in, and in every instance, acted consistently with those truths. His will was perfectly aligned with truth and the will of His Father in every act, every day of His life. There was no step He took, no word He spoke, no act He performed that was not in harmony with the will of His Father.
Last week in general conference I heard these words, "Remember that discipleship is not about doing things perfectly; it's about doing things intentionally. It is your choices that show what you truly are, far more than your abilities" (Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Your Great Adventure, October 2019). I was struck by the word "intentionally." I thought of how the Savior intentionally lived His life in mortality and how important it is for me and for you to follow His perfect example to live our lives intentionally.
Intentionally means consciously, deliberately or on purpose. It means not leaving things to chance or coincidence. We live intentionally when we think deeply about why we do what we do and make conscious and deliberate efforts to incorporate our values into every aspects of our daily lives. It involves making plans and establishing goals to help reshape our actions to align with our values. Living intentionally drives constant learning and growth in our lives as we try to align our will to God's, to fulfill our individual mortal missions and grow from grace to grace, just as Jesus Christ did.
The opposite of intentional is unintentional, unwitting or aimless. Living unintentionally involves going with the flow, responding to external influences and passively and thoughtlessly accepting and acting on the ideas of those around us. Unintentional living requires little to no effort on our part. It is a passive surrendering to the ideas, values and forces around us, permitting them to act upon, shape and motivate us. The unintentional life feels no need to embrace values or act to incorporate them into our daily living – it does not shape life, it lets life shape it.
We live in a wonderful time. We have more conveniences and opportunities than ever before. In the digital age, we have devices and apps that inform us, serve us and support us. Some of them know more about us than we know about ourselves. I stopped wearing my smart watch when it started telling me what to do. “Breathe.” I am already breathing, thank you. I don’t need you to tell me that. “Get up and move.” You don’t know, I’m in a meeting. I can’t get up and move right now. It got a little obnoxious. I said, “I think I can figure this out.” You’re not going to tell me how to live my life. However, living in such a convenient world brings with it the risk of living unintentional lives as illustrated by the following:
"The trouble started when I signed up for Amazon Prime, the online superstore’s two-day delivery service. I started out ordering a few books here and there and it was incredibly convenient. I found it amazing that I could order something and it would show up on my porch two days later. It saved time and allowed me to get the things I wanted without even leaving the house. Eventually, what started out as an occasional convenience became a not-so-occasional habit. Individually, those small daily purchases didn’t seem like much... With an effortless tap of the 1-click purchase, money flowed out of my bank account while a brown cardboard box was prepared and shipped to my home.
“Not even the monthly credit card statements set off any warnings. In the worst months, they were a few hundred dollars at the most. While it was never an issue to pay off, the purchases steadily ate into my income each month.
“Whenever an opportunity came to join my family or friends on a trip, I never seemed to be able to go. I loved traveling and spending time with people I care about; it was what I always talked about wanting to do, and it puzzled me why I wasn’t able to do it.
“One day, I needed to look for an item that I had purchased over a year earlier and in doing so, started digging through my Amazon purchase history. At that moment, I decided to download four years of purchase records from the site. The result was shocking. Years of small, daily actions added up to create a massive impact—for me this was quite damaging to my bank account and the lifestyle that I dreamed of.
“Over the course of four years I had spent thousands of dollars on various Amazon purchases, most of which I didn’t even remember buying. Those small purchases were the epitome of unintentional living" (https://nosidebar.com/live-intentionally, Anthony Ongarothe).
In this true story, a bright and capable individual ceded his intentional life for an unintentional life. It is not hard to do in today's world. In general conference last week, President Stephen W. Owen spoke of waking up early for scripture study and getting distracted for several hours by email messages he had received overnight. All of us have experienced going online to do research on a specific topic and being distracted by something interesting that ate up more of our time than we intended. How many of you have thought to take a short break from studying to play a quick game of Minecraft or Fortnite only to look up later and find that your “short break” had turned into a break of several hours? And, do I even need to ask how many have accessed social media to take a quick look or make a short post and ended up staying online for hours, perhaps missing class, or Church, or meals? Unfortunately, the very devices and tools that make our lives convenient and easy can also make our lives unintentional.
You may be asking, "What's so bad about living life inadvertently? Do I really need to get rid of social media or video games?" The answer is simple. You are free to choose. You become an object to be acted upon. As a result, your growth stops. President Nelson has made some pretty specific invitations about social media. He has made those for a reason. When a prophet of God makes an invitation, we should listen and think about that. You are free to choose, that is part of what this is all about. Part of being able to choose in this age is that. You are free to choose how you will use these things and whether you choose to live an intentional life or an unintentional life. If you choose to live an unintentional life, you stop learning, you stop stretching, you stop growing, you stop deciding and you stop being an agent. You become an object. The world, life, social media and all of these tools act upon you.
Two examples, one humorous and one more serious might illustrate that point. The first: When I was younger, I worked with a wise, experienced attorney. One day we met a public servant who had held the same office for more than twenty years. I was impressed at this apparent accomplishment and made a comment that the man must be very smart and experienced for working twenty years. My lawyer friend smiled at me and said, "He doesn't have twenty years of experience – he has one year of experience repeated twenty times.” My lawyer friend taught me that the public servant had lived unintentionally and knew little more after twenty years than he had after his first year of service.
The second experience is from my youth. During my teen years, I had a conversation with a friend who I grew up with who was also a member of the Church. Like me, he had been taught the gospel by good parents and Church leaders. However, he made a choice to be unintentional with the gospel and to just go with the flow; to have fun. He told me, "I know the Church is true. I just want to have some fun while I am young. When I am done, I will get active again." The sad part, that conversation took place more than forty years ago. He is still a Teacher in the Aaronic Priesthood. He has never pursued an education, never attended the temple and never had his family sealed to him. When we are unintentional, those are just two examples of how our progress stops. It stops in both temporal and spiritual things. If we want to progress, we have to live intentionally every day.
Author Annie Dillard has said, "How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives" (Annie Dillard, anniedillard.com). It follows that being intentional in how we spend our days will ensure that our lives are also rich, happy and full of progress.
So, you are thinking, I am convinced that I need to live more intentionally so, how do I do it? There is no one definitive answer. You will have to determine that for yourselves, but the gospel of Jesus Christ provides a wonderful framework for intentional living.
The gospel gives us the values and truths needed for intentional living. We accepted those values and truths when we were baptized and confirmed. At that time, we witnessed that we were willing to take upon us His name and become disciples of Jesus Christ. That commitment is to work intentionally to learn His truths, cultivate His virtues and incorporate the attributes of His character into our own.
Let's think for the next few minutes on how we might apply this framework to our daily lives in practical ways. How do we make intentional living? How do we make every day intentional? One of those ways is to find the thing that we need to do to make our next step of progress. Think about that. What is it that you’re worried about in your own self. It could be a character issue, it could be something you’re not quite living - a standard you think you should be living. If you don’t quite know what to do and how to respond to that, take time in your daily scripture study in the morning to study the topic. Ponder the principle. And then, after you’ve studied it and pondered it, write down what you learn. Then kneel down in your prayer, teach Heavenly Father. Explain to Him what you learned. This is what I learned about this that I want to improve on. Tell Him how you feel and what you want to do. What your desire is. Then wait to see what He tells you to do that day, to take a step to improve what you were discussing with Him. If you do that every day, you will take the little steps that come.
This is the process of change that President Russell M. Nelson described last April, "When Jesus asks you and me to 'repent,' He is inviting us to change our mind, our knowledge, our spirit—even the way we breathe" (Russell M. Nelson, “We Can Do Better and Be Better,” April 2019).
And then he gave us some specific areas to consider. "He is asking us to change the way we love, think, serve, spend our time, treat our wives, teach our children, and even care for our bodies" (Russell M. Nelson, “We Can Do Better and Be Better,” April 2019).
Living intentionally means changing, which means repenting. Repenting, like he said, is not a bad word. It is a key to our progress.
Let's take a minute to consider practical ways that we might apply the principles related to the care for our bodies. We could use our morning scripture study to study the Word of Wisdom. We could study what the prophets have said. We have a lot of questions from people in the church: “Is vaping okay?”, “Is using medical marijuana okay?”, “Are energy drinks okay?”. We are never going to be able to put out a list of all the kosher foods for the Latter-day Saints. But, you can for yourself. As you study the Word of Wisdom, stop and think about your life. Write down what the Spirit tells you to do. Some of those things might be something like: eat three balanced meals, stop eating junk food, get more exercise, study dietary changes to address a specific health risk or problem that you have or feed our mind with more uplifting materials. As you write those down say, “What will I do today?” Make your life conform to the things you pondered and felt as you studied it. And President Nelson is a living testament of the results of a life lived intentionally to properly care for our mortal bodies.
Now that was just an example. You can think of other principles you need or want to learn about and incorporate them into your efforts at intentional living.
Another part of living intentionally is partaking of the sacrament. Each week when you go and sit to take the sacrament, you can ponder what you have done to live intentionally, or how you have done to incorporate the gospel in it. Living intentionally keeps us focused on those things that matter most – the questions that are most important for you. There are many questions on the internet. People post all kinds of questions. Don’t depend on those questions. You figure out the questions that are important to you. Put the questions that others have aside and then focus on what is there for you. When we blindly take questions off the internet and social media, we cede our agency. We think as someone else wants us to think. That is not living intentionally, but on the other hand, when we read our scriptures, pray daily and generate our own inspired questions that drive our daily progress and growth, then we are living intentionally.
The sacrament is a time designated for us to remember Christ and reflect on our discipleship over the past week and consider how we might improve it in the week ahead. By daily studying, seeking and acting on the impressions we have on how to improve our discipleship, we will be fully prepared to partake of the sacrament and to receive the promise to all those who do: we will have the Holy Ghost to always be with us. Having the Holy Ghost to guide and teach us is essential to living our lives intentionally.
Living life intentionally helps keep us focused on those things that matter most – the things we need to understand and act upon to fulfill the purposes for which we came to earth. Through the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, we will be inspired to ask ourselves the questions that will propel us forward in our progress. Focusing on those questions will keep us centered and avoid our getting caught up in questions that are not related to our growth and progress.
I witness that we are able to live intentionally because of God's plan and God's laws. I witness that Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost make it possible to be led in our learning and in our actions to help us progress and find joy in this mortal life. Jesus said, "I am come that they might have life; and that they might have it more abundantly" (John 10:10).
My prayer and hope for all of us is that we can live our lives intentionally centered on Jesus Christ and His gospel. That is the life I want for me and my family and it is the life that I want for you. I witness that we have loving Heavenly Parents who have a specific plan for each of our lives, and that Jesus Christ is the Savior and Redeemer of the world. The Holy Ghost is our holy and sacred friend and partner to help us grow and progress. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord's kingdom on the earth today and President Russell M. Nelson is the Lord's prophet. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Elder Paul B. Pieper was sustained as a General Authority Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on April 2, 2005. He has served in the Europe East, Middle East, and Mexico Areas, as well as at Church headquarters in the Family History, Curriculum, and Priesthood and Family Departments. He is currently serving as a member of the Mexico Area Presidency.
Elder Pieper was trained as an attorney. He worked in Latin America, Asia, and the former Soviet Union with law and management consulting firms during his professional career.
Elder Pieper has served in a number of Church callings, including full-time missionary in Monterrey Mexico, high councilor, counselor in a stake presidency, and president of the Russia St. Petersburg Mission (2004–2005).
Paul Bowen Pieper was born in Pocatello, Idaho, on October 7, 1957. He married Melissa Tuttle in November 1979. They are the parents of six children.