Winter 2014

Adopt Habits that Lead to Success

23 Jan. 2014

Transcript

Adopt Habits That Lead to Success

 Wow. It’s really great to be with you. It’s exciting to be here. This is a devotional, however, and the word was I was supposed to be myself, so I don’t exactly feel it a conflict, but I hope that in the next few minutes that we do laugh just a little bit, and we have just a little fun together. I won’t say anything that will embarrass anybody, but I just might as well start right now. I did not realize—I didn’t really get the memo—I noticed as I was sitting here and said to … you know, that I was supposed to wear my most professional dress on Tuesday. I didn’t even wear a dress. And you know, I apologize for that. I just didn’t get that message.

I love LDS Business College. I love the students. I love the mission. I love everything about LDS Business College. Part of the reason I love LDS Business College is my mother, more than 90 years ago, was a student at LDS Business College. I don’t even know where the campus was over 90 years ago, but she was a student. And over 22 years ago, my second son, who is here in the audience, was a student here. At that time, as you know, the campus was up on, I believe it was South Temple. And you know, he’s still upset about his time here at LDS Business College. It was good news and bad news about him being here. The good news is he met his wife here, and they are now the proud parents of five boys. And that can happen to you, brothers and sisters, in not too many years. You might be surprised. That’s the good news.

The bad news is he took algebra at least once, maybe twice. And you know, he is still complaining about the fact that—I think he got a C+ rather than a B-. And I think he’s probably already talked to your president about that. That was 22 years ago. I mean, get over it, son. Get over it. You know, there was a time that I was very thankful to get a C+. There really was. As a matter of fact … well, I’ve blown that story, so I won’t tell that one.

But I do love LDS Business College. I love everything about it. I’m proud today—although I didn’t get the memo about the dress—I’m proud today about this tie. You know, it was probably about a decade ago that President Richards—who was not president at that time, was not vice president, I think he was adjunct faculty—gave me this tie. And I use the word “gave” somewhat loosely, so I think I’d put quotes around it. Because you see, the students and the faculty decided they wanted a fund-raising project. And so what they did was they decided they would get all of the students and the faculty to make a donation. Well, President Steve Woodhouse, sicced—I don’t know if you know the word sicced—this student on me and he said, “Would you contribute to the fund-raising?”

You know, this was a weak moment, and I was honored that I was asked, so I said, “I’ll not only contribute”—because I was thinking maybe the students and the faculty would maybe raise like $4,000 or something, but what happened was, in my enthusiasm I said—“I will match the first $10,000.” Yeah. And so, then it got worse. I said, “I’ll double anything between $10,000 and $15,000.” And then I was really weak in this moment, and I said, “I’ll triple anything above $15,000.”

I had no idea—I had no idea of the power of a committed LDS Business College student or the wonderful faculty. And I’m so thankful that the fundraising came to an end. I really am, because the check that I had to write was fairly large. You see, what happened was, as we saw in this last slide just before this one, this sister kind of attached a vacuum cleaner to my wallet and just kept sucking money out of it. And my wallet’s never been the same since. So I have fond memories.

But back to the tie. So I came to be thanked, and what they did was they gave me this tie. This is the most expensive tie that I have ever, ever had. And I’m a little worried because President Richards gave me this pin today, and I don’t know what the pin is going to cost me. So anyway, you can see why I love LDS Business College, even though my wallet is still thinner.

This reminds me of the subject today, and the subject for today—oh, you know, I have to tell you, by the way, that if this vacuum would have sucked much more money, I would have had to sell my car. Isn’t that right, Cathy? I would have had to sell my car, because desperate times call for desperate means. And I would have had to sell my car.

Well anyway, back to the subject: Seven habits of a successful Latter-day Saint. And before I start into that subject, I’d like to ask a personal favor. I know many of you are taking notes. President Richards set the stage so well. I’d like you, as you listen to these seven habits, that you might find one that you would like to personally work on, to develop. Because what happens is a habit is something that you do automatically—isn’t that right, Sister Smith? A habit is something you do automatically, and so when we talk about these seven habits, I hope that you’ll look to a habit that you want to improve on, and then you’ll write it down. And not only that you’ll write it down, but that you will tell somebody else about it within 24 hours. Because when we write down our habits and they become good habits, and we practice them and teach someone else, they become a routine. And there’s great power in routine in changing the way we live our lives. But it all starts with deciding to create a habit.

So let’s go right to the first habit that we’re going to talk about. And this is evidenced by the story about the tie, because a successful Latter-day Saint, when they make a commitment and a covenant, they keep that covenant. They don’t give up on that covenant. They stick with that particular covenant. And I would like to mention that covenant, as we’re still talking about the first habit.

One of the most serious covenants that we make, brothers and sisters, is the covenants in the temple. And it distresses me, as it does thousands of others, to see how lightly some of those covenants are taken that we make in the temple. Latter-day Saints are not only covenant makers, but they are covenant keepers. And I would hope that, in the way of warning and the way of concern for you, that you will never break the covenants that you make, especially the ones relating to chastity. Because in the heat of the moment, in the darkness of the night, sometimes passions get out of our control, and we break that important covenant. I hope and pray—we pray for the youth of the Church—we hope that you will never break that covenant.

So number one habit of successful Latter-day Saints: make and keep promises and covenants. I have found in my own life that if I make a promise, even though—let’s say I tell somebody I’m going to send them a book, or I’m going to send them an email—I try hard to do this—this is a little tip that I picked up that I’m sharing with you now—if we can keep that promise, and we can’t always do it this way, but if you keep that promise in 24 hours, you’re more likely to deliver on that promise. So that’s just a little tip for you.

If we do keep our promises, we start a second habit. And that second habit is best explained by Nephi when he talks about living “after the manner of happiness.” (2 Nephi 5:27) I believe that, as Latter-day Saints, we should be the happiest people on the earth. I really believe that. So what does it mean to live after the manner of happiness? We’re going to talk about that as we talk about other happiness. But I’ve enjoyed a little bit of happiness by reading the Book of Mormon a second time this year. Now that doesn’t mean that I’ve only read it twice in my life. I’m sorry; I don’t want to confuse you. But I decided I was going to read the Book of Mormon really fast this year, and so by May I finished the Book of Mormon. It was a goal. I was so pleased. In June, we got a new stake president, and he challenged all of us to read the Book of Mormon this year, and so when I say a second time, I took that challenge and, as I read the Book of Mormon I found that I was living after the manner of happiness. I was feeling more happy every day.

One of the things that came to me as I read the Book of Mormon is the fact that it rains both on the righteous and on the unrighteous. Have you ever thought about that? It rains on the righteous and the unrighteous. Earthquakes happen. Storms happen. In my second country, the people that I love so much, the Filipinos—they are righteous people, and some righteous people lost their lives. But also as I read in the Book of Mormon, and this gave me much personal warmth and feeling and happiness, and it says that the Lord favors those who are righteous. (See 1 Nephi 17:35) What a wonderful promise! What a wonderful concept. The Lord favors those who are righteous. It doesn’t mean, brothers and sisters, that it’s not going to rain on us. It doesn’t mean that we’re not going to have earthquakes, that we’re not going to have personal tragedies, that we’re not going to get cancer. But it means that the Lord favors the righteous. And if we remember that, we will live after the manner of happiness.

Now what does it mean, living after the manner of happiness? I think if we go to the third habit, which is we follow the prophet and the prophets, we will be happy. I’m sure that’s true. And why do I say we follow the prophet and the prophets? Sometimes we get a little confused, and we think that we follow the prophet—if President Monson says this, we follow that. But if you listen at general conference—you know this—we raise our hand and sustain the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve as prophets, seers, and revelators. So these prophets give us counsel, they give us commandments, they ask us to do things. And sometimes the things they ask are so simple.

For example, I have absolutely no problem with “thou shalt not kill.” I have no temptation to kill; I have no problem with “thou shalt not kill.” I keep that commandment perfectly. However, what about some other directives? What about reading the scriptures every day? How do I do with that? How about praying every day? How do I do about that? How do I do about watching and attending “R” and “X” rated movies? How do I do about that? What about pornography?

You know, President James E. Faust, who was a member of the First Presidency, said this. He said we should never watch anything that we should not do.  I think that’s good advice, brothers and sisters. We should not watch anything we should not do.

So it’s pretty easy to not kill people. But is it so easy—do we still follow the prophets when we get right down to the things they talk about in conference? If we’re concerned about living after the meaning of happiness, we need to follow the prophets.

So, habit number four. I hope you will think about this, because some of you may not agree with this, and you may not agree with five. But I agree with number four, and I hope you will think about it. And that is, we determine our own destiny. You know, in the 1970s, we used to say, “The devil made me do it.” So we blamed the devil for our lack of determination, or determining our own destiny. And now sometimes, when things happen to us, we say, “Well, there must…”—well, we don’t just say “Well,” we say there’s got to be—there was a reason for that.” And sometimes we almost forget that we do determine our own destiny. And most of our destiny is determined by the decisions that we make.

In a few moments I’m going to quote Elder Ballard about decision, but I’d like to give you another one of those little tips, something that has really worked well for Betty and me. When we have a decision to make, we really investigate the decision—the bigger the decision, the more investigation we do. But we investigate, we meditate. Sometimes we pray about it, not always. Sometimes we fast. But once we make that decision, based on gathering all the information, we stick with that decision and we go forward. We press forward. We don’t remake the decision. Sometimes we go out with couples, and when we’re having a meal, sometimes they say, “Well, we shouldn’t have done this,” “We shouldn’t have done that,” or “Don’t you wish we hadn’t done this?” I think it’s a tip to living after the manner of happiness is make a good decision and stick with that decision, and don’t keep remaking that decision. Because when we make a good decision based on investigation, based on feelings, based on prayer, based on using the intellect, that decision usually is valid. Now later on, we may get additional information that may change, and then we can change. But that’s just a little tip that’s led to happiness in our family.

One of the things that Elder Ballard has taught us about as we determine our own destiny, is we have to have balance in our lives. And I hope you’ll read what Elder Ballard says about that. Let’s not go there quite yet, Sister Smith [Note: Sister Cathy Smith is assisting at a computer by placing images on large screen.] Let’s talk about what he talked about. This was in a Seminary and Institute talk that he gave in October 2010. And I love this. I love it because of the analogy and this has to do with balance again. He talked about balancing plates on a stick. You’ve all seen that. You know, I can’t balance one plate on a stick. But his analogy was that if we want balance in our life, we shouldn’t try and get so many plates going on a stick at one time that we’re overwhelmed. Just picture someone trying—think of these plates on a stick as an activity that we’re trying to do, and then think of another one and another one and another one. How many plates can you keep going on a stick? And so when we think about balance, we’ve got to realize that we can only keep so many plates going at a time on a stick. And one of the dangerous things about having too many plates going on a stick—I hope you get the analogy—is that some of these plates are more valuable than others. Sometimes we think, “Well, this is more valuable. My career is more valuable,” or “my education is more valuable.” The most valuable plate that we have on a stick as part of balance is the family. This is not new to you. And unfortunately, some of these plates, if they fall to the ground, shatter. So as we try to keep balance in our lives, we’ve got to realize that the most important plate on a stick that we’re trying to keep balanced is our family. Because if the family breaks down, if that plate breaks, it’s not easy to put that plate together again. So brothers and sisters, as you contemplate—we’re going to keep talking about balance for a few minutes—but as you contemplate balance, remember the most important thing to keep in balance is your own family. That is really, really important.

When Elder Ballard spoke on this talk, he said something that I loved. He said, “You are not a pawn on a chess board.” And then he went on to say, “You are a son or daughter of God, with moral agency, which is the power and capacity to act and not be acted upon. As you strive to live righteously”—here comes a beautiful statement—“as you strive to live righteously and exercise your agency in accordance with truth, God does not move you, but He will guide you.”

You are not a pawn on a chess board. That means someone else is not moving you. God will not move you in most cases. Occasionally He will, but generally He will not move you. But you make those decisions yourself and He will guide you. What a beautiful promise! And I love parts of the Old Testament because it talks about—and you find this also in the Book of Mormon—where the Lord says, “I will go before you.” (See, for example, Isaiah 52:12, Deuteronomy 31:3, 3 Nephi 20:42) Wow! Being favored of the Lord, living after the manner of happiness. Can you see how it all comes together?

When I speak about balance, often I am speaking about financial matters, talking to students. And they—one of the most often asked questions, they say, “How do you keep balance?” And I heard in a … well, I’ll just say that I want to talk about that for a moment, because many of you are thinking about your career. And I heard from a podium—I don’t want to be more specific than that—where someone said, “You should not focus on making money.” It was not a prophet that said that, by the way. “You should not focus on making money; you should only focus on doing God’s will.”

It appeared as the person made that statement that they felt there was some conflict between doing God’s will and making money. And so when I answer students who are in financial services majors, we talk about that. I think it’s important to realize that there is no conflict between God’s will and making money. But since you are all working on careers, let me just say that some careers have a better financial payoff than others. But there are lots of other kinds of payoffs besides financial. You may choose to be a teacher, and so you may not make a lot of money in that. But there are many great rewards of teaching. You may choose something in the arts, dancing, music and so forth. There’s no question, those make a contribution, but it might not be a financial one. But then again, if you choose some professions—the medical . . . real estate development, or perhaps car dealerships as Elder Ballard has done so well in, or Larry H. Miller. Those particular career choices have a financial payoff. Whatever you choose, we want you to be a success in it. But success is not measured by money. Success is measured by doing the very best you can in whatever career you choose.

My point is that there is no conflict—in my mind—between making money and in doing God’s will. I think you can do God’s will and I think you can be successful financially. As a matter of fact, I would like—we have a slide that says “There’s no conflict.” And that slide talks about why I feel so strongly that way, because I go to Jacob 2:19. It talks about if you have a hope in Christ and seek riches for the right reason, and then it explains what the right reasons are to seek for riches—to do good, to clothe those who have no clothes, to feed those who have no food, to liberate those who are captive. And that’s a phrase that means a lot to Betty and [me], because the poor in the world are held captive by their financial circumstances. And so again, I see no conflict and I feel no conflict as I read Jacob 2:19. We seek for riches after we have a hope in Christ. I have a hope in Christ. I bear testimony of that hope and that promise that Christ gives us.

One of the things He gave us, in relationship to Elder Ballard’s great quote that we had, is in Nephi it states that man, because of the Atonement—men and women, because of the Atonement, can act for themselves, and don’t have to be acted upon. The devil won’t make you do it, God won’t make you do it; you determine your own destiny by the decisions you make and by the habits you form.

So I want to also say, in working with the poor, that I think more damage—I have no academic credentials to say this—but I think I’ve observed more misery, more health problems, more premature death, more lack of education among the poor…more misery in some cases, among the poor…than I have ever observed among those who have been blessed financially.

 I’ve got a couple of quotes that I think I should share with you from Brigham Young. I think the first one won’t make you feel as uncomfortable as the second one, but they are what they are.

Brigham Young, in 1877—you know, Brigham Young joined the Church in, I think, 1835, was the president of the Church for probably 30 years. One of his greatest and best discussions he ever made was a conference talk in 1877 when he spoke on equality. And this is what he said, while speaking of the poor. And this sounds like [what] President Hinckley said in 2001 when he introduced us to the Perpetual Education Fund. “That for the lack of opportunity, they are not able”—speaking of the poor—“they are not able to develop the talents and abilities that are within them. This is the condition of the people of most of the nations of the earth.” (“The United Order,” Journal of Discourses, p. 354, http://jod.mrm.org/18/353.)

Now many of you come from 60 countries besides the United States—18 percent of you are in the international world and the international place, and you’ve seen the poverty that is prevalent because of lack of opportunity. So who is going to do something about it? This is what Brigham Young says, still speaking: Jesus “requires, absolutely requires, of us to take these people who have named his name through baptism, and teach them how to live, and how to become”—are you ready for this?—“healthy, wealthy, and wise.” (“The United Order,” Journal of Discourses, p. 354, http://jod.mrm.org/18/353.)

Brigham Young said we have a responsibility, those of us that are Latter-day Saints, to help those who are baptized to become healthy, wealthy, and wise. That’s one of the reasons that Betty and I, for 14 years, have been very involved, and we’re excited about continuing to be involved as long as we can breathe, in helping to teach others how to be healthy, wealthy, and wise.

Now this next quote might make some of you uncomfortable. I’m sorry; I don’t apologize for it. Brigham Young said, “If we are the people of God, we are to be the richest people on the earth…. I am ashamed to see the poverty that exists among the Latter-day Saints. They ought to be worth millions and millions.” (“Cease to Bring In,” Journal of Discourses, p. 44, http://jod.mrm.org/17/36.)

One of the greatest tools of course, to becoming successful—whether it’s financially or in a chosen profession, a wonderful profession that financial rewards don’t follow—one of the great tools to self-reliance we are going to talk about. I believe it’s the greatest habit to success there is. But as I talk to you about it—hang on—as I talk to you about this tool, I have to warn you because you’ve heard of this tool so, so many times. Some of you may be sick and tired of hearing about this tool. But I’m going to tell you about it anyway. And before I tell you about it, I think it’s appropriate that I turn to one of Betty’s and my favorite songs, found on [Hymns] page 301. You don’t have to turn to it; you know it. You know this song just like you know about this habit that I’m kind of dancing around a bit, but we’ll get to in a moment.

This story about Sister [Naomi] Randall illustrates why knowing about something is not enough. Many of you have heard this story. One of our favorite songs is called “I Am a Child of God.” I’ll bet everyone hear can sing every word of that song, in many different languages. But let me just tell you about one of my favorite lines in this song, and I sing it wrong almost every time. And the reason I sing it wrong is Sister Randall wrote this song, presented it to President Spencer W. Kimball. He loves the song, but you know he changed one word. So let me tell you how I used to sing it, and now how I sing it.

I’m not going to sing it, so relax—especially my children and my wife. But this is the way I sing it: “Teach me all that I must know.” But wait a minute. That’s not what this says. You see, Sister Randall originally wrote this phrase as “Teach me all that I must know.” President Kimball in his wisdom, said “No, no. It’s not what you know. Teach me all that I must do.”

So brothers and sisters, you know about this next habit, habit number five. But what you may not know is that it’s not the knowing; it’s the doing of habit number five. So as I introduce habit number five, just remember “teach me all that I must do.” It’s not what you know, brothers and sisters; it’s what you do. [Story is told in Garrett H. Garff, “Spencer W. Kimball: Man of Action,” Ensign, January 2007, https://www.lds.org/ensign/2007/01/spencer-w-kimball-man-of-action?lang=eng.)

Habit number five—where’s the organ music?—successful Latter-day Saints are excellent goal setters. See? I told you you’d be tired of hearing about goals. I’m sorry. Well, I’m not sorry; I don’t apologize for the fact that goal setting is one of the most powerful tools to gaining success, both in this life and, I believe, in the life to come. But setting goals is sort of like knowing but not doing.

Let’s turn to Elder Ballard and see what Elder Ballard says about goal setting. “I am so thoroughly convinced that if we don’t set goals in our life”—setting goals—“and learn how to master the technique of living to reach our goals, we can reach a ripe old age”—a ripe old age, right here—“we can reach a ripe old age and look back on our life only to see that we reached but a small part of our full potential.” (“Go for It!” New Era, Mar. 2004, https://www.lds.org/new-era/2004/03/go-for-it?lang=eng.)

Wow! That’s a pretty strong endorsement of goal setting. Elder Ballard says if we don’t set goals and obtain these goals, when we look back over our life, we’re going to see that we didn’t reach our full potential. Would you like to reach your full potential? I want you to. I want to reach my full potential. To do that, we’ve got to adopt goal setting, and we’ve got to learn about goal setting, and we’ve got to make it a habit. And many successful Latter-day Saints make it a habit.

One of the problems about being your age is Brother Ballard says you look back. Well, at 18, 19, 20, 22 you look back and there’s not too much to look back at. When you get to my age there is a lot to look back at. As a matter of fact, President Boyd K. Packer stole one of my favorite quotes. I didn’t originate it, but he said this. He said, “Young men speak of the future because they have no past, and old men speak of the past because they have no future.” (“Counsel to Young Men,” April 2009 General Conference, https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2009/04/counsel-to-young-men?lang=eng.)

Well, I’m blessed to not be young, but not old. So I can look backwards and forwards both. I have a future and I have a past. So Brother Ballard teaches us that goal setting is important. He also continued and said this: “When you learn to master the principle of setting a goal, you will then be able to make a great difference in the results you obtain in your life.” Wow! You’ll be able to make a great difference in the results you attain in this life.” (“Go for It!”New Era, Mar. 2004, https://www.lds.org/new-era/2004/03/go-for-it?lang=eng.)

I’m going to tell you a quick story, and then I’m going to have to pick up the pace, because I have a couple more habits to talk about. There is someone in this audience—I won’t embarrass him, but you’ve got a 50 percent chance of being right, because we know he’s a male, if you know this young man. He came from a country of poverty. He came from a country of corruption, and he came from a country of drug lords. He could have gone that way. But he served a mission, and on that mission he decided that he wanted to attend LDS Business College. I don’t know how he heard about it, but he decided that he wanted to attend LDS Business College.

After his mission, he was fortunate enough to get a job. It was a well-paying job, and at this job he met his lovely wife. And together, before they got married, they talked about his goal of coming to LDS Business College. She agreed on that goal; she said let’s work together to achieve that goal.

Some thought it would be impossible to get the money to come here. Others thought it would be impossible to get a visa to come here. But he’s now in his second year, and we’re very proud of him. He certainly gets grades better than I ever did in college. But we’re not only proud of him for that, but we’re proud because he understands the power of setting goals, writing them down, reviewing them often, and being very intent on reaching those goals. And you know, he’s got another goal and I respect him for this goal. He says, “When I graduate from LDS Business College, I’m going back to my country and I’m going to be a success. And I’m going to teach other young men and young women how to set goals.” I love this young man and his lovely wife.

I could tell you about our habit for many years of setting goals on New Year’s Eve. Instead of going to—well, before we went to the New Year’s Eve parties, we would rent a motel. It started out with Motel 6, then Super 8, and over the years we now sometimes stay at the Marriott, and we left our children at home—they were always glad when we left, they really loved vacations when we would go away for several days. Anyway, on New Year’s Eve we would go away and check into a motel, we’d review our list of goals—last year, how did we do? And it’s not the first time we reviewed them. We reviewed them often during the year. We’d set new goals; we’d go to a party. We wouldn’t stay out too late, because the next morning we’d get up early and work on our goals.

And then the first Monday of the New Year, we’d gather our family together and explain the power of goal setting. They’d go off in their rooms, and they’d come back a little later and discuss their goals that they had for the whole next year. And I’m thrilled and excited that some of them are still doing that with their children.

We need to move on quickly. President Thomas S. Monson gave us a clue on setting goals. He talked about performance being measured. Before we go to that—I’m sorry, this is a quote but let’s forget that one, because that’s me. Let’s go to Thomas S. Monson. He talks about the fact that when we set goals, we have to measure our performance on that goal. He says that if we measure our progress, our performance improves. But if we measure our progress and give feedback, that improvement speeds up and goes faster. I know that because now Betty and I are measuring our progress on an instrument called a scale. And we get on the scale every morning and we record it. And then she tells me what a great job I’m doing on finally losing all of this weight that I’ve been carrying, and I tell her what a great job she’s doing at maintaining the perfect weight that she’s had for 50 years. So the progress is going along.

Well, let’s see where we’re going to move along here. I think we need to move to give you a quick idea about the next habit. And that habit is being lifelong learners. As Latter-day Saints, we are lifelong learners. And I have a great little video; let’s hope it goes. It tells about being stuck in the past. And some of you may get stuck in the past. Some of you—your only spiritual experience you’re ever going to have you had on your mission, and you’ve been home for 30 years, and that’s all you talk about. We don’t want to get stuck in the past, brothers and sisters. We want to move forward.

So let’s move forward with this quick video and then we’ll wind this up.

VIDEO: 

1st voice: Back in ’82, I used to be able to throw a pitch 94 miles an hour.

2nd voice: Are you serious?

1st voice:  I’m dead serious.  Watch this. (Sound of throwing, thud?)

2nd voice:  Uhh. What the heck are you doing?

1st voice:  That’s what I’m talking about.

That’s what I’m talking about. He’s still stuck in ’82. In high school, no less. All right. Uncle Rico—one of your favorite characters, right? From one of your favorite movies—“Napoleon Dynamite.”

Well, let’s move along quickly. Latter-day Saints believe in having fun. We adopt what it says in Ecclesiastes: There’s a time to cry, there’s a time to weep, there’s a time to mourn, and there’s a time to dance. As Latter-day Saints we believe in having fun; we enjoy dancing. If you’re not enjoying fun, you need to tweak something. Maybe that’s a habit you need to develop.

Brothers and sisters, I want to just say that [President] Uchtdorf spoke about happiness one time recently, and he said, you know, if we live after the meaning of happiness, we’re going to live happily ever after. And then he said, you know, living happily ever after is not a fairy tale. It can be true and it can be reality. (See “Your Happily Ever After,” Liahona, May 2010, http://www.lds.org/liahona/2010/05/your-happily-ever-after?lang=eng.)

Brothers and sisters, it’s my hope that you’ll adopt, and if you’ve adopted then you’ll zero in on one of these habits of successful Latter-day Saints, that you’ll make it part of your life, so that you can live happily ever after. I promise you if you will do these habits, you will continue to have success in your life. And I make this promise to you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

 


Strive to Have Companionship of the Spirit

12 Mar. 2014

Transcript

Strive to Have Companionship of the Spirit 

Good morning. What a lucky fellow I feel I am, this morning, to be here with you in this beautiful historic building, to be blessed by Jared’s insights about being a friend, and then this exceptional choir and an overly generous introduction by your wonderful president. I can do nothing but fall flat, frankly, after that. But this is good for my soul. You know, I’ve been emeritus now for a year, so I’m sort of like an old fighter coming out of retirement, and George Foreman did that a number of times before he started making grills, but this may be my only time. But I’m grateful they took a chance to ask me, even three months in advance, which is kind of risky when you’re dealing with a 71-year-old man. I am here.

I want to say, I don’t know all of your faculty and administration and staff, but I know some of them, and I know your wonderful president. And I think you’re so blessed, really, to have these people in your lives. Already this morning, President Richards has done some significant things for all of us in his example and in his teachings. So I just commend these people to you and hope you will watch them closely, come to know them as closely as you can, and just see how they have figured out how to live life in a happy and a productive way.

I pray that the Lord will bless me in my time here. I personally have been preoccupied in the last year with sections 15 and 16, which are the only two sections in the Doctrine and Covenants that are identical. And it’s interesting—in both of them the Whitmer brothers are asking, through Joseph Smith, what is the thing of most worth? What would it be? And as I retired from the Church’s active service—my active service in the Church—that was the question that has been most on my mind. What would be the thing of most worth for me to do with the rest of my life? And I, as I’ve thought about that this morning, and each of you, knowing that a talk—a talk probably isn’t going to save or damn you eternally, yet still it’s an important opportunity for me, and I’ve prayed about what would be the thing of most worth.

So I’m going to begin by telling a couple of stories and have you just figure out what I’ve decided to chat with you about this morning. The first story is probably my favorite Church history story—and history really is nothing more than stories. If you want to make history interesting, tell stories. If you want to have an interesting family, tell stories. If you want to be an interesting person, tell stories.

Heber J. Grant, in 1896 right next door, was participating, then as an elder in the Quorum of the Twelve, in general conference. And in those days, when there was no media and no pressure for time and conference today, the general authorities came with the expectation that they would be called on to speak extemporaneously in a conference session. I’m sure that kept them all on the edge of their seats. Now it’s all completely programmed, and you know some months in advance and you know the exact time you can occupy, and so on. But in those days it wasn’t so, and so he was told just before the meeting began that he would speak in that session. And as he sat, as conference began and the first speaker began to speak, he noticed in the audience in the Tabernacle, his brother Fred Grant, who at the time was estranged from the Church and hadn’t been in church for a long time. And the fact that he was there that morning intimidated Heber J. Grant, and he lowered his head in prayer and asked the Lord to bless him that in his speaking that day, he would be able to speak beyond his own natural ability so that his brother would recognize that the Church is divine.

Well, the first speaker concluded and he arose as he had been called on, and he laid on the pulpit a little black book that he kept full of topics and references. He had thought that morning earlier, that if he was called on that day he would say something about work for the dead and the spirit world. But in view of the fact that his brother was there, the Spirit took him in a totally different direction. And he began, he said, “almost without my conscious control of what I was saying,” he began to talk about the Prophet Joseph Smith and the Restoration of the gospel and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. And all of those things can be rather ordinary and mundane, in a way, but on that occasion—actually they can’t; I don’t think you can ever give a bad talk about Joseph Smith, for instance. So if you’re looking for good talks to give, give one about him—but on that occasion, in a very unusual way, Heber J. Grant was so blessed by the Spirit that when he finished his 30-minute address—and there was about 50 minutes left which George Q. Cannon was to have occupied, the counselor in the presidency of the Church—Brother Cannon arose and said, “There are times when a man is so moved on by the Holy Ghost that to speak following him would be sheer folly. Such was the case today with Elder Grant, and I move that this meeting be closed.” Wouldn’t it be great to be in a general conference session like that?

It was closed, and the next day, which was Monday, President Grant was in his office and who should come to visit him but his brother Fred. And as he came in, as a brother might, he said, “Heber, I was in the Tabernacle yesterday and heard you speak. You can’t speak that well.”

And then he said, in almost the same words that Heber had used in his prayer, “You spoke beyond your own natural abilities.”

And Heber, as a brother would, said to his brother Fred, “Fred, what does it take? Do we have to hit you over the head with a stick?” He said, “When a man like me is helped by the Spirit of the Lord to speak beyond his own natural abilities, what does that tell you about our church?”

And Fred had to concede that it was true. And the following Sunday, Fred Grant was rebaptized into the Church by his brother Heber. 

Now another little story:  In 1839, after the Missouri persecutions and after the Saints had fled back east to Illinois and were in Quincy and the beginnings of Nauvoo, Joseph Smith and a few others collected up all the grievances from that Missouri period and took them to Washington and gained an audience from President Martin Van Buren, and laid these grievances at his feet and asked for him, as the chief federal officer in our country, to do something about it. And you remember, that’s the famous interview in which Martin Van Buren concludes—actually, rightfully so, from a Constitutional law point of view—that, though the cause was just, he could do nothing for them.

But the more interesting part of that interview to me is recorded by Joseph Smith in his history, and that is that, during a lull in the conversation between the president of our country and the president of our Church, they were just two men—great men, to be sure, but men, nonetheless—Martin Van Buren, out of curiosity probably, said to Joseph Smith, “Mr. Smith, what’s so different about your church anyway?” He actually said, “How does your church differentiate itself from all other churches?”

What would you say? You’ve maybe even been in a discussion like this with someone who is not of our faith, and they’ve asked you, you know, put your finger on the greatest difference between your church and mine. I think probably, as this has happened to me in my life, I’ve often said something about our church having authority. But it’s interesting; Joseph Smith answered, “We differ in the mode of baptism, and in the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying of hands.” And then, in a footnote actually in his history, Joseph Smith says that he deemed all other considerations, all other differences, included in that of the Holy Ghost. So for our first prophet, the most distinguishing feature of our church was its mode of baptism, but even more, the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands. [See History of the Church, 4:42]

In 3 Nephi, the 19th chapter, the apostles are taught by the Savior. And then He leaves, and they’re instructed to pray. And they kneel down in unison and pray, and I’ve always been struck by what it says about this prayer in 3 Nephi 19:9. “And they did pray for that which they most desired.” What would be of most worth? What would we want to desire the most? What did these initial Nephite Twelve desire? They desired “that the Holy Ghost should be given unto them.”

Think back, if you would, just on your own prayer this morning. I hope you have offered one. If you have, honestly it’s a lot more important than anything I can say today. And if you haven’t, that’s also a lot more important than anything I can say today. But did you in your prayer today mention the Holy Ghost, and tell God how much you desire to have that Spirit with you today?

Where our prayers are, there will our thoughts be also, really. And I just hope that—if nothing else comes out of our little visit here this morning—your level of consciousness about the need for, the desire for, the worth of having the Holy Ghost with you would substantially increase.

In my time as a Seventy—almost 24 years—which I really seriously miss, and I miss most the people. In that period of time I visited over 400 stake conferences. That’s a lot of sleepovers, believe me. And in all those conferences—almost all of them, as a part of my approach to those, I asked for the chance to visit with the patriarch of each stake. And I did that, not because I had something valuable to teach them, but because I found, over time, that they and their wives were among—if not the, but among the very most spiritual and Christlike people on earth. And I just enjoyed having the patriarch come and sit with him and the stake president and talking about his role in the stake and his experience with giving blessings and the process that he would go through. And typically, in those interviews or meetings, I would ask the patriarch a question. And the question was, “What changed about your life when you received the call to be the patriarch?”

And invariably the answer came that there had been some significant change, even though these men, obviously, to be called as patriarchs, to have the Lord inspire their stake president now in this day and age to call them as a patriarch—they must have been living awfully good lives. But invariably they would say that they made major changes—changes in the way they approached their spouse, their neighbors, their gospel study, their temple attendance, their choice of entertainment, their relationships with family members, the fences they felt a need to mend. You know, I think every one of us—most of us here would have had a patriarchal blessing. How many of you feel that the blessing you received was inspired, that it came from God and was given to that patriarch for you? Would most of us not feel that way? Aren’t we grateful our patriarch wasn’t having a bad day when it was our turn to be blessed? Can a patriarch ever have a bad day?

I used to wonder that about a seventy. I even said to my wife one morning when I had a talk to give and I wasn’t feeling particularly in the Spirit, I said, “Can’t I just have a bad day?”

She said, “Yes, but not today.”

And I suppose every time a patriarch lays his hands on someone’s head, he wants to be in the greatest spiritual shape he can be in, for his sake as well as for that person. I do remember once a patriarch I met in Europe in a serviceman’s stake, who had been in office for almost a year and who had not yet given a blessing, and who was later released having never given a blessing—not for unworthiness, but just honestly for a lack of faith that he could lay his hands on someone’s head and speak the words that God would speak. So it’s a very sacred function. And I think, aside from what our prophet and the apostles say and write, I don’t think there’s a greater evidence in the Church that revelation is continuous than we find in our individual patriarchal blessings.

Mine now is largely history; yours probably largely prospective and future. But when Henry Taylor laid his hands upon my head as an 18-year-old, he was 92. He had no idea who I was or anything about me, except what the Lord made known—and yet he sketched out a path for my life that was very surprising to me at the time, and remains very surprising to me still. I remember him saying, “I say unto you, Brother Jensen, you will become spiritually minded.” At 18, the Lord had told him I wasn’t very spiritually minded in that moment, but I would become that, which has always been my hope that I would.

I’m saying all of this to say that all of us have every reason to live our lives like a patriarch. Why would we want to be less spiritual? Why would we want to have less claim on the help of the Holy Ghost in our lives than he does in carrying out the office that he has been called to? And the price that every patriarch pays to be in tune with God and to speak for Him when our turn for a blessing comes is the price that every one of us has to pay if we want to have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost in our lives.

Now talking about spiritual things in many ways is—I don’t want to say “tricky”—it’s delicate. It’s delicate because the Spirit, I think, manifests itself in different ways and in different frequencies. And it’s a different experience for each of us. I think that may be what the scripture means when it says that “the wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof but canst not tell whither it cometh and whither it goeth. So is everyone that is born of the Spirit.”

It’s a difficult thing to talk about our spiritual life. It’s ephemeral. It’s hard to crystallize; it’s hard to articulate. And on top of that, we’re actually told “that that which cometh from above is sacred, and should be spoken of with care.” So I don’t think it’s wise for us to be touting our spiritual experiences all the time. And I do think that it is different for different people. There are a lot of people I know that seem to be getting a lot more inspiration about a lot of things than I’ve ever gotten. And I don’t judge them good or bad for them; I just think it’s a wonderful thing for them. I only have my own spiritual experience to go by.

And I wanted, out of that experience, just to share with you four or five ways that the Spirit has been helpful to me in my life, in very practical ways, in hopes that maybe it will be helpful to you. And one of those ways—all of these ways, I think, are expressed in the scriptures. I begin in the 11th section. It’s interesting how many of the early sections in the Doctrine and Covenants do deal with the Spirit, because it had largely been absent from the world for a long time—thousands of years, generally speaking. And so the early Saints struggled as they got into the Spirit. And there were excesses that had to be corrected, and the Lord had to teach them—and so us—how all of this works.

And in the 11th section, verse 12, there’s a beautiful description, I think, of how the Spirit has helped me in my life. It says: “And now, verily, verily, I say unto thee, put your trust in that spirit which leadeth to do good—yea, to do justly, to walk humbly, to judge righteously; and this is my Spirit.” This is the Lord saying when you have these feelings to do good—in this meeting today, it would be wonderful if all of us had some prompting to do good. It is Thanksgiving week. There are a lot of things we could do that would be good this week. If you just thanked your mom and dad, that would be very good. You can’t imagine what it means to a parent to have a child express appreciation. You don’t know yet, most of you, how tough it is to be a parent, how much it takes in terms of love and patience and teaching and money—that good green stuff—to produce a family. But to have a son or daughter in their adulthood come back and say, “Dad, Mom, thanks”—that’s a prompting that could come out of this.”

“Put your trust in that spirit which leadeth to do good.” Whenever I’m in a meeting or a conversation or in a scriptural passage or just thinking or praying and I have thoughts come to me about good I could do—visits I could make, a letter I could write, an apology I could issue—I know that I’m in the Spirit. I may not be even totally worthy, I don’t know. But I know that when those feelings come, that’s the Spirit of the Lord. “To do justly”—think of what a world we would have. We wouldn’t need lawyers, if we all did justly. “To walk humbly, to judge righteously . . . this is my Spirit.”

Doctrine and Covenants 6 contains another working of the Spirit that I have found to be really valuable in my life, and it comes out of that experience where Oliver Cowdery had been a school teacher boarding with the Smith family during the winter of 1829. And when he finished that experience he went down to Harmony to help Joseph Smith translate the Book of Mormon, in April 1829. And when he got there, he met the Prophet for the first time. He’d only known about him through the representations of his family, and while he was with that family in that winter, Oliver must have had a spiritual witness that the gospel was true. But when he got to Harmony and met Joseph, and I don’t know if Joseph was a disappointment to him or if the spirit of the manifestation, the conviction that he’d had, had grown cold, but he was seeking a greater witness, another witness. And in response to that the Lord said, in verse 22[and 23]: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, if you desire a further witness, cast your mind upon the night that you cried unto me in your heart”—some night in the Smith home, he must have done that—“that ye might know concerning the truth of these things. Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter?”

Just that—the speaking of peace to our minds—is a wonderful blessing that the Spirit can confer on us. And in our day and age, and during the last year or two that I served as the Church’s Historian, it became obvious to me that there were many people—and I don’t know how to measure that—but many people who were becoming disturbed in their convictions of the truths of the gospel, based on historical questions that were being raised and are being raised and can be found in the Internet and other places. And in talking with many of these people, I often just made the plea to them, “Think back on all those night in your life—on your mission, as you taught a Sunday School class, in the home evenings that your mom and dad conducted—think about all those times that peace was spoken to you. That was to give you a settled faith, settled convictions, so that you wouldn’t be tossed about by every wind of doctrine and every un-peer-reviewed piece of data that somebody can put up on a blog somewhere.” And I want to thank the Lord that, in my own case at least, I have a settled faith. I have, I hope, an unshaken faith. And it’s enabled me to stake, really, the course of my adult life on the truthfulness of the gospel and on the truthfulness of the history of our Church. There is nothing in that history, as far as I know it, that would cause me to leave the feelings of peace that I’ve received through the years and continue to receive. What greater witness can I have, can you have, can we have, than that from God? (See D&C 6:23)

Jacob 4:13 has long been a favorite of mine as well because in that passage there’s an interesting use of the word “really.” “Behold, my brethren,” Jacob says, “he that prophesieth, let him prophesy to the understanding of men; for the Spirit speaketh the truth and lieth not.  Wherefore, it [the spirit] speaketh of things as they really are, and of things as they really will be.”

Now, why would the prophet use that word “really” as a modifier here? Aren’t—to be or not to be? Aren’t things either or not? Why do you modify the verb “to be” with the word “really,” you grammarians? I think it’s because Jacob would like us to know that when we are under the Spirit, and that spirit is telling us things about our life, about our future, about the truthfulness of the Church, they really are the way we are perceiving them to be. That this is ultimate reality. We don’t have to worry about it being conditional or situational. It is the way things really are and really will be.

And this sense of things as they really are and really will be I think, for me at least, is greatest when I attend funerals. I always say in my mind [that] funerals are the best meetings we have in the Church, and it’s just too bad that someone has to die before we can have one. But it really is the truth. We just had one of these funerals in our own community this last week where a wonderful, absolutely angelic 49-year-old mother of four was taken way too soon by cancer. That service was so close to heaven that anyone there with half an inch of spirituality in them would have had to have said, “This woman lived her life according to a wonderful plan,” and the fruits of that life and of that plan were so obvious. And even as I sat in that meeting and all of that burning within me—things as they really are and really will be—I thought, “This can fade.” And it can and it does, and that’s why renewal of this in different ways is such a vital part of our spiritual progression. But we can cling to those moments, and we can know that those feelings that we had are real, much more real than many other things that we’re experiencing in this life.

Lastly, if someone were to ask me, “How does the Spirit work for you?” I would cite this passage, probably as descriptive of how I have gotten most of the inspiration that I have had in my life. It’s section 128 of the Doctrine and Covenants, where Joseph is in seclusion, hiding from people trying to serve extradition warrants on him to take him back to Missouri. And in the midst of all that turmoil, he pens this 128th section, which is one of the most beautiful, spiritual writings that we have in the Church. And it is, of course, about the work for the dead.

And he says, “As I stated to you in my letter before I left my place, that I would write to you from time to time and give you information in relation to many subjects, I now resume the subject of the baptism for the dead.” And then he says this: “As that subject seems to occupy my mind, and press itself upon my feelings the strongest.” (verse 1)  This is typically how what, I’m sure, modest amount of inspiration I receive comes to me. I have a thought. I have a thought about what to say today, and then it comes to me that I should maybe say something about the Holy Ghost, which I’ve not talked about very often in my life, honestly, for the reasons I explained earlier. But then that thought works in me, and it presses itself upon my feelings the strongest. And then I can proceed.

I know my wife, who probably—I’m sure she’s aware of this verse, but I’ve never heard her speak about it—but I’ve seen it work in her life, because she often awakens me about 3:00 a.m. She did last night, actually. She said, “How can you sleep when there’s so much to worry about?”

And I said, “Count your blessings. I’ll see you in the morning.”

But when she is in these “middle of the night” moments of hers, I always listen. Because typically she’ll have something come to her. It will have occupied her mind, and she’ll say, almost in question form, “Have you noticed this about one of our children, or one of our grandchildren?” And then she’ll suggest something that I ought to do, probably, as the defaulting father and grandfather. But when I follow her inspiration, which I think comes about in this same way, it has invariable proved to be the right thing to do, and I just hope, now that you’re more conscious of this process, that maybe you’ll see it at work in your own spiritual life.

In conclusion, I want to say this much more. I interviewed, during my 24 years, hundreds of missionaries. When we were presiding over a mission, we had 210 missionaries and I interviewed them all every month for two years. It was about 4,316 interviews. I swore I’d never interview anybody again; trying to make those meaningful to the missionaries was a big challenge for me.

But more than once, as I said to missionaries, “Do you have any questions for me?” More than once a missionary asked a question like this: “Do I have the Spirit? As you talk with me, do you feel the Spirit? Am I in the Spirit?” And in almost all of those situations, I could honestly say to the missionaries, “You do. I feel it. I feel your goodness, your love. The Spirit of the Lord is with you. Be at ease.”

And I want to say that to all of us today. Yes, we do need to be more pure. Yes, we do need to be less distracted and to have more quiet. I’m reading a book called Distractions that is opening my eyes to just how nomadic we are, how multi-tasking, interrupted, miserable we are, and how desirable it would be for us to not just turn off our cell phones here, but a lot more, and have some time of uninterrupted thought and focus. We lack the ability to pay attention, and it’s only in that way that we’ll ever have the Spirit of the Lord with us. It does require quiet and focus and attention and uninterrupted time. But it is possible for all of us—again, with some purity about us—it’s interesting in the 46th section, where it speaks of spiritual gifts. It says that they’re given to all those who love [God] and keep his commandments—keep “all” his commandments, actually it says. (verse 9) And you would think that’s a standard that none of us could meet in order to have spiritual gifts.

But then in a very merciful way, the scripture says that spiritual gifts are also given—not just to those who keep all of the commandments—but to “him that seeketh so to do.” Seeking to keep God’s commandments is something we can all do, and if we do, and if it is the thing we desire the most, I know that we can have the Holy Ghost in our lives. I know that He will bring to our remembrance all things. I know that He’ll tell us whatsoever we should do. I know that He’ll bear witness of the truth of all things. And I know that, if we’re really blessed, when it’s really necessary, He’ll take us beyond our own natural ability as He did Heber J. Grant.

I testify of this and express my love and my appreciation to you for the good life that you are living and for this opportunity to be with you in this wonderful Thanksgiving week. And I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

 


Do Your Best in Schoolwork, Personal Lives

20 May. 2014

Transcript

Do Your Best in Schoolwork, Personal Lives

Thank you for that beautiful music. And thank you President Richards for reading that introduction just as I wrote it. My dear young friends and colleagues, it’s a distinct pleasure and privilege to spend this devotional time with you this morning. I always enjoy being with you on your campus and particularly value my regular interactions and friendship with President Richards—he has mentioned some of them. He and your other leaders are doing a remarkable job here in not only managing but uplifting LDS Business College to new heights. I hope you appreciate the great privilege it is of yours to study and learn with them. President Richards is a particularly talented and effective leader. And he is also a great example. I commend him to you with great enthusiasm.

      As I have pondered and prayed about what I might say that would be of value and interest to you, the thought occurred to me that I might best frame my views about the importance of your education and this institution by sharing a very personal account from my own family. My father, for whom I was named, was an alumnus of LDS Business College. Let me tell you a little about his experience, both here and throughout his life that might give you more insight into why I think LDSBC is such an important part of the church educational system, and why I also believe that its unique role and institutional charge by the Board of Trustees—and you know who they are—are so vital and so necessary to be protected; but more about that later.

      My father was a 16-year-old high school graduate in the spring of 1929. At that time he had already had more education than either of his parents, and I think it was also true with respect to the rest of his family. He harbored some of the same ambitions for a happy and successful life that you have, but I’m sure that they were not particularly well-developed beyond that of most normal 16-year-olds. His family was not destitute but also was not wealthy by any means. My grandfather was employed as an engineer in a downtown Salt Lake City hotel—that meant he was a handyman, largely. And my grandmother cared for their family at home. Dad enrolled at LDSBC in the fall of 1929, just about the time of the famous stock market crash and the beginning of the Great Depression. I honestly don’t know anything about his academic performance except that he did obtain a credential in one year that allowed him to become employed as a bookkeeper at the General Electric Company, during a time when the unemployment rate in our country was over 30 percent, or about five times what it is currently.

Needless to say, he thought his LDSBC certificate of completion or diploma or whatever it was really called, really meant something and he had a job to prove it. He was thrifty, as he had been taught to save money from his early youth by his parents, and so in about three or four more years, he was able to receive a mission call, when very few young men his age were privileged to serve because of the horrible economic situation of our country and of most families in the church and otherwise. I should add that my grandparents, through tremendous sacrifice and I think with some help from others, contributed to my father’s missionary support and that of his younger brother, who also served a mission when he reached the appropriate age.

      A few years after returning from his mission, my father changed careers, and never returned to bookkeeping or accounting as an occupation. However, he always valued the very practical education he’d received here. He was a man of many talents in my judgment, but one that I continue to admire very much was his personal organizational skills. He kept very detailed records and careful records. For example, every penny he received and how it was spent during his mission is recorded. I have those financial records and confess that I’ve never been able to match the orderliness and detail of his recordings and accounting in my own life. Happily, my wife has that same characteristic as my father with respect to money management. When I met her, she was my father’s part-time secretary, and he thought she was the best in everything she did. I admit that his views were very influential in developing my own about her.

      Now these solid organizational traits that my father had persisted throughout my dad’s life in virtually all he did. He passed away almost 25 years ago, and as his oldest son, I was able to go through some of his personal papers. On a sheet torn from a yellow legal pad on his desk my father explained, and this was the day that he passed away, that he had serviced and cleaned the filters on the furnace in his home. He also mentioned some other details about home maintenance and family business. When I read that, and since then, I’ve wondered if he had premonitions of the cardiac arrhythmia which would take his life later that evening. I suppose that we’ll maybe find out from Dad at some distant time. But whether or not this was the case, his careful recordkeeping was a lifelong characteristic, which had its roots in the very practical discipline he learned as a student at LDS Business College.

      As I said, my father valued what he learned here, and I admire not only what an LDSBC education meant to him but also what it can and should mean to those of you who have the opportunity to study here. It is my hope that you’ll always be alert, not only to the facts that you are learning, but also to the examples and patterns for successful living and working that are available to you here. One of the great strengths of this institution often lacking at others is its clear focus on education and training. These are not only practical in their own right but are also directed to assist you in becoming desirable employees in an increasingly competitive employment environment. Each of your circumstances is different, but every one is having the chance to gain skills and credentials that provide for you the means to achieving future success, security and happiness.

      As you all know, we live in a time when there is considerable debate and discussion about education. Various models of teaching, delivery, and evaluating academic programs have and are emerging. Some may be fads that will disappear from the landscape as quickly as they have emerged. Other refinements on time-tested approaches will continue, but there are some things that do not and cannot change because they are very fundamental to the basic purposes of life and education itself. Because you’re privileged to be here and have gospel instruction at the Institute of Religion as well as spiritual insights, integrated into the entire curriculum, you have an understanding of the role of education in the plan of salvation. 

      This has been true from the very beginning. Like BYU, where I currently serve, Karl G. Maeser was instrumental in establishing LDS Business College. After spending about 10 years in Provo, where he’d been sent by Brigham Young, helping to establish the Brigham Young Academy, he was asked by the Brethren to expand his efforts and became the president here also in 1886. What I find to be very interesting in our history and your history is that as far as I can tell, there was never any intention that LDSBC be a branch of BYU or any other institution. That is because the Church Educational System has multiple schools, with each school having a distinct and different mission. Yes, we all strive for academic excellence in a spiritually strengthening environment, but unlike other institutions, LDSBC has the specific assignment to focus primarily on career preparation. Your curriculum and offerings are framed by this objective and frankly, are better done here than at most colleges and universities that have other goals and priorities.

      Some have wondered what approach is better. The answer is that one emphasis may be different from another, but are all equal in value and importance in the kingdom. I don’t know that it is particularly important to our loving Heavenly Father what career or occupation each of us chooses. I do know that it is vital we prepare ourselves in such a way that we can fulfill the potential we each have to live, serve, and return with honor to our Heavenly Father and the Savior Jesus Christ when our mortal missions are completed.

      One of the remarkable things about the plan of salvation is even though it charts a very clear course for our lives to follow, in terms of our discipleship and need to endure to the end, the gift of agency means that we have almost unlimited choices in how we meet the goals and objectives of righteous living. Among the many things I admire about LDSBC is that it clearly helps every student focus on how to prepare not only socially and spiritually, which it does very well, but also how to gain the experience, skills, and credentials to be successful in the world of work. To be unemployed may not be a sin or a stigma when one has done all she or he can to prepare for and properly seek meaningful employment, but like the case with my father, a good, reliable, respected job opens the doors to achieving all of the other worthy goals that a faithful young Latter-day Saint should have.

      Our scriptures are replete with the counsel and charge to study and work. You know them, and I hope you study them and apply them in your lives. One of the great sections of the Doctrine and Covenants is significant in applicability to you in your student years, and will never lose its relevance throughout your lives. I speak of section 88. This revelation was given through the Prophet Joseph, in Kirtland, Ohio, almost three years after the church was organized. It is one of the longer sections, but I commend the reading and careful study of all 141 verses. Let me touch on a few and make some comments that might be helpful in your own considerations. Think of the Lord speaking directly to you, your classmates and teachers.

      “And I give unto you a commandment that you shall teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom.

      “Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand;

      “Of things both in heaven 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, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms” (D&C 88:77-79).

      This is a very broad instruction, but does it tell you specifically what discipline or career or occupation you should choose? I don’t think so. What it tells me is that I’d better learn all I can about many things but also be wise enough to be sure to learn as much about one thing or competency as I can to be not only useful in the world but employable in honorable work. This is right down the alley of LDSBC.

      Now back to section 88: “And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.

      “Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God” (D&C 88:118-119).

      Again, rather broad counsel. You might be tempted to clarify for me that it is very unlikely for someone to come to LDSBC without faith. While a point well taken, I would submit that none of us have our faith yet fully developed and that further, in the midst of the vicissitudes of life we all encounter, our faith can be challenged or even shaken if we are not careful. That is why our Board of Trustees, President Richards and all of your faculty and staff constantly emphasize the importance of strengthening each others’ faith and faithfulness.

      Many years ago I had priesthood responsibility for a young man who had so much faith he thought he didn’t seriously need to study for his college exams. He wondered why the Lord would let him fail his classes when he was a 100 percent home teacher. He didn’t understand that study and faith are closely linked companions. Study and faith are not opposites – both are necessary. Even our general authority leaders, the apostles and prophets, have tremendous faith but also carefully and diligently study out every matter that comes before them prior to making a decision. They help each other with both their study and their faith, and they set a tremendous example for all of us. We should do the same with our classmates and other associates involved in this great educational process.

      Whenever I read those first two words of verse 119, “Organize yourselves” (D&C 88:119), I think of my father whose organizational skills and habits I’ve already spoken of today. If he didn’t learn these approaches at LDSBC, I’m confident that at least his abilities were enhanced and sharpened here. I’m also comfortable in suggesting that if you do your very best in your studies, incorporating your consistent efforts in growing faith, you’ll accomplish the purposes you and the Lord have in mind for you attending this important house of learning, house of order, and house of God. I believe this verse applies certainly to our temples, chapels, homes, and to LDS Business College.

      Now I might very well have concluded with that thought and probably some of you are wishing that I had. But there is one other matter that I believe deserves your careful and prayerful consideration as you study and learn here at LDS Business College. For most of you, you’ve never before, and likely will never again, be in such an environment as you are now. I understand that a few of you might be lucky enough to teach here in some distant future, or be involved in the Church Educational System in some other way. If you are, you will be fortunate. But your personal circumstances will likely be very different than they are currently. The students at BYU know that I am not shy about emphasizing the importance of finding and choosing an eternal companion in the right way, and in the right place, at the right time. Without apology, President Richards and his leadership team determine with exactness and specificity the curriculum you will study once you’ve chosen a program or emphasis. They will not do the same, I don’t think, with respect to getting you matched up romantically. Understand, they are not opposed to wonderful young women meeting, dating, or falling in love and marrying a fine young man. But because of agency and propriety, you will need to do the work related to that process yourselves.

      Not everyone will find a companion here, nor should they. Some of you are yet to fill missions, or have other matters to deal with prior to entering a temple marriage. Some of you have already found a companion and some of you have suffered mightily that a hoped-for relationship didn’t develop or occur. Each of your situations is unique. My only point in this regard is that one of the reasons heaven likely led you to LDSBC is to have the very best possible opportunity to meet someone of similar values and interests that could cause you to enjoy eternity together. If it doesn’t happen while you are here, all is certainly not lost. But, if you haven’t done the best you can to make yourselves available to meet and get to know possible mates, I can predict it will be much harder wherever you go after you leave your CES student experience.

      Now having stepped into this rather dangerous territory, let me offer just a little more advice to you if you actually agree with the counsel I have just given you about thinking of temple marriage and a family. Occasionally in this process a challenge occurs when the young man and young woman don’t see things in exactly the same way. I’m not talking about a first date that quickly both decide was a “once in a lifetime experience”—meaning there would never be a second date. I’m talking about a relationship where you have enjoyed each others’ company and have started to get to know each other reasonably well. At that point it is quite natural to begin to wonder whether or not this friendship is developing into something that could be far more important. This is the time to find out all you can about each other in terms of likes, dislikes, problems, priorities, plans, family values and perhaps even politics. There will come a day, ideally for both at the same time, when a tentative decision to proceed further is made and the time to seek confirmation or otherwise through prayer and perhaps fasting has arrived. When both the young woman and the young man go through the process together at the same time, and each reaches the same conclusion at the same time then the result is delightful, and the prospects for a bright future together are very good.

      More often than not, however, the process may not work out quite that smoothly. On occasion one of the potential partners may reach a confirming conclusion before the other. This may not be serious and may just require a little more time, a little more learning about each other, perhaps reaching comfort with each others’ family, and the like. If so, don’t be too impatient, because the correct answer will come if it’s approached properly. What is the proper approach at this point? In my view, the fundamental answer and process is found in the scriptures. Let me share some verses given to the prophet Joseph Smith for Oliver Cowdery in another context that you’d be familiar with but is the safe and reliable way to make any significant decision.

      You recall that Oliver was happy to be the scribe for Joseph as he translated the Book of Mormon but also wanted the privilege to translate himself. The Lord gave Oliver permission, but Oliver did not immediately follow up on his instructions. That’s an important lesson for other time. And the privilege to translate was later withdrawn. Understandably, Oliver Cowdery was disappointed and probably confused. Listen to what the Lord said to him: “Behold, you have not understood; you had supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.

      “But, behold, I say unto you that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.

      “But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong” (D&C 9:7-9).

      A key point that I would like to make is that when a decision involves two people such as deciding on an engagement or marriage, then both parties are not only entitled but must each receive the appropriate confirmation. You can certainly know yourself if the Lord approves of a decision you have made about an appropriate companion for marriage, but no one is authorized to receive that direction for another. You must both feel strongly that your decision is right and approved of heaven for it actually to be right. Agency is not only one of God’s greatest gifts but is also a tremendous personal responsibility.

      Now don’t be confused because the potential man or woman of your dreams isn’t perfect. None of us is. But you must be satisfied that the fundamentals are in order. Those of us who have been around for a long time recognize the hope of reforming a potential marriage partner after marriage almost never works. If he won’t keep his covenants when he is courting you he likely won’t later, either.

      By now some of you may be silently asking yourselves, “But what if I never meet him or her?” My response is do your best, keep your faith, and don’t let discouragement cause you to lower your standards. Don’t be afraid to ask trusted friends and particularly your priesthood leaders what you might be able to do better, or change in your life and approach to increase your prospects of finding a companion. And, please don’t be offended if rather direct suggestions are forthcoming. Most of us don’t see some of the characteristics we have that might be either offensive or distracting to others. All of us have areas where we can improve, and my wife, Sharon, has not yet given up on me after nearly 50 years.

For a number of years I worked in a building very close to where we are today and found there in the large group of employees a number of single sisters who were older than most of you and some were a lot older, meaning almost as old as I am. As a group these were bright, pleasant, faithful sisters who had contributed much, had much to offer, yet in spite of most of them desiring a husband and family, it had not occurred for them. Some will resolve that it would not happen for them in this life. But occasionally I would visit with one or two who were considering giving up and thinking about marrying someone who would not be worthy to go to the temple with them. I never personally encouraged direct discussions about these personal matters with these good sisters, but occasionally I was asked for counsel.

When this occurred I would often ask them to consider such a decision in light of what they knew about the plan of salvation. When I was met with a blank stare or received an answer to my question in the form of one of their own, I would say something like this: What happens to children who die before the age of eight? We are assured they go to the celestial kingdom and will have opportunities to receive every blessing, including a companion and a family that God has promised any of his children. Perhaps because of my medical background, I know some facts that might not be generally known but have been replicated by scientific inquiry many times. Particularly in the developing world, infant mortality—meaning the death of babies in the first year of life—is slightly but definitely greater for boys than for girls. I won’t go into the causes, theories and so forth, but you can find them quite easily if you decide to study the issue. The key point is that since these young males are promised the celestial kingdom, it will be a buyer’s market for worthy, available sisters in the eternities.

Now sisters, I’m not suggesting that you wait or delay, but I am recommending that you do not settle for a scrub or for a man not up to your reasonable standards. For you young men, I cannot make such a promise. The statistics are turning not in your favor, if you don’t take advantage of your current situation when you can identify, seek out, and ask on proper dates worthy young women, and then finally make the appropriate commitments to the special one that leads to a happy temple marriage and family in a timely way.

      As we read in the book of Ecclesiastes, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). This is the time and the season to make sure you are doing all you can to fulfill every purpose heaven has for you while at LDS Business College. You are bright, able, and becoming wiser. It is my conviction that you will be able to achieve all that you must in preparing for the rest of your lives and every aspect if you study and pray hard, keep your covenants, and make sure you take advantage of the tremendous opportunities, both educational and professional, available here at LDS Business College.

      I have a testimony, my young brothers and sisters, that God does live and that Jesus is the Christ, that the plan of salvation is true and that education is a key and vital part of that plan that our Heavenly Father has for each of us. I congratulate you for being here, for taking advantage of this opportunity and encourage you to continue to do your best in all of the dimensions of both your schoolwork and your personal lives, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, amen.

 


Art can help us feel closer to the Savior

04 Jun. 2014

Transcript

Art Can Help Us Feel Closer to the Savior

Thank you, Arthur, for that wonderful music. It’s a pleasure to be here today. I appreciate the invitation. I have to confess, though, that I’m experiencing a little bit of déjà vu. It was roughly 20 years ago that I stood at this same pulpit and spoke before a similar audience. They were a little bit younger—it was a group of youth from Southern California that came here, and I’d been asked to give a presentation. And I was quite nervous on that day. There were actually some general authorities they had arranged to speak, and so I was very intimidated.

      I came early and had one of the audiovisual people help me set up a projector, and in those days, I used a carousel slide projector and a tree of slides to show images of my work. It came my turn to speak, and they dimmed the lights, and they gave me a remote control something like this, and I pushed the button, and the first slide was projected on a screen behind me just like this. But I heard a big gasp go through the audience. And it wasn’t exactly the reaction that I was hoping for. And so I remember turning around and looking, and instead of a picture of one of my paintings, which I’d planned for, it was this giant picture of my wife.

      She’s not giant, but she… [laughter]…was in her swimming suit. And now it’s kind of funny, and “ha-ha-ha-ha-ha,” but my wife happened to be out in the audience, and I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a slow-motion train wreck, but this is about what it was like. She just shot out of her seat and, “Bleaaaaaa!” I grabbed the remote and started pushing buttons, and more pictures of her in her swimming suit started flashing up. And we quickly killed the power and soon discovered that in my anxiety and haste to get here, I had grabbed the wrong carousel of slides. And instead of pictures of my paintings, it was my family vacation slides from the beach. So, I think today, President, we have the right set of images. We’ll hope so. It was a real dog-and-pony show that day. We ran to the Church Office Building and borrowed some slides they had, we ran to Deseret Book and grabbed little 8x10 pictures and passed them around the audience. It was a fiasco. But anyway, so if I’m a little unnerved standing here, that’s why.

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      Usually when I’m asked to speak, I’m asked not to bring my family vacation slides, but to talk a little bit about some of the work I’ve created over the years having to do with the Savior. And that’s a very difficult task. I feel very unqualified. I only have physical, earthly materials to work with to try to capture something that goes far beyond that. So, one little disclaimer I would put out there today is that you simply cut me a little bit of slack, and realize that I’m only human, and what I’m creating are basically visual reminders of the Savior. You already have in your heart and mind your own personal image of what He’s like, and I would ask that you try to hang on to that, and that you just use these as reminders, maybe a springboard to think about Him in your own unique and special way.

      It’s such a daunting task that for years I actually avoided painting representations of the Savior. I would do maybe the baby Jesus, or Jesus 200 yards away…but to create something like this portrait, per se, was really terrifying for me. That changed a little bit several years ago when I had the chance to visit with President Boyd K. Packer, who is quite an artist himself, if any of you are familiar with his work, in addition to being a great spiritual teacher. I had the opportunity to visit with him in his office on an unrelated matter, a different painting I was working on. And he asked me as I was leaving his office if I had ever tried to create a portrait per se representing Jesus. And I told him my fears and anxieties and why I really hadn’t done that. And he said, “Let me offer you a couple of suggestions,” a couple of ingredients is the way he put it, that might be helpful as an artist who is trying to create a representation of the Savior. So I was really interested to hear what he had to say.

      The first ingredient that he suggested is that we try to portray Him as someone who was manly. That made sense to me. We talked about some of the images that we as artists have created over the years that maybe haven’t been so manly; maybe we’re trying to show what meek and lowly looks like. Sometimes He comes across as perhaps less than manly [in these portraits]. So, I could relate to that and I felt that ingredient of manliness showing someone who could be a role model to us as men would be a good idea.

      The second ingredient that he offered kind of took me by surprise at first. He said that we should also portray Him as someone who is simply ordinary, simply ordinary. My first reaction was, “President Packer, this is the Son of God. That’s pretty extraordinary as far as I understand.” And it wasn’t until he went on to explain that I understood and then actually starting to think of that as a very endearing ingredient. He talked about how Jesus came to mortality to experience Jesus09.jpgEarth life just like we do.

            This piece represents Jesus in the synagogue in Nazareth when He begins his ministry, and he was actually reading a passage in Isaiah that prophesied of the coming of the Messiah. And then, He did something which outraged his friends and neighbors there. He basically declared Himself as the fulfillment of this prophecy. Apparently to His friends and neighbors, Jesus did, at least physically, appear as someone who is quite ordinary; a man of the neighborhood, because they couldn’t conceive of this person standing in front of them as being the Messiah. And they actually chased Him from the synagogue, tried to take His life, and He never again returned to His home   town. Which way do I point this? There we go.

And you think of what a difference it would have made in the lives of those people in Nazareth had they been able to see beyond his ordinariness, and realize that this was indeed the Son of God. Sometimes our own images of Him can affect the way we have a relationship with Him. And that’s sort of been my experience over the years. One thing about creating these images is you can’t help at least to think about Him. And some of those experiences have caused me to have a…to develop a different relationship than I started out with, with the Savior. I realize that what was so extraordinary about Him is not what color were His eyes, or how long was His hair, or how Jewish did He look, or were His robes gleaming white, and all of that kind of stuff. It was what was inside of Him that made Him so extraordinary. And I think part of His mission is to help us find that extraordinary part inside of us, to uncover that, peel away the layers and come to know who we really are, and the things that we share in common with the Savior. . . .

 

      So from that time forward a little bit of a burden was lifted, and I stopped worrying about some of the physical attributes, and I tried to simply paint my feelings about the Savior. In this case I was trying to show some symbol of how great His capacity was to know each one of us, to love us, and to be aware of us.

 

      The scriptures tell us that not a single sparrow falls without the Savior taking note (Matthew 10:29-31). And if that’s true, and that’s certainly beyond my comprehension, because there must be billions of sparrows, and yet somehow, he knows them all. If that’s true, then He certainly knows who you and I are. He knows your name. He can probably even pronounce it, President. No matter where we’re from. He knows what our day’s been like today. He knows our strengths and weaknesses. He knows our trials and our failures. He knows us better than we know ourselves. We have a veil drawn across our minds; that’s not something that limits the Savior. So He knows what we’re made of, really to the core. And in some spiritual way, He can help uncover that.

be-not-afraid.jpg      He really is the Good Shepherd. I grew up on a sheep farm in Idaho, and we were great little sheepherders, but it wasn’t until I went to Israel with my wife that for the first time I saw a shepherd, and it was a whole different ball game. Here was one man out in front of a whole herd of sheep and they would follow him wherever he went. He seemed to have names for them all and little calls he would make, and the sheep recognized it. He really is the Good Shepherd; He’s not the Good Sheepherder. He’s there to bless us in those difficult times in our life.

 

      This piece is called “Be Not Afraid.” Originally when I conceived of this piece I thought of it more as the Savior helping a couple, maybe a man and wife, across this stream, which represents the difficult, trying times in our lives. Our job is to kind of reach up and take His hand, and He can lead us safely to the other side.

     

In-his-light.jpg      This is a piece where I simply wanted to show kind of the quality of love that the Savior has for us. He often tells us to become as a little child, and children have certain attributes that would be good for us to emulate. When I do a piece that involves the Savior, I actually get models and costumes and props. Over the years I’ve used maybe nine or ten different models as kind of a starting point, an ‘anatomical armature’ I call it for the figure of the Savior. And on this occasion, I had a man come to my studio, and he was posing. And I knew I wanted a little child by his side, but I hadn’t found just the right one yet. So my thought was, when I do find him I’ll dub him in after the fact. Well, partway through this modeling session this man’s wife came by the studio. And she brought with her their young son. So we took a time out, and I remember watching this little boy run over to his dad, who was in costume like this, lean on his knee and he looked up at his dad, he goes, “Dad! What are you doing? And why are you all dressed up like this?”

      And his dad just instinctively put his arm around his young son and started to explain to him what it was that we were trying to create. It was kind of like the Spirit tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Duh.” And I kind of got the hint and I grabbed my camera, and I took a series of photographs of what was actually a father and a son. And I thought how lucky I was to capture something that was so natural. They had this great rapport. It would have been almost impossible to bring a young stranger in and say, “Could you give me a look of love and admiration?” It just wouldn’t happen.

precious-in-his-sight-greg-olsen.jpg      But it’s been a great reminder to me that when we speak of our relationship with the Savior, with Heavenly Father, we’re talking about a family relationship. And there’s something that ought to give us confidence in just that fact; knowing that they love us. Those of us that are parents, those of us who have families, we know that kind of unconditional love that’s there. We ought to remind ourselves of that a little more often. Be like these little children who don’t question, who just accept love and give love so naturally. Sometimes we don’t feel so lovable.

 

      In this piece I like to imagine the Savior using this little butterfly on the end of His finger as a teaching tool. Maybe He talks about how the butterfly starts out as this homely little caterpillar, and then through some miraculous metamorphosis it changes into this beautiful butterfly. Maybe He uses that as a reminder to teach us about who we are, where we came from, and what it is that we’re made of.

 

lost-and-found-greg-olsen.jpg      In this particular piece, it’s called “Lost and Found.” And it shows a young man who maybe has wandered a little bit. There’s a meandering path in the background that represents sometimes the wandering path that we all take to get to this point. He’s taken his burden off his back and put it at the Savior’s feet. And now the Savior’s just asking for him to ask for His help. In a little bit of irony, this young man was a good friend of our son, and they were the same age. And just a few weeks ago we attended his funeral. He suffered from some very difficult emotional challenges and chose to end his life here on Earth. And it was a sad thing. But there’s some comfort in knowing that even in those cases there is someone who knows us so well, who can receive us with open arms and nurture us and love us through the most difficult of times. We all face them, we’ve all had times when we feel like, “I just can’t go any further, I can’t do this anymore.” Just know that there is someone there who completely understands.

      As Elder Neal A. Maxwell said, speaking of the Savior, we can never look to Him and say you just don’t understand, because in some special way He has learned just what it’s like to be us. He knows because of the Atonement that he performed as His flesh was broken and His blood was spilled. He experienced in some incomprehensible way everything that you and I will experience in mortality. He knows what it’s like to be ordinary people. He knows what it’s like to feel pain and sorrow, hunger, depression, discouragement, temptation, all of those things He’s acquainted with, and to the ultimate degree.

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      Somehow in the Garden of Gethsemane He descended below all things. And I like to think that somehow it was His love for you and for me that gave Him the strength to conquer. This must have been a very depressing night in many ways. And yet, it was also His greatest triumph. He made it out of that awful pit. He drank the dregs of that bitter cup, and He overcame. He clawed His way out. I think it was in great measure because of His tremendous love for you and me. That ought to give us comfort, strength and encouragement, and confidence as we approach our Heavenly Father through the Savior.

      One day all of our tears will be wiped away. These difficult experiences we have here on Earth are not forever. They will be just a blink of the eye. One day those sins that we all commit will be forgotten, remembered no more, as the Savior has taken them upon Himself.

      I just want to leave with you a simple little exercise. And this is kind of to the point of what I was talking about in the beginning. As I’ve spent time working on these images, one thought has distilled upon me above everything else. And I think of it every week as I hear the sacrament prayer, and it simply is: As we remember Him, we will have His Spirit to be with us. And one way that we can invite that Spirit and remember Him is to take a few moments each day, and this is in addition to our prayers where we’re sorting out things with the Lord, it’s in addition to reading our scriptures, and I’m not trying to give you one more thing on your checklist. It can be done anytime, anywhere. But just go inside and be still. We hear about taking time to ponder and meditate. Sometimes you don’t even know what that is, or how to do it. But part of it, I have come to believe, is stilling our minds and then using our imagination to turn our thoughts to the Savior. Think of Him.

 

LetHimInbyGregOlsen.jpgOlsen.jpgI like to sometimes imagine I’m on a rock, something like this, sitting next to the Savior. And then I think, “What would He think of me, if I was sitting right here? What would I say to Him?” I think He would want us to feel better about ourselves. I suspect He would want us, like He said to the people in Jerusalem, to come unto him, when He said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem…how often would I have gathered you, as a hen gathereth her chickens,” (Matthew 23:37). What a tender image that is. He just wants to just hug us and bring us close and help us see things through His eyes. How would you see yourself if you could somehow see through His eyes? How would you see your friends and acquaintances around you if you could see them through His eyes? Would it be different? Would it affect the way you think about yourself and about others?


      For me it does make a difference; it has made a difference. As I tried to somehow incorporate His awareness, see things from His perspective, the world around me changes. He really does stand at the door and knock. We have to open that door from the inside and let Him in. It’s our heart that He’s knocking, or…by coincidence, in this painting, I found this stone wall with this door in it, just to the left of that window in the door there was a stone that was shaped like a heart, kind of like a broken heart. And I thought, “Cool coincidence; that’s really what He’s doing is knocking on the door of our heart.”

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      Each day we can try to imagine that we maybe walk a mile by His side. What would that be like? Start your day, if you can, with thoughts of Him. Even though, this piece kind of…it’s called, “Hope on the Horizon.” On the left-hand side are these storm clouds and rocky terrain. On the right-hand side is sort of a depiction of a heavenly city, or Zion, or the kingdom of God. Even though we might physically be here on the left-hand side, He’s dividing that scene in two with His staff, asking us to make a choice. We can grow the kingdom of God within us, even though we might walk on shadowy, rocky terrain while we’re here, if our thoughts are drawn out towards Him, we can be in the world, and not of the world.

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      We can have a life of happiness. We ought to be really the most joyous people in the world, with everything that we know. And I’d just like to leave you with the reminder that everything you see around you is created for you, for your happiness. Man is that he might have joy (2 Nephi 2:27). As we go through our lives, I would hope that we would do as Jesus did. This is one of the most recent images that I’ve done representing John the Baptist and Jesus. And they were cousins; they had some very difficult times in their lives. Their lives ended violently, tragically. And yet I suspect that they lived their lives with a lot of joy and happiness and understanding of why they were here, where they were going, and what was really inside of them.

      I want to bear you my testimony that that same knowledge can come to you. The Savior can reveal it to your heart through the Spirit and let you know what it is you’re made of, why you’re here, what your mission is all about, and I suspect in some part, most of the joy that will come to you in your life will be as a result of sharing whatever it is that’s unique inside of you with other people. It almost always has something to do with blessing the lives of those around you. Because as you forget yourself and lose yourself, you’ll find yourself.

      I leave these thoughts with you, along with my testimony that He lives, that He loves you, that He knows you, that He will be with you. And that one day, all our tears will be wiped away; even though we go through difficult times now, there’s wonderful hope on the horizon. And even here and now, we can grow the kingdom of God in our own heart. And I leave these thoughts with you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

 


Scriptures Teach That Decisions Determine Destiny

09 Dec. 2014

Transcript

Scriptures Teach That Decisions Determine Destiny

Brothers and sisters, you are an awesome sight. President Richards usually begins by saying how wonderful you look and how great you look. And you do look great. I was at BYU-Idaho this past weekend, and they had a “BYU’s Got Talent” show on Friday night, and I was also impressed there that the students looked great—they looked like you. It was a talent show, but they were clean-shaven, the men were, and they behaved themselves like sons and daughters of God. They were awesome. But you, you’re more awesome, I think. I may be a little biased.

      I feel very humbled to be here; this is a tremendous responsibility. You’ve taken time out of your schedule to come, and to be spiritually fed. And that’s not an easy thing to do. It requires the Spirit. So I pray the Spirit will be with us, that we can present to one another, discuss, and receive by the Spirit, the Holy Spirit. That would be a tender mercy if that could happen today in this room.

      I want to begin by asking you to write something in your journal—so take a moment real quickly, write this down: “The most important choice I will make today,” and then I have a colon there, you see that? That means you’re supposed to fill in what you think the most important choice is for you to make today. I’ll give you just another 10 seconds or so. I wanted to take as the theme for our talk today a quote by President Monson that Elder Nelson referred to as the concluding speaker in General Conference this last October. He said President Monson mentioned that “decisions determine destiny.” I went online to try to find where he first said that. Over 30 years ago (he was a junior member of the Quorum of the Twelve at that time) he said youth today are faced with monumental decisions. What are the three most important ones? What’s my faith, whom shall I marry, and what will be my life’s work? (“Decisions Determine Destiny,” Liahona, July 1980). How many of you put one of those items down on your page just a minute ago? Okay. All right. Let’s go on to the next here.

      Decisions determine destiny. I want you to think about this, and see if we can get you involved here. Can we have someone raise their hand; we have some mikes here, so we’ll be asking for some interactivity. Who can read for us Helaman 16:1-3? If you’d like to do that, please raise your hand, and we’ve got mikes to share with you. Can you raise your hand—there’s a hand here, there’s one up there…okay, thank you. I may interrupt you, just please you do it, okay, but…Helaman chapter 16. This is the final chapter in Helaman. Is it working?

      “Yeah, I think so.”

      All right, go ahead.

      “I’m just waiting for my phone to turn back on.”

      All right. Okay, you ready?

      “No, sorry. Normally people would think this is awkward, but I don’t.”

      There we go. That’s faith to volunteer without having the scriptures in…that’s awesome.

      “Can you remind me of the verse?”

      Helaman chapter 16, verses 1-3.

      “Perfect. ‘And now, it came to pass that there were many who heard the words of Samuel, the Lamanite, which he spake upon the walls of the city. And as many as believed on his word…’ ”

      Okay, stop for just a second. So what’s happening, what’s the experience? Samuel is on the wall, right? Why is he on the wall, do you remember why he’s on the wall? A couple of chapters earlier, he was preaching and was kicked out of the city, right? He was ready to go home; that’s what I would have done. I would have gone home. But the voice of the Lord came to him and said, “You’ve got to go back and preach to the people the words I will put in your heart.” So he tried to get back in the city, they wouldn’t let him in; he climbed up on the walls of the city. Then he said, “As many as believed,” right? So that’s the bottom portion of this pyramid that I have in front of you. Okay, keep reading.

      “As many as believed on his word went forth and sought for Nephi; and when they had come forth and found him they confessed…”

      Okay, stop. So, they chose to do a couple things. What did they do? Those that believed, they sought for Nephi, right? They confessed their sins, I can get you to read that—go ahead.

      “They confessed unto him their sins and denied not, desiring that they might be baptized unto the Lord.”

      So, what are the outcomes, what is their destiny in this case, the outcome? Baptism, right? Eternal destiny, probably. There’s some ripple effects that go into the eternities. So an excellent example, but what about those who didn’t believe? Would you go ahead and read the next verse?

      “But as many as there were who did not believe in the words of Samuel were angry with him; and they cast stones at him upon the wall, and also many shot arrows at him as he stood upon the wall…”

      Okay. So, those that believed did two things, they made two choices. right? They said, I choose to go to Nephi, and I’m going to confess my sins--the result was baptism. Those that did not threw stones at him, shot arrows. Okay, keep reading, please.

      “…but the Spirit of the Lord was with him, insomuch that they could not hit him with their stones neither with their arrows.”

      And? Go ahead with the third verse.

      “Now when they saw that they could not hit him, there were many more who did believe on his words, insomuch that they went away unto Nephi to be baptized.”

      Okay. So even those, some of those who were not believers at some point had a change of heart, didn’t they? They could see that they couldn’t hit him with their stones and arrows and so forth, and so he was protected by God, Samuel was. And so then some of the nonbelievers believed. And they followed the same path as a believer.

      I suggest, brothers and sisters, this is a pattern that is in the scriptures. It’s all about the beliefs we have influencing the choices we make, and we’ve got some really big ones we’ve got to make in the next few years; and that those choices and those decisions determine our destiny. I want to share with you one other example, and I’m going to ask you to think together in small groups for just a couple of minutes to see if you can come up with a couple other scripture examples, okay?

      I’m thinking of the story of Joseph Smith when he was a young boy.  We know that his mother would read from the scriptures, and he had a love for scriptures, but he came across a passage in James 1:5, that was the experience, right? He read, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God,” right? Joseph believed, he believed. So what did he choose to do? He chose to follow the counsel, and he went into the grove of trees to pray. His destiny was he became the prophet of the final dispensation, of this last dispensation of the fulness of times. Do you see how that pattern works? I think you could find that throughout the scriptures. What I want to do is just take maybe three minutes at the most, pair up in three or four or so, just find some folks around you. See if you can come up with, between you, a couple examples from the scriptures that show this pattern. And then we’ll ask a couple of you to share. All right? When we’re done, getting close, I’m going to ring this bell, so that you’ll come back to me, all right. All right, ready? Go. Go ahead, take some time now. See if you can come up with two examples in the scriptures.

      [Students discussing.]

      No pressure, one more minute.

      Okay, you should be working on your second example by now. They’re everywhere.

      [Rings bell.]

      All right, come back to me now. We’ll see if my bell works, my Chick-fil-A bell. Ready?

      All right, who’d like to raise their hand and share with us one of the thoughts you had, so you need a mike down here, we’ve got three or four, but we’ll call on maybe just a couple of you. So we have one over here. Raise again your hands. Wow, a lot of you. Thank you. You choose.

      Student:  “Oh, great, thank you. I have a loud voice anyways, so. Anyways, 1 Nephi 11, it talks about how Nephi wanted to understand the dream that Lehi had. And so it talks about it in [verse] two, it says, ‘And the Spirit said unto me: Behold, what desirest thou?

      “ ‘And I said, I desire to behold the things which my father saw.

      “ ‘And the Spirit said unto me: Believest thou that they father saw the tree of which he hath spoken?

      “ ‘And I said: Yea, thou knowest that I believe all the words of my father.’

      “And then it goes on and says, ‘And when I had spoken these words, the Spirit cried with a loud voice, saying: Hosanna to the Lord, the most high God; for he is God over all the earth, yea, even above all. And blessed art thou, Nephi, because thou believest in the Son of the most high God; wherefore, thou shalt behold the things which thou hast desired.’ ” (1 Nephi 11: 2-6).

 

      Excellent, that’s a wonderful example. Nephi believed the vision his father had. He chose to act on that and to discover for himself, to have that same experience. What was the destiny for Nephi? Incredible prophet of the Book of Mormon, incredible leader of the people. Excellent—good example. Let’s do another. Raise your hand. Got a couple over here. Okay, Jane.

 

      Student: “Okay, so I chose Moroni 10:8, and then I’m going to skip down to verse 19. ‘And again, I exhort you, my brethren, that ye deny not the gifts of God, for they are many; and they come from the same God. And there are different ways that these gifts are administered; but it is the same God who worketh all in all; and they are given by the manifestations of the Spirit of God unto men, to profit them.’

      “And then, 19 says, “And I would exhort you, my beloved brethren, that ye remember that he is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and that all these gifts of which I have spoken, which are spiritual, never will be done away, even as long as the world shall stand, only according to the unbelief of the children of men.’”

 

      Excellent. Wonderful example. Our beliefs really do influence our choices, don’t they? And choices determine our destiny; decisions determine our destiny. Let’s just do one more. We could spend the rest of the time, we’ve got about 10 more minutes, we could just do this. That would be fun.

 

      Student: “So, I don’t have the scripture. I have a lot of examples.”

 

      You should probably say your name, the others didn’t, because there are some young ladies…this is just a good opportunity to brand yourself. So…go ahead.

 

      Student: “My name is Jerome Stewart, and you saw me on the stage, I was in the corner. Some of the good examples we came up with were great, but one of the best ones we thought should be spoken is Enos, when he was praying in the wilderness for many days, and he wrestled with the Lord.”

 

      Very good. He believed the words of his father, didn’t he? It says in the scriptures. And because of that then he went into the woods to pray. And as a result we see some mighty promises of the Lord. Some wonderful examples.

      Do you think we could find hundreds of examples of this pattern? It wouldn’t take much, would it? It’s everywhere. What I’d like to do in the limited time that we have is share a couple thoughts about this pattern and maybe an idea or two about the science of choosing. But I want to use as a bookend—we started by talking about this decision-destiny pyramid; I want to end by talking about how little things make all the difference to us as Latter-day Saints. In the middle, I have just a little bit or two on the science of choosing.

      I was thinking the other day that my son, when he returned from his mission—this is an older son, so he’s been back four or five years from the Philippines—pointed this out to me, so it’s not my idea, but I’ve come to embrace it. If you look in the scriptures for the phrase “slow of speech,” you’ll find that there are a couple prophets that identified with that. Do you know who they were? Moses, and Enoch, right? So Moses says, the Lord goes to him and says I need you to speak the words I’m going to give to you. Do you remember what Moses did? ‘Well, I don’t think I can do this yet…’ so that’s a no, right? The Lord got angry with Moses. Do you remember that? Then, finally gave him a mouthpiece (See Exodus 4:10-16).

      Enoch, on the other hand, said he was slow of speech, and the Lord said speak what I’ll give to you. He did that, he acted by faith, he chose to believe that he could overcome a weakness, right? And he became such a powerful speaker that the people in the land, would not, the Atticans would not even go near him because he had the roar of a lion (See Moses 6:31-34, 39; Moses 7:13). So here’s another example, or two examples of how our beliefs influence what we will choose to do, and those choices determine destiny.

      Just a thought or two about choices. I’m going to flip through some slides here real fast. Behavioral science and behavioral economics talk about a decision iceberg; this is my interpretation of that. Most of the decisions we make, and we make thousands a day, in my work at Cornell we proved this, even looking at food decisions that we make, we make thousands of choices a day, most of those are unconscious; they are automatic. So we’re clueless for the most part. Some of those decisions are more important than others, seemingly, more urgent, more complex, more difficult, okay? Some of those decisions we handle well, we make right choices. Some decisions are poor, others are better, and others are best. What if you could, as Brother Taggart was sharing with us a little earlier this morning, what if you could just change one of those poor decisions to be a better or best, and a better to be a best? What if you could just make one or two better choices a day? Could that change your destiny? Because small things can make a big difference.

      All decisions have consequences. I can picture us sometimes saying, “I’m going to make a decision. I am sticking to this to the end.” And the world then rolls around you, right? Little decisions can have big consequences. Did you know that if you eat just 10 plain M&M’s a day, or 2½ peanut M&M’s, and you do that daily, you’d gain three pounds in a year? Isn’t that amazing? Just 10 M&M’s a day, plain, or two peanut. Little, seemingly little decisions make a huge difference. Or, if you choose to watch something that’s unwholesome, you go against the Spirit, and you say in your heart, “Oh, this one time won’t hurt.” But maybe you just do that from time to time. Ultimately, that could rock your world in a negative way and distance you from God and from everything else that matters most to you. It’s our choice, right? It’s a gift God has given us to have the agency to choose, but it’s up to us to know how to choose.

      When I was dating Kim, and I remember this distinctly, there came a point in time where I thought to myself, “I really need to pray about this, because this is, you know, getting serious.” And something happened to me that was life-changing. Initially, my prayer was—I can remember the room I was in, I can remember the time of day, I can remember everything about this experience, and it happened 39, 40, about 41 years ago because we weren’t engaged yet, at that time. So maybe 40 years. I’m trying to find out by looking at her face if I’m getting close here. Thirty-nine?  Thirty-nine years, okay.

      So I prayed to Heavenly Father. My prayer started out by, in this kind of fashion: Heavenly Father, I really like Kim. I love her. She’s got some wonderful qualities.  Is she the right person for me? Somehow in that conversation I was having with the Lord, it didn’t take long, but somehow, in that conversation, my frame shifted. Instead of looking toward me and what was good for me, I began to think, “You know, Kim has everything I’ve ever wanted, the things that matter most. She is the type of person that would get up every morning at 5:00 and read the scriptures, and when missionaries, including me, would try to show off the kinds of scriptures we knew and our scriptural knowledge, Kim would be the final answer, and she would not do it boastingly, but everyone would just kind of say, “Well, where is it, Kim?” And Kim would know where it was. To this day, she’ll memorize full chapters in the Book of Mormon and other, I think, lengthy passages. She’s just a remarkable woman. That mattered to me.

      I also knew that she would be loved. So I began to think about these things, characteristics that she had, and my frame changed. Instead of me thinking about a gain, I started to think about a loss. The Lord helped me frame this as a loss, and I got worried. I thought to myself, “She’s not going to want to marry me/you. She is so good: I’m in big trouble here.” To the point where I never did ask her to marry me. I just kind of slipped in some questions about, how many kids would you like to have, and she laughed a little, she said she doesn’t remember this; I do. And she said, “Oh, about a dozen. A dozen.” And I thought she was just kidding, right? And we have 11 kids, we had a couple miscarriages, and I tell her, those, there is some doctrinal promptings that maybe those could count too. Maybe we got a baker’s dozen out of this.

      My frame changed. That is one example of a decision bias that we make. What I wanted to share with you in the end, as we conclude here, there is a wonderful parable in the scriptures, that deals with the parable of the 10 virgins. And I have a little lamp, a Herodian lamp, which is supposed to simulate what the virgins would carry. I think there’s enough oil that you could put in this it would last a couple hours. You remember how the parable goes, don’t you? Five of those virgins were wise, they had oil in their lamps, they had prepared. Five were not. They couldn’t go buy it. In the end, they weren’t received by the Lord.

      Elder Dallin Oaks said this: “The arithmetic of the parable is chilling.” He said, “The 10 virgins obviously represent members of Christ’s church,” (“Preparation for the Second Coming,” General Conference, April 2004).

      President Kimball said this, “Attendance at sacrament meetings…fasting, family prayer, home teaching, control of bodily appetites, preaching the gospel, studying the scriptures.” I am going to add to this, keeping the honor and dress code. Each of these daily acts, dedication, obedience adds oil to our lamps, drop by drop, over the years. (See Faith Precedes the Miracle, p. 256, [1972]).

      Brothers and sisters, it’s my testimony and my witness that small decisions can have incredible impact, and that the Lord will not leave us to decision traps. He will not leave us alone in this mortal existence. He has given us the Spirit, He has given us prophets. He has given us scriptures. What we need to do is anchor our lives every day in the scriptures and in prayer. And by anchoring our lives, when it comes time to make critical decisions, we don’t have to ask what direction to go, we already know the direction we’re headed. I know God will bless us, as we anchor ourselves with Him, and as we do the very best we can, as we seek to know His will, and then move forward in faith. I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

 


Trusting in the Lord

10 Dec. 2014

Transcript

Trusting in the Lord

When I was about five years old, someone gave me a small, brightly-colored butterfly. A little hinge with a spring on it formed the body of the butterfly, and when I pinched the wings together, they opened a tiny clasp that would close again when I released the wings, allowing the butterfly to attach to my clothes. I loved the iridescent blue and purple of the butterfly’s wings; I loved that it would hold on securely to whatever I attached it to so that it would never get lost. I loved that the wings moved like the wings of a real butterfly, and that I was the being who made them move.

One summer evening I was outside with my family on the lawn in our backyard, and I made up a game with the butterfly that I thought was very fun. And if there are any of you who are having trouble getting into this story about a stupid butterfly, just pretend I’m talking about a miniature stealth fighter jet with nuclear capability. Anyway, I would spin in a circle with the butterfly, with my arms outstretched and then, at the precise moment, I would release the butterfly into the air so that it could fly. And then I would search in the grass until I found the butterfly where it had landed, secure in the assurance that toy butterflies do not really take flight and that I was in control of this little portion of my world.

I did this over and over with the delight only a five-year-old can find in such a simple game. And then tragedy struck. I spun just as I always had, I released the butterfly just as I always had, and I searched just as I always had, but all I found in the grass was more grass. In violation of all my hard-won knowledge of the rules of how things work, the butterfly (or miniature fighter jet with nuclear capability) seemed to have truly taken flight. I searched for what seemed like forever, more and more frantic about my careless loss, but to no avail. I was devastated. And then my mother, seeing my distress, said, “Wendy, why don’t we say a prayer? I’m sure Heavenly Father knows where the butterfly is.”

“Of course,” I thought. And so we prayed. And then, full of faith and full of hope, I resumed my search. And in all the years we lived in that house, I never found the butterfly.

The history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints starts with prayer—the prayer of a young boy seeking help, a prayer that is splendidly and powerfully answered. It is no wonder that we continue as a church to see prayer as the “Sunday School answer” to almost any question, that we focus our missionary efforts on inviting people to pray to know for themselves to know if our message is true, or that we culminate our temple worship in contemplating the power of both collective and personal prayer.

Prayer is arguably the most significant spiritual practice for members of the Church from the time they learned to talk. In fact, when my mother, who recently died of Alzheimer’s, no longer knew my name, no longer knew how to brush her teeth or care for herself, she could still pray. Some of her last comprehensible words before she slipped into a coma were “Heavenly Father, please help me.”

With all that attention and all that historical and doctrinal support and all that practice, we should be pretty good at prayer. And most of us are certainly capable of going through the motions of prayer. But it’s still a pretty common thing for us to feel inadequate or clumsy at prayer, to resist what the Bible Dictionary calls “the work of prayer,” or to wonder if we are missing out on the closeness and answers that others seem to get more easily. When so much about every detail of our lives seems to hinge on the effectiveness of our prayers, including things like how we obtain our dreams, or how we resolve our problems, and how we find things or people or hope that we’ve lost—with so much riding on prayer, we would be foolish not to take prayer seriously or wonder how to get better at it.

But, as I learned when I was five, prayer is not a magic wand we wave over the problems of our lives. It is not a bell we ring in a shop to let the owner know a customer is waiting. And even when we are young, if we are to grow in prayer, God has to trust us to try again when it seems that prayer has failed us.

So I want to talk today about building a relationship with God that can accommodate both getting what we want and not getting what we want—in other words, a mature relationship of genuine love. Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned about prayer since I was five, it is that prayer is not just about performing a ritual or completing a duty or gaining public speaking skills or learning some secret trick for getting our way. Prayer is an investment in a relationship with our Father, and learning to pray is about learning to love and learning to trust.

God uses many metaphors in the scriptures to describe our relationship with Him. He says we are like the clay and He is the potter. He calls us the sheep and He is the shepherd. He compares us to slaves for whom He is the Master. But in the book of Hosea in the Old Testament, God uses a startling metaphor for our relationship with Him. He speaks to the people of Israel of a day when “thou shalt call me Ishi, and shalt call me no more Baali.” Baali means “master.” So he says, “You shall no longer call me Baali, or master. You will no longer be like slaves to the master, but you will call me Ishi.” What does Ishi mean? It means husband. “You will call me husband.” He’s inviting us not to be slaves or even children, but to be like a married wife to Him—as a chosen spouse who calls Him husband.

He says, “And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies. I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the Lord.” (Hosea 2:16, 18-20)

I’m not exactly sure what the Lord is inviting us into with these verses, or how long it will take us as a people to get there. But at minimum God seems to be reminding us that what it takes to have a good relationship with God is similar to what it takes to have a good marriage. Just as a loving marriage is a relationship of particular emotional intimacy and closeness, honest and heartfelt prayer is a very intimate act. We felt that today with the opening prayer that was offered.

Most human beings yearn for closeness. We long to belong. We want to be known and accepted for who we are. We hope to be happy. We hope to have happy families and friendships, and we intuitively understand the importance of relationships. But at the same time, most of us fear love. It’s scary to open up our hearts, even to God. We’re afraid of abandonment, betrayal and loss. We’re afraid of feeling overwhelmed, of being used. We’re afraid of investing in another person only to be ignored or rejected. We may worry that God too will leave us feeling vulnerable and uncertain.

So let’s talk about a few principles of building this relationship of trust with anyone, and then apply them to our relationship with God. These principles might not be the ones you would pick, as they’re drawn from my experience and not yours. But perhaps you can adapt them to your style and your needs, or look at your own relationships for other principles that are more applicable to you.

The first principle of building a relationship of trust is that we have to show up. And we have to show up virtually every day, even when we don’t feel like it and even when we have little to say. In my experience, there’s seldom a really convenient time to listen to my husband or for him to listen to me. My husband demonstrates his love for me almost every day by putting down his laptop computer when I walk into his home office. I walk in the door; the laptop goes to the side.

This is not convenient for him. It requires him to interrupt what he’s doing, pay attention to me. But when he does this, he is saying, “I love you,” in words and gestures that I understand with my heart.

Likewise, we tell the Lord that we love Him when we prioritize the privilege of prayer. It’s always been amazing to me to think that I could no sooner get a 5-minute audience with the President of the United States than fly to the moon, but on any day at any time, I can have an audience—a personal audience—with the Creator of the earth and heavens.

I’m not a morning person, but I’ve learned that if I don’t pray first thing in the morning, too often I don’t pray. So I pray first thing in the morning. I roll out of bed and I start talking, and I talk out loud because that’s the only way I can keep myself focused. I talk to the Lord as I would talk to a friend. I tell Him my thoughts, my feelings and desires. Sometimes it helps me to imagine him sitting close by, listening attentively. Prayer seems to be most meaningful to me when I push myself past the pat phrases and stay on my knees for at least 15 minutes. I’d encourage you to experiment with prayer at a set time each day, talking out loud, imagining God close by, and praying for at least 15 minutes at least some of the time. These are some of the ways we show up for the relationship of prayer.

Once we’ve learned how to show up, a second vital thing we can do to strengthen our trust in a relationship is to show up with eyes to see. This especially means learning to see and receive the evidence that we are loved. With an earthly companion, this might mean appreciating small acts of service or kind words of affection, or just telling each other, “I love you.” But God doesn’t always use the words “I love you” directly. He usually shows us His love, and we have to look carefully to see it, and to receive it. It comes in different forms for each person according to our individual mission and purposes. Evidences of His great love and trust in us may include not only our gifts and opportunities, but challenges and trials and heartbreaks that can also be indications of just how much He loves us and trusts us and keeps His promises to us to give us the earthly experience we signed up for, even though we’ve now forgotten why.

I remember years ago a client I had. She was a very, very good woman who felt very, very bad about herself. I could feel every time I was around her God’s great love for her. It was not difficult at all. She was raising a beautiful family; she was doing good things with her life. But she was deeply depressed and deeply discouraged. I remember praying and wondering, why can’t she feel God’s love for her? I could feel it; I could testify to her that I felt it. But for some reason, it didn’t seem like she could let it through.

And then I realized, as I was thinking about this, that other clients I had had the same problem, had trouble really feeling God’s love. And then I realized that I had the same problem. I had trouble feeling God’s love. So I decided to make this a matter of personal prayer. I began to pray about this. I began to pray on a regular basis that I would be able to feel God’s love for me, that I would be able to see the evidences of God’s love in my life. I prayed about this for months. Nothing dramatic happened. After a while I sort of forgot about it and went about my business. You know how that is.

And then one day I was driving down the street. Our family had been blessed with an incredibly wonderful blessing—an extravagant blessing. And I was driving down the street and wondering aloud to God, why, when there are so many people in the world who are struggling and suffering, who are hurting, who are in poverty and trouble, why are we being given such a wonderful sweet blessing. And I felt the words come into my heart and into my mind, “Because I knew that this would please you, and I love you.”

I began to weep so hard that I could hardly drive down the street. Did God really love me this much? I believe He does. I believe He loves each one of us this much, including when we are in hardship and struggle and poverty and want.

Expressing our gratitude to God or other people is not just about flattering them, it is about changing us. So instead of scanning the world for threats and problems and flaws, gratitude helps us retrain our brain to scan the world for supports and solutions and strengths. I don’t know about you, but I’m kind of a dour person sometimes, and I get busy looking for the problems, figuring out what’s wrong, seeing what’s disappointing in the world. Gratitude helps us change that perspective. In fact, if we’ll do some of these things that I’m going to list for you for three weeks, we’ll begin to actually train the physiology of our brain to scan the world for positive things, to look for the good and not just tragedies on the evening news.

In Ephesians 5:20 we are counseled to give “thanks always”—always—“for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Giving thanks all the time, for every thing is pretty comprehensive.

In October 2008 General Conference, Elder Bednar told of a time when a general authority visiting their home invited Sister Bednar to pray, and specifically to pray only thanks. The visitor didn’t know that the Bednars had just learned of the unexpected death of a very close family member, someone very dear to them. Elder Bednar said, “Given the unexpected tragedy, requesting blessings for our friends initially seemed to us more urgent than expressing thanks,” but “Sister Bednar responded in faith to the direction she received. She thanked Heavenly Father for meaningful and memorable experiences with this dear friend. She communicated sincere gratitude for the Holy Ghost as the Comforter and for the gifts of the Spirit that enable us to face adversity and to serve others. Most importantly, she expressed appreciation for the plan of salvation, for the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, for His Resurrection, and for the ordinances and covenants of the restored gospel which make it possible for families to be together forever.” (Pray Always,” http://www.lds.org/ensign/2008/11/pray-always?lang=eng.)

So I’d like you to think about, what is something that is really hard in your life right now? What’s something you worry about or struggle with, something you need, something that’s breaking your heart? I’ve sat with you—I know there are lots and lots of these things. So have you got something in your mind?

For the next minute—just for one minute—I’d like you to focus on all of the blessings and all of the good things you can think of related to that challenge. Generate only gratitude, pray only gratitude, just for one minute. And I’ll time you.

I don’t know about you, but I feel something begin to shift inside of me when I pray that kind of prayer, when I remember what I have retained and not just what I have lost, when I remember what I have and not just what I lack.

A few years ago I started to feel like my evening prayers were just sort of a repetition of my morning prayers. Have you had that experience? And that I needed to change. And so I decided that, especially at night, I would pray only gratitude. For months at night, I simply told the Lord three new things I was grateful for that day. Every night I would lie in my bed, I would say to the Lord, “I am grateful for this and this and this that happened today.” And then I would peacefully, happily go to sleep. And when that got a little boring, I changed to telling God one happy surprise from the day, and to my surprise, there was always one happy surprise.

Later I just told God in some detail my favorite part of the day, relishing that positive experience and cementing it into my memory. I’ve also spent months expressing gratitude each night for a specific person who helped me that day, or for the opportunity to help a specific person. In all these things, I’m looking for the hand of God in my life that day, offering me His love. I’m looking for the ways that God is saying to me, “Wendy, I love you.”

This is a very concrete way to train your brain to not miss what is good about life, and to develop hope and trust. So let me just review that little list: Three things you’re grateful for, a happy surprise for the day, your favorite part of the day, someone who helped you that day, someone you helped, looking for the hand of God in your life.

Principle number one of building a relationship of trust is to show up for it every day. With God that means showing up for prayer every day, or almost every day, making your relationship with God a priority in your life. It may mean praying out loud for more than just a few minutes, as if God were a friend sitting close by.

Principle number two is to show up for the relationship with eyes to see, looking for and letting in the many evidences that you are loved and receiving them with gratitude.

A third principle is to show up with paper and pencil in hand. I have a terrible memory. My husband asks me to do things all the time, and I regularly forget. I tell him, “Write me a text, send me a note, or I will forget that” because I know I can’t trust my memory on those things. So in a marriage, that means I write down what my spouse requests of me, or thoughts that come to my mind about how I might help him, because otherwise it won’t happen. And with God, it means I show up at prayer every day with a paper and a pencil in my hand. I let Him know that I am ready to receive inspiration and direction—an idea, it seems to me, that you have also experienced.

While I’m praying, I write down impressions that come, things I need to remember, act on, people’s names that come to my mind. I write down things I need to repent of. If you don’t know what else to ask the Lord in prayer, ask Him for that—what do I need to repent of? Which of my weaknesses do I need to work on?

Or I ask Him about personal strengths that I need to develop. What are the gifts and callings that I need to be focusing on? Showing up for prayer with a paper and pencil in hand lets the Lord know we are serious about acting on inspiration and engaging Him, with Him in His work.

I still remember a college religion class I had—I won’t say how many years ago—in which the teacher said, “Prayer is a commitment to action.” That means if you are going to pray to not be lonely, then you have to take the risk of learning to be a good friend, and be curious about other people. You have to take responsibility for what you want. That’s what it means to be an adult.

If you’re going to pray for God to “bless those who weren’t here at this time, that they will come next time,” you have to commit to do something to help them get here, or don’t say the prayer. We practice honesty and authenticity when we only pray those prayers we are committed to acting on in some way.

President John Taylor, third president of the Church, counseled: “I have seen some people who would get down upon their knees and pray most heartily for God to feed the poor and clothe the naked. Now,  I would never ask the Lord to do a thing that I would not do….

“ I would a great deal rather that you would take, say a sack of flour, some beef, …and clothing, and fuel, and such comforts and conveniences of life, and thus try to make people happy, than all the prayers you could offer up to the Lord about it; and he would rather see it too. That is the proper way to do things. In receiving blessings ourselves, try to distribute them, and God will bless and guide us in the ways of peace.” (from the Deseret News: Semi-Weekly, 10 Aug. 1880, 1, quoted in Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: John Taylor, Chapter 3: “love Thy Neighbour as Thyself,” (2011), 20-29.)

So, showing up for prayer, with eyes to see, paper and pencil in hand—will not only deepen our trust in the Lord, but will deepen our trustworthiness to Him. As we learn to both receive His love and act on His guidance to bless others. These three simple principles will help us deepen our capacity for love with both other people and with the Lord.

I’d like to invite you to experience these simple principles right now, with a little exercise my colleague Gary Weaver shared with me that I found very worthwhile. So if you are willing, would you close your eyes for just a few minutes?  Just get comfortable for a minute with your eyes closed. And now would you imagine a group of people who have your best interests at heart. They can be alive or dead; they can be people you know personally or even people you’ve never met. But the one thing they must have in common is that they have your best interests at heart. Take a moment to gather that group of people in your mind.

And as you look around at this group of people in your mind, ask them this question: “Do you love me?” And receive their response. And if God is not already in this group of people who have your best interests at heart, would you invite God, however you imagine God to be, to join this group?  And now, in your mind, ask God the question: “Do you love me?” and receive His response.

Then as you look around this group, ask one more question: “What is one important thing I could do at this time to make a difference for good in my world?” Does this group have any counsel for you on that question? If you receive any counsel, I hope you’ll write that down. I hope you won’t write it off, but that you’ll write it down, that you’ll thank the people who showed up that have your best interests at heart, that you’ll come back together. If you receive some counsel from that imaginary experience, I hope you’ll take it seriously. Write it in your journal tonight, perhaps. Ask the Lord to confirm if you got it right, and if there’s anything more.

I hope you got some sense in that little exercise of God’s love for you, and for the people He has put in place in your life to support you and strengthen you. But as I said in the beginning of this talk, my hope today is that we can build a relationship with God that can accommodate both getting what we want and not getting what we want. So we need to talk for a few minutes now about the not getting what we want part, because I learned—as I learned in the story of the butterfly, we will not find everything we lose. We will not get clear direction in every decision we desperately need to make. And we will not resolve all of our doubts and concerns on our timetable. In short, we can’t completely fix the problem of uncertainty in this life.

This life is, in fact, ambiguous by design. There is no religion, no science, no version of history, no prospective marriage partner, no life path that will set us free from the gravity of uncertainty. That is not to say that there are not some answers that are better than others, or that we should distrust everything we think we know. But it does mean we will always have to live with a certain amount of not knowing. The questions then becomes, what will we do when we don’t know what to do?

I’ve learned by hard experience that the temper tantrums I throw to let the Lord know that I simply can’t tolerate this not knowing stuff don’t get me very far, and that what I do when I don’t know what to do may say more than anything else about my true character and my deepest values.

I once had an experience with both getting an answer and not getting an answer that might illustrate this point. I was a senior in college. I was approaching graduation and didn’t know what to do next with my life. I had thoughts about going on a mission. My mother and grandmother had served missions, but I wasn’t completely sure if this was right for me. So I tried to keep a very open mind as I prayed for guidance in this matter over a period of several months. But I didn’t feel like I was getting any closer to knowing what I was supposed to do.

Then one night, I had this dream. In the dream I was in a large building, and there were lots of people coming into the room. We could tell that it was underground, because there were little tiny windows up at the top of the building that were at ground level, and all these people were bringing supplies into the room. They were bringing in blankets and food and water and all of this stuff, and there was a woman seated at a desk in the middle of the room who seemed to be in charge. She was dressed in white. I remember what she looked like.

I didn’t know what was going on, but she seemed to be the one who did, and I walked up to her—you know how dreams go—and I said, “I’m really struggling to know whether I’m supposed to go on a mission.”

And she looked at me and she said, “The Lord has given you many indications that He wants you to go on a mission, and it is very displeasing to Him that you continue to deny them.”

Well that sort of took my breath away, even in the dream, and I began to sputter and say, “Well, okay, I’ll go, I’ll go.”

And she said, “I’m sorry, but it’s too late. The people you could have helped are out there and you’re in here.”

And I looked and I saw a nuclear bomb mushroom out of the window, going off in the sky. A very dramatic dream. I woke up from that dream and I just sat there in my bed, like I was afraid to move. And I thought, “What was that?” I wish that I could get more of my questions and concerns answered in such a dramatic and specific way, but I was still not at peace. That was the interesting thing. I started telling people from that day forward that I was going on a mission, but I hated it every time the words came out of my mouth. And that’s when I realized, I didn’t want just an answer to my prayer. I wanted a “no mission for you” answer. But I hadn’t really admitted this before, even to myself.

I also realized however, that even more than I didn’t want to go, I wanted to do what God wanted me to do. So I made my appointment with the bishop and I went through all the motions, but I wasn’t at peace. Finally, I drove out to Utah Lake and I sat in my car for probably an hour, pouring out my heart to God about all my fears and inadequacies and worries about my family and how much I wanted to get married instead. And when I ran out of things to say, I still didn’t feel completely at peace, even though the veil felt thin and I did feel that I had been heard. So not knowing what else to do, I turned on the engine and I started home.

And that’s when the words of a familiar hymn resonated in my soul:

 

Trusting my all to thy tender care,

And knowing thou lovest me…

I’ll go where you want me to go….

I’ll be [who] you want me to be.

 

      (“I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go,” Hymns of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (1985), 270)

 

That was the crux of the matter. Would I choose to trust the Lord? Even when a mission was not what I wanted, and even when I wasn’t even sure if my dream was really even from God, would I put myself in His care? I wasn’t certain about whether a mission really was right for me, but I took my best guess about what I thought God was telling me, and I put in my papers. My decision to serve a mission brought great struggle and heartache into my life. But virtually every one of my greatest blessings over the ensuing forty years has been a direct or indirect outcome of that single decision to trust the Lord, even in the face of lingering uncertainty.

That decision has continued to hold as having been an inspired choice, but through it I learned that belief is a choice. It’s a choice we make to trust God even when we are not sure and even when we don’t get what we want.

Now, many decades after the butterfly story, I can say that, as much as I know anything of real import, I know there is a God, that He is trustworthy, and that He loves us. Christ will redeem every failure, every sin, every lost butterfly of our lives, if we continue to turn to Him. Through the process of struggling over a lifetime to learn to pray with faith, I have learned that there is something I love far more than even a small child loves a favorite toy. I love the Lord. And I have learned that I can trust Him with my whole soul.

I hold no special keys or authority or position, but the God of heaven and earth has given me the right to pray. And so I pray for you. I pray that you’ll choose to trust that God loves you, that He has your best interests at heart. I pray that you’ll have eyes to see the evidences of His love, that you’ll open yourself up to the vulnerability of praying what is real, and not just what is easy. I pray that you’ll choose to trust the answers to your prayers even when they are not convenient or don’t come quickly, or aren’t absolutely certain. And I pray that, trusting your all to His tender care, and knowing He loves you, that you’ll do what He wants you to do, and be who He wants you to be. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Introduction: Craig Nelson

Let me introduce you to our speaker today. Sister Ulrich is a licensed psychologist who has been in practice for twenty years. She received a doctorate in Education and Psychology from the University of Michigan and an MBA specializing in organizational behavior from UCLA in California. Her focus is on helping leaders create meaning at work that creates real value to employers, customers and investors. She help organizations build people skills and personal strengths to succeed. And she speaks to thousands of people every year on those topics. Sister Ulrich is the founder of Sixteen Stones Center for Growth and is former president of the Association of Mormon Counselors and Psychotherapists. She has been a columnist for the Deseret News. Her books include Forgiving Others, Weakness is Not Sin, and the national best-seller, The Why of Work, which she co-authored with her husband Dave, who is with us today. We’re grateful to have Dave with us today.

Sister Ulrich has served in the Church as a ward and stake Relief Society president, and from 2002 to 2005 she served with her husband Dave in presiding over the Canada Montreal Mission. The Ulrich’s have three children.


Making Decisions

10 Dec. 2014

Transcript

Making Decisions 

 Brothers and Sisters, you are an awesome sight. President Richards usually begins by saying how wonderful you look and how great you look. And you do look great. I was at BYU Idaho this past weekend, and they had a “BYU—I’s Got Talent” show on Friday night, and I was also impressed there that the students looked great—they looked like you. It was a talent show but they were clean-shaven, the men were, and they behaved themselves like sons and daughters of God. They were awesome. But you, you’re more awesome, I think. I may be a little biased.

      I feel very humbled to be here; this is a tremendous responsibility. You’ve taken time out of your schedule to come, and to be spiritually fed. And that’s not an easy thing to do. It requires the Spirit. So I pray the Spirit will be with us, that we can present to one another, discuss, and receive by the Spirit, the Holy Spirit. That would be a tender mercy if that could happen today in this room.

      I want to begin by asking you to write something in your journal—so take a moment real quickly, write this down: ‘The most important choice I will make today,’ and then I have a colon there, you see that? That means you’re supposed to fill in what you think the most important choice is for you to make today. I’ll give you just another 10 seconds or so. I wanted to take as the theme for our talk today, a quote by President Monson, that Elder Nelson referred to in his last, he was the concluding speaker in General Conference this last October. He said, President Monson mentioned that, “Decisions determine destiny.” I went online to try to find where he first said that. Over 30 years ago, he was a junior member of the Quorum of the Twelve at that time, he said, youth today are faced with monumental decisions, what are the three most important ones? What’s my faith, whom shall I marry, and what will be my life’s work? (“Decisions Determine Destiny,” Liahona, July 1980). How many of you put one of those items down on your page just a minute ago? Okay. All right. Let’s go on to the next here.

      Decisions determine destiny. I want you to think about this, and see if we can get you involved here. Can we have someone raise their hand; we have some mics here, so we’ll be asking for some interactivity. Who can read for us Helaman 16:1-3? If you’d like to do that, please raise your hand, and we’ve got mics to share with you. Can you raise your hand—there’s a hand here, there’s one up there…okay, thank you. I may interrupt you, just please you do it, okay, but…Helaman chapter 16. This is the final chapter in Helaman. Is it working?

      “Yeah, I think so.”

      All right, go ahead.

      “I’m just waiting for my phone to turn back on.”

      All right. Okay, you ready?

      “No, sorry. Normally people would think this is awkward, but I don’t.”

      There we go. That’s faith to volunteer without having the scriptures in…that’s awesome.

      “Can you remind me the verse?”

      So, Helaman chapter 16, verses 1-3.

      “Perfect. ‘And now, it came to pass that there were many who heard the words of Samuel, the Lamanite, which he spake upon the walls of the city. And as many as believed on his word…’”

      Okay, stop for just a second. So what’s happening, what’s the experience? Samuel is on the wall, right? Why is he on the wall, do you remember why he’s on the wall? A couple of chapters earlier, he was preaching and was kicked out of the city, right? He was ready to go home; that’s what I would have done. I would have gone home. But the voice of the Lord came to him and said, “You’ve got to go back and preach to the people the words I will put in your heart.” So he tried to get back in the city, they wouldn’t let him in; he climbed up on the walls of the city. Then he said, “As many as believed,” right? So that’s the bottom portion of this pyramid that I have in front of you. Okay, keep reading.

      “As many as believed on his word went forth and sought for Nephi; and when they had come forth and found him they confessed…”

      Okay, stop. So, they chose to do a couple things. What did they do? Those that believed, they sought for Nephi, right? They confessed their sins, I can get you to read that—go ahead.

      “They confessed unto him their sins and denied not, desiring that they might be baptized unto the Lord.”

      So, what are the outcome, what is their destiny in this case, the outcome? Baptism, right? Eternal destiny, probably, there’s some ripple effects that go into the eternities. So an excellent example, but what about those who didn’t believe? Would you go ahead and read the next verse?

      “But as many as there were who did not believe in the words of Samuel were angry with him; and they cast stones at him upon the wall, and also many shot arrows at him as he stood upon the wall…”

      Okay. So, those that believed did two things, they made two choices. right? They said, I choose to go to Nephi and I’m going to confess my sins, the result was baptism. Those that did not threw stones at him; shot arrows. Okay, keep reading, please.

      “…but the Spirit of the Lord was with him, insomuch that they could not hit him with their stones neither with their arrows.”

      And? Go ahead with the third verse.

      “Now when they saw that they could not hit him, there were many more who did believe on his words, insomuch that they went away unto Nephi to be baptized.”

      Okay. So even those, some of those who were not believers at some point had a change of heart, didn’t they? They could see that they couldn’t hit him with their stones and arrows and so forth, and so he was protected by God, Samuel was. And so then some of the nonbelievers believed. And they followed the same path as a believer.

      I suggest, brothers and sisters, this is a pattern that is in the scriptures. It’s all about the beliefs we have influencing the choices we make, and we’ve got some really big ones we’ve got to make in the next few years; and that those choices and those decisions determine our destiny. I want to share with you one other example, and I’m going to ask you to think together in small groups for just a couple of minutes to see if you can come up with a couple other scripture examples, okay?

      I’m thinking of the story of Joseph Smith when he was a young boy.  We know that his mother would read from the scriptures, and he had a love for scriptures, but he came across a passage in James 1:5, that was the experience, right? He read, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God,” right? Joseph believed, he believed. So what did he choose to do? He chose to follow the counsel and he went into the grove of trees to pray. His destiny was he became the prophet of the final dispensation, of this last dispensation of the fulness of times. Do you see how that pattern works? I think you could find that throughout the scriptures. What I want to do is just take maybe 3 minutes at the most, pair up in 3 or 4 or so, just find some folks around you. See if you can come up with, between you, a couple examples from the scriptures that show this pattern. And then we’ll ask a couple of you to share. All right? When we’re done, getting close, I’m going to ring this bell, so that you’ll come back to me, all right. All right, ready? Go. Go ahead, take some time now. See if you can come up with two examples in the scriptures.

      [Students discussing.]

      No pressure, one more minute.

      Okay, you should be working on your second example by now. They’re everywhere.

      [Rings bell.]

      All right, come back to me now. We’ll see if my bell works, my Chick-fill-A bell. Ready?

      All right, who’d like to raise their hand and share with us one of the thoughts you had, so you need a mike down here, we’ve got three or four, but we’ll call on maybe just a couple of you. So we have one over here. Raise again your hands. Wow, a lot of you. Thank you. You choose.

      Student:  “Oh, great, thank you. I have a loud voice anyways, so. Anyways, 1 Nephi 11, it talks about how Nephi wanted to understand the dream that Lehi had. And so it talks about it in [verse] 2, it says, ‘And the Spirit said unto me: Behold, what desirest thou?

      “ ‘And I said, I desire to behold the things which my father saw.

“ ‘And the Spirit said unto me: Believest thou that they father saw the tree of which he hath spoken?

“ ‘And I said: Yea, thou knowest that I believe all the words of my father.’

      “And then it goes on and says, ‘And when I had spoken these words, the Spirit cried with a loud voice, saying: Hosanna to the Lord, the most high God; for he is God over all the earth, yea, even above all. And blessed art thou, Nephi, because thou believest in the Son of the most high God; wherefore, thou shalt behold the things which thou hast desired,’” (1 Nephi 11: 2-6).

 

      Excellent, that’s a wonderful example. Nephi believed the vision his father had. He chose to act on that and to discover for himself, to have that same experience. What was the destiny for Nephi? Incredible prophet of the Book of Mormon, incredible leader of the people. Excellent—good example. Let’s do another. Raise your hand. Got a couple over here. Okay, Jane.

 

      Student: “Okay, so I chose Moroni 10:8, and then I’m going to skip down to verse 19. ‘And again, I exhort you, my brethren, that ye deny not the gifts of God, for they are many; and they come from the same God. And there are different ways that these gifts are administered; but it is the same God who worketh all in all; and they are given by the manifestations of the Spirit of God unto men, to profit them.’

      “And then, 19 says, “And I would exhort you, my beloved brethren, that ye remember that he is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and that all these gifts of which I have spoken, which are spiritual, never will be done away, even as long as the world shall stand, only according to the unbelief of the children of men.’”

 

      Excellent. Wonderful example. Our beliefs really do influence our choices, don’t they? And choices determine our destiny; decisions determine our destiny. Let’s just do one more. We could spend the rest of the time, we’ve got about 10 more minutes, we could just do this. That would be fun.

 

      Student: “So, I don’t have the scripture. I have a lot of examples.”

 

      You should probably say your name, the others didn’t, because there are some young ladies…this is just a good opportunity to brand yourself. So…go ahead.

 

      Student: “My name is Jerome Stewart, and you saw me on the stage, I was in the corner. Some of the good examples we came up with were great, but one of the best ones we thought should be spoken is Enos, when he was praying in the wilderness for many days, and he wrestled with the Lord.”

 

      Very good. He believed the words of his father, didn’t he? It says in the scriptures. And because of that then he went into the woods to pray. And as a result we see some mighty promises of the Lord. Some wonderful examples.

      Do you think we could find hundreds of examples of this pattern? It wouldn’t take much, would it? It’s everywhere. What I’d like to do in the limited time that we have is share a couple thoughts about this pattern and maybe an idea or two about the science of choosing. But I want to use as a bookend—we started by talking about this decision-destiny pyramid; I want to end by talking about how little things make all the difference to us as Latter-day Saints. In the middle, I have just a little bit or two on the science of choosing.

      I was thinking the other day that my son, when he returned from his mission—this is an older son, so he’s been back four or five years from the Philippines—pointed this out to me, so it’s not my idea, but I’ve come to embrace it. If you look in the scriptures for the phrase “slow of speech”, you’ll find that there are a couple prophets that identified with that. Do you know who they were? Moses, and Enoch, right? So Moses says, the Lord goes to him and says I need you to speak the words I’m going to give to you. Do you remember what Moses did? ‘Well, I don’t think I can do this yet…’ so that’s a no, right? The Lord got angry with Moses. Do you remember that? Then, finally gave him a mouthpiece (See Exodus 4:10-16).

      Enoch, on the other hand, said he was slow of speech, and the Lord said speak what I’ll give to you. He did that, he acted by faith, he chose to believe that he could overcome a weakness, right? And he became such a powerful speaker that the people in the land, would not, the Atticans would not even go near him because he had the roar of a lion (See Moses 6:31-34, 39; Moses 7:13). So here’s another example, or two examples of how our beliefs influence what we will choose to do, and those choices determine destiny.

      Just a thought or two about choices. I’m going to flip through some slides here real fast. Behavioral science and behavioral economics talk about a decision iceberg; this is my interpretation of that. Most of the decisions we make, and we make thousands a day, in my work at Cornell we proved this, even looking at food decisions that we make, we make thousands of choices away, most of those are unconscious; they are automatic. So we’re clueless for the most part. Some of those decisions are more important than others, seemingly, more urgent, more complex, more difficult, okay? Some of those decisions we handle well, we make right choices. Some decisions are poor, others are better, and others are best. What if you could, as Brother Taggart was sharing with us a little earlier this morning, what if you could just change one of those poor decisions to be a better or best, and a better to be a best? What if you could just make one or two better choices a day? Could that change your destiny? Because small things can make a big difference.

      All decisions have consequences. I can picture us sometimes saying, “I’m going to make a decision. I am sticking to this to the end.” And the world then rolls around you, right? Little decisions can have big consequences. Did you know that if you eat just 10 plain M&M’s a day, or 2 ½ peanut M&M’s, and you do that daily, you’d gain 3 pounds in a year? Isn’t that amazing? Just 10 M&M’s a day, plain, or 2 peanut. Little, seemingly little decisions make a huge difference. Or, if you choose to watch something that’s unwholesome, you go against the Spirit, and you say in your heart, “Oh, this one time won’t hurt.” But maybe you just do that from time to time. Ultimately, that could rock your world in a negative way and distance you from God and from everything else that matters most to you. It’s our choice, right? It’s a gift God has given us to have the agency to choose, but it’s up to us to know how to choose.

      When I was dating Kim, and I remember this distinctly, there came a point in time where I thought to myself, “I really need to pray about this, because this is, you know, getting serious.” And something happened to me that was life changing. Initially, my prayer was—I can remember the room I was in, I can remember the time of day, I can remember everything about this experience, and it happened 39, 40, about 41 years ago because we weren’t engaged yet, at that time. So maybe 40 years. I’m trying to find out by looking at her face if I’m getting close here. Thirty-nine?  Thirty-nine years, okay.

      So I prayed to Heavenly Father. My prayer started out by, in this kind of fashion: Heavenly Father, I really like Kim. I love her. She’s got some wonderful qualities.  Is she the right person for me? Somehow in that conversation I was having with the Lord, it didn’t take long, but somehow, in that conversation, my frame shifted. Instead of looking towards me and what was good for me, I began to think, “You know, Kim has everything I’ve ever wanted, the things that matter most. She is the type of person that would get up every morning at 5:00 and read the scriptures, and when missionaries, including me, would try to show off the kinds of scriptures we knew and our scriptural knowledge, Kim would be the final answer, and she would not do it boastingly, but everyone would just kind of say, “Well, where is it, Kim?” And Kim would know where it was. To this day, she’ll memorize full chapters in the Book of Mormon and other, I think, lengthy passages. She’s just a remarkable woman. That mattered to me.

      I also knew that she would be loved. So I began to think about these things, characteristics that she had, and my frame changed. Instead of me thinking about a gain, I started to think about a loss. The Lord helped me frame this as a loss, and I got worried. I thought to myself, “She’s not going to want to marry meyou. She is so good: I’m in big trouble here.” To the point where I never did ask her to marry me. I just kind of slipped in some questions about, how many kids would you like to have, and she laughed a little, she said she doesn’t remember this; I do. And she said, “Oh, about a dozen. A dozen.” And I thought she was just kidding, right? And we have 11 kids, we had a couple miscarriages, and I tell her, those, there is some doctrinal promptings that maybe those could count too. Maybe we got a bakers’ dozen out of this.

      My frame changed. That is one example of a decision bias that we make. What I wanted to share with you in the end, as we conclude here, there is a wonderful parable in the scriptures, that deals with the parable of the ten virgins. And I have a little lamp, a Herodian lamp, which is supposed to simulate what the virgins would carry. I think there’s enough oil that you could put in this it would last a couple hours. You remember how the parable goes, don’t you? Five of those virgins were wise, they had oil in their lamps, they had prepared. Five were not. They couldn’t go buy it. In the end, they weren’t received by the Lord.

      Elder Dallin Oaks said this: “The arithmetic of the parable is chilling.” He said, “The ten virgins obviously represent members of Christ’s church,” (“Preparation for the Second Coming”, General Conference, April 2004).

      President Kimball said this, “Attendance at sacrament meetings…fasting, family prayer, home teaching, control of bodily appetites, preaching the gospel, studying the scriptures.” I am going to add to this, keeping the honor and dress code. Each of these daily acts, dedication, obedience adds oil to our lamps, drop by drop, over the years. (See Faith Precedes the Miracle, p. 256, [1972]).

      Brothers and sisters, it’s my testimony and my witness that small decisions can have incredible impact, and that the Lord will not leave us to decision traps. He will not leave us alone in this mortal existence. He has given us the Spirit, He has given us prophets. He has given us scriptures. What we need to do is anchor our lives every day in the scriptures and in prayer. And by anchoring our lives, when it comes time to make critical decisions, we don’t have to ask what direction to go, we already know the direction we’re headed. I know God will bless us, as we anchor ourselves with Him, and as we do the very best we can, as we seek to know His will, and then move forward in faith. I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

 


Sweeping the Earth with Social Media

10 Dec. 2014

Transcript

Sweeping the Earth with Social Media

I’m sure that hymn was comforting to many of you, and it was especially comforting to me [referring to the violin solo performed just prior to Bro. Christensen’s remarks]. Brother Mellow, thank you for your testimony. I kind of wish that it would have been in Portuguese. It’s been 17 years since I’ve been down in Brazil, and I loved the Brazilian people and I loved the Portuguese language.

            About a week ago I was invited to give this devotional address today. Today is going to be part workshop, part devotional. So there will be things that I’ll ask you to do, and maybe even ask for some responses from you. And there will be other things that I’ll just simply share with you. So let me make sure that we are up and running. Is there a blue screen behind me? Yes? Okay, good.

So, shortly after my wife and I were married, we were called to serve in the Primary. And we served there for two-and-a-half years, and we loved our calling in the Primary. I don’t know if any of you can relate to this, but there are times in gospel doctrine class where it’s a little bit difficult to stay awake. Let me give you a little secret. If you want to have a good time, go to Primary. Primary will keep you awake. They have so much energy, and they say the funnest things!

            Being a bishop, I thought I knew a lot about ward members. I tell you, Primary teachers know a lot about ward members through the children. So as a bishop currently, I have the opportunity to go visit the Primary, and one of the things I like to do with them is share with them my jokes. I don’t have very good jokes, so it really only works on Primary kids. So I’m going to try it with you—give me a couple of laughs, just to make me feel good. But these are some jokes that the kids really love. You ready?

Here comes the first one: How do the leaves get back on the trees in the spring? The :Re-leaf” Society. Do you like it? It’s good isn’t it? It’s not going to get much better.

Here’s another one: Why did the Lamanites all have sore knees? Because of all the “Knee-fights.” That one might take a little bit longer. Get it? The Nephites?

All right, this one I need some help with: Knock knock. Who’s there? Goliath. Goliath who? “Go-lieth” down, thou looketh tired.

Okay, last one. This one was a little bit harder for them to get, but I think you’ll get it better: How many bishops does it take to change a light bulb? Just one, but that light bulb has to want to change.

Okay, that’s it. That’s as funny as it’s going to be today. The rest is downhill.

 

So, let’s start first with maybe the workshop side of what we’re going to do today. So I entitled this portion “How to tweet without looking like a twit and other advice.” The world of social media is very exciting, but it’s also kind of dangerous. There are people that do things with social media that end up kind of haunting them throughout the rest of their lives. So I hope to give you a few suggestions this morning on how to use social media in a way that will be beneficial to you and also to the kingdom. Let’s start with some suggestions:

1.      Thou shalt come to devotional each week. This is a wonderful place to get amazing content to share on social media. So number one, if you want to help with social media, come to devotional each week.

2.      Thou shalt share what is meaningful, uplifting, and edifying to you. Elder Bednar’s recent remarks down at BYU highlighted these ideas (“To Sweep the Earth as with a Flood,” BYU Education Week, Aug. 2014). We ought to own the edifying and uplifting space on the Internet. We ought to produce so much wonderful content that people all over the world come to know the members of the Church as being uplifting and wonderful people. From “To Sweep the Earth as with a Flood,” address given at Brigham Young University by Elder Bednar on August 19, 2014).

3.      Thou shalt use the network that you’re comfortable with.How many of you are on Facebook? Could you stand for me if you’re on Facebook? Good. Stand if you are on Instagram. Okay. How many of you are on Twitter? Stand. How about Pinterest? All the guys sat down. There’s a few of us, I’ll admit—I’m on there too. Okay, good. How about Vine? Okay very good. Everyone can sit back down.

I think what’s important here is one thing that Elder Bednar stressed: don’t try and do everything. Don’t have your life taken over by social media, but maybe pick one. Pick a network that you like, and maybe that’s the one that you share the gospel on.

4.      Thou shalt download the mobile apps because they work well.Every one of these networks have really great mobile applications. So if you pick Facebook, download the Facebook app. It works really well and it’s really simple: Say, you’re at devotional, it’s really simple to quickly type something in and share it out on Facebook. Same thing with Twitter, great apps. So whichever one you choose, download that app, okay?

5.      Thou shalt use a hashtag. Now, can you see those hashtags okay behind me? Just briefly let me explain what a hashtag is. A hashtag allows your piece of content to be extended farther because people search on those terms. People might search “#LDSBC,” and if you have put “#LDSBC” in your content, they’ll be able to see it. It will show up. So, those are some good hashtags; hopefully you’ve written them down by now. Please use those hashtags during devotional. The “#Share goodness” hashtag is the current hashtag the Church is using to share goodness online. “#LDS” is a common one, “#Mormons” is another one, “#Jesus Christ,” and during General Conference it’s “#LDSConf.”

6.      Thou shalt take tasteful pictures. Let me give you a couple of recommendations on this. Isn’t it neat to see all these memes [a meme is an image, video, piece of text, etc. that is copied, often with slight variations, and spread rapidly by Internet users] and other things that people post? There’s a really easy way for you to make them yourselves, if you’d like. Write the things you’re seeing on the screen right now.

Make sure you find images that you have permission to use—Elder Bednar talked about respecting intellectual property. What that means is that when we create things, they become our property, and we can’t use other people’s content unless we have their permission. Now there’s a space on the Internet called the “Creative Commons,” and all the content there has been authorized to be shared by anyone. Some places you can find images are Flickr and openphoto.net. Those are great free resources to find images and then lay text on top of them.

Now, apps to help you—you could be sitting in devotional and create an amazing meme. There are four apps that are useful. My favorite happens to be the one that is the most expensive—Word Swag. Then there’s InstaQuote, which is free, After Photo, and Over. All of these are very simple to use. You have your image, you overlay your text, and then you can publish it directly to the network you would like to use.

7.      Thou shalt not use potty language.Remember, the Internet never forgets. Think before you publish. Think before you hit send or share. Make sure you’re representing who you want to be online.

8.      Thou shalt not worry about tagging celebrities; let the missionaries convert them.And also, watch out for face accounts. At our most recent conference, we had a Jeffrey Holland re-tweet some of our tweets. Well, guess what? Darn, it wasn’t Elder Holland. It was someone else impersonating him. So be careful of those fake accounts out there, okay?

9.      Thou shalt not be afraid to be an online missionary.How many of you have returned from your mission in the last two years? Raise your hands. Keep your hands up. How many of you were authorized to use Facebook in your mission? All of those whose hands went down, here’s a little idea for you. Why not reconnect to all those investigators you had and begin having a conversation with them? Go find them on Facebook, and continue teaching them.

10.  Thou shalt not play games on your phone during devotional.That next level of Candy Crush is really hard anyways. So as we’re encouraging the use of social media during devotional, it’s easy to get tempted into playing a game. So please don’t do that.

 

Now, this slide I recognize is going to be difficult to read. For the remaining time that we have now, I have three goals. 1) I want to confirm your testimony that Heavenly Father is in charge of this work and that He speaks to His prophets. He tells His prophets about things before they happen, and He instructs them on how to use them appropriately. 2) The communication technologies that have been given to mankind have been given by Heavenly Father to hasten His work. 3) I hope that you become excited about where we are in this great last dispensation and the opportunities that we have.

Let me orient you to what we’re looking at on the slide. This is a graph that shows Church membership. The orange line is the growth curve of the Church. You’ll see that in about the ’50s and ’60s, it suddenly starts going up very rapidly. The white text in there is a communication/technology invention; something comes onto the scene for the first time. The orange is the Church adoption of that technology. So we’re going to now fly around, so if you’re motion sick, maybe close your eyes every time I hit the button so then you can just look up and you’ll see a new slide.

The first Book of Mormon is published in 1830. The written word. Look at what Brigham Young had to say about the good things of this world: “All that is good, lovely, and praiseworthy belongs to this Church and Kingdom. ‘Mormonism’ includes all truth. There is no truth but what belongs to the Gospel” (“The Gospel Defined,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, [1997]). Let me pause for a moment. Remember what I was just telling you about tweeting during devotional? I’m going to give you lots and lots of quotes from the brethren for the next 20 minutes. Find one you like and tweet about it, okay? So, here’s our first one, President Young saying that everything that is good belongs to the kingdom.

Let’s keep going. We know that there’s the invention of the telegraph in 1844. The Church is fairly quick to also adopt it, and they begin using it in 1861. Let’s move next to the talking machine, or the phonograph. This was a device that allowed an individual to record their voice or other content onto different materials. Fairly soon after this invention was created, President Wilford Woodruff records his testimony. I want to play this for you, and we’ll listen to a part of it. We won’t listen to all of it. And it’s going to be very hard to hear because it was recorded on a wax drum. Underneath, though, you’ll see the subtitles. I invite you to pay attention to how you feel as a prophet uses communication technology, which was innovative in his day.

March 19, 1987: “I bear my testimony that the Prophet Joseph Smith said, before a large assemblage in Illinois, that if he were the emperor of the world and had control over the whole human family he would sustain every man, woman and child in the enjoyment of their religion. These are my sentiments today. I bear my testimony that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God, ordained of God to lay the foundation of his church and kingdom in the last dispensation of the fullness of times” (From “Presidents Woodruff and Cannon at the office,” speaking into “Edison’s talking machine.” Transcripts and recording can be found at byustudies.byu.edu or https://rsc.byu.edu/archived/banner-gospel-wilford-woodruff/10-wilford-woodruffs-1897-testimony).

We’ll pause there. There’s actually about another three-and-a-half minutes of him bearing his testimony, and it’s quite powerful. You can find this on YouTube. Go Google “Wilford Woodruff first recording” and you can go listen to the rest of his testimony. So again, a prophet utilizing a recent invention.

Now, let’s zoom out and look at radio telegraphy. The concept here is that you can take content and send it through the airwaves, as opposed to it being recorded down on something. In 1900, roughly, is when it’s invented, and then you can see that the Church begins to adopt it by 1922. Heber J. Grant gives the first radio broadcast on May 6, 1922. https://www.lds.org/manual/teachings-heber-j-grant/the-life-and-ministry-of-heber-j-grant?lang=eng

General Conference is being broadcast on this new technology. And then, we have the start of the famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir concert series being broadcast; that starts in 1929.

Now, let’s go in and look at what some of the Brethren had to say around this time period. First, Joseph Fielding Smith: “I do not believe for one moment that these discoveries have come by chance, or that they have come because of superior intelligence possessed by men today over those who have lived in ages that are past. They have come and are coming because the time is ripe, because the Lord has willed it, and because he has poured out his Spirit upon all flesh” (“God Reveals His Secrets to His Prophets,” Old Testament: Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual, [2001]).  

President McKay: “We must improve the means of communication until, with radios in our pockets, we may communicate with friends and loved ones from any point at any given moment” (President David O. McKay, talk given at a BYU assembly on January 29, 1935). I think it’s amazing that a prophet in 1935 could potentially be seeing our cell phones.

Let’s keep going. The next innovation in technology that we see is the electronic television in 1927. Again, not very long afterwards, the first TV-broadcast general  conference is made, and once again we see what the Brethren had to say during this time period. President David O. McKay: “Where, however, each missionary of old could speak to one person, the representatives of Christ today can speak to millions. A sentence uttered in an ordinary tone of voice can encircle the globe in less than a minute. The marvels and inventions of science today make it possible to spread the gospel as never before in the history of the world” (“The Life and Ministry of David O. McKay,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: David O. McKay, [2011]). This was in 1953.

Again in 1953, Elder Cowley: “One day there will be channels under control of the church whereby they can direct this message, this witness, unto any nation they desire. And it can be carried through the channels of the air in the very language of the people to whom the message is addressed” [was unable to find reference]. Can you see prophets being prophets?

Joseph Fielding Smith: “I maintain that had there been no restoration of the gospel, and no organization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, there would have been no radio; there would have been no airplane, and there would have not been the wonderful discoveries in medicine, chemistry, electricity, and the many other things wherein the world has been benefitted by such discoveries. Under such conditions these blessings would have been withheld, for they belong to the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times” (“Meeting the Needs of a Worldwide Church,” Church History in the Fullness of Times Teacher Manual, [2001]).

            President McKay: “There are discoveries latent with such potent power, either for the blessing or the destruction of human beings, as to make man’s responsibility in controlling them the most gigantic ever placed in human hands. . . . This age [in 1966] is fraught with limitless perils, as well as untold possibilities” (“A Divine Plan for Finding Security and Peace of Mind,” in Conference Report, Oct. 1966; http://scriptures.byu.edu/gettalk.php?ID=1492).)

Then Elder Kimball: “We shall use the inventions the Lord has given us, to awaken interest and acquaint people of the world with the truths, to ease their prejudices, and give them a general knowledge. We shall need to answer specific questions, and perhaps that may be done by two-way radio and TV, perfected to a point beyond our present imagination. It is conceivable that such a program, greatly perfected, could be multiplied tens of thousands of times in tens and thousands of tongues and dialects, and tens of thousands of places far and near, tens of thousands of young missionaries,” do we have 80,000 now? “Endowed with the power from on high, will follow up on this proselyting. I believe the Lord is anxious to put into our hands inventions of which we laymen have hardly had a glimpse” (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 1982, pp. 588-589).

Let’s look at the next innovation—satellite communications. In 1958 the first communications satellite is launched. By 1979 the Church is broadcasting general conference through satellite. President Kimball: “I am confident that the only way we can reach most of these millions of our Father’s children is through the spoken word over the airwaves, since so many are illiterate. . . . Our Father in heaven has now provided us mighty towers—radio and television towers with possibilities beyond comprehension—to help fulfill the words of the Lord that ‘the sound must go forth from this place unto all the world’” (“When the World Will Be Converted,” Ensign, Oct. 1974).

Continuing, “Just think what can be accomplished when we broadcast our message . . . over numerous radio stations, large and small, around the world, and millions of good people listening on their transistors. . . . The Lord has blessed the world with many Early Bird satellites. They are stationed high in the heavens, relaying broadcast signals back to almost every corner of the earth’s surface. . . . Certainly these satellites are only the genesis of what is in store for the future of worldwide broadcasting” (“When the World Will Be Converted,” Ensign, Oct. 1974).

Now we’re going to zoom ahead a little bit. We’ll go to 1990, roughly, when the Internet comes about. And I think there’s debate about who invented that, but we’ll leave it alone. Shortly after that, in 1997, the Church launches LDS.org. Now many of you, this is within your memories—1997. Can you think where you were in 1997? In 1997, the Church enters on the web for the first time. All those other innovations were probably before most of our times; but this one, you guys were a part of. Let’s go in and see what the Brethren were saying at this time.

Elder M. Russell Ballard: “We are moving into an era when the Information Superhighway will have the capacity to cut a wide path right into our homes. With fiber-optic computer technology, it can link homes to an incredible assortment of messages and influences. This highway will be the conduit of information that will have the power to change our culture and, thus, our very lives” (“Answers to Life’s Questions,” Apr. 1995 General Conference).

In 1999, Elder Faust: “The miracles of modern technology have brought efficiency into our lives in ways not dreamed of a generation ago. . . . Scientific knowledge, the marvels of communication, and the wonders of modern medicine have come from the Lord to enhance His work throughout the world” (“Of Seeds and Soils,” Oct. 1999 General Conference).

Elder Ballard again: “The emergence of new media is facilitating a worldwide conversation on almost every subject, including religion, and nearly everyone can participate. This modern equivalent of the printing press is not reserved only for the elite. . . . There are conversations going on about the Church constantly. Those conversations will continue whether or not we choose to participate in them. But we cannot stand on the sidelines while others, including our critics, attempt to define what the Church teaches” (“Sharing the Gospel using the Internet,” Ensign, Jul. 2008).

Let’s go to 2004. Facebook launches out of Harvard; 2006 it becomes more popular; 2007 it’s getting even more popular. Can you think of where you were in 2007? That’s about how long social media has been around—not very long. Let’s listen now to the Brethren and what they have to say about social media.

[Recording played]

“With so many social media resources and a multitude of more or less useful gadgets at our disposal, sharing the good news of the gospel is easier and the effects more far-reaching than ever before” (Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Waiting on the Road to Damascus,” Apr. 2011 General Conference).

“For those using the Internet and mobile phones, there are new ways to invite others to ‘come and see.’ Let’s make sharing our faith online more a part of our daily life. LDS.org, Mormon.org, Facebook, Twitter—all provide opportunities” (Neil L. Andersen, “It’s a Miracle,” Apr. 2013 General Conference).

“Meanwhile, your exemplary lives will attract the interest of your friends and neighbors. Be ready to give an answer to those who ask why you live as you do” (Russell M. Nelson, “Catch the Wave,” Apr. 2013 General Conference).

“Your fingers have been trained to text and tweet to accelerate and to advance the work of the Lord—not just to communicate quickly with your friends. The skills and aptitude evident among many young people today are a preparation to contribute to the work of salvation” (David A. Bednar, “The Hearts of the Children Shall Turn,” Oct. 2011 General Conference).

“Perhaps the Lord’s encouragement to ‘open [your] mouths’ might today include ‘use your hands’ to blog and text message the gospel to all the world!” (Dieter F. Uchtdorf , “Waiting on the Road to Damascus,” Apr. 2011 General Conference)

[End of recording]

Let’s do one more. This summer, Elder Bednar, at Education Week, gives a talk on social media. That same week, and it was on purpose, the Church released an update to Handbook 2 (Handbook 2: Administering the Church) that gave instructions to local ecclesiastical leaders on how to use social media.

[A recording is played from David A. Bednar,“To Sweep the Earth as with a Flood,” BYU Education Week, Aug. 2014. The recording included pieces of his talk, along with a couple of quotes from other general authorities.]

“We live in a truly distinctive dispensation . . .  from trains to telegraphs . . . to computers to satellite transmission to the Internet. . . . All of these advancements are part of the Lord hastening His work in the latter days” (Elder David A. Bednar).

“Scientific discoveries that ‘stagger the imagination’ . . . now can be communicated around the world in seconds. . . . The time has come for us as disciples of Jesus Christ to use these inspired tools appropriately and more effectively. . . . The popularity and reach of current social media tools are staggering. . . . ‘In Shakespeare’s time, he was limited generally to the Globe Theatre. But we now have a global theater.’ . . . I now extend to you the invitation to help transform the trickle into a flood” (Elder David A. Bednar).

“We invite the young and the old, the adults, the young adults, youth, and the children everywhere to join with us” (Elder L. Tom Perry).

“Imagine the impact we can have as hundreds of thousands and millions of members of the Lord’s restored Church contribute in seemingly small ways to the rising floodwaters. . . . He is hastening His work, and no unhallowed hand can stop this work from progressing” (Elder David A. Bednar).

[End of recording]

Brothers and sisters, when I hear Elder Bednar, I get really excited. I think he’s talking to us—I think he’s talking to this group in here. As we’ve looked at the history of communication technologies, for whatever reason, Heavenly Father has put you at your age at this place with this particular technology. And I am confident that there are more technologies to come, but they probably will not be given to us until we have effectively used the current technologies. I hope all of us will join Elder Bednar and begin to sweep the earth. If we don’t know how to use social media, ask somebody that does.

Now, in conclusion, here is a bit of an incentive: With Brother Taggart and his group, we’ve decided to have a little competition for the month of October. But this is a competition for amazing, uplifting, outstanding content created by this group right here. So, let me describe what we want to do. It is Halloween; we’re not going to have a Halloween competition. But, what we are going to do is ask each of you to think about how LDS Business College has helped you to overcome a fear that you have, and then create a video about that. As you create your video, we want to make sure that your video is no more than two minutes long, and you’ll want to upload your video and tag LDS Business College’s Facebook page. And the way to do that is pretty simple. First, you need to go find the LDS Business College Facebook Page and “like” it. That’s your first assignment. Once you’ve done that, when you use the @ symbol, it will then add that page into your content. So that way, we can see the videos that are being submitted over this next month. The competition will go through October 31st. The prizes for our winner will be $100 and tickets to a movie, $50 for number two and a movie, and $25 and tickets to a movie for number three. And here’s how we’re going to judge you: we will have a panel of judges that will select the top three, and then just after October 31st we’ll let you all know to come back on to the LDS Business College Facebook page and begin voting for your favorite. And that’s how we’ll determine the winner of this competition.

So again, we are going to talk about how LDS Business College has helped us to overcome a fear. We would love to see really great content, uplifting, edifying, things that others not of our faith might see and would think, “Wow, what’s going on at LDS Business College? Those Mormons are interesting. Maybe I should try and learn a little bit more.” So, we don’t want Halloween videos; that’s not going to attract anyone. We want uplifting content that talks about how you have overcome your fears, okay?

Well brothers and sisters, the time is now up. I would like to bear you my testimony that I do know that Heavenly Father is in charge of this work, that He talks to the prophets, that they are very well aware of innovation that’s going on, and they do take advantage of it. And they do ask us to participate with them. I’m grateful for the restoration of the gospel, I’m grateful for our Father in Heaven, I’m grateful for the Savior, Jesus Christ, and I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Introduction: President J. Lawrence Richards

Brother Christensen was born in a very small town at the foot of the Sierra Mountains in California. The name of the town is “Cool,” which is . . . cool. After graduating from Placer High School, he served a mission to São Paulo, Brazil. Upon returning he attended BYU, where he received both a bachelor’s and master’s degree. Brother Barrett has also taught seminary at South Jordan Middle School, and Pleasant Grove High School. He was then offered a position with LDS Philanthropies, where he worked with donors who contribute to the Church and its institutions, including LDS Business College. Brother Christensen spent eight years at LDS Philanthropies as a donor liaison, and then later as manager of communications and donor engagement teams. He was hired by LDS Business College this year as our Social Media Marketing Program Director.

Brother Christensen has served as a Primary teacher, a counselor in the bishopric, and currently serves as the bishop of the Provo Peak 7th Ward. Brother Christensen married Heidi Mock, and they are the parents of three young daughters, whom we have all now met Clara. They live in Provo, and they enjoy the outdoors together.

 

We’re very grateful that Brother Christensen is part of our team. Many of us in the administration have known him when he worked for LDS Philanthropies, and we were most excited when he expressed an interest about coming to join LDS Business College. Brothers and sisters, you will be blessed by his message, and you’ll be blessed by his spirit.


Parable of Two Mustangs

10 Dec. 2014

Transcript

Parable of Two Mustangs

What a beautiful spirit comes with that marvelous music. The President leaned over and touched my arm as I got up and said, “Teach us the doctrine.” And in an interest to do that, I let you know that everything is better with chocolate on it. There are so many things in the interest of full disclosure that I invented covered with chocolate, and most of them never made it to market, I have to tell you that.

      What a marvelous thing it is to be able to flood the earth with this message that we’ve just heard, and in the prayer and the testimony earlier. Elder Bednar asking us to be “authentic and edifying and praiseworthy,” [from a video viewed earlier in the devotional, http://www.mormonchannel.org/education-week ] and the things that we use to flood the earth. We read, maybe it changes a little bit the wording of Nephi when he said, “And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, and we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies” (2 Nephi 25:26). We assume he was talking about Nephi. But maybe he was counseling us to follow a prophet’s counsel to write and flood the earth through social media with this teaching of “preaching of Christ and rejoicing in Christ.” Besides the message of Christ our Redeemer, it seems to me that one of the things that we ought to focus on again comes from the scriptures, and from Nephi, as he taught us, “And it came to pass that we lived after the manner of happiness” (2 Nephi 5:27). That ought to be something that we flood the earth with, is that we live after the manner of happiness. “And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God” (Mosiah 2:41). Wouldn’t that be a marvelous message to flood the earth with? “For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual. And if they hold out faithful until the end they are received into happiness, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never ending happiness” (Mosiah 2:41). What a marvelous blessing that is, to know as we think of this concept of happiness, it was mentioned in the video, that we ought to share the happiness we feel.

      As I was considering this concept of happiness, and certainly flooding the earth with this happiness, as Brother Taggert shared with me that video yesterday, the words of Jacob came as I studied the scriptures, “O all ye that are pure in heart, lift up your minds and receive the pleasing word of God, and feast upon his love; for ye may, if your minds are firm” (Jacob 3:2). That phrase jumped out at me this time. What would it mean if my mind…I can see if it’s obedience, if you’re firm in your obedience, but what might it mean if it says your minds are firm? That led me to a scripture from  Mormon: “And then cometh the judgment of the Holy One upon them, and then cometh the time that he that is filthy shall be filthy still, and he that is righteous shall be righteous still, he that is happy will be happy still” (Mormon 9:14). The principles, one of the guiding doctrines of the church, is that men are that they might have joy. We are to learn on this earth how to be happy.

      What happens if your life isn’t perfect? What happens if you might be struggling with a challenge, or if it rains on your plans for the day? If anyone listened to you bear your testimony, would they know you’re happy? Would they know that you’re a Christian if they saw what you wrote? Many times as I listened, particularly, in YSA (young single adult) wards, but not necessarily just in those wards, in fast and testimony meeting, I think, after so many of the testimonies, “Well, I’m depressed now, too. This gospel is tough. Why would anybody want to join this gospel?”

      And occasionally somebody will say, “Well, I’m glad I joined the church.” Yes! Good. But there maybe ought to be a little more than that. As Brother Burkhart said last week in the devotional, “Discipleship is not a spectator sport.” We participate in it, and we get beat up in it, and we participate in it. On the other hand, as we do that we often forget Elder Holland’s comment that he gave us in conference, when he said, “No misfortune is so bad that whining about it won’t make it worse,” (“The Touch of Angels,” October 2014 General Conference). We seem to find some solace in whining about it, but maybe we shouldn’t flood the earth with that whining. Maybe it ought to be happiness that we flood the earth with.

      At times, members of the church are criticized for being a little “Pollyanna-ish.” It’s an old Disney movie, maybe you’ve seen it in a museum or something, but they played the Happy Game. And it worked sometimes. But often we forget a little bit about that. Perhaps a parable might help us with this issue of perspective. Now I call this parable the parable of two Mustangs. Now for those of you from the East, I’m not talking about cars, I’m talking about horses. And I share this with you for two reasons at least. Number one: many of you are from international countries, and your parents sent you to the middle of nowhere, Wild West United States, and we ought to share some culture with you that we have here about that. So we share our culture of wild horses with you. The second reason is because I love horses, since before I was born. Here is a picture of me before my second birthday. I remember loving horses before I remember anything else in my life. Now as you see this picture, your first reaction might be, “Where is this kid’s parents?” My first reaction is, “Why is this horse stopped? Why aren’t we going? There are cattle to round up, there are some things we need to be doing. Why is this horse stopped?” Thank you, Cathy.

      So this is the picture of me, then? Actually not this one. This one. So this is the picture of me before I was two.

Where are this kid’s parents? Well, I love horses. So let’s talk about that. This is on my grandfather’s ranch, and I’m going to use my grandfather. Whatever’s not true in this parable ought to be, as we start through here. My grandfather homesteaded in Eastern Wyoming, and as they all did, started through a very difficult process of trying to earn a living in the middle of nowhere, where the most famous part of that country is the Willie and Martin Handcart [Company], and you know how that went for them. So he started out to round up some wild mustangs that could help him on the ranch. And as absolute worst luck would have it, as the horses split up (horses tend to do that), one went to the right and happened to be closest to my grandfather, and sure enough, his lasso went around that horse’s neck, and there began the challenge. There began the battle of taming this horse. Now, those of you, again, who have been to museums and have seen the John Wayne westerns, know how they break horses. It’s not a pretty sight, but they get it done, and you have to teach this horse how to pull a plow. You have to teach the concept of, here’s this horse, finally tame, in the harness, helping my grandfather build his ranch and develop his life. Hard work, always in the harness every day.

      Now as this horse would do this day after day, you can imagine this horse looking up on the hillside, and seeing his friend that got away. “How unfair this life is! Why me? I’m pulling in this harness day after day, and I look up and see my friend running wild.”  

      Now you can imagine what the friend is saying back. “Oh, what a dummy. I wouldn’t do homework either if I was you. Do you know the movie is starting?” There are all sorts of things that the wild mustang would say back, and all sorts of whining that the tame horse could do. As you think of those two concepts here, which of these two would you prefer to be? What would it be like?

  I remember a time in the mission home in Bilbao, Spain. Not exactly sure what I was supposed to be doing, I think I was supposed to be developing a zone conference schedule. But we were up on the second floor in a house I’m convinced was designed by Satan, because as you would look out the window, there was stunning, stunning golf course country club right outside the window. And one day, when I should have been, I suppose, doing the calendar, I looked out and just thought, “Wow. How I would love to be a wild mustang. Wouldn’t it be great to be out on that golf course right now?” And I just kind of sat there, I don’t know how long I’d been there, nor do I know how long my wife had been in the doorway, when she said, “You remind me of a little boy, when he should be playing the piano, he wants to go out and play baseball.” That’s exactly how I felt.

      None of us are immune from that. Today, I’ve invited two of my daughters to come, and help us with the perspectives of these two mustangs. We’re going to put the words up on the screen in a minute, so you can ponder on those words as they sing this song for us. But this song came as a result of my oldest daughter, who had just finished going through chemotherapy, and had just finished her treatments for breast cancer, and my second-to-youngest daughter, who had just gone through some hip surgeries and was struggling with the concept that they wouldn’t be able to have children and were hoping to adopt. And both of them had just gone through this challenge in their life, and shared this testimony with their parents through song, to help us understand a little bit about this perspective. Cathy?

[Daughters sing “Blessings”]

We pray for blessings, we pray for peace.

Comfort for family, protection while we sleep.

We pray for healing, for prosperity,

We pray for your mighty hand to ease our suffering.

And all the while, you hear each spoken need.

You love us way too much to give us lesser things

 

Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops?

What if your healing comes through tears?

What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes

To know you’re near?

And what if trials of this life are your mercies in disguise?

 

We pray for wisdom, your voice to hear.

We cry in anger when we cannot feel you near.

We doubt your goodness, we doubt your love.

As if every promise from your word is not enough.

And all the while, you hear each desperate plea

And known that we’d have faith to believe.

 

Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops?

What if your healing comes through tears?

What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes

To know you’re near?

And what if trials of this life are your mercies in disguise?

 

When friends betray us, when darkness seems to win

The pain reminds this heart, that this is not, this is not our home.

It’s not our home.

 

Cause what if your blessings come through raid drops

What if your healing comes through tears

What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know you’re near

What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life

Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy?

What if trials of this life, the rain, the storms, the hardest nights,

Are your mercies in disguise?

 

      That’s a testimony to us, of this concept of perspective. Now for those of you not familiar with horses, let me tell you the rest of this story. This is what Satan would have us believe: life is full of stunning stallions, running free, doing whatever they want without restrictions. That’s what we’re told, that’s what Satan hopes that we will believe.

      Now, I’ve been very careful to find the least offensive picture I could. This is a real wild mustang.

      Wild mustangs have a life expectancy less than half of a normal horse. They’re full of worms. Their hooves are split. They are usually starving to death. They are constantly fighting. They have a brutal ending. They are the pure example of the Telestial world. And what is their destiny? They will be eaten by predators.

 

      I hope this picture sinks into your heart, you wild mustangs out there. This is your destiny. The world will eat you, unless you decide that there is a different approach. Contrast that with the tame mustang—in the barn every single night, out of the elements, protected from predators. Grandpa always fed the tame horse. He had the best medical care. All of us grandchildren loved that horse. And we spent every waking moment we could with that horse. Maybe that wasn’t a blessing for the horse, I’m not sure. But [it] received all of its shots. Warm blanket in the winter, all the water it could drink. That horse grew old and lived years and years and years beyond the other one. He was shod with protective iron horseshoes that would protect his hooves from the ground. That is the perspective of where we’re at.

      Now I take you back to my experience in the mission. And those of you who have served a mission, those of you under mission call, here’s the question: You leave your family, we leave our little youngest, who by the way got married on our last mission, now she’s having a baby on the next one. I can’t see them, can’t be with them, I’m forced away from my home, I can’t live in my home. That sounds like the Telestial world to me. Or, I get to be yoked with the Savior. I am in the harness. I get to be with my wife 24-7, working with the Savior as our partner, building the kingdom of God, spreading the gospel to all of the world. That sounds like the definition of the Celestial kingdom. So which is it? You get to decide. Do you live in the Telestial world, or the Celestial world? You get to decide. It’s that perspective that gets to determine what you flood the world with. Is the world going to hear from you that the gospel is the greatest thing there is? It is the manner of happiness. When I am in the harness, when I am living the gospel, there is no place else I’d rather be. Is that what they’ll hear from you? Or will the world hear something different?

      That would be the end of the story a little bit. Let me share with you the words in Spanish. A word for wild mustang is “mustaña,” or “caballo salvaje,” depending on where you’re from in the world. But in that same word, when you change a wild horse to a tame horse, what you’re doing is changing it from a “mustaña” to “quebrantada,” which means “tame.” And by the way, that’s the exact same word that you find in the scriptures when it says, “And thou shalt offer a sacrifice unto the Lord thy God in righteousness, even that of a broken heart and a contrite spirit,” (D&C 59:7). What the Lord is asking us to give him is a tame heart, one that’s been through the process of becoming tame, getting rid of our wild nature, wanting to be in the harness with him, doing what we should.

      The story would end there, except for another personal experience. Cathy, can we see that picture again?

      Since before I was born I knew I could ride a horse. Okay, since after I was born. I grew up knowing I could ride a horse by myself. I was focused on that; it brought great confidence in my life. It brought a feeling that I could do anything, because I can ride a horse by myself. And I was always focused on this picture in the back of my mind. For some reason, probably because I’m very old, I started looking at this picture again the other day. It was a couple of months ago as we were scanning for some family history, and I looked down and saw that Spot’s legs were really weird-shaped on his front legs. And then I saw in the shadow on the ground the shadow of my father’s cowboy hat, and heard him say, “I’ve always been there for you.” In that moment, I heard, in a real voice, Heavenly Father say, “No matter how big of a knothead you’ve been, kid, or a wild mustang, I’ve always been there for you.”

      How is it that President Monson can be so happy, in spite of losing his wife, and the burdens of the entire Church and the entire world? How can he be so happy? Have you ever seen President Eyring without a smile? And yet, I was at our faculty training meeting when his son came and spoke to us and told us of his mother’s declining health. How awful that must be for President Eyring. And yet you never see him without a smile. How can that be? In chapter 5 of Preach My Gospel, we’re reminded that the Book of Mormon gives us “meaning and perspective to our life.” No matter what happens to us, no matter what comes along, we have a meaning and a perspective that allows us to choose to be happy.

      President Richards in his opening devotional quoted President Monson when he said, “Your future is as bright as your faith” (“Be of Good Cheer,” President Thomas S. Monson, April 2009 General Conference). And may I add to that, to President Richards, not to President Monson, no matter how many raindrops fall on your plans, the gospel puts us in perspective. No matter what challenges you’re going through, we share our happiness with each other. No matter what challenges you have, we flood the earth with the good news of the gospel. No, the gospel isn’t hard to live. It’s the greatest thing that’s ever happened in our life. Oh, yeah, we also have problems. But the gospel is the greatest things that’s ever happened to our lives. It isn’t that Moses, when his lifted the serpent up on the stick, on the staff, and invited the children of Israel to look up, it wasn’t just that it healed them. It lifted them, which is the mission of our College. We enlighten, we ennoble, we lift, that we might enjoy the plan of salvation no matter how many raindrops fall on our plan, is my prayer today, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Introduction: President J. Lawrence Richards

       Ken was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, and after graduating from Granite High School he attended the University of Utah, and obtained a degree in finance. He then served a mission to Chile, and while working in the mission office he helped to open up the Chile Concepcion Mission. After returning from his mission to Chile he returned to the University of Utah and graduated with a Masters degree in Business Administration; and after graduating Ken worked for companies in health care distribution, as well as sporting goods manufacturing, both in California, Oklahoma, and Utah. And after several years with Easter Aluminum, Ken was hired to be the Vice President of Sales for Sweet Candy Company. Now let me ask you a question. How many of you have ever had a cinnamon bear? How many of you have ever had a chocolate-covered cinnamon bear? Brother Ken Duvall is the inventor of the chocolate-covered cinnamon bear. This is his mark on the world, but those of you who’ve had the opportunity to be in one of Ken’s classes, Institute or one of his sales classes, know about the mark he has made upon your heart, and upon your life.

      After working 14 years selling candy, Ken received a call that would change his life. He and his wife were called to preside over the Bilbao Spain Mission. And after three glorious years of serving, Ken decided to follow his passion for teaching, and he’s been a full-time teacher here at the College since then, where he’s been the program director of professional sales and global supply chain programs. In addition to many callings in the Church, he has served several times in the Young Men’s program, twice as an elder’s quorum president, a high councilor in a YSA stake, a bishop, and a stake president. He currently serves as the ward mission leader in his ward. He’s married to Mary Cummings. They are the proud parents of five children, three of whom are here today, and just after announcing their new call, because Ken will be leaving us at the end of this semester, he and his wife will go to Bogota Colombia, where Ken will serve as the president of the Bogota Missionary Training Center; and just after receiving their call their youngest daughter announced that she was expecting their 20th grandchild in March of next year. We are very grateful for Ken; we are grateful for his contribution to this institution. I have been mentored and taught by this man, and he has marked my spirit, more than he has marked my stomach with chocolate-covered cinnamon bears.


The Importance of Leadership

10 Dec. 2014

Transcript

The Importance of Leadership

That was wonderful. Brothers and sisters, I am truly grateful to be here—just to be able to leave the Church Office Building, walk across campus, look at the holy temple, walk in here in a building that I grew up with as a kid, baptized over there in the Tabernacle. . . . It just brings back the foundation of the greatness of this gospel. I’m glad to be here. And I’m also glad to be able to talk with you for a few minutes in regards to my favorite topic of all times, which is about leadership, and particularly about the perfect leader, that being the Savior, Jesus Christ.

      Just by way of context-setting for some of the thoughts that I’ll share with you today, I have been fascinated with the topic of leadership for a long, long time. I remember back as a young lad—deacons quorum, teachers quorum, priests quorum—just having some leadership experience, being interested about how to lead others. I went off to my mission, came back, and my educational pursuit was all about leadership. And I was just fascinated about it. I wanted to study the world leaders and what made them great. And then, I went into the corporate world and spent my time identifying and selecting and developing leaders for my whole career. Now, how fun is that? It was just a great experience. And I had kind of finished with the work world and retired, and then we got called on a mission, and then the Church asked me to come here. And so, again, I have the opportunity to help build and develop leaders within the Church employment. And then it turned into this particular role right here. But I still have that responsibility of identifying and selecting and developing leaders, and I’m having a ball.

      So, I wanted to talk with you a little bit not only about leadership, but more specifically about leading in the Lord’s way, Him being the perfect leader. I want to start out with President Eyring. I know that President Eyring has been very interested in leading, and particularly leading in the Savior’s way. For example, for the last two years, when all of the General Authorities come into town a couple of days before the general conference, all of the Brethren speak to the General Authorities who preside as area presidencies. They preside over the various employment functions here in the Church. And President Eyring’s topic has been the same for the last two years—it has all been about the nurturing leader. And he’s talked about the need for us to pattern our leadership style, our behaviors, around that of the Savior. And he’s been very clear to the General Authorities on that because they sit at the top of this wonderful organization.

      In fact, President Eyring’s closing words of his last talk, which was on the nurturing leader, were, “I pray we may lead in the Lord’s way, with increased love that gives others courage. And I hope that we will help them rise to their full potential.” Now, there’s a lot in that, and knowing that he has spoken about leadership a lot, there is a lot of substance in those very few words which he spoke. I remember having a conversation with him a couple of months ago. We were talking about leadership. We were talking about leading in the Lord’s way and treating people with kindness and with love. And at the end of our conversation, I’ll never forget it, while he was sitting across his desk from me, he held his hand up— his finger, like he normally does—and with that little quiver in his voice and a tear in his eye, he said to me, “Ben, you are on the right track. This is very important to the Lord.” And I’ve taken that to heart in my time here. I don’t know how long one will be in any one given position with the Church, but I take that to heart to say I’m going to do everything I can to help people understand that in Church employment, and anywhere else for that matter, when we go out into the world that we are truly leading in the Lord’s way, not in the world’s way. So let me talk to you a little bit about leading in the Lord’s way in more depth.

      My understanding is that most of you have at least heard of the Leadership Pattern. This is something, in my opinion, that’s got two things that are really special about it. The Leadership Pattern is a set of talents, if you will, or attributes that identify what leadership should be in the Church, as well as anywhere else for that matter. This pattern of talents leads to leading in the Lord’s way.

      Now, in the corporate world, I have worked with many organizations to design leadership competencies, attributes, or cultural priorities—they are called all sorts of different things. And I’ve done that worldwide for a lot of organizations. But leading in the Lord’s way is unique verses anything else that I’ve done for two reasons. The first one is that it was established by the Brethren—by prophets, seers, and revelators—for us in terms of how we lead people in the Church organization. That’s pretty unique. I’ve never had that. I’ve had CEOs and senior executives weigh in on this topic, but never prophets, seers, and revelators. And that means a lot to me. And probably the reason why it has so much sticking power in the Church is because of where it came from, and the Leadership Pattern clearly is an inspired document.

      So, the background on that is the that question was asked, several years ago: what kind of a leader do we need today and in the future as the Lord hastens the work, as we go into new growth and new dimensions worldwide? And this is why the Brethren got together and put together this thing called the Leadership Pattern, which is nine talents, if you will, of what identifies an effective leader, particularly in the Lord’s organization.

      Now, there are nine of these talents. Let me just work backwards and start with the operational talents, here. If you go down the list from “Defined Direction” all the way to “Render an Account,” you’ll see that the terminology comes from the scriptures, like “Render an account” (D&C 72:5). And as you read more in-depth, you’ll find that there is a lot of terminology that comes from the Brethren and that comes from the scriptures, which kind of sets us apart from the rest of the world. In my world, the corporate world, and my consulting practice, I would always sit down with CEOs and senior executives and talk to them about the three essences of leadership. First was, are you strategic? Big-picture type of thing. It’s in the Leadership Pattern; it’s called “Defined Direction.” Second was, do you know how to get results? It’s there; it’s called “Accomplish the Work.” And the third one was, do you know how to build the capability of your people? And it’s there; it’s called “Build Capability.” So, clearly, the things that I have been out in the world teaching as a lot of these best corporate practices are really gospel-based, and I remember Elder Bednar telling me this. And so I’ve been teaching the Leadership Pattern all this time, but a part of it, not the whole thing.

      But the second reason why this leadership pattern sets itself way above other organizations that have identified these leadership characteristics is what we call the Core Talents: lead like the Savior, act under the direction of the Spirit, and align with the Brethren. These are the differentiators that set us apart from the rest of the world. They are not only applicable to what we do here in the Church, but they’re applicable to us even if we go worldwide in any other organization. We can still practice these talents. We can demonstrate these talents, and this is what will set us apart from the rest of the world.

      I’d like to talk a little bit about “Lead like the Savior,” which to me is the foundation. It’s how we treat people. In the last couple of years in the Church, we have spent time to try to get the message across that results are important, but so is your behavior. There are a lot of organizations out there that put a lot of emphasis on their performance reviews or whatever. Did you accomplish your objectives? Did you get results? And in the Lord’s Church, we say yes, results are important. But just or even more important is how you went about getting those results. It’s about your behavior; it’s about you practicing and demonstrating leadership in the Lord’s way. So no longer in the Church do we measure just simply whether you met your objectives or not at the end of the year. We want to know how you went about meeting your objectives and was it in a way that was conducive for leading like the Savior?

      I want to show you a quick video clip. Mentioned earlier was the leadership enrichment series that I help facilitate. We’ve had a chance to interview many of the Brethren over time, so we’ve put together a number of videos from the Brethren on each one of these nine talents. We use this similar to “Come, Follow Me,” where we show a video and we have a discussion. What did we learn from that? What are the thoughts that came to our mind? And then, let’s go out and demonstrate it.

      I just want to show you one video, but what I want you to do as you look at this is to think about where you work now or where you have worked. And I want you to think about how people are treated by the management, the leadership, and even how you treat other people. And if you don’t work, then it’s leadership in the home or leadership at Church. You see, every one of us in our lifetime will be in a leadership position. And the question that I have for every one of you is, what kind of a leader are you going to be? Are you going to be one that tips more toward the world? Or are you going to tip more in terms of how the Savior would have us lead, leading like the Savior? So, as you see this video, there is a question that I have for you that I want you to run through your mind. Contrast where you work now verses some of the principles taught by the Brethren. Is there a difference between the two? Let’s take a look at the video.

 

      [A video is shown.]

            “God is in the people business. We’re saving individuals.”

            “He wasn’t so focused on the job that he forgot the people. There have been great leaders in the past, as you know, political and otherwise, that have accomplished great things, but they left a wake, or in their wake a lot of broken people. And the Savior was just the opposite. He left in His wake people who were edified and built up and strengthened.”

            “That’s the Savior’s message: ‘Come follow me.’ Do it the way I do it; talk the way I talk; walk the way I walk; treat people the way I treat people; cry when I cry. How knoweth a man the master who he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him?’ (Mosiah 5:13). How can we emulate someone we hardly know?”

            “Could I make a difference in my life? Could I make it a little more like heaven to work here? We have to serve Him and act like our Savior.”

      [End of video]

 

      Brothers and sisters, the video clip doesn’t have to be very long to put the spirit across in terms of how the Savior led. And the Brethren basically testified in terms of those characteristics and those things the Savior did to lead in that way. Now, going back to the question that I asked each of you beforehand, think of your work now, or where you have worked, or your church calling, or whatever. Does your pattern match that of the Savior’s? Do you lead like the Savior? Is there a commitment on your part as you go forward in your life, whether you work for the Church or work here in Utah or go the 60 different places around the world that all of you are from? When you go there and you get involved in the work world or the Church world and what have you, and even your family life, how have you decided to behave? How have you decided to lead others?

      Now, I have to tell you that in my experience in the corporate world, particularly the last two corporations that I worked for, it was all about getting results. And if you didn’t get results, you got fired. It was that tough of a business world. And I have to say, to be honest with you, that I fell into some of those traps of assessing people not on who they were or who they could become, but more of just could they get results. That’s tough to look back now in terms of my career, for being responsible for the identification and selection and development of people that I saw more like the world at times verses that of how the Savior would see each of our Heavenly Father’s children.

      Now, the reality is that there is not a single one of us sitting in this hall that’s perfect. We all have warts; we all have things that we can work on. And when it comes to leadership, it’s the same thing. We’re learning in this mortal probation about how to be better people and better leaders, and particularly better leaders in the Lord’s Church. So over the last year or so, we have been talking to leaders who are willing to go on the journey, as Elder Bednar would call it. The journey of change; the journey of improvement. It’s one thing to have a leadership pattern and put it up on the wall and say, “Isn’t that nice?” It’s nice to have devotionals, and teaching and training about the pattern, but it is of no use to any of us, unless we change. Unless we improve. Unless we get better in relation to the framework that has been presented there.

      So, what you have in this video is one of those leaders who is willing to go on the journey—willing to kind of put their dirty laundry out in the open and say, “You know what? I’m not perfect, but I’m trying.” Let me give you his story.

 

      [A recording/video is shown.]

            “I think I’ve been a pretty good leader of people. But, certainly, my focus has traditionally been on emphasizing bottom-line achievements, bottom-line results. In private industry, bottom-line results kind of speak for themselves.”

            “When he first came in, our division was really in need of goals and objectives and metrics, and all those things that really make a business run and really make it successful. And he came in and was the perfect person for that position.”

            “Having come to the Church and learning that there is an emphasis, an appropriate emphasis on people, I found myself perhaps lacking a little bit in terms of that focus and that awareness.”

            “I report directly to Nelson. He had asked a group of the managers in the fleet services group to do a special project that he was quite passionate about. We were nearing the completion of the project and having a meeting one day . . . ”

            “And I came in to get a status of that project. And I was actually disappointed, and I expressed my disappointment to them. And I did so in a manner that was probably shocking, a little bit.”

            “He made it fairly clear that it wasn’t the way he wanted. He was not very happy with it.”

            “So I went away from that meeting thinking, ‘All right, we’re on the road.’ And, interestingly enough, the leader of that management team came in to see me; I think it was a day or two after that . . . ”

            “I felt I should be honest and went into his office and asked if we could talk. And I shared with him that the experience that he had created in that room was negative. And the way he acted was counterproductive to the success we were trying to have.”

            “My reaction to his very pointed feedback was initially kind of angry. But as I listened, as I thought about that conversation, then and later that day, I realized that he was right. And he kind of led me to a realization that maybe that wasn’t necessarily, number one, the best approach, and number two, that maybe I should think about what Heavenly Father wants as well, as relates not only to that incident, that project, but everything related to my responsibilities. So, my initial reaction was, ‘I don’t like this feedback,’ but after thinking about it, I was very appreciative of it. The Spirit helps us, and helped me, realize and understand that my will may not be Heavenly Father’s will; that my focus on results, which has been a focus and will continue to be a focus, but has been a focus, shouldn’t overshadow my focus and my care, I guess, for our people.”

            “He actually sent an apology via email to the people he had offended. It was very clear that he wanted to fix any bad feelings, and our relationship was good before, but it’s been perhaps even better since.”

            “I feel a greater love and patience and understanding for people that I work with than I have in the past.”

            “Seeing the change in him made me look at my own organization, and do those who report to me also recognize and know that I see the Lord’s hand in what we’re doing as well? I trust where He’s going, I trust the decisions that are being made, and I, in turn. It creates a good example for me where I can then turn around and do that same thing in my own work.”

            “One of the plans, or the initiatives, rather, of my plan was on a daily basis, in my prayers, to actually talk about my team with Heavenly Father on a name-by-name basis and to seek inspiration for how my interactions with those individuals should go that day. But that little specific daily focus request for guidance and inspiration, I think, has helped me tremendously. I am still on the journey, and I’ve got a long way to go. And while I’ve focused on one aspect, there are several more that I think I probably need to focus to become, not just a better leader, but a better person in general.”

      [End of recording]

 

      So, brothers and sisters, I think that Nelson had a lot of guts to do that. I am not sure how open most people are to say, “Here’s my weakness” and to do that publically. The reason I’m appreciative of him, and the many other leaders who have joined in the journey to help out, is to realize first again, there’s not a single one of us who is perfect. Second, especially there’s not one of us who is perfect when it comes to matching ourselves up to the way the Savior would lead, who is the perfect leader. And third, it requires on the part of all of us a degree of humility to say, “I’m kind of a mess-up, and there are opportunities for me to improve.” And it doesn’t matter whether you’re a student, or a teacher, or a corporate leader, or a Church leader—in order for us to improve, we all have to be open to holding a mirror up to ourselves and saying, “Lord, is it I?” (Matthew 26:22).

      For me personally, coming and working here at the Church is a very, very different experience than working in the corporate world because the corporate world was about getting results. And personally, having gone on the journey myself—I don’t think the journey ever ends until we’re perfected— I got input from some of my people, who perhaps weren’t living quite up to my expectations of getting results and getting the job done. But I was too focused on results and not enough on helping people grow and develop and be the best that they could be.

      So, I admit, along with Nelson from the video, that there are opportunities for improvement. Now, some of you are a ways away from getting out there and getting into the corporate world or wherever you decide to go. But I wanted to address this because, again, if it’s not the corporate world, you might end up being a parent or you might be in a Church calling. In any case, any one of us will go through life stepping into a leadership role one time or another. And that question will come up: “What kind of a leader do I want to be? And if I’m not there yet, in terms of doing it the Lord’s way, what am I going to change? What am I going to do differently? How am I going to grow, with the help of the Spirit, to make that all happen?”

      Now, I have been involved with training executives and people for many, many years. I also know there’s a big downfall of training or executive trainings or whatever, and that is that people can go and they can hear something like the Leadership Pattern, feel good about it, feel inspired about it, and walk out the door and zero happens as a result. And why is a lot of training a waste? Because people don’t commit themselves to making a change. They don’t change by simply listening and saying, “That is good, and that feels good.” You change because you’re willing to be taught by the Spirit, you’re willing to get beat up a little bit, and you’re willing to be humbled before new behavior—and especially behavior that the Savior demonstrated—becomes a practice on our part.

      Recently, I had the opportunity to spend some time with Elder Bednar. He is a great advocate for leadership in the Church, and growing and developing future leaders. So I wanted to interview him and just talk to him about the process of change, the process of becoming—and particularly, becoming a better leader in relation to the pattern—because he was one of those Brethren, prophets, seers and revelators who helped develop the Leadership Pattern. So we actually ended up getting a series of videos from him, and they have to do with a learning approach, an improvement approach. And it’s tied to three simple questions that we’ve all heard before. Before I show you the video clip, here’s what they are. The first one is “What lack I yet?” (Matthew 19:20). Every one of us has got to get to the point where we’re asking ourselves in humility “What lack I yet?” or no change will come about. At least, no lasting change. The second question is “What must I do?” Once the Spirit guides you and directs you to say this is what you could do to improve, then you’ve got to ask the question, “What do I need to do now to put that into play? What do I need to do to actually demonstrate that particular attribute of the Savior?” And then the last question is “Therefore, what?” We’ve all heard that before, and what that is basically saying is that once you go through the experience, once you’ve done the “do” part of it, it’s time to sit back and reflect a bit and say, “What have I learned from my experience?”

      Elder Bednar was very clear about this. He said, “It’s very difficult for us to learn from our experience while we’re going through the experience. We’re too caught up in it; we’re not thinking as clearly as we could or we should.” So, when Nephi had to go and get the plates and go the third time, he wasn’t stopping for a minute at the head of Laban saying, “So, what do I learn from this experience?” It didn’t happen that way. But after he got back and reflected on that the experience he had in the wilderness, in terms of the shortage of food because of the broken bow, the experience he had when he built the ship that he knew nothing about . . . it was for his experience. And if you read all three of those big experiences in the wilderness, he then says, here’s what I’ve learned from my experience. And those lessons of experience then prepare you for other experiences yet to come. Yes, he built a ship that no man really understood in terms of its design and its make. But think about what he was commanded to do when he got on the new shore. He was called by the Lord to be the leader. He was called to be a prophet, and he was called to build a sacred temple of the Lord.

      That’s what experience is about. That’s what the “Therefore, what?” is about. We’ve got to process that through and say, “What did I learn? What would I do differently?” And then the next time that kind of experience or something similar comes around, then you can say, “Here’s what I would do differently as a result of that experience.”

      Let me just share with you the last video clip, which is an introduction to this change process, which is not only applicable to those in the white building across campus but to every one of you here today in terms of your pursuit of being a better person, being a better leader, leading like the Savior, and ultimately, becoming like Him and returning back home to Him and the Father.

 

      [A video clip is shown]

            “If I am to become more like the Savior, if I am, in my relationships and interactions in the workplace, if I am to increasingly become like the Savior, where do I begin? How do I get started? That’s the purpose of the Leadership Pattern.”

            “When I work out, I find it almost overwhelming to think I’m going to run X number of miles or work out for this amount of time. If I have to start out thinking about the totality of that work out experience, that can be a bit more discouraging than encouraging. I can make it for five minutes. And I can string lots of five minutes together.”

            “Same thing is true in terms of responding to the command to, “Be ye therefore perfect” (Matthew 5:48), or be ye therefore complete. When you think of the immensity of that, the totality of that target, it’s kind of hard to get your arms around it. So the purpose of the pattern is to take something that’s so overwhelming and seems so unattainable, and make it more manageable in smaller, incremental pieces. Of course, number one: “What lack I yet?” That’s the beginning of the assessment, the evaluation, information. The second question is “How do I get from here to there?” And the third question is “Therefore, what?” What’s the ultimate target? What is this connected to? What I need to become?”

            How will I know if I’m successful? What information will I have that lets me see the gaps staying the same, getting bigger, reduced? So, the Leadership Pattern helps us get a sense for, okay, how do I get a handle on this? It disaggregates that, to a limited degree, and gives a series of starting points or things to focus upon. But if that remains separated, then it loses its power. Ultimately, it’s in all of those things being put together in one, in the character of Christ increasingly in us—that’s where the power comes from”

            “If it’s broken down to line upon line, precept upon precept—principles, skills, competencies, operational core, whatever they might be—then all of a sudden, I can see one of these that I need to work on. Here’s some information about this particular capacity. Here’s where I am; here’s where I need to be headed, knowing that we are not alone and receiving help from heaven to make those little steps, day by day. Not all successful, not all smooth, but just a little bit every day—that really makes it worth it. My invitation to all of us is to faithfully consider the invitation of the Savior to “take my yoke upon you” (Matthew 11:29). Associated with this invitation is the framework, the tool of the Leadership Pattern. It simply helps me obtain the information necessary to assess those gaps and disparities so that I can identify behaviors that will help me to reduce those gaps and press forward on the journey. But it’s only when we do the Lord’s work the Lord’s way that we get the completeness that this whole journey is all about.”

      [End of clip]

 

    So, brothers and sisters, to conclusion here, I just simply wanted to communicate to you that you’re all leaders. We’re all leaders in one capacity or another. And the Lord is looking to you and to me, to not only lead the best way we can in terms of the world’s standards, but to lead in His way, in the Lord’s way. When I look in the mirror, sometimes I feel that the sun is setting on my ability to influence and to lead. But when I look at you, or my kids, you are the ones that He is preparing now to lead in His kingdom worldwide. These are tough times, and there will be much put upon us. And I can assure you that the Lord is looking at you, grooming you and preparing you to be a leader in His Church. Be ready, be prepared, because as Elder Bednar told me once, “You are in for a wild ride.”

      May I leave you with my testimony that, simply said, Christ is the Master. He is the perfect leader. I have experienced that it makes a difference to the Father and the Son if you only go to them in prayer. They will tell you what matters to them. That same principle applies to you in everything that you do, and especially in terms of leading in the Lord’s way in the Lord’s kingdom. I bear witness to you that He lives, that Jesus is the Christ. He is the Master, He is the healer, He is my friend, and He is the Redeemer of the world. I am grateful to know that and to feel that, and have that testimony grow within me. May each of you be blessed in your pursuit of perfection, in your pursuit of leadership, and in your pursuit of leading in the Lord’s way. And I leave this with you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

 

Introduction: President Lawrence Richards

       Let me introduce to you Brother Ben Porter. He is the managing director of the Church’s Human Resources Department. He was born in Salt Lake City and served his mission in the Australia Perth Mission. He received a bachelor’s degree in organizational communications and a master’s degree in human resource development from Brigham Young University. Before his current assignment, Brother Porter was the director of talent management and development, also within the Church’s Human Resources Department. He has more than 30 years of organization and leadership development experience, and has held executive-level positions with companies such as AlliedSignal, Lockheed Martin, Amoco, PepsiCo, and AlliedSignal/Honeywell. And after many years within the corporate ranks, Brother Porter left to establish a consulting firm, with the title Leader Works. This firm focused on helping organizations build leadership and capacity. Brother Porter’s clients included such companies as Honeywell, General Motors, Tyco, Johnson & Johnson, and the Royal Bank of Canada. Brother Porter is also the co-author of Family 360, which focuses on improving family relationships and received high praises from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the television show “Good Morning America.”

      Among his colleagues in the Church, Brother Porter has served as a stake president, as a bishop twice, and as the president of the New Zealand Auckland Mission. He married Sister Kerry Lee Elkins in the Provo Utah Temple in 1978. Today, she is tending a new grandbaby. They are the parents of six children, and my notes  say, Brother Porter, ten grandchildren.

      So we’re still there at ten. Brothers and sisters, you will be blessed by Brother Porter. Periodically, some of us at the College get a chance to observe as Brother Porter conducts a leadership enrichment series and interviews members of General Authorities and others within the Church who teach us about leadership. I’ve come to enjoy his insightfulness, and the questions that he asks, and the service that he renders to all of us within the kingdom.