Winter 2016

A Teacher Who Knows Us

29 Feb. 2016

Transcript

A Teacher Who Knows Us

Thank you so much, ladies, for that beautiful music. I love the hymns, and I love this school. Just seeing all of you as you came in today makes me emotional. So many great feelings come to me from my association with each one of you, and I so appreciate that. I also appreciate David’s talk beforehand. I think maybe the Lord has something for you today, that the two of us are on the same wavelength here, and I wish David could just give my talk.

How much would you be willing to pay for a teacher who would be willing to ensure that you had all the correct answers? No need for a tutor anymore; no need for you to do your own work? You would just get all the answers. How often do we stop to realize that we really do have that Teacher in our lives? How often do we use Him? If we do consult with Him in our challenges, our questions, and our relationships, how often do we do what He asks us to do?

I’ve met with hundreds of students over almost twenty years here at the College who are struggling with who they are, what they can accomplish, and how to get there. And what I have found as I have worked with many of you is that it isn’t so much what you aren’t capable of as it is knowing that you personally, individually, are loved by your Heavenly Father and your Savior Jesus Christ, that They do want to hear from you, and that They want you to put your trust in Them and follow Them because They want you to be happy—happy in accomplishing what you came here to learn in order to go out there and become like Them.

I’m reminded of President Russell M. Nelson’s devotional addressed earlier this month to you, where he counseled each of you as Millennials—you have a blessing and a responsibility to be courageous in standing for truth and righteousness in a world so in need. He emphasized the importance of prayer in your lives so that you can be ready for all that is expected of you, the Savior’s disciples. When you go to Him with a humble heart, with real intent, on understanding your purpose here, and with a sincere desire to do exactly what He tells you, and then follow what you are told, He is bound by His promises to you.[1]

In this past General Conference, we were taught from some of the Brethren and sisters to first, ask, then listen, and yield to the Lord’s promptings for us. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said,

Why would anyone walk through life satisfied with the light from the candle of their own understanding when, by reaching out to our Heavenly Father, they could experience the bright sun of spiritual knowledge that would expand their minds with wisdom and fill their souls with joy?[2]

Man is that he might have joy,[3] brothers and sisters. Not when you graduate, or serve a mission, or find your dream job. Not when you meet the right person and get married, or even have children. Not even when you are reunited with Him. Man is that he might have joy now—right now, while you are in the midst of learning and studying.

Some may say that I am thinking this way because I love learning and always have, but why do I love it? Not because the Lord sent Kathy Skeen here with this great intellect. Certainly not. But you know what I have discovered in my short time here on earth? I’ve found that He has blessed each of us with the opportunity and gift of learning. It’s up to us to take advantage of it—not through our own understanding, as President Uchtdorf stated, but by reaching out to our Heavenly Father as we begin each day and all through the day, that we may learn what He would have us learn.[4]

Allow me to share a personal example, and I apologize in advance to those of you who have heard this story before. I hated math from the time I was in first grade and couldn’t make sense of taking a one from the tens column and making it a ten in the ones column. That just didn’t make sense to my six-year-old mind. Things didn’t get any better as I progressed through school. My parents encouraged me to memorize my times tables and helped me with long division. But then x and y came into the picture. How could x and y symbolize numbers? My poor high school math teacher spent hours trying to help me understand logarithms and matrices, and I think he finally just passed me because he felt sorry for me.

It wasn’t until after returning to college later in life that the desire to understand math returned. I noticed my own children, including my son here, doing calculus in front of the TV and getting "A" grades, and I thought to myself, “They are my own flesh and blood. If they can do it, I can.” So after spending three to five hours a day six days a week studying, to the point of dreaming about math, I walked out of my college algebra final and a vision was opened to me.

As I drove down the street, for the first time in my life I could see math in the world. It was in the power lines, the layout of sidewalks and roads. It was in the architecture of buildings. And I realized that the world truly is made of math. It was a beautiful and inspiring gift from God, just for me for that one day. And that vision disappeared but the experience has not because little insignificant Kathy Skeen learned something that day that I will never forget about how the Lord works. If I pray for help and put forth the effort, the Lord will make up for what I am not capable of.

I have to clarify that this doesn’t mean that we can do anything we want to do. For example, I could work for years on becoming an opera star, because I love to sing. But I will never be an opera star. What it does mean is that if it’s the Lord’s will and we are following what He wants to do, He will guide and assist us. When we yield ourselves to Him with a sincere desire for guidance, we find that we are not as limited as we think we are. We limit ourselves when we don’t put our trust in Him. As we yield ourselves, we find that when we give our lives over to Him and then follow Him, we can progress and even surprise ourselves at what we can accomplish and become.

Now, my challenges aren’t necessarily the same as yours. You may have challenges that are outside of your control or challenges that may have come as a result of your choices. The challenge itself is irrelevant; it is what we do with our challenges that matters. I want to repeat that—the challenge itself is irrelevant; it is what we do with our challenges that matters.

Along with gifts, we have been blessed with weaknesses so that if we will go to Him in humility and faith, then He can make those weak things strong.[5] Rather than ignore, be ashamed of, or try to hide these weaknesses, pray for help in understanding what you are to learn from them, or assistance in overcoming them, or how to live with them, if that is His will. The Lord will comfort and guide you, and you will ultimately discover and be grateful for the insights and strengths that come from working through them with His help.

Sister Neill F. Marriott stated in the last conference,

Some may think they have failed too many times and feel too weak to change sinful acts or worldly desires of the heart. However, as covenant Israel, we don’t just try and try on our own to change. If we earnestly appeal to God, He takes us as we are—and makes us more than we ever imagined. Noted theologian Robert L. Millett writes of “a healthy longing to improve,” balanced with the spiritual “assurance that in and through Jesus Christ we are going to make it.” With such an understanding, we can honestly say to Heavenly Father:

 “So trusting my all to thy tender care,

And knowing thou lovest me,

I’ll do thy will with a heart sincere:

 I’ll be what you want me to be.”[6]

 

President Uchtdorf goes on to say that when we talk of faith, we sometimes hear, “I wish I could believe the way you do.”[7] I’ve heard that in my office before, brothers and sisters. But he reminds us that faith is not a gift that only some are blessed with, as Satan would have us believe. Rather, wanting to believe is the first step. If you want to believe, He will help you to understand and have faith.

President Uchtdorf reminds us that God is no respecter of persons. God is our Father. He wants to talk to us. He cannot be heard if we are not listening. President Uchtdorf emphasizes that it requires a little humility, and an open heart and mind, and it requires speaking and—perhaps most difficult—patient waiting on the Lord and His timing. I love President Uchtdorf’s analogy that if we make no effort to believe that He will talk to us, we are “like the man who unplugs a spotlight and then blames the spotlight for not giving any light.”[8] Remember Laman and Lemuel? We are amazed at their lack of understanding, but I wonder if they are included in the scriptures partially to remind us of ourselves at times.

I have also learned through the years that many of our questions, challenges, and trials can be resolved or at least lessened through our attendance at devotionals, the temple, our other meetings, and by studying the scriptures daily. Some students have missed devotionals, the temple, or scripture study because they were too busy with homework, without realizing that by making the solution-finding places a priority, they could enhance the completion and quality of their homework.

I have been continually amazed at the answers that came for students from all of these holy places of learning. It has been a testimony to me that Heavenly Father is mindful of each one of you and your individual needs.

This past Christmas season, I have been involved in doing more without reflecting, listening, and learning more from the Lord. Luckily, I read Elder Christofferson’s message entitled “Be at Peace” and was prompted to follow his suggestion. He said,

I hope you will take time this Christmas season to sit for a few quiet moments and let the Savior’s Spirit warm you and reassure you of the worthiness of your service, of your offering, of your life. Sit quietly with that little baby and come away spiritually strengthened and better prepared for all that is going to come later. Let that moment be one of rest and refreshing and reassurance and renewal.[9]

It took a couple of weeks of trying to find time because I was so busy. In fact, I was awakened early one morning with a quiet reminder of my desires, so I snuggled under the quilt and thought about that tiny baby born over 2,000 years ago who changed everything for you and me with His life, His death, and His resurrection, His Atonement. I felt His love for me and His kind chastisements in personal areas of need. He gave me insight and desire to become more like Him, to live as He would have me live, and to become who He would have me become.

It really is true that when we sincerely want to follow His will for us, we find that He can make so much more of us than we can ever imagine for ourselves. He has told us that He chastises those whom He loves. Why? Because He wants us to be all that we can be and because He knows what we need to change in order to be that way. I have come to look forward to and love moments of chastisement from Him. I feel His love and His encouragement at those times, and I know that He is directing me in my progress if I choose to follow Him.

I’m definitely not saying it’s easy. As you all know, change is difficult. Will you take just a moment now to think back to the last time that you really tried to make a change in your life? Think about the challenges and the rewards, both. Maybe write down a few thoughts right now, or at least take some mental notes from this exercise, including something you’ve learned about how you could more easily change in the future.

How did you feel as you worked through this change? Whom did you enlist to assist you? What was the result? I’ll give you just a minute to think about that.

The great part about failing in our attempts to change is that we can repent and start fresh, relying more on our Savior than we did before, maybe even enlisting the help of others in our attempts to change, including acting on the promptings of the Holy Ghost, good friends who love you, and family members.

Elder Larry Lawrence said, in the last October conference,

The journey of discipleship is not an easy one. It has been called a “course of steady improvement.” As we travel along that strait and narrow path, the Spirit continually challenges us to be better and to climb higher. The Holy Ghost makes an ideal travel companion.

Doesn’t He? Have you all felt that?

If we are humble and teachable, He will take us by the hand and lead us home.

 However, we need to ask the Lord for directions along the way. We have to ask some difficult questions, like “What do I need to change?” “How can I improve?” “What weakness needs strengthening?”[10]

Sister Marriott stated,

When we open ourselves to the Spirit, we learn God’s way and feel His will.  During the sacrament, which I call the heart of the Sabbath, I have found that after I pray for forgiveness of sins, it is instructive for me to ask Heavenly Father, “Father, is there more?” When we are yielded and still, our minds can be directed to something more we need to change—something that is limiting our capacity to receive spiritual guidance or even healing and help.[11]

Some of that guidance may also include understanding what gifts you have been given and how to develop and use them. This is an important time to be considering what kind of career you should seek, based on your personal gifts and talents. Through the years, I’ve talked with students who have struggled because they wanted a career that would bring more money, or more free time, or make them into someone whom they aren’t. The world would have us think that pleasure and money are the way to happiness, that focus on ourselves brings satisfaction. As you consider a career, choose wise mentors who have found true satisfaction in giving of themselves rather than getting.

I had an experience with that myself when I decided to be an elementary teacher so that I could have the same schedule as my children. That was my purpose. This wasn’t a worldly plan, but I hadn’t consulted with the Lord and was thinking more about what I perceived were my needs. I’d not considered that the Lord might really have a plan for me with regard to a career that would fit my own gifts and talents.

And so I worked on completing my teaching degree, and I enjoyed it and learned things that would help me be a better mom and teacher, and I made good friends along the way. I didn’t even realize that it may not be the best course until one afternoon while teaching a unit on Rome to my sixth grade class. I thought how much I wanted to bring gospel principles into what they were learning. I remember looking out the window with that thought in mind. It was more of a desire than a prayer, but the Lord heard, and now you know the rest of the story.

It’s not been easy, but I learned from a section in my own patriarchal blessing that by the sweat of my brow would I earn my bread, and I plan to continue sweating until the Lord tells me it’s enough. Honestly, I doubt that day will ever come because of what we learn and become when we sweat.

The Lord has blessed each one of you with gifts and talents to be developed and used to contribute to society in meaningful and productive ways—ways that will be satisfying to you, an example for your families, and a blessing to your community. And you don’t have to learn that through trial and error. You learn that through asking Him and others whom you know and trust. You learn it through studying your patriarchal blessing, through reflection on what you enjoy doing, and then studying it out—perhaps with the help of career tests and counseling.

The Lord’s way of finding a fitting career takes you—the person He created—and enlightens, enables, and ennobles you as you use your gifts and talents to bless others. One of the gifts Heavenly Father gave me in my career here is a love for each one of you individually, whether I’ve spent years with you or have yet to meet you in this life. He blessed me with the insight to see a little of your potential and your purpose here, and I’m so grateful for that gift.

I pray as I prepare to leave you that you will have a desire to see yourselves as He would have you see yourself, that you may fulfill your mission here on earth and become closer to becoming whom He would have you become. I pray that you may love to learn and realize what a blessing it is that you have been given this gift of learning, that your desires will be to learn out of the best books those things that will help you develop and grow—maybe even something you never wanted to or thought you could learn.

I pray that you will take advantage of this opportunity to learn how to learn the Lord’s way, that your learning will be enhanced and enlightened through His Spirit. I pray that you may love hard work, that you may gain fulfillment through an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work. I pray that you will take care of each other, reach out to each other—in class, in the hallway, on the street. You have the ability to bless each other significantly.

I pray that you may seek chastisement from Him, that you may come to better understanding of the Atonement in your life, that you may learn to love as He loves, that you may learn to love yourself more, and that you may learn that through repentance and forgiveness and service to your fellow man, change will come easier to you as you practice it often.

I pray that your thoughts may be filled with virtue, that your confidence may wax strong in His sight, and that you may be a light to the world. I pray that you will have a desire to read His word every day, to gain insights and understanding of Him and His ways. I pray that you will make attending devotionals and the temple a priority, that you may gain insights directed toward you specifically at this time in life.

We have a Teacher who knows and loves us better than we can possibly comprehend or love ourselves. If we reach out to Him with a sincere heart, with real intent, ready to listen, learn, and follow Him, I promise you He will answer you. He will sustain and comfort and guide. He will chastise and forgive and forget.

I pray that you may enjoy the experience of studying and pondering on the life and teachings of our Savior and Redeemer in your personal behalf, that you may find answers in your desires to become what you may become and can become, that you may feel of the peace only He can give this year and always. I pray that you may come to know yourself as you learn more of Him.

I love you, brothers and sisters. I pray that you may feel that love, and I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

 

[1] Russell M. Nelson, “Becoming True Millennials,” Worldwide Devotional for Young Adults, Jan. 10, 2016.

[2] Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Be Not Afraid, Only Believe,” Oct. 2015 General Conference.

[3] See 2 Nephi 2:25.

[4] Uchtdorf, “Be Not Afraid.”

[5] See Ether12:27.

[6] Neill F. Marriott, “Yielding Our Hearts to God,” Oct. 2015 General Conference.

[7] Uchtdorf, “Be Not Afraid.”

[8] Uchtdorf, “Be Not Afraid.”

[9] Todd D. Christofferson, “Be At Peace,” Liahona or Ensign, Dec. 2015.

[10] Larry R. Lawrence, “What Lack I Yet?” Oct. 2015 General Conference.

[11] Marriott, “Yielding Our Hearts to God,” emphasis in the original.


The Light Will Come

29 Feb. 2016

Transcript

The Light Will Come

Can I just say, Marie [the student who gave the student testimony] was one of the first people that I met here—or the first one that I actually had to ask for help—and it was the reserving of a vehicle. Honestly, so nice. But when she just said her testimony is small but it is what she has, I know it is so much bigger than that. I saw you on a Mormonad or something talking about depression, and to me that is no small feat. It’s incredible that you are willing to share that with people and be a light.

Speaking of light, I am usually quite light-hearted. Obviously, if I am teaching Primary children disco moves to “Follow the Prophet,” I’m not necessarily one to do the status quo. In fact, another funny Primary story—when I first got my call to Primary, I had no idea of what I was getting into, but I was very excited. And for the very first performance for all of the Primary children in sacrament meeting, I was so concerned:  how am I going to get them to smile? How am I going to get them to pay attention to me? Because if any of you have seen the Primary program, they get up there, and they’re looking at their parents or they’re looking at their shoes or they’re looking at their nose, and I’m just thinking I want this to be something special for—it was for Mother’s Day, I believe, and my first venture into the knowledge of Primary chorus. So I prayed. And if there’s anything that you get out of today, it’s that I have a testimony that my prayers are heard and answered—the big ones, the little ones, the weird ones such as this.

So I prayed to Heavenly Father, “Help me figure out a way to hold these children’s attention for this two-minute song and to have them smile.” And I just was beside myself. I couldn’t figure out how to do it. So, I got up from my prayer, and I opened the top drawer of my dresser, and I found a red clown nose that I had used in my Christmas caroling gig for “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” (Johnny Marks). And I had this idea.

So, unbeknownst to anyone, including any of the children in the Primary choir, Mother’s Day came, and I got them all up on the stage, and they were there, staring out at their families. And I took the red nose out of my pocket and put it on my nose, and everyone was smiling at that point and all eyes were on me. So I went ahead and led the music, and I will probably never live that down the rest of my life for anyone who was in the ward that day.

There are a lot of other things I will probably never live down. Maybe even today. But I think I will dispense with teaching you all the moves to “Follow the Prophet” disco and just move into a little more meat.

Now, I believe—they gave me this clicker, and I’m going to try it—I just wanted you to be able to see I wasn’t kidding about the looks. My children got their mother’s looks—they all have blonde hair, blue eyes. I feel a little left out because in my own family, I was one of nine children, and I was the only one with green eyes. Now, every Saint Patrick’s Day I am very grateful for that.

But this is my family. Here is my wife, Tiffany. In the red shirt is my oldest son, Parker. Next to him, my 9-year-old daughter, Cambria, and then off to the side, as he generally likes to be, is my son Maxwell. They are the love of my life. They are the bane of my existence sometimes. My life would never be the same—in fact, somebody mentioned in church yesterday, “Remember when we didn’t have kids?” And I said, “You can remember that?”

“And we would sit around all Saturday and just . . . ” And I thought, “Wow, not the case anymore.” But I love them. I love them very much.

They wanted to be here today—they only have half a day of school, and we were trying to figure out—“Dad, how can we get to your . . . ” But I knew that if I granted that, I’d also have to grant them another half day to go skiing this week, and that wasn’t going to happen.

I’m not sure if you recognize who this is, but this was an influential figure in my life when I was a young missionary. This is Emeritus Elder Gene R. Cook. While I was a missionary—I did a couple of different missions, but while I was a missionary in New Mexico—I started in Rome and there was a really long transfer to New Mexico; a different story for a different day. But while I was serving in the mission, Elder Cook came to tour our mission. And I was so enamored of the way that he taught. I learned a very important principle at his feet, and I have used it my entire life.

He said, “Prepare, prepare, prepare, and then let the Spirit teach.” Now, I went on a mission a while ago, so this is when Preach My Gospel was not around. This is when the seminary system was a little bit different. But it’s interesting for me to see how that has changed now, where with Preach My Gospel, you study, you study, and then you go by the Spirit. It’s not the lessons and the chartlets. In seminary, you study, you study, you prepare, and you teach by the Spirit.

But one thing that Elder Cook would do, any time I saw him speak, is he would ask the audience to do something. And I’m going to ask you to do that today. Will you pray for me? Will you pray for me to have the Spirit, and will you pray for you to feel what the Spirit has to teach you today? Because I will be honest—they didn’t give me a topic. They said, “We think there is something in your life that might be useful to students.” And I said, “Do you think? We’ll see.”

But what I do know is that the Spirit will communicate the truth of all things (see Moroni 10:5). And whatever it is in my message or Marie’s or from the choir or from anyone that participates—what I can tell already is that the Spirit is weaving an intricate pattern today, because I had no idea that she would be talking on that; and I’ll be talking quite a bit about choosing or finding the light and my own experiences around that.

So, continue to pray for me, and I will continue to pray that the Spirit speaks something to you that is meaningful and that you can use today. I want to go a little bit back to my preparation for this, when I knew that I needed to come up with a topic. Again I knelt, and I prayed, and I thought, “Oh, it’s interesting. I’m going to be speaking in February.” Now, February may not be that interesting to you; it’s—my wife and I, we will have our anniversary. Don’t ask me how many years—are we eighteen? She vaguely remembers as well, so we’re good. If we both forget, it’s fine. It’s been awhile—obviously, three children. But what was interesting is the prompting that I received was “Tell them about Lent.” Okay. Right? Isn’t that a Catholic thing? Yes it is. But I have a story around it, so . . .

When I was living in Arizona, I was in job transition, and at one point my next-door neighbor—we went to a pool party, and I was there in my fluorescent orange shorts, and I was tossing kids in the pool, and my neighbor said, “Oh, yeah. We’re hiring at our company.” It was Allstate Insurance, and they were looking for claims representatives. So, I was talking with people at the party, and I decided that I would go ahead and apply for a position.

So, I went to the interview, and I walk into the interview, and there are two people that were at the party that had seen me, basically, in my swimsuit and tossing their kids all over the swimming pool. So I thought, “Well, you’ve seen me at my worst; hopefully I can do something a little better in this interview.”

Long story short, they hired me to work in auto claims, listening to people all day long talking about their auto claims and how terrible it was, and all of those kinds of things. It was not an uplifting job. Not so much. But I did promise them that I would be able to help them with their customer service statistics in this position. But I didn’t realize just how taxing it would be to listen to those stories all day long, and the government regulations, and how quickly you had to respond.

You know, when we talk about strengths, detail-oriented office work—not my strength. Ask anyone on my team. Not my strength. But I knew that I needed to be there for a reason.

Well, in that land of cubicles, I sat next to a woman, and she was Catholic. And so in February, she said, “Guess what I’m giving up for Lent?” And I’m a naïve Mormon; I don’t even really know anything about Lent. I know a lot about Mardi Gras—again, something I’ll probably regret saying. She said, “I’m going to give up sugar.” And she was self-described as “portly.”

I said, “I will join you in that!”

She said, “Really? You would? Aren’t you Mormon?”

I said, “Yeah. Can I not join you in that?”

She said, “No, no. It’s great.”

So, for those of you who don’t know what Lent is, I believe you all have your devices because you can tweet and things in here, so go ahead and pull it out. Go to Google or Siri, and say “What is Lent?” We’ll get there in a minute, but go ahead—I want you to work while I’m working. Okay? And see, if you go to Wikipedia, you’re probably going to see something like this, that Lent is a fasting of 40 days before Easter. And that’s why Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras is a big deal, because that’s when you celebrate before you go into this time of mourning.

Now, the fasting does not include Sundays, so that 40 days, Sundays are not included, but it’s kind of interesting that they do that, and they only eat fish on Fridays and things like that. But it’s very interesting to me. So here are some of the things that one who wants to participate in Lent would engage in—prayer, penance, repentance of sins, almsgiving (paying tithes, etc.), atonement, and self-denial. So you’ll hear about people saying, “Yes, I’m not going to cuss,” or “I’m giving up sugar,” or “I’m not going to drink,” or all of these kinds of things.

Well, I joined her on this, and honestly, I hadn’t looked up Lent or anything; I just thought it would be a good thing to do. So I chronicled it on Facebook, and said, “I’m giving up sugar,” and it was amazing to me the kind of support that I got. I had children saying, “I’m going to do that.” I had friends saying, “Hey, I’ll join you on that.” It was kind of like that scene in Forrest Gump where all the people are following him. I’m thinking, “Why?”

But I’ll tell you, I didn’t do any of this part; I just gave up sugar. And I kept going, even after Easter. So Lent ends with Good Friday before Easter. I kept going. I went through July, and then I went to a family reunion, and there was homemade ice cream, and I just broke down.

But I will say that I lost twenty pounds between February and July, and I was happy about that. Woo-hoo.  So the next year, when Lent came around, I was so excited to see what she was going to give up. But I’ll tell you what—I was still at that job, and it was hard. I was not enjoying the job. I was behind; I was staying late. I wasn’t ever able to catch up because it was not playing to my strengths. And I was discouraged, maybe even a bit of depression going on.

And I don’t even remember what she decided to give up, but as I looked into what the meaning of Lent was and that it included fasting and drawing nearer to the Savior and studying, I said, “I’m going to take Lent in a new direction for me, and I really want to go all in.” So as I thought about it and prayed about it, I got the sense that because I didn’t like my job so much, I probably was complaining a lot. So, the second year I fasted and I prayed and I decided to give up complaining.

It’s really interesting to me because I still struggled during that time. I wondered, “Why am I in this job? It really doesn’t seem to fit me. Yes, I can do customer service”—and I got great customer service scores. But at the same time, I thought, “I’m not making a difference. It’s not meaningful to me in the way that I think my patriarchal blessing and my life should be going.”

But this was right when the recession was hitting, and I was lucky to have a job, period. People all around me were losing their jobs. So I really didn’t have hope that I could get out of this job. I did have hope that maybe my burden could be lightened if I would sacrifice, if I would do these things observing Lent.

Well, one day when I was walking across the parking lot—well, I say parking lot. It wasn’t a parking lot; it was a dirt field. And in order to eat lunch, from my building I had to walk across this dirt field to go over to Chipotle or whatever was over there. And I was having a particularly bad day. I’m sure I had talked to two or three people who were just screaming at me because it was my fault that they had gotten into this accident and I wasn’t going to pay the bills. And I looked down at my feet, and I just thought, “What am I doing? Is my life even important? Why does this matter?”

And as I did so, I saw this—in fact, I brought it today—I saw this rock. And I probably thought, “You are dumber than a rock.” But I reached, and I scooped it up, and a thought came to me: if this rock can meet the measure of its creation, then there must be a plan for me. I don’t know what it is. I have a patriarchal blessing. I believe that God has a plan for me. But I really wanted to find out, what is it?

Now all of this conversation was internal because again, I can’t complain. Remember? I gave that up for Lent. So I was internalizing a lot of stuff and struggling with it. But I knew if I would sacrifice, if I would be penitent, that the Lord would bless me. And what did He bless me with? This rock. I still have it—this was years ago. I still have it because I held onto it. And I would go and sit at my desk, and I would listen to people scream at me, and I would just rub this rock and say, “You did it for this one. Will you do it for me?”

Now, I think I told you earlier, my prayers are heard and answered—just not always in the timetable that I would like. Maybe patience will be this year’s Lent observance. But I did wait on the Lord patiently. And it didn’t happen at Easter, and it didn’t happen at the family reunion in July, but come September I continued—I didn’t stop not complaining at Easter; I just thought I that I would carry this through. And I would fast each Sunday during Lent and rub this rock and think, “There is a place for me.”

Well, in September, the course of my life changed. Everyone else was losing their jobs; I saw a job, I applied for it, and six months later I was granted that position—a position in Career Services. Now, that may not mean anything to you, but it has significantly shaped the course of my life to where I find myself here today, which is another miraculous story that maybe I will share quickly.

So fast forward a little bit. I’ve been in a number of jobs. I’ve been in Career Services; I present all over the countryside. I’m interviewed by NPR and ABC and NBC and on blogs and in the newspaper—all these kinds of things. And I’m thinking, “Why do they care what I have to say?” Except for the fact that maybe each year that I was at the job, 13,000 people would come through my classes on interviewing, job search, résumé writing, how to negotiate, how to network—and they would get jobs in the recession. Their prayers were being heard and answered.

Fast forward a little bit to this past year. Just about this time, I had left Career Services, working for Maricopa County, and I was in software. And again, that same feeling of “What am I doing here? This is not fulfilling. Sure, I can teach people about customer relationship management. Woo-hoo. And some sales people will be happy about that. But it isn’t meeting the measure of my creation.”

It says in Doctrine and Covenants 88:25, “The earth abideth the law of a celestial kingdom, for it filleth the measure of its creation, and transgresseth not the law.”

And I thought, “What can I do to help my situation?” In fact, I would pray, “What do I need to learn here so that I can get on with my life?” But again, God’s timing is different than my timing. So, “sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven” (“Praise to the Man” Hymns, no.27). Keep waiting. Keep waiting.

Well, it got to the point where in that job I was losing a lot of sleep, I wasn’t eating, I was not doing well. And I would actually leave from the building—I would leave the building, and I would walk across the street to my own “grove.” There was a park across the street, and one day I took this picture because I just thought, “Wow. This is a sanctuary for me.” And I would pray there and say, “How much longer do you want me to do this?”

Well, one day, shortly after taxes—April 15th—I called my wife on a Friday and said, “I don’t think I can do it anymore.” And I was in tears, in my little grove there.

And she said, “Did you have anything else in mind?”

And I was like, “Well, I think I need to quit my job.”

“Really? Did you have anything else in mind?”

I said, “Well, I interviewed for something yesterday. That will probably work out.” But we loved Arizona. We thought we were going to be there forever.

But then she said—usually the Spirit works through our family and our friends—“Have you ever thought about going back to Utah?”

I said, “No!” Just like that, right? And as soon as I said that, the Spirit washed over me: “Go to Utah, N-O-W, now!” And I said, “I did not see that coming.”

And she felt strongly about it, and I felt strongly about it. And I walked back in, and I quit my job, and I drove to the temple. And in the temple, I received, “I have something so much better for you.”

So I left the temple, and I came home, and I said, “I guess I am going to Utah,” and I came to Utah, “without purse or scrip” (see D&C 84 section heading)—kind of like having no thought for where I was going. And the chain of events that unfolded was miraculous. That’s a story for a different day. But here I am because—it was interesting, as I made contacts, as I tried to encourage myself to do these things that I had taught people to do for years, and then talked myself into one more phone call, one more contact, one more résumé—and I had Satan on my shoulder saying, “You are as dumb as a rock.” I kept going. I kept going towards the light. I walked into LDS Business College, having contacted a friend who worked there, who I didn’t even think would remember me. And he said, “You know what? We have a position here.”

“Really? You’re kidding me.” So on a Saturday, I walked in, and I toured the campus with a friend of mine from out of town, and I made it to the 4th floor. I don’t know if you’ve been to the 4th floor recently, but between the 3rd floor and the 4th floor, there’s an area that has a picture of Joseph Smith asking a question in the Sacred Grove. And above it there is this quote: “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all else that is desirable, including the knowledge for which you yearn, shall be given you” (Joseph F. Smith, Juvenile Instructor, Oct. 1903, p. 627).

Now, if that wasn’t crazy enough, this is a line from my patriarchal blessing written on the wall of the 4th floor above the picture of Joseph Smith praying to know the truth in the Sacred Grove.

I don’t like to share such personal things with people, but it is so important that you understand that we are all here for a very special reason, and you don’t have to know what the reason is. What you have to know is that your Father in Heaven loves you so much, and me so much, and all of the people at LDS Business College so much, to bring us together at this time, for His reason.

Now, there are times when it will be dark. There will be times when it is finals, and you will think you cannot keep going. It will be as black as this rock for you. But what I testify is that if you will hold on, the light will come. That is what we are here to do. And there will be others that will share their life with you.

The picture in this slide was one that I took the very first week that I came to Utah. This beautiful—this was in July, the very first week I moved here for this job. And my first day after work, I went with my brother, and we went to Albion Basin, and I saw the light. I hope that you can all see the light. And I hope that you’ll forgive me because I am teary and I’m emotional, and this probably hasn’t been done, but I’m going to do it anyway. I’m going to sing a capella, to close my words.

The message of this moment is so clear;

And as certain as the rising of the sun.

If your world is filled with darkness, doubt or fear,

Just hold on, hold on, the light will come.

Ev’ryone who’s ever tried and failed

Stands much taller when the victory’s won.

And those who’ve been in darkness for a while

Kneel much longer when the light has come.

 

It’s a lesson ev’ry one of us must learn,

That the answers never come without a fight.

And when it seems you’ve struggled far too long,

Just hold on, hold on, . . . The light will come.

 

(“Hold On,Michael McLean)

 

Thank you for the light that you have brought to my life. And thank you for sharing your light with me. I am grateful to be a member of this Church; I am grateful to be here to serve you. And I am grateful that I am not as dumb as a rock, and that none of you are either. I know that the Church is true, that Jesus lives, and that every one of us has a light to share with others. And I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.