Thank you, Brother Decker, accompanist, and choir. I love music and I appreciate the tenderness of those words. We especially feel the need for our Savior in our lives every day. So, thank you so much for sharing that with us.
To the rest of you, good morning. It is such a privilege for Sister Christensen and me to be with you today. We have an extended relationship and many tender memories of our association with this wonderful institution. There is something gratifying about being at an institution of higher education. Every time I walk across the campus of any college or university, I get an adrenaline rush. It does not matter whether it is a large public institution like the National University of Mexico, with an enrollment of over 250,000 students, or a small private school like LDS Business College, with approximately 2,500 students. There is always something special in the atmosphere surrounding a learning environment. Maybe it’s the energy that is part of that incredible feeling when, after great effort, understanding a difficult topic you have been struggling with suddenly makes sense to you; perhaps it is created by the collective stress of anticipating and then preparing for finals. Who knows, whatever the reason, whatever the source, the feeling is distinctly palpable.
I have observed over the years that many students get very excited when they receive their acceptance letter notifying them they are now ready to begin their educational journey. Then, later I have marveled that they start anticipating the day they can finally graduate, receive their degree, get out school, and “get on with life.” Maybe the mindset is similar to those looking at a partial glass of water. The optimist sees the glass as half full; the pessimist sees the glass as half empty; the pragmatist sees the glass as being twice as large as it needs to be. It is all a matter of perspective and attitude. Each of us probably needs to take some time to reflect upon and come to grips with our attitude about learning and its purpose in our lives.
If you really think about it, life is all about learning! Our learning process, understanding who we really are and who we are destined to become, began long before birth and will continue after death. However, a significant part of learning in our mortal life occurs during the years of attaining higher education. I personally believe the two fundamental purposes of going to college to get an education are: (1) to prepare for a career so you can provide for the temporal needs of you and your family, and (2) to learn how to learn. Much of what you learn in your formal education here at LDS Business College, or other institutions after leaving here, will become obsolete over time. New laws or standards will be adopted, new technologies will eclipse the way we work today, new ideas will create industries and job opportunities we cannot currently imagine, and knowledge will be gained that gives us new views on things we once thought were absolute. The world is in a continual state of change and we need to be informed about the important changes around us. And so, we need to continue learning.
The principles of life-long learning not only should be part of our DNA, they also are part of our doctrine. Several scriptures attest to this: “The glory of God is intelligence” (D&C 93:36); “Seek learning even by study and also by faith” (D&C 88:118); “Study and learn, and become acquainted with all good books, and with languages, tongues, and people (D&C 90:15); “Seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom” (D&C 88:118); “Obtain a knowledge of history, and of countries, and of kingdoms, of the laws of God and of man” (D&C 93:53); and “Teach one another…all things…that are expedient for you to understand; of things both in the heavens and in the earth, and under the earth, things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass, things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations” (D&C 88:77-79).
Contained within those familiar verses is every subject you can imagine. And then there is this promise, “Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection” (D&C 130:18). We need to keep learning so we will be prepared to receive and understand “all that [the] Father hath” (D&C 84:38).
The Church also places a high degree of importance on education. Pres. Hinckley frequently admonished, “Get all the education you can.” Another interesting perspective came many years ago when Pres. Eyring was the president of Ricks College. He received an assignment from the Commissioner of the Church Educational System at that time, Neal A. Maxwell. Elder Maxwell asked different people to reflect upon and write a “white paper” addressing various aspects of the future of the Church Educational System. President Eyring’s assigned topic was higher education within the Church.
As he wrestled with his topic, he requested an appointment to visit with the chair of the Board of Trustees, Pres. Spencer W. Kimball (who happens to be President Eyring’s uncle). President Eyring explained his task and described the conundrum he had. He outlined his thinking and in essence said, “I can see the need for having institutions of higher education in the Church between now and the millennium, but I don’t see a need for them after that.”
President Kimball quizzically responded, “Hal, how did you come up with an idea like that? In the history of the world, there has never been an organization designed better for accumulating and disseminating knowledge than a university. The curriculum may need to change, but surely we have many things yet to learn, and will continue to have that need, even during the millennium.” As a result, the Church continues to support five wonderful institutions of education: BYU, BYU-Hawaii, BYU-Idaho, LDS Business College, and BYU-Pathway.
As each of you knows, many elements factor into the higher education decision: will I go to college or not, which college/university will I attend, what will I major in, what are the options after graduation, do the long-term benefits exceed the cost, can I afford the cost, or am I smart enough to be successful. I am sure you each have your own list.
Sometimes the decision to go to college, or to go back to college, is influenced by some job experience that helped to see that the path you were on did not look very promising. Perhaps you had a job of one kind or another you did not enjoy too much. For some, it might have included delivering pizzas, or scrubbing floors and toilets, or changing diapers for someone else’s children. For others, it might have been repeatedly asking the question, “Do you want fries with that?” There are others, who perhaps had to go to a boring office every day and complete the same mindless tasks over and over again. And then there are still others who maybe not have had much hope for finding a job at all without getting an education.
For nearly every person, some kind of work may seem meaningless or impossible to endure. Hopefully, as you complete your formal education, your future career will provide you with many rich and fulfilling experiences. However, with every job there are lessons for life that can be learned. If we are observant and reflective, we can learn and apply those lessons to ourselves from a wide variety of experiences. If we are wise, we can learn from the experiences of others as well; we do not have to experience everything ourselves to learn some of life’s important lessons. I would like to share with you some lessons from my earlier work experience that perhaps may be of value to you. I have titled these remarks, “Lessons Learned from the Glass Shop.”
My first real job was working in a glass repair shop. A counselor in our bishopric had purchased the business and needed some cheap custodial help. His daughter liked me, and so did he, so I started working when I was 15 on Saturday afternoons after the shop closed. I cleaned the office, swept the shop floors, and scrubbed the bathrooms. Since I was there alone almost most of the time, I often wondered if what I was doing mattered and whether or not anyone really cared. I later learned that first thing on Monday morning, the owner would look over the shop to make sure everything looked organized and in place and was ready for business; the office manager would check out the bathrooms, and she was always grateful when they were clean! Even if you think what you do is insignificant, someone will be paying attention and notice (even if that person is only you).
I continued working on Saturdays throughout my high school years. I also worked full time in the summers during high school and prior to serving a mission. Over time, I became an assistant glazier (for those who don’t know, a glazier is someone who repairs broken windows, fixes broken screens, replaces windshields on cars). It was good, honest, honorable work and I learned many valuable skills that have helped in doing home repairs over the years; but working long hours in a glass shop was one factor that helped motivate me to want to get a college education. I didn’t want to stay doing that same job the rest of my life.
However, I did learn some important lessons from my boss about hard work, being honest, keeping commitments, meeting deadlines, etc. I also learned much from the various work assignments I had. Among the many, these four lessons provided valuable insights for me and, hopefully, will be meaningful to you, as well.
Our glass shop had contracts with many of the car dealerships in town to replace broken windshields that needed repair before the cars were sold. When I turned 16 and received my driver’s license, the owner would let me drive the cars back to the respective dealerships. For a young man with a newly minted driver’s license, it was a dream come true. I drove all kinds of trucks, vans, and cars – Fords, Chevys, Oldsmobiles, Buicks, Cadillacs, Pontiacs, Plymouths, Dodges, Datsuns, Mercedes-Benz, all kinds of cars.
One day, my boss came to me and said there was another car to be taken back to the dealer. He handed me the keys to a brand-new Porsche. I was awestruck. I had dreamed of one day owning a Porsche; now, the opportunity had come to drive one. I sat down in the beautifully hand-crafted leather seat and let my hands caress the steering wheel. I checked the mirrors to make sure everything around me was visible and safe. I started the engine and listened to it purr. I wanted to give it some gas to hear the powerful roars that jumped into life, but thought better of it because my boss was not too far away. (It was one of those moments, fortunately, when maturity and wisdom kicked in just in time. As I think about it now, I can hear echoes of the talk by President Oaks when he asked the question, “Where will this lead?”) I backed carefully out of the shop, turned down the long driveway, and headed for the street.
Once at the head of the driveway, I looked both directions to make sure all was clear before taking this well-engineered mechanical masterpiece onto the road. I moved slowly out onto the street, crossed several lanes of traffic and right up the driveway of the Porsche dealer’s lot, which happened to be directly across the street from the glass shop! For my once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to drive a Porsche, I never got the car out of first gear. I never experienced the full power and potential for which this performance vehicle was designed to give.
The first lesson that I will share with you from my experience is, “Don’t get stuck in first gear.” Because of who you are, you have been endowed with a lot of power. You have been designed for success. You have many unique gifts and talents. As you look to the future, aim high, get it in gear, and reach your full potential.
The next experience also resulted from a work contract. A large bread store was opening a new retail outlet and wanted to have glass shelves throughout the store. My boss measured all the dimensions; my job was to cut dozens and dozens and dozens of shelves of varying sizes (usually about 12” wide by 3-4’ in length) and then sand the edges off to make sure they would not be a hazard to customers in the store.
Cutting glass is relatively simple. In fact, I will give you a quick demonstration. This is one of the skills I learned. This is just a piece of ordinary window glass. If you just set it down, with a glass cutter, score the surface, then you would just snap the edge off and it makes a nice smooth cut. However, the measurements have to be quite precise because glass is not as forgiving as say paper or fabric, or even wood. So it is sometimes challenging to take just fractions of an inch off the end of a piece of glass.
The edges of cut glass can be as sharp as a razor, so they have to be sanded off using a wet-belt sander. After accumulating large stacks of shelves, I would don a heavy apron and spend hours and hours a day in front of the belt sander. There are eight sides on the glass: four on the top surface and four on the bottom. Then, all four of the corners needed to be buffed off. The most efficient way to get the job done is to develop a pattern – first you sand along the one edge, then you flip it over and sand the other edge, spin it around do the other side, and flip it over do the other side. Then you do the long edges, the short edges. Then, you repeat the four corners.
Because the task was so repetitive, after a while I would sometimes forget which edges had been done and which had not. I got into the habit of occasionally sliding my hand along the bottom edge of the glass to make sure it had been sanded. Most of the time, it was not a problem; but, I would end up slicing the palm of my hand on a razor-sharp edge that was non-sanded.
Therefore, the second lesson I would share is this: “Stay focused on the task at hand” (no pun intended). Routine tasks can be tedious. To some extent, routine tasks will be a part of every job. If you become distracted, you could end up getting hurt. Pay attention to details and do well in all aspects of your work, even the routine things, and your efforts will be noticed; you will end up being rewarded and ultimately be successful in your future careers, whatever that career choice may be.
This third event was emotionally painful for me, but a very important learning experience. After learning the basics of measuring and cutting glass, I felt fairly confident in my abilities. I could handle windows of most any size and doing the shelves for the bread store was within my level of expertise. Then one Saturday afternoon, I was working alone at the shop finishing my custodial duties. A customer saw that the garage doors were open, so he came down the driveway to where I was sweeping. He needed a piece of glass cut for a tabletop and asked if I could help. I explained to him that the shop was closed and encouraged him to come back on Monday. He said it was somewhat urgent (I think he probably had some family event coming up and needed to have this ready) and he asked if there was any way I could assist him.
Being kindhearted and service oriented, I thought I could figure out a way to get it done. He gave me the dimensions and I started looking around to find a piece that could be trimmed easily to the size he needed. I could not find anything close to the right size, so had to pull a full sheet of glass out of the rack that was about 4’x8’ in length and laid it on the big cutting table.
I had never cut anything that size before, but I had seen my boss do it, I thought, how hard could it be, really? I got up on the table, used the straight edge and scored the surface of the glass. To get a clean cut on a piece that large, I had seen my boss pull the glass over the edge of the table to get a little leverage. I lifted the long side of the glass off the table and snapped down. Rather than breaking on a clean edge, as I had anticipated, the pressure exerted caused it to break into several pieces in all random directions. None of the left over pieces was large enough to cut to the dimensions he needed and I was not going to try cutting another full sheet of glass. I felt so badly and had to apologize to the customer for not being able to help with his need. I again invited him to come back on Monday. My mistake cost the owner a sizable sum of money for breaking such a large piece of glass. (I don’t remember if he made me pay for it out of my meager salary or not. I think he outwardly was teaching me the importance of forgiveness – or at least forbearance).
Therefore, the third lesson I learned was, “Understand the limits of your capabilities.” I realized, and had to accept the fact, that I did not know as much as I thought I did. There is nothing wrong with pushing yourself and testing your limits, but it is also important to recognize when you need help or when you need more experience/education. While your potential has no limits, your current capabilities may not be what you need them to be. When you arrive at that point, find someone who can be your teacher or mentor, someone who will give you the lift to get you to the next level.
The last experience also involved an important learning event. I have a specific memory of a time when I had to drive our truck from the shop to a glass distribution facility to pick up large sheets of glass for restocking our inventory. (It may have been shortly after the previous event).
To put this experience into perspective, I need to give a brief lesson on the manufacturing process for glass. Glass used for windows, shelves, tabletops, glass doors, etc. usually comes from sheets of what is called flat glass (sometimes called float glass). Simply put, it is manufactured by pouring molten silicon or glass onto molten sheets of tin and then slowly cooled. This creates an even layer that essentially floats on top of the metal. The thickness of the glass can be controlled in this manufacturing process by the speed the molten glass is processed through the furnace.
Typical window glass is called “single strength,” which is 3/32” thick. Double strength is 1/8” thick; doors, shelves, and tabletops usually use plate or crystal, which is 1/4”-3/8” thick. Obviously, the thicker the glass, the heavier it is. As the molten batch cools, it is inspected to assure quality and clarity. It can then be cut into sheets based on customer needs or pre-determined industry standards. Distribution centers usually have very large sheets of glass, but typically use 4’x8’ sheets to load onto the sides of a heavy-duty pickup truck with glass racks on both sides for local distribution.
The distribution center was located in an industrial part of Oakland, California. It was an area unfamiliar to me. My boss gave me directions on how to get there and assured me everything would be okay. Growing up in Northern California during a period of frequent protests and periodic riots, I was nervous as I drove into the area. I was anxious to get everything loaded on the truck and get out of town as quickly as I could.
I don’t remember exactly how many sheets of glass I had on the truck, but both sides were heavily loaded. To give an idea of how much glass weighs, one 4’x8’ sheet of 1/4” plate weighs about 96 lbs. If both sides of the truck were at capacity, that would total somewhere between 2,500-3,000 lbs. of glass.
As I was trying to find my way to the freeway onramp, I made a wrong turn and headed down a narrow neighborhood street. A couple of blocks ahead of me, I saw a large group of young men congregating on both sides of the road. From my vantage point, it did not look good and I was sure driving a truckload of glass down the middle of them was not a good idea. I quickly drove up on the sidewalk on one side of the road, made a big U-turn across the sidewalk on the other side and headed in the opposite direction.
Once I got to the freeway, I was feeling much more comfortable. I made it out of Oakland and through the Caldecott Tunnel. Going east out of the tunnel, the freeway slopes downhill on a long, gentle decline. It is easy to gain speed without really trying. When I looked at the speedometer, I was going faster than I was comfortable with carrying such a heavy load, but rather than slowing down other traffic on the freeway, I decided to move to one of the far right lanes where I would not impede the traffic flow. I signaled to turn, checked the mirrors, looked over my shoulder to check my blind spot, and turned the wheel. Nothing happened. I turned the steering wheel slightly to the right and then to the left and nothing happened. I realized that the front wheels were not responding. The load on the back of the truck had shifted backwards enough to change the center of gravity on the entire truck and the front tires were not touching the ground!
At that point, I carefully applied the brake until the truck slowed and I felt the front tires make contact with the ground. After, I pulled over to the side of the road and stopped hyperventilating and readjusted the load to make sure I wouldn’t lose sheets of glass all over the freeway. I then drove SLOWLY back to the shop and got the truck unloaded.
The fourth lesson gleaned from working in the glass shop, was, “Keep your load balanced.” As you go through life, and you have additional demands and responsibilities heaped upon you, keep your load balanced so you do not lose control. Prioritize your life and set goals for the things you need to do so you can focus on and accomplish the most important things first. And remember, the Lord is always there to help carry the load. He stated, “Take my yoke upon you…for my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:29-30). If we are yoked with the Savior, He will carry the heaviest part of the load for us, help us keep our wheels on the straight and narrow path, and be our guide to help us make it back to safety.
I have great confidence in the “rising generation.” I look at you and have great hopes for the future. Accomplishing what you are capable of achieving, however, won’t just fall into your laps; it will require a lot of hard work. Take advantage of the various learning opportunities you have throughout your life. By doing so, the Lord gives us this encouragement with a promise: “And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience…he will have so much the advantage in the world to come” (D&C 130:19).
As you look to the future, wherever you go, you will have wonderful opportunities and be faced with some interesting challenges. You can learn valuable insights from any situation and any circumstance if you are mindful and pay attention. Hopefully, you will always remember to keep your life in balance, understand the limits of your capabilities, stay focused on the tasks at hand, and get out of first gear and get going. Make this world a better place because you are a part of it.
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Brother Christensen is currently an instructor of Church History and Doctrine at BYU. Prior to joining the BYU Religious Education faculty in 2017, he served as President of the Ecuador Quito Mission (2014-17). At the time of his call as a mission president, Brother Christensen had worked for several years as Assistant to the Commissioner of the Church Educational System and as Secretary to the Church Board of Education and the Boards of Trustees of BYU, BYU-Hawaii, BYU-Idaho and LDS Business College. Previously, he also served as the Budget Officer for the Church.
He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting (BYU) and a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership (University of Nebraska-Lincoln).
He was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, and raised in Concord, California. He married Christine Cecilia Baker, from Oakley, Idaho. They are the parents of 11 children and have 28 grandchildren.