Summer 2017

Tell Less, Ask More

24 Apr. 2017


Tell Less, Ask More

Bob, thank you. Thank you for the invitation to be here. I asked my 18-year-old son what I should talk about because he is kind of a young man and I knew there would be young people here, and he said, “I don’t know. Talk about adult things.” But then he said, “But you know, I’m not an adult, so I don’t know any of those adult things. But talk about them.”

So, he was of no help whatsoever, but I did decide I did want to talk about one of the great learnings of my adult life, and that really is the power of inquiry, and the power of a good question and the joy of asking, and some of the relative dangers of telling. And I want to share a few observations that I think will help us in our business careers, in our personal lives, and maybe even in our spiritual well-being and progress. And because he was not at all helpful to his mother, I’m going to throw in a few incriminating retaliatory stories about my son, just for fun—maybe my fun.

So, let me start with what I have learned out in the business world. As a management researcher, I have studied why is it that some leaders seem to bring out the best in others, while other leaders seem to shut down ideas and capability in people around them. As I studied what the best leaders do—leaders I came to call “multipliers”—here are a few things I found.

I found that the best leaders aren’t know-it-alls that tell people what to do; they are challengers who ask questions and invite people to explore new possibilities. The best leaders aren’t necessarily really big personalities that take up all the space in the room; the best leaders know when it’s time to be big, but they also know when it is time to be small and create room for other people to step up and be big. And the best leaders aren’t necessarily the decision makers that make fast decisions and then tell other people what to do, or that run around trying to sell their ideas to others. The best leaders tend to be debate makers, people who frame the issues, who ask the questions, who allowed other people to weigh in, and who get remarkably high levels of buy in from the people around them.

In short, what I found is that the best leaders tell less and ask more. They are leaders like George Sneer, a general manager at Intel. His team said, “You know, George in a typical meeting, only spoke about 10% of the time.” He was the boss, but he would speak 10% of the time, mostly just to crisp up a problem statement. Then he would back away and let his team solve the problem.

Or one of my very favorite leaders is Larry Gelwix, who I think was here with you recently—the former Highland High School rugby coach who when he faced his problem—a rugby team that had a lot of skills but kind of questionable physical stamina—he could have put an exercise program together and told them what to do. He didn’t. He decided he would put the team captains in charge—teenage boys. He put them in charge of the problem, and he said, “What do you want to do about it? And do you want to do something about it?” And they stepped up, and they got the team ready. They made it through finals, won the national championship that year—as, you know, they did 19 years that they played together.

Tim Brown, the CEO of the very famously creative design team IDEO, said that “as leaders, . . . the most important role we . . . play is asking the right questions” and focusing on the right problems.[4] It doesn’t matter how creative you are as a leader, it doesn’t matter what answers you come up with, if you are focusing on the wrong problems, you are not providing the leadership that you should.

But I found that this power of inquiry is not just true for leaders; it’s also true for professionals. We tend to do our very best work when we are answering a question rather than asserting an opinion or working with a certainty of fact. It makes me think of professionals like Stephanie DiMarco, who graduated from business school, entered the college, just like you would, with a degree in business. She entered the workforce in the early 1980s, when IBM has just introduced their first personal computer to the market.

Now, at the time, the dominant computing platform for business was a deck mini-computer—these enormous, truck-size computers that had a price tag of $30,000. When it came time for Stephanie’s company—she worked for a financial trading company—when it came time for them to build an automated system, an information system to track huge, billion-dollar financial trades, they were contemplating how they were going to be able to do this on a $30,000 box. And Stephanie said, “Why not build it on one of these PCs? It has the same processing power, and it costs $5,000. And that costs $30,000.”

The industry pundits and the know-it-alls around her thought it was an absolutely ridiculous idea. But she said, “Why can’t we build it on a personal computer?” She started a company called Advent Software with this idea of building high performance information systems on low-cost hardware. I checked the market capitalization for this firm on Friday—2.33 billion dollars. A value created by someone who just had a question—why can’t we? Why don’t we?

My research has taught me that when leaders ask more often, they actually earn the right to ask more from the people around them. And they get more—more time, more talent, more intellect—from the people around them. And when we approach our work by asking questions, we tend to contribute more. We tend to contribute in bigger, more impactful ways.

I’ve also found that this dynamic is not just true in the workplace. It can also really change the nature of our personal relationships. For me, what I’ve studied and what I’ve seen the best leaders do has really changed me as a parent. It has really helped me to be a much better mom.

I have learned to lead in my home with inquiry, with asking. And it probably started when—oh, this was back about 14 years ago—when we had three small children—ages 6, 4, and 2—and the bedtime routine I could only characterize as chaos. And so, for those of you who have young children in the room or remember what it was like to have young children, or babysit, or have siblings, you know what this bedtime routine is. You say, “Kids, go to bed. Time for bed. Put that away. Leave her alone. Help your sister. Go brush your teeth. Get a book. Not that book. No, not five books; get me one book. Okay, story time. Story time is done. Say your prayers. Family prayer. Into bed. Out of my bed, back to bed. No water; you’re hydrated. Go to sleep.” And there’s no yelling in any of this, but it’s just constant telling, night after night after night.

A friend gave me what I call the Extreme Question Challenge. What would happen if I just asked questions? It was hard at first, but then the questions flowed: “Kids, what time is it? Who needs help getting your pajamas on? Who is ready for bed? Whose turn is it to pick the story? Who is going to read the story? What do we do after story time?”

And my son said, “Well, Mom, that’s when we say prayer.” You see, they knew.

And then I would say, “Okay, who is ready for bed?”

“Me! Me! Me! Me!”

And what I learned is that when I asked the questions, it invited my children to find the answers. I learned that at work and at home, in counsels and my callings, that people didn’t really need me to tell them what to do. They needed me to ask intelligent questions.

It started with what I call Extreme Question Mode—nothing but questions. Now, as a mom, I don’t operate permanently in this mode because, first of all, it doesn’t work really well with teenagers, who interpret everything as interrogation. But I ask them a lot of questions. I save the extreme questions for sort of extreme circumstances when something has gone very, very right, like when someone just won a game or earned an award, or met a cute boy, or whatever it might be. I go into questions.

And then I also save it for when something has gone really, really wrong. Like the time my husband and I went out on a date. We were going to dinner, and we left our two boys home alone together, with the 13-year-old in charge of babysitting the 8-year-old. Now, my 13-year-old is prone to wander. He is sort of drawn to adventure. So, I left very, very simple but clear instructions with him. All I said was, “Stay with your brother. Stay with your brother.”

We go to dinner, and about an hour and a half into dinner, my husband’s cellphone rings—unknown caller. He says, “I’m not going to answer that.” It rings again—unknown caller. “I’m not answering that.” It rings again—unknown caller. This time he answers it, and he hears, “Mr. Wiseman, this is Officer So-and-so of the Menlo Park Police, and we have your sons in custody. We’d like you to come and pick them up.”

That surprised us, but actually we weren’t that surprised that the 13-year-old had got himself into some trouble. That wasn’t the surprise; it was the 8-year-old. Because in our family, we have very high standards, and we really like our children to be out of Primary before getting a police record.

We picked up the boys, and we learned they had been apprehended at the local middle school and detained because the school marquee sign, the letters on the sign had been mysteriously rearranged. And so, we picked them up; we drove the few blocks to home in silence. But then when we got home, we excused the 8-year-old to go to bed, and we had a little talk with our 13-year-old.

Now, I want you to imagine the lecture, the monologue that has been percolating in my mind as we drove there and we drove them home. And I’m about to deliver this fervent monologue when I realize, you know, perhaps some questions would be better right now. And then I thought, of course questions would be better right now because right now an interrogation is totally appropriate. So you can imagine the questions that I am formulating. It’s like, “What happened?” And, “What were you thinking?”

But because I had paused a little bit, some better questions came to mind. I sat down with my son—my husband as well, but he makes me do all the dirty work on these kinds of things because he is a super-nice guy—and I just asked my son two questions. I said, “What were your good decisions?” And, “What were your bad decisions?”

And then he just walked me through it. He said, “Well, not long after you left, my friends called and wanted to play Moon Tag at the school. And I said yes. So that was probably a bad decision, huh.”

I said, “Yes, that was.”

And then he said, “But I took Josh with me because you told me to stay with Josh, so that was a good decision.”

And I said, “Yes, that was.”

Then he said, “I brought a flashlight for Josh so he wouldn’t have to play in the dark.”

I said, “That was a good decision.”

He said, “Then we got bored with Moon Tag, and we decided we would go rearrange the marquee letters, and that was . . . that was probably a bad decision.” Yeah. But then he said, “But then, when the cops came and all my friends ran,” he kind of squared up and said, “I stayed with Josh. That was a good decision.” And he said, “Mom, I had this feeling you wouldn’t want Josh running from the law.”

I said, “Yeah. That’s true. I don’t want my kid on the lam at eight.”

And then he said, “And then, when the police stopped me, I was cooperative with them.”

I said, “That was a good decision.”

He said, “Mom, I was funny, too. That was a good decision.”

I said, “Okay, that one is debatable.” But you know, there was absolutely no need for me to deliver a lecture to him. He totally got it. He understood. I just had to ask him a couple of questions. And the next time we asked him to babysit, because we did—we gave him a chance to redeem himself. And the next time we asked him to babysit, you know what? He stayed with Josh, and he took his job very, very seriously. In fact, he secured our house like a fortress. We came home to find the two boys asleep on the couch and a hunting knife on the coffee table. And then, there was a machete on the back porch inside the house, and then at the front door inside the house, an axe.

I said, “What’s with the weaponry?”

And he said, “Well, you know, in case there was an intruder, I had to defend Josh.”

The power of inquiry has really changed a lot of my personal relationships as I have learned to ask more and tell less.

But what about our spiritual lives? At the conclusion of Jesus’s grand Sermon on the Mount, in chapter 7 of Matthew, in verse 7, Jesus gives us the great promise of inquiry. You all know this scripture: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”

I want you to think about some of the great questions in ancient and modern scripture. What are some of the big “asks” that come to mind? Your favorites from scripture? For me, I think of in the Book of Mormon in the book of Ether, and the story of the Jaredites and, of course, the brother of Jared. The Jaredites had been commanded to leave their homes and travel in the wilderness, and the Lord goes with them and directs them and tells them where they should go, where they should stay, directs them to build barges, shows them exactly how to build those watertight barges, shows them how to build the holes for air.

But then when the brother of Jared asks, “Behold, O Lord, wilt thou suffer that we shall cross this great water in darkness?”[5] This time, the Lord responds not with direction but with a question. The Lord says, “What will ye that I should do that ye may have light in your vessels?”[6]

After providing such clear guidance and direction earlier, why did the Lord now ask, and how did that change things? You see, now the brother of Jared had to do more than just obey. It gave him an opportunity to exercise, perhaps, one of the great acts of faith that we read in scripture. We know what happens next. Out of molten rock, the brother of Jared fashions these 16 small, glass-like stones. He carries them up to the top of a high mountain. He makes his offering to the Lord, and then what does he do?

He makes a really, really big ask. He says, “Would you touch these stones that they might shine forth in the darkness?”[7] One of the great acts of faith. I think sometimes, when we just ask—because we know what happens. He sees the hand of the Lord revealed unto him. He sees Him with a body of flesh and bone. I think when we make asks, I think we see the hand of the Lord revealed in our life. Or you might think—I think of great asks, I think of the book of Alma, and Alma 5, and Alma the Younger’s sermon where he starts with teaching the doctrine of repentance and being born again, and he recounts the conversion of his people. And then he begins his opening salvo of questions. And you are familiar with so many of these questions.

“Have you sufficiently retained in remembrance the captivity of your fathers? . .  Have you . . . retained in remembrance [God’s] mercy and long-suffering towards them?”[8] See, now he is just warming up; we know that. This is the first two of 50 really, really insightful, thought-provoking questions. In verse 14: “Have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?”

And then in verse 26, the one that tends to linger for so many of us, he says: “If ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?” It’s one of those questions that we should keep in our back pocket, and ask ourselves when we get a little too comfortable, a little too sure of ourselves. Can we still feel that? Are we being born again on a regular basis? Having the image of God in our countenances on a daily basis? Like the sister this morning spoke about, feeling God’s love in your life?

Or you might think of the Joseph Smith History, of course, and the questions that really prompted the Restoration of the gospel. Joseph is struggling with what he has been told by all the different churches, and his own personal study in the Epistle of James, in that first chapter. He gets to that fifth verse, and it just speaks to him.

He said it grabbed a hold of his heart[9]—this scripture, and we know this scripture: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not.” And what is the promise? “And it shall be given him.”[10]

And you know what happens next. He finds a secluded place, he kneels in prayer, and he asks. And the heavens are opened. And the rest is history as we know it—Church history that the Restoration of the gospel, the reestablishment of Christ’s church, the reestablishment of prophets and modern-day prophets—all so that we can ask and then really receive.

But like all things, inquiry has its opposite, doesn’t it? Advocacy might be the opposite of inquiry, certainty, and judgement. We go back to that Sermon on the Mount again, towards the end of the Sermon, in chapter 7. And we go back to the beginning of that, in verse 1. It says, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.”[11]

Of course, Christ is talking about, don’t worry about the mote and the beam and eyes—and He’s talking about motes and beams and eyes, and essentially what He is saying to us is, “Don’t get yourself all twisted up about the poppy seed in someone else’s teeth just to go home and find out you’ve got a great big piece of spinach in your own. Or, as President Uchtdorf said, we shouldn’t judge someone just because they sin differently than we do.[12]

Now, from what I can see, nowhere is this tendency for judgement more apparent than out in social media, out on the Internet where the anonymity of the Internet makes it very easy—like, it somehow brings out the Internet troll in all of us.

It tends to bring out the Internet creature in all of us as well, and I have to admit, I have been fascinated out there reading in the LDS blogosphere—not the blogs, but you know what I have been fascinated reading? The comments. And I’m not fascinated as in, “Oh, how interesting and how enlightening.” I’m fascinated as in, like, train wreck fascinated. As in, online rubbernecking fascinated. What is happening here? And I know I should just drive by and not look, but I can’t help. I’m looking.

My husband says, “Just don’t read that. Ignore it.” And I say to him, “Well, that’s really easy for you to say. You’re really good at ignoring things. Look how you ignore me when I get all twisted up. And it’s 30 years, not 25 years—30 years that you’ve been ignoring me so effectively.” And there is wisdom in that.

Now of course, one recently that I think most of us know about is that recent performance of the Tabernacle Choir at the presidential inauguration. Like a lot of you, I wasn’t surprised that people had different opinions on this, and I wasn’t really surprised that people had strong opinions. But what I was surprised at was how quickly we judged, how quickly we condemned. As I read through these comments, so fascinated by this. I thought, “I see a lot of advocacy. I see arguments, but I don’t see a lot of inquiry.” I don’t see us making an attempt to really understand.

There was one post that caught my attention. It was on Facebook. It was a friend of mine who had a strong point of view on this, and he was posting his outrage about the other point of view. And he wrote on his post, “I just don’t get it.”

I’ve thought a lot about those words: “I just don’t get it.” See, when I find myself saying, “I just don’t get it,” it’s probably because I haven’t taken the time to understand, to empathize, to see things through someone else’s perspective.

The academics call this perspective-taking, and there’s a little test that the academics use for perspective-taking. I’m going to invite you to take this test with me. What I want you to do is I want you to draw the letter “L” on your forehead. Now, don’t do this with your pen or your pencil that I know some of you have. Put down your Sharpie markers! Because if you draw “L” on your forehead, you will look like a loser if you do this, okay? So, don’t do that. But I want you to just draw with your finger, I want you to draw on your forehead. Not on your friend’s forehead—I totally see you doing that—I’m a seminary teacher, I’ve got eyes. I want you to draw the letter “L” on your forehead. Go ahead and do that right now; make the letter “L” on your forehead.

Now, some people draw the letter this way. Other people draw the letter that way. And what is the difference? Yes, there’s no right or wrong way; it’s just your perspective. If you’ve drawn the letter this way, you’ve drawn it from the perspective of the person who is reading it, as if you’ve used a Sharpie and you drew this letter on your head.

Here is what the academics found: the way that people draw this letter tells a lot about their orientation around perspective-taking. Here’s what is interesting: it is that as we gain status, as we gain authority, and perhaps as we gain resources, wealth, comfort, our propensity for perspective-taking goes—what would you say? Up or down, as we get at the top of organizations? You would think we would have this big, broad view. Our perspective-taking tends to go down, and it’s very easy for us to move out of the mode of, perhaps, wondering. I wonder what it is like to be hungry? I wonder what it’s like for someone to not know where their next meal is coming from? To them, the next minute you are like having a Marie Antoinette moment of “Let them eat cake,” completely lacking this empathy and understanding.

My life had a way of teaching me perspective-taking at a very early age. It was sort of forced on me, in a way. My father had grown up in a very strong LDS family, and he worked in the family business, which was a mortuary. He worked for his father. Not too many years after he was working for his father, he was asked to leave the family business by his father. My dad did not leave quietly. He didn’t just leave the family business; he left the Church, he disowned his parents, and he vowed to never see his siblings again.

Now, with his own family, he kind of oscillated between two modes. One was gruff and overly directive, a bit of a know-it-all, told everyone what to do—probably the stubbornest person I’ve ever known. Or he was withdrawn, watched a lot of television. Growing up with my dad, it was very easy to be offended. He was someone you could be very easily offended by, very easily disappointed in, and very easily hurt by. Some members of his family kind of interpreted him as sort of coldhearted, maybe even mean-spirited, maybe even kind of a bit of a bad dad.

That just didn’t seem like the truth to me. I saw someone very, very different from that. I saw someone who had been offended by the imperfections of local Church leaders. I saw someone who had been disappointed by his own family. I saw someone who had been hurt so deeply that he carried that hurt with him for a lot of years. I saw him as a really tenderhearted, loving father who just didn’t know how to show it. And living with him forced me to ask a lot of questions. Like maybe just to name one: what would it be like to be fired by your father and have the job instead given to your older brother? How might that have hurt him so deeply? How might that have limited his ability to show love?

It trained me to see the gaps between intentions and actions, and that sometimes people’s best intentions don’t quite get translated right. And that, of course, in this gap, we judge other people by their actions, right? That often feel wrong to us. But how do we judge ourselves? By our intentions. No because we think we’re better than anyone else, but just because our intentions are available to us. You see a lot of disappointment and hurt.

I’m glad that I kept asking until I found a different narrative about my father. It has brought me incredible happiness. My sister calls this my “happy filter” that just sort of filters out inconvenient, unpleasant memories and just retains only the good ones. She says, “Well, you’re a little bit delusional.” I said, “You’re probably right.”

But it has brought me great happiness to maybe see beyond the veneers. I’ve been slower to judge, and a lot quicker to ask. This helps me when I am teetering, when life throws me for a loop and things freak me out. It really helps me sort of survive—sort of—politics. I’ve learned to ask questions like, “Why are so many people so angry at Barack Obama? Why would some people be really, really mad?” And I’ve spent some time really understanding that. Or in the other direction, “Why are so many people so mad at President Trump?”

It’s helped me with Church history. Why would the Lord entrust imperfect people with such great responsibility? It was probably because there were no perfect people available. Why, in Church doctrine, what would this look like from an eternal perspective? Or, in teaching seminary, I’ve learned to design lessons really on questions. At first I thought I was quite clever, designing them around my questions. And then I discovered—you know what? I’m going to design them around the students’ questions. It has changed the way I share the gospel.

I’ve done one thing differently in how I share the gospel over the last few years. I simply ask people about their faith—not asking them, “What is your faith?” And, “Do you want to know more about my faith?” Or, “Do you want to be baptized into my faith?” I just ask them to tell me about their faith, what their weekly Bible study groups are like, how they do fellowshipping. And I have become so comfortable talking about faith, not just those with it but just those out in the business world, that I feel like I get to live just a little bit of what Paul the Apostle said to the Romans, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of [Jesus] Christ.”[13] Because I have spent more time just asking.

Now, oh goodness, we’re almost out of time here. Let me share four very simple things that you can do to ask more and tell less. The first is just to ask more questions. Maybe you take this Extreme Question Challenge, and you lead something by only asking.

My buddy Matt was an MBA student at Stanford, and he spent the last two years of his MBA program solving all sorts of problems. He did well in school. He got offered a great job for a super-hot company in Silicon Valley. But then he had the biggest problem of all: how to afford to live in Silicon Valley with a little family of four. He had been thinking about this problem for a long time, trying to solve it. He scheduled some time with his wife to talk about it, and he decided to take the Extreme Question Challenge, mostly because I made him do it. Because if you know me and we are friends, I probably have already intimidated you into trying this little challenge.

He decided this was where he would only ask questions. He told me later in a conversation, “I learned more about my wife in that hour than I have in the last years that we’ve been married.” He said, “I actually know what’s important to her, and it’s not having a big house.” He really, really came to understand.

Or maybe you develop a set of back pocket questions—questions that you keep in your back pocket that you ask when things don’t quite make sense. Some of my favorite back pocket questions are simply, “What do you think?” “What does this look like from your perspective?” “What concerns do you have?” “What downsides?”

When I read stuff that doesn’t make sense to me, I sometimes ask my wondering questions, like, “I wonder why that is?” “I wonder why they feel so strongly about it?” “I wonder what they’re really trying to say to me right now?” Or, maybe the most important question: “I wonder what information I am missing? How might I be deceived by what I am reading or seeing if I don’t really step back from it?”

Number three: invite people to share their questions. In Gospel Doctrine last week, the teacher had created such a safe environment in class that one of the women there—she is a young mother, and also an attorney by trade—and she asked this question. The lesson was on the Atonement, and she said, “I’ve always wondered, can people take advantage and use the Atonement that are actually not Christians?” This wasn’t one of these sort of loaded questions. It wasn’t followed by her decided opinion. It wasn’t some question that was really a statement in the form of a question.

It was such a sincere question that other people offered their point of view—not giving decided points of view, but offering insights tentatively. Our stake patriarch, he jumped in and offered a gentle perspective. I noticed that this spirit of inquiry and understanding and truth seeking carried over into Relief Society. And at the end of Relief Society, one sister said just out loud to everyone, “Church was so awesome today! We were just talking to each other.” Maybe you invite people to share their questions.

And then lastly, maybe you look at things with another perspective. Let me share quickly an experience that I had on a vacation. This was a number of years ago; our family took a vacation to Hawaii, and we were taking a vacation with three small children—they were 7, 5, and 3 years old. And everyone knows that there is no such thing as a vacation with young children. It’s just taking work and moving it to another location, to a better venue.

So, for the whole vacation, I’m just in my normal industrious Mom mode of kind of hurry and worry, tell and tell, “Kids, put your sandals on. Get your sunscreen on. Let’s go. Load up in the car. Grab your books. We’re going to the beach. It’s going to be fun. Then we’re going to the park. Trust me.” I’m just hustling my kids around, until one morning, we wake up. My husband, he leaves the hotel room with two of our three kids—the two big ones. I don’t want you to think he was being super helpful; it was more like he was being sneaky Dad, taking the easy ones and leaving me with the 3-year-old. I knew what he was doing.

But the 3-year-old, he’s got no intention of going to breakfast. He’s still in his pajamas, and he’s bouncing between the beds. My job, Larry said, “Why don’t you get him dressed, and we’ll go down to the beach.” And he has no intention of doing any of this. As I contemplated extracting him from the hotel room, I realized I just didn’t have energy for it today. You know what, today we are on vacation. Instead of hustling this kid around, making him go where he needs to go, I was going to spend the day following him around.

It was a radical reversal of our roles. I cannot describe to you—I know we are just about out of time—but I feel like I just want to describe to you how painfully slow we moved. Zootopia,[14] the DMV sloth thing—you know the scene? Like the walking—he is meandering, stopping to pick up every little treasure and curiosity. And twenty minutes, thirty minutes have gone by, and we’re nowhere near getting to breakfast.

I’m just hoping he’s not going to stop at the koi fish pond that’s between us and breakfast. If you’ve ever spent any time with a 3-year-old, you know he’s stopping at the koi fish pond. We come to a full stop. I’ve decided I’m going to just follow, so I stop with him. I comment about “Oh, yes. Look at the pretty fish.” Then I remind him that Daddy and the girls are at breakfast, and they’re going to the beach and then maybe to the pool, and maybe we should move along and join them.

He’s having absolutely none of this. He’s got to inspect the fish, and he’s down on his knees, and he’s touching the fish. So I surrender, and I squat down and start looking at these fish with him. He’s not happy just looking at the fish now; he’s laying down on his belly, and he’s got his hands in the water, and he’s touching them, and they’re jumping up and lunging up to nibble on his fingers. And he’s shrieking with delight. Finally, in an act of surrender, I just say, “Okay, here we go.”

I’m now belly-down, and we’re blocking the path to breakfast, but we don’t really care. We’re just playing with these koi fish. And I found that when I got down and saw them on his level, they weren’t just pretty fish. I had seen koi fish bunches of times before. They were huge, and they were so different and colorful and unique—they were marvelous. As I really saw this through his perspective, the mundane became marvelous.

Maybe you can see things through another’s perspective. Sometimes we have to kneel down and kind of look at it through another’s perspective. As I was preparing some thoughts for this talk, I realized that maybe the best time to do look through this is as we kneel in prayer. And I’m realizing, maybe that’s really the purpose of prayer, for us to see things through God’s perspective. I thought maybe I should ask more often, “Heavenly Father, what is your perspective on this?”

We are completely out of time. Let me just leave you with what I have learned as a business leader and researcher, as a Mom, as a Latter-day Saint—it is that we tend to do our best thinking and we tend to bring out the best in others when we are asking, when we are inviting contribution rather than telling. When we tell less and we ask more, we discover, we learn, we come to know God. We invite others to come to know God, to feel that feeling of being reborn—born again in God’s countenance and in His presence. Because I think it is in seeking, not knowing, that we actually find light and truth. And it’s in asking that we actually receive everything that we need and everything that is important to us. And I share those words with you in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, amen.


[1] Liz Wiseman, Greg Mckeown, Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter, HarperBusiness: (2010).

[2] Liz Wiseman, Lois Allen, and Elise Foster, The Multiplier Effect: Tapping the Genius Inside Our Schools, Corwin: (2013).

[3] Liz Wiseman, Rookie Smarts: Why Learning Beats Knowing in the New Game of Work, HarperBusiness: (2014).

[4] Adam Brown, “He Prizes Questions More Than Answers,” Business Day, The New York Times, Oct. 24, 2009.

[5] Ether 2:22.

[6] Ether 2:23.

[7] See Ether 3:4.

[8] Alma 5:6.

[9] See Joseph Smith—History 1:12.

[10] James 1:5; Joseph Smith—History 1:11.

[11] Matthew 7:1.

[12] See Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “The Merciful Obtain Mercy,” Apr. 2012 General Conference.

[13] Romans 1:16.

[14] Zootopia, Walt Disney Studios: (2016).

Musical Cantata

24 Apr. 2017


Musical Cantata

LDS Business College Devotional

March 28, 2017

President Richards:

I will guarantee you that if you listen to the spirit of the music, and you open your heart to your Heavenly Father, you will be instructed today in unique ways, that are unlike ways that you have been instructed during other devotionals. So, if you are ready to join me today, to be taught by the Spirit in a very unique way, would you please join me. Thank you.

Alanna Taylor: Our hearts are full as we rejoice and give thanks for our Savior Jesus Christ. In humility, we remember His divine birth, the teachings He gave, the miracles He performed, the death He suffered, and His glorious resurrection. Those who walked and talked with Jesus when He lived and ministered on earth stand as eternal witnesses to His divine mission. And now, we will erase the centuries of time and hear these witnesses bear record of Him. Through their testimonies, we will know even more fervently that Jesus Christ is, indeed, the Son of God, the Savior of the world.

Jose Chavez: Both time and eternity shall pass, and still I will thank my Father in Heaven, for allowing me, a lowly shepherd on the slopes of Judea, to be a witness to the divine birth of Jesus Christ. On that sacred of all nights, in the stillness, the darkness, I, with other shepherds, was keeping watch over my flock when suddenly an angel appeared. Radiant in a light more glorious and bright than even the noonday sun, appeared to us. Never had we seen such a sight before, and we were “sore afraid.”[1]

The angel spoke: “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy….For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”[2] And in an instant, there was with the angel, a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Then we were alone, astonished at what we had seen and heard.

We left our flocks to seek the blessed babe that has been born on earth. In Bethlehem we saw Him, the Savior of the world, lying in a manger. And we worshipped Him. How great was our joy! At last, the promised Messiah was born.

After that sacred night, everywhere we went we told of all we had seen and heard. We proclaimed the holy word: Christ the Lord is born.

Song: Christ the Lord Is Born

Dawna Lofgren: I was sitting among a great gathering of people who had come from Galilee, Judea, and beyond Jordan, listening to the words of Jesus. We were astonished at his doctrine, for He taught as one having authority, not as the scribes. That memorable Sermon on the Mount changed my life as He taught: “Blessed are they [who] hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.”[3] And I was filled as He spoke. “Ye are the light of the world…. Let your light so shine… that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”[4] “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to [those who] hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.”[5] “Be ye therefore perfect.”[6]

And I wondered, how can I, a mortal, be perfect? But I came to know later, as He spoke the words, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you.”[7] My heart rejoiced, and my spirit was filled with new hope.

Song: How Beautiful the Words of Jesus

Christina Klein: My mother had told me of Jesus. She told me how He taught, healed, and blessed those who followed Him. She wanted me to see Him, be blessed by Him. So we went, making our way through many people. Finally, when we were almost to touch Him, His disciples said, “Touch him not! Go away!”[8]

But then He saw us, and He drew His arm close to me as He said, “Suffer the little children… and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”[9] Then He laid His hands on my head and blessed me. Oh, I will never forget how He laid His hands on my head and blessed me.

Song: Suffer the Children

Sydny Terry: On the desert hills of Galilee, I was with the many, hearing the words of Jesus. I had come with my five barley loaves and two small fishes. At evening, five thousand and more were hungry. What good my scanty sum? To the Master, it was enough. And on His blessing, it multiplied to feed the multitude and more. Yea, twelve baskets were filled with the surplus.[10] On the desert hills of Galilee I witnessed, that day, the infinite power of Jesus.

Lucas Orides: I was helpless as my servant lay suffering, but I had heard of the greatness and power of the one called Jesus. In Him I had implicit faith. I sought Him out in Capernaum and said, “Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented.” Jesus knew my name, and spoke: “I will come and heal him.”

I could only answer: “Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldst come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.”[11] Peace and joy filled my soul as He said, “Verily, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.” Then He spoke the word I had come to hear: “Go thy way, and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee.” And my servant was healed. In the city of Capernaum, I witnessed that day the infinite power of Jesus.

Brendan Haymans: Evening approached as we entered the ship. Ministry had brought exhaustion, even to the mortal body of Jesus, and in the ship, He slept. As we crossed over the Sea of Galilee, a great storm arose. The fierce winds blew. The waters leapt in giant tides, lashing at our ship as if to swallow us up unto mass destruction. Fear engulfed our beings. In desperation we awoke Him, crying, “Lord, save us! We perish.”

Seeing our piteous plight, He spoke: “Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?” Then majestically He arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea. At His very utterance, the winds and the seas obeyed Him, and there arose a great calm. We marveled, “What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!”[12] On the Sea of Galilee that day, I witnessed the infinite power of Jesus.

Song: Every Creature on Earth

Joel Goeckentz: It was the Passover in Jerusalem when I first beheld the magnitude of the Savior’s physical stature and righteous indignation. He had come to worship, only to find His Father’s house in desecration. This could not be, and yet, an apostate priesthood had allowed it to be. With a whip of small cords and a physical force that commanded obedience, He drove out the treasure seekers, the sellers of sacrificial victims, the money mongers from the courts of that most holy place, and as He did, His voice thundered forth: “Make not my Father’s house a house of merchandise.”

As impressive and forceful as it was, time passed and old ways returned. Three years later, one week remaining of His earthly ministry, the Savior returned—this time to proclaim His divine Sonship. And again, His temple was profaned. Once more the wrath of His indignation was laid open as He said, “My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.” He overthrew their tables, drove out their cattle, and expelled the filthy merchants from the sacred precincts.

Then into the holy courts of His holy house came the blind, the lame, and He healed them. Children there, witnessing the cleansing and the healings, recognized Him as the promised Messiah, and they sang aloud, “Hosanna! Hosanna to the Son of David.”[13]

Song: Hosanna to the Son of David by Iker Oliver

Taylor Baton: That terrible day on Golgotha, words from the past returned. The words of Gabriel to me some thirty-three years ago, I had pondered them in my heart for, lo, these many years: “Thou shalt… bring forth a son…. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest…. He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end.”[14]

That superscription on the cross—a mockery, but the truth. This is Jesus, the King of the Jews. Little did they know they were crucifying their king, but I knew it. And as I beheld my King, my Savior, my precious son, hanging in agony on the cross, my heart cried out, “Oh, how can it be! It is too much.” A darkened sun hid from the shame, and the earth moaned against this evil.

Then other words from the past returned, the words of Simeon to me in the temple when my son was but a babe: “A sword [of anguish] shall pierce… thy own soul also.”[15] And so it was. A sword of anguish piercing through my own soul. Oh, that my suffering could relieve His suffering! But not so. Dear Father, I pray do not let it be long. And then, seeing my suffering, even from the torturing cross, my son stopped, turned to me, and to his beloved John he gave the charge to care for me, as He said, “Behold, thy mother!”[16] My son—the same yesterday, today, and forever—caring more for others than Himself, suffering that we might not suffer, and now dying that we may live. I could bear no more, and John took me away.

Song: His Agony on the Cross

Ryan Gibbons: On the road to Emmaus, my companion and I walked, reasoning, remembering, mourning over all that had happened concerning Jesus, whom we loved. A stranger drew near and walked with us, and asked, “What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad?”[17]

Did this man not know Jesus? We reviewed for him the tragic events of the crucifixion, and explained how we had trusted that it had been Jesus which should have redeemed Israel. We told how certain women had gone to the sepulcher and found it empty, and saw him not.

Then the stranger expounded unto us the scriptures concerning Jesus. As we drew near to the village, we constrained him to abide with us, for it was evening and we desired his companionship. As we sat at meat with him, he took bread and blessed it and brake, and gave it unto us.

Then, suddenly, our eyes were open and we knew him—not a stranger at all, but Christ, our Savior Himself. Then He vanished from our sight. We had walked and talked with the resurrected Lord. How glorious the news! We rushed to Jerusalem to tell the apostles and others gathered there. They greeted us, saying, “Indeed, the Lord is risen, and hath appeared to Simon.”[18]

We then told them all that had happened on the road to Emmaus, and as we thus spoke, Jesus Christ Himself stood in our midst.

Song: He Lives

Alanna Taylor: Yes, Jesus lives, and He reigns in majesty over the whole earth, this very day. What would He have us do, in return for what He has done for us? As He has said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”[19] And as the promise has been given, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.”[20] “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”

Song: If Ye Love Me, Keep My Commandments




[1] Luke 2:9.

[2] Luke 2:10-11.

[3] Matthew 5:6.

[4] Matthew 5:14, 16.

[5] Matthew 5:44-45.

[6] Matthew 5:48.

[7] John 13:34.

[8] See Mark 10:13.

[9] Mark 10:14.

[10] See Matthew 14:17-21.

[11] Matthew 8:5-13.

[12] Matthew 8:23-27.

[13] Matthew 21:12-16.

[14] Luke 1:31-33.

[15] Luke 2:35.

[16] John 19:27.

[17] Luke 24:17.

[18] See Luke 24:34.

[19] John 14:15.

[20] 1 Corinthians 2:9.

Farewell: My Prayer For You

24 Apr. 2017


Farewell: My Prayer for You

President Larry Richards:

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

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

Sister Richards:

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

President Larry Richards:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,

Enwrought with golden and silver light,

The blue and the dim and the dark cloths

Of night and light and the half-light,

I would spread the cloths under your feet:

But I, being poor, have only my dreams;

I have spread my dreams under your feet;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the tops of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it;

And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths.[7]

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

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

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

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

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

Listen to this. Elder LeGrand Richards said this:

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

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

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

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

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

Earth’s crammed with heaven,

And every common bush afire with God:

But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

I’ve been changed for the better . . .

Because I knew you . . .

It may well be

That we will never meet again

In this lifetime

So let me say before we part

So much of me

Is made of what I learned from you

You’ll be with me

Like a hand print on my heart

And now whatever way

Our stories end

I know you have rewritten mine

By being my friend[17]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


[1] See D&C 88:118.

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

[3] See 2 Nephi 2:26.

[4] Alma 32:3.

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

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

[7] Isaiah 2:2–3.

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

[9] Joseph Smith—History 1:71, note.

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

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

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

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

[14] Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Aurora Leigh: A Poem J. Miller: London (1864), reprinted: Academy Chicago Printers: Chicago (1979),

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

[16] See William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure, act 2, scene 2,

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

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

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

[20] 1 Nephi 21:16.

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

Call for the Ball

25 Apr. 2017


Call for the Ball

There were only eight seconds left in the basketball game, and BYU was behind by one point. The BYU players knew that they would have the ball, but they also knew that they would need to travel the entire length of the court and get past the entire other team in order to score the much-needed points to win the game. The air was tense as the ref raised the whistle to his mouth and blew it.

The play started. BYU player Danny Ainge sprang forward and almost desperately called for the ball. He caught it, turned, and then started down the court. The defensive pattern that he saw was rather unexpected, but he got past one . . . two . . . three . . . four defenders and shot high over the final defender. As the ball sailed through the air and into the net, the BYU fans in the audience screamed, hugged, jumped—some, all at the same time—as it settled into their minds that BYU had won the basketball game.

Now, regardless of who you cheer for, this story has an analogy for each of our lives. All of us in this room are in the final crucial moments of a desperate conflict. We are preparing ourselves and our world for the Second Coming of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

As Ezra Taft Benson said,

For nearly six thousand years, God has held you in reserve to make your appearance in the final days before the Second Coming of the Lord…. God has saved for the final inning some of his strongest children, who will help bear off the Kingdom triumphantly.[1]

And make no mistake—by the way–that just like the BYU team, you too have an audience. The eyes of God and all the holy prophets are watching us—no pressure. This is the great dispensation that has been spoken of ever since the world began.

I have two questions for you today. Like Danny Ainge and the BYU basketball team, will you adapt to the unexpected? And two, will you overcome any opposition that comes in your way as you seek to fulfill your divine destiny here on earth?

First of all, adapting to the unexpected. Why would you encounter anything unexpected as you help prepare for the Second Coming? Let’s look at the following story.

When I was serving my mission in Argentina, we had a general authority come down. He walked in front of a huge group—about the size of this, actually. He walked up to a chalkboard and drew the following diagram. He turned to us and said, “Missionaries, count the squares.” If you’d like to engage in his challenge, I will give you twenty seconds to see how many squares you can count. At the end of that period of time, I will call time. And for those who would like to, you can share how many squares you have found. All right? Ready, set, go.

­[Time given to audience.]

And stop. All right, this is totally voluntary, but if you would like to and you got at least 16 squares, raise your hand. [Audience members raise their hands.] Excellent. Keep your hand up if you saw 20 or more squares. [Hands are still raised.] Well done. Keep your hand up if you saw 25 or more squares. [Hands are still raised.] Wow, this is almost unheard of. Keep your hand up if you saw all 30 squares. [Hands are still raised.] Thank you.

Now, some of you are curious where those squares were, so for curiosity’s sake, let me show you. There are 16 single squares,

9 two-by-two squares in locations such as the following,

4 three-by-three squares,


and 1 four-by-four square.

So, well done. This is a pretty impressive group. And we had about the same reaction as a mission when we completed this exercise. After our talking had died down a little bit and we saw all 30 squares, our visiting general authority again turned to us and said something to the following effect, with a little bit of supplement: “Missionaries, I need to tell you something. If you could see beyond the edges of this square, you would see that it is actually a cube that extends as far as your eyes can see.”


As we make decisions in life, we can only see so many variables that impact how things will turn out. We do the very best we can. Thankfully, we are partnering with a God to whom all things are present. Is it any wonder that He tells us that “my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways”[2]? And is it any wonder that as we partner with our omniscient Father that He will occasionally give us directions that may seem unexpected?

The question is how we react when something unexpected happens. Now, it is tempting, knowing the omniscience of God, to simply wait at home for Him to send you directions—please leave your house, please walk 50 feet, please serve Person X. After all, He does know so much more than we do. But it is our test, and as a perfect teacher, He—at least in my life—doesn’t work that way.

For me, I have found that God directs me best when I am already moving towards a worthy goal. To adapt John Bytheway’s analogy, an LDS speaker, I have found that God helps steer me best when I am like a car that is moving.[3] He can tap on the brakes. More often than not, He presses down hard on the accelerator or He likes to steer in different directions that I wouldn’t have anticipated.

It seems like this also happens in the scriptures. Consider, the good Samaritan could not have seen the wounded man who was beaten by thieves from his front porch that day.[4] Likewise, if Ammon had stayed in what I am certain was a very lovely room at Lamoni’s palace that day rather than going out to help with the sheep, he never would have had his rendezvous with opposing forces, literally disarmed them, and gotten the attention of the king and converted a small kingdom.[5]

The first principle in adapting to the unexpected is be on the move.

The second one comes from President Uchtdorf, who shared with us the children’s story about Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.[6] Willy Wonka owned a chocolate factory that sent chocolate throughout the world. He decided one day that he would hide golden tickets in five bars of chocolate, and whoever found them would receive two prizes: first, a tour of his mysterious factory, and second, a lifetime supply of chocolate.

In the book, the world becomes obsessed with these golden tickets. It’s as if the chocolate itself has lost its value and taste. And in addition, people even seem as if they base their happiness on whether or not the next chocolate bar they open has that golden ticket.

President Uchtdorf said each one of us has golden tickets. Hopefully, for us it is a good education, marriage, kids, the job of your dreams maybe—something like that. And that is wonderful. We need to be on the move. However, he reminds us that we can’t base our happiness on whether or not we have the golden tickets right now. We need to enjoy the chocolate with or without a golden ticket. As he said, “The happiest people I know are not those who find their golden ticket; they are those who, while in pursuit of worthy goals, discover and treasure the beauty and sweetness of the everyday moments.”[7]

I would like to add to President Uchtdorf that in addition to treasuring the moment, we need to stand ready to set down some of our golden tickets for a time in order to have our hands free to accept God’s golden ticket.

I think this has likely happened to most of us in our lives. I’d like to share a time when it happened to me. One of my golden tickets was I wanted to get an education that would allow me to best serve God. Now, that sounds like a pretty worthy goal, or so I thought. And I started looking at the résumés of people that I wanted to emulate—general authorities, other people I admired—and I started noticing some things. Many, but not all, had degrees from top universities. And I thought to myself, “Well, if I want to serve God, I must need to get that golden ticket—a degree from a top university, according to the world.

I worked hard. I studied. I got the best grades I could. I prepared for the tests that I’m sure you all look forward to taking someday. And I applied to a couple of colleges. During this entire process, I received one of the more explicit directions I have received in my life: “Wendy, do not go to a top-ranked college.” Now, I received three letters or emails from my golden ticket colleges of Harvard, of Stanford, and BYU of course. And the story would have been an easy one if they would have said no, and it would have made my life easy. But no, of course it was a challenge—and each one said yes.

I felt as if I held Willy Wonka’s own golden ticket in my hand. And it felt like it had my name on it: “Wendy Porter, come. You are welcome.” But I had a decision to make. I had to decide if I would hang on to my preconceived notion of what my golden ticket was or if I would set it down to free up my hands so God could give me the golden ticket He had written up for me.

President Richards has already told you where I went to school, so maybe this kind of ruins the end of the story if you were listening to that part. But I attended BYU. I got the skills I needed to help develop online courses at BYU. I established lifelong friendships with wonderful people. And best of all, I met my husband, Ben Porter.

What I learned is you can adapt to the unexpected when you move toward a goal. But then you listen to and act on the Holy Spirit as it turns you in new directions. I’ve also learned to enjoy what I have whether it has a golden ticket inside or not. I hope that at LDS Business College, we can do the same thing. Some of you may not have even known about LDS Business College as you were thinking about your own educational golden ticket after high school. You moved towards a goal; you ended up here. I hope you are very grateful to be here, and I hope you’re enjoying what you have.

I hope you too are getting the skills you need to bless the lives of others in your families, that you are making lifelong friendships. And who knows? Maybe you will have a similar experience to my own and get a spouse here, too. We’ll see.

In addition to adapting to the unexpected, we also need to overcome opposition. To talk about this, I want to give you a little test. I have a couple of Book of Mormon questions that get progressively harder. So, the first question—and you can go ahead and think of this, if you’d like to—who is pictured in this picture? That’s right, the stripling warriors. For those of you who may not be familiar with them, these were young warriors who fought with their Nephite friends, companions, to preserve their freedom. They “were true at all times,”[8] they were exact in obedience,[9] and even though they had never fought before, they said that “they did not fear death,”[10] that they knew “God would deliver them.”[11]

And question 2, they said that they did not doubt, because somebody else knew. If you’ve given a Mother’s Day talk, you may know this scripture. I guess that just gave it away, didn’t it? “We do not doubt our mothers knew it.”[12]

I have been blessed with an amazing mother, and father, and mother-in-law. And I, too, do know that I do not doubt that my mother, my parents know that. Their mothers and their fathers, they never fell away, and they said that they were so firm that they would suffer death rather than commit sin.[13]

Who were their parents? Just think about that for a second. Is there any Mother’s Day scripture that we could read about them? The best that I could find—which I do not recommend you share on Mother’s Day—was a description that Ammon and his brothers gave as they began their missionary journey to those who became the Anti-Nephi-Lehis. This is just a sampling of the language in those two verses: it says they were a wild, hardened people, that they delighted in murdering.[14] And it goes on and on and on.

Now, these two generations in the pictures, they overcame incredible opposition. The parents, when they were asked to repent by the missionaries who visited them, they could have easily said, “Look, I come from a bad background. I’ve had limited means. I just can’t achieve as much as other people.” Or, “Do you know what I’ve done? Did you read those scriptures? I can never be cleaned.”

They didn’t say that. Through Christ, they became clean. And they became such great examples that they raised the stripling warriors, which were featured on just about every elder’s wall that I think I saw. Not that . . . yeah.

In addition, the children had opposition to overcome as well. But it was different, right? I’m sure we all need to repent, but one of the major points of opposition that we focus on in the scriptures is that they were invited to fight, to defend the freedom of their nation. Now, when they were invited to fight—or they volunteered, really—but when it came up, they could have said, “You know, we’ve actually never fought before. In fact, I don’t know if you knew this, but when we were younger, our parents kind of threw away all of our swords, so we don’t really—we’re not really set up for this. And besides, we are really young.”

They didn’t give any of those excuses. And they were miraculously preserved—because they did not doubt and they were true to God’s commands—through Christ’s power. Again, they were able to overcome their opposition. So. how can we follow the examples of these two generations of Anti-Nephi-Lehis and overcome opposition in our own lives?

To tell you about that, I would like to share an experience that I had as a teenager. I decided to do track and field for a little while, and I tried an event called the high jump. Which, if you’re not familiar with that, what you do is you run toward a bar that is a little high, throw yourself over it, and then land on a mat or a cushion. I thought, “Why not?” I left my normal events and went over and tried this one.

I ran towards the bar, and—I don’t think I’m going to finish this story because I don’t think it’s relevant—but suffice it to say that height does not guarantee that you will be good at the high jump, and that I never became a professional high jumper. But as I walked away, I passed another event—an event called the pole vault. Now, you have not appreciated the height of a pole vault bar, which is probably two to three times higher than a high jump bar, until you have tried the high jump. But there is a difference between the high jump and the pole vault, and that is the pole.

Pole vaulters, they run at that incredibly high bar with everything that they have. Then they stick the pole into the ground and rely on it to take them over that incredible height. Likewise, each one of us has had the bar raised in our lives, and with that raised bar also comes raised opposition. But thankfully, we have the pole.

The pole is Christ. It is His power. It is His Atonement. And if we will run with everything we have towards that raised bar, stick the pole in the ground like a standard, and then rely on it to take us over, we can overcome any obstacle. That includes any sin. That includes any external factors as well, when it is God’s will.

I feel like I should share the following with people who—and this is a good general principle—but I’d like to specifically talk to those who are dealing with some serious sins right now. Let’s take the example of pornography. I want to plead with you, because I have had friends in this situation, do not try to high jump the pole vault. What does that mean? You can imagine somebody, even a skilled high jumper, standing next to the pole vault, and—despite their incredible skill—no matter what they do, alone they will never be able to make it over that high bar. But again, if you will go see your bishop, have him help you understand the power of God, His Atonement—it’s not going to be easy, but you can be clean. You will be clean.

There is one more thing I want to bring up. Before Danny Ainge could adapt to the unexpected, or before he could do anything else, he had to do something else. He had to get off the bench and call for the ball. How many of us can overcome our fear? It’s a lot easier to sit in these seats down here every week than it is to sit up here, or stand here, I’ll tell you that.

But, can we call for the ball? Can we go to the temple? Can we do family history? Can we share the gospel with others? Can we step up to serve? Can we ask that girl who is sitting a couple of rows away from us for her phone number, so we can start our eternal family? No pressure, guys.

Jeffrey R. Holland talked about that, as he attended Danny Ainge’s retirement ceremony, nowadays there are fewer and fewer of us who are willing to stand up, get off the bench, and call for the ball. This is not a zero-sum game. Every single one of us needs to call for the ball to help each other, set an example.

I remember once when I was a teenager—I hadn’t planned to share this—when I was a teenager, I represented my high school in a speech and debate competition. I sat in a large group of people, and the setup of this particular debate was that they would present a question, then you would raise your hand high if you wanted to speak on it. You got up, said if you were for or against it, and then presented your arguments very quickly.

Well, I didn’t expect the question to arise that they stated. Typically, it’s about a foreign event or something. They said, “Should high school students in Utah be allowed to watch R-rated movies during class?” People started raising their hands boldly and standing up. What surprised me was the arguments that came out. I heard arguments such as: “It’s art, and it should not be constrained,” “Why are you sheltering us?” “Don’t you know we already know about all of these sins?” “What’s wrong with a little nudity?” And so forth and so on.

I was quite shy at the time—I was taking debate and speech to overcome that—but I had a feeling that I needed to raise my hand, and I needed to stand up in that moment. If any of the rest of you get nervous, and “calling for the ball” in whatever setting you may be in may be hard, if it helps, just blank out your mind and do it. I blanked out my mind and raised my hand, a little bit too early, actually. But I raised my hand.

They called on me, and I went and stood up in front of the group. I shared the thoughts that came into my head, and the room became quiet and peaceful and still. After I sat down, the next individuals raised their hands, and—to the best of my recollection—everybody after me started to argue that R-rated movies should not be shown in high schools. Sometimes just one person needs to speak up to give the rest courage, for the silent majority to be heard. And we need that more and more right now in the world.

I want to testify to you that once you have the ball in your hand, if you will move towards worthy goals while listening carefully to the Spirit for any directions regarding stopping, accelerating, or turning, that you will be able to adapt to the unexpected. I likewise testify that if you give everything that you can, as you run towards worthy goals and rely upon Christ’s power and Atonement, you will be able to overcome any opposition you face, whether it is sin or external.

I know that if we can follow these principles and if we can rely on Christ’s power and Atonement, we can fulfill our destiny. We can prepare ourselves, and we can prepare our world for the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. I share this with you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

[1] Ezra Taft Benson, “In His Steps,” BYU Speeches, Mar. 4, 1979.

[2] Isaiah 55:8.

[3] See John Bytheway, What I Wish I’d Known When I Was Single: How To Do Life As A Young Adult, Deseret Book Co.: Salt Lake City (1999).

[4] See Luke 10:25–37.

[5] See Alma 17–19.

[6] Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.: (1964).

[7] Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Forget Me Not,” Oct. 2011 General Conference.

[8] Alma 53:20.

[9] See Alma 57:21.

[10] Alma 56:47.

[11] Alma 56:47.

[12] Alma 56:48.

[13] See Alma 24:19.

[14] See Alma 17:14.

We Should Be Better

28 Apr. 2017


We Should Be Better

Thank you so very much. Thank you for your kind words, Brother Shriner. I’m so grateful to be here with you wonderful young men and young women today. Let me tell you, when I look out across this group—Brother Kusch, I know you’ve been here for a while, but can I tell you what I see? I see students who have left their homes, their families, their countries, and even their continents. I see those who work full time and go to school full time. I see those here that I know that work full time and have a part-time job, and still come to school. I see those who work and go to school and still make time to serve in the temple, to do genealogy, and to volunteer with other service groups. You amaze me, students.

I see those who Skype with their families at night because they are thousands of miles away, and they want to be able to have family scripture study with them. I see those I know who are learning, who come from old ways of life, who have struggled and known hardship, and who are here to rebuild their lives—but not without tears and trials.

I see those who have been the first in their families to accept the gospel, who have found for themselves the truth—who, against all odds, have found a “pearl of great price.”[1] I see those who were originally unsure if they could succeed here at school, but who are working hard and are starting to discover for themselves that they really have that ability. I even see a few out there who still owe me homework.

Now, know that we love you and we pray for you. We pray for your academics, but more importantly, we pray for your eternal success. I can only believe that our Heavenly Father is very proud of you and all the sacrifices that you are making to be a better, more prepared you.

President Richards shared with me a personal story that he has agreed to allow me to share with you today. You should know that I think that President Richards is one of the finest men I know, almost without blemish. During his time here as president, he had the opportunity to go to the office of President Packer. As he waited, he spoke with the secretary to President Packer. One of the topics that they discussed was President Richards’ grandfather, who was Elder LeGrand Richards. For those of you who don’t know, Elder LeGrand Richards was a very beloved apostle.

Upon entering President Packer’s office, his secretary said to President Packer, “Do you know who President Richards’ grandfather was?”

And President Packer said, “Yes,” and nodding towards President Richards, said, “And he ought to be a better man.”

Well, that shocked me because I know of President Richards’ great faith and his extreme obedience. How could President Packer say that? Then I thought about my own father. Now, you should know that I had a great father, a man that lost his own parents when he was a young boy in Wisconsin. He was a man who I never saw make a selfish decision in all the years I knew him. Even as an adult, I lived across the street from him, and I never saw him even have a harsh word with his spouse. A man who was financially self-made by hard work, who loved his family and the gospel above all else, a mission president, a sealer, and ordained patriarch—but more importantly, if there was ever any shadow of doubt in that man, ever a thought of unkindness, I never saw it.

These words from President Packer hit me hard because I knew who my father was, and I should be a better man. And then the thought came that has stayed with me ever since: that you and I both know who our Father is, and we should be better men and women. If we recognize from whom we have descended, our divine lineage, how can we accept the mediocracy with which we sometimes act? I should expect more from myself.

Recently, an apostle discussing our efforts said that the Lord is easily pleased with our efforts but hard to satisfy.[2] While I am sure that God is pleased with our efforts, we must continue to progress if, in the end, we would have Him satisfied. What is it, then, that we must do?

First, Joseph Smith said we can’t keep the commandments unless we know them.[3] When I was a young boy, my parents took me to Mexico. And there I saw, for the first time, people parasailing. It was pretty neat. This was back in the 80s, and it was right when the sport was developing.

We didn’t have the money to go parasailing, but at least I knew about it. So when we got back, my cousins and I went out to what is now Eagle Mountain to the jump school there, and we bought an old, old parachute. Then we decided that we would take it down to Yuba Lake. First, we stopped by the farm to the Quonset shed out where the potato barn is, and we got the longest rope we could find—hundreds of feet long. And we tied it to the back of the boat, and we went up the beach as far as we could, and we tied it onto the old parachute that we got, tied on a harness with a crude knot. We didn’t exactly know how to fly it, so we had a little discussion about how we could get it into the air.

We put the 14-year-old—now, mind you, there were none of us over 16—but we put the 14-year-old in the boat, and we said, “Now, when we tell you, gun it as hard as you can, and this will work.” Well, I was kind of sure it would work, so I talked Craig into doing it instead—my cousin. Brian hit the gas, and it pulled Craig down the beach at ever-increasing speeds, and when he hit the water, he went right under the water just like a fishing lure.

By the time we got Craig up, he was almost drowned; not quite, but he sure didn’t want to do it again. So we talked Dain into it instead. I said, “Listen, Dain. This time it’s going to be different. We’ll hold the chute up.” Because the chute hadn’t inflated. “We’ll each hold the chute up on each side, and we’ll just leave Brian in the boat, and when he hits it, we’ll run down the beach with you.”

Brian hit the gas again, and we ran down the beach, and Craig let go of his side of the chute, but I didn’t let go of mine quick enough. So, the whole chute turned and took Dain sideways right into the bushes. I should tell you there was no permanent damage, but there was quite a bit of pain involved. Dain wasn’t about to try it again either.

But I still had this dream, so I hooked on this harness and I told those guys, “You hold the chute so it will fill up with air, and don’t let go until I yell. Hopefully, we’ll keep it straight.”

So, Brian hit the gas, we ran down the beach, I yelled let go, they let go, and the chute was partially inflated—enough that I didn’t go under the water but not enough that I could get off the top of the water. I was like one of those cartoon characters, running across the water until the chute filled up enough to take me up into the air. And it took me up and up and up. Pretty soon, I was looking straight down into the back of the boat, hundreds of feet in the air. That was pretty exciting. Success.

But then, as it was dragging it through the air, the problem with my theory was that a parachute is made for slow descent. It’s not made to be drug behind a boat like a parasail is. A parasail can take the wind; the parachute can’t. So as the parachute filled up with air, the front of it would buckle and then fill back up and pop it really hard. It would wake you up in the morning, okay?

After we realized that and we slowed the boat down a little bit, got it slowed down, life was pretty good. It was pretty neat for the first 5, 10, 15, 20 minutes. And then the thought finally occurred to me, we never discussed how to get down. We only discussed how to get up. So, now I’d got a 14-year-old driving around Yuba Lake, and around, and around, not knowing what to do. He decided that the beach wasn’t a good idea to start with, so let’s do it in the lake. He won’t get hurt when he hits the lake, right?

So, he shut off the boat, I came down. The problem is when I came down, there is still a parachute to come down on top of my head. The parachute, which was now wet, and all the cords that used to hold me up were now holding me down.

Brothers and sisters, it was a terrifying experience to be under the water with that over my head. Luckily, I had been on swim team, and I managed to get out from under it, but guess what? Nobody else wanted to do it.

A couple of years later, when I was on my mission, I got a call from my cousin and he said my aunt burned it. I was so frustrated; they burned the chute. I said, “Why?” And he said, “Well, we got this great idea. You know, we used to take the pickup truck and waterski down at the farm. It was really cool. We would just take the chute and put it behind the truck. That would work.” Until they broke Dain’s legs, and then they said, “No, it doesn’t work.” So, my aunt burned the chute.

Sometimes, it’s better to know the right way to do things, don’t you think? It would have been a much better experience if we would just simply have known how to do it. Brothers and sisters, we have been given so many ways to know how to do things.

Kirsten and George, would you come up here? We’re going to do a little experience. George, come on up here. George, do you feel like you have a lot of hot air today? Michelle, will you come help me? So, George, we only have a few minutes, so you’ve got to be kind of quick about this. I want you—I want to see how big George’s lungs are, okay? He’s going to blow this bag up as much as he can with five breaths, okay? He’s going to blow it up like a balloon. Take big breaths, and blow it up like a balloon, will you? One, two—come on, bigger than that. Let’s help him out a little bit. Let’s open this up here—three, four, five. Okay, hold on. This isn’t working, George [He can’t inflate the balloon].

Something is wrong here. Let’s take it all out and try again, can we? Okay, this time you’ve got to blow it up big, okay? Come on now, big breaths. One, two, three—don’t pass out on me—four—you’ve got one more—five. Let’s see how we did here. We might have expected a little bit more from my friend here, but all right. Thanks, George. Go sit down.

All right. Kirsten, give it a try, will you? But you know what, we’re going to change it for Kirsten. We’re going to change the rules, George. Is that okay? We’re only going to give Kirsten one breath, and if she doesn’t beat you—if she doesn’t get more than you got in five breaths, in one breath—she fails her classes this semester. All right? Help her out, Michelle. Hold up that bag.

Okay, go ahead, give it a shot. [Laughter and applause] All right. Thank you, Kirsten. She passes. I’m glad. All right. Now, what do we know? This demonstrates the Bernoulli principle. The Bernoulli principle. Bernoulli was the guy that—it’s the same principle that makes an airplane fly. That is, when she blows the air in, it makes a low-pressure zone that sucks in air from around her. If she put her face right against the bag, it’s only filled with what you can blow out your lungs. But if you put it a little bit further away from you, that low pressure that is caused by the speed of the air going into the bag sucks in other air around with it. Pretty neat.

There are principles at play in this life that if we but know them and apply them, our efforts will go so much further. We can be more efficient in our time and our efforts if we will just pay attention to those principles.

Now, let’s identify what it is that will really bring us happiness. Joseph Smith, in an oft-quoted statement, said, “Happiness is the object and design of our existence.” However, we usually miss the caveat that follows: “and will be the end thereof, if”—you’ve got to love that word if— “we pursue the path that leads to it.”[4]

Just as we are taught in Doctrine and Covenants 130, the only way to obtain any blessing is by obedience to the law upon which it is set.[5] Now, just in case you were wondering what the path to happiness is, Joseph said, “And this path is virtue, uprightness, faithfulness, holiness, and keeping all the commandments of God.”[6]

Now just as an aside, let me tell you, as an attorney, I have had the opportunity to spend many hours in a courtroom. You might find it interesting that on Monday morning, the courts do roll call. In Ogden or West Valley, there is always a long line of men and women that come in in orange, who have been arrested over the weekend. They are brought into the courtroom in chains so that the judge can conduct a first hearing.

 If you sat and categorized the reasons that they are there, the vast majority would fall into two categories. You may think I have oversimplified it, but try it sometime. It really is the truth. Those two categories are: violations of the Word of Wisdom and violations of the law of chastity. These laws cannot be broken without corresponding unhappiness, just like any other commandment.

How should we proceed to find happiness? First, it falls to us to do some work. While life is meant to be experiential in nature, we have been given incredible resources to make sure we know His will. He has given us prophets, scriptures, parents, seminary and institutes, and most importantly, the Holy Spirit. We are not left to guess at it, like I was with the parachute, or poor George was with his bag.

Unfortunately, our lack of knowledge is not what usually keeps us from coming to God. We have those resources and can use them. Indeed, one of the themes that traverses the scriptures is that we can only please God by bending our will to His. That seems to be more of a problem.

In the Old Testament, we read the story that my children have heard way too many times—the story of Saul, the leader of Israel, who the prophet Samuel told to destroy everything of the Amalekites. When he returned, he brought with him the king and some of the best of the flocks for sacrifice. The prophet informed him that the Lord has greater happiness in obedience than in sacrifice, and the Lord rejected Saul from being king.[7]

We’re going to just kind of summarize this because we only have a few minutes left. This is Balaam. Balaam was a prophet in Midian. When the children of Israel started to come into the new land, the people there–the Moabites—were afraid. And they needed somebody to come and curse the Israelites. They tried to talk Balaam into it. They tried to bribe him. They tried to get him excited about it. And each time they would come, he would say, “I can’t go with you unless the Lord tells me I can go with you.”

But each time he says, “But wait . . . let me go ask, see if I can go.” Well, by the second time he asked, he should kind of know the answer, right? But because he has the same desires as you and I do, he has to keep going back and asking for more. Eventually, as he is going, the servant of the Lord is there to kill him to stop him from going to curse the children of Israel.[8]

Now, you think Shrek[9] has an exclusive on talking donkeys? No, Balaam’s donkey talks to him, and Balaam isn’t very quick to learn. He doesn’t learn one principle, and that is that we have to do it Heavenly Father’s way.

In the modern world, Joseph Smith and Martin Harris were guilty of a similar line of thinking. In June of 1828, after Joseph had dictated the 116 pages of the book of Lehi, Martin—who was funding the project—repeatedly asked if he could take the 116 pages to show his wife so she would get off his back. The answer was still no. Finally, the third time, they were given permission to do it but under strict covenants, which were broken. And you know the devastating consequences of losing the majority of the book of Lehi.[10]

As an attorney, I like the idea of making our best case. Maybe, if I do a really good job of preparing my own brief and presenting it in a really good way, then He—our Heavenly Father—will give me what I ask for. Maybe I can talk Him into it if I am just a little bit more eloquent.

However, this thinking is flawed. We should seek the will of our Father, not our own. The Bible Dictionary says, “Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other. The object of prayer is not to change the will of God.”[11] If it’s not to change His will but that we need the wills to become as one, whose will is it that needs to change? Prayer should be about changing our hearts and our minds.

When it comes to doing what the Lord wants instead of what I want, I unfortunately have some of my own stories. I will tell you what I’ve told few others because of my own embarrassment. The two greatest financial mistakes I’ve ever made in life, I knew better. I had prayed for getting the deal done for weeks. However, on the day that we were to sign, I knew it wasn’t a good idea. The feeling of the Spirit was subtle, but it was there. But the feeling of greed was there, and it was powerful.

I had a sense that it was not a good idea. I even half-heartedly tried to talk my partner out of doing the deal. However, in the end, the Lord let me have my own way. I heard the voice, and I didn’t listen, and it cost us millions of dollars. Why do we insist on doing such stupid things? Zig Ziglar said, “Some of us learn from other people’s mistakes and the rest of us have to be other people.”[12]

Each of us one day will stand before Christ to be judged. It will not be enough for me to say or for you to say that we knew him. James says in the New Testament, with a note of sarcasm, “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?”[13]

Remember that at that judgment day, we will be judged according to our deeds and our desires. Do we desire His will? Have we become like Christ, who was always doing the Father’s will? It would appear that even the atoning power was partially derived by His bending His will to His Father’s. Is it then so hard to believe that unless we bend our will to His, we “can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God”[14]?

One way to bend our will to our Father’s is by serving Him. When I was a boy, we had this wonderful opportunity to go hunting in southern Utah. My uncle owned this farm with his partner, named Jack. Jack was a character bigger than life. He was also the stake president in southern Utah. After a great weekend of hunting, on Sunday we went to priest’s quorum, and Jack, the stake president, comes into priests quorum. And he tells us, “Guess what, guys? You don’t need to do all these things that these guys are telling you. It’s okay if you don’t keep all these commandments because you know what? When I die, I’m going to become a god, and I’m going to build a duck-hunting world.” I thought, “Hey, this is pretty cool.”

And he said, “And if you guys don’t do what it takes to qualify, you can come carry my decoys and my ducks on my earth.” Well, it had its intended effect. It was very motivational. There was no way I was carrying his decoys for the rest of eternity.

The problem is, I learned an untrue principle. I labored under the false assumption that if I worked hard enough in life, that I would qualify to have others serve me in the next life. One day recently, I learned a higher truth. While reading in Doctrine and Covenants 76 on a totally unrelated topic, I read that those of the celestial kingdom would minister to those of the terrestrial.[15]

Wait, what was that? Even if I make it to the celestial kingdom, I’m going to be serving others? And then the truth dawned on me: all the service we give here is not to earn some great reward. A primary purpose of life on earth is to learn to live a celestial life of happiness like our Father’s.

God said, “Behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”[16] His work is His happiness and His glory. Brigham Young said that if you didn’t qualify for the celestial kingdom, to put you there wouldn’t make you happy anyways.[17] Those not in the celestial kingdom have never learned to live the life of happiness because they did not qualify for it. They didn’t learn to serve others.

Throughout the scriptures, we are admonished to serve others. Could it really be that all this service we are asked to do is to help us learn to live and enjoy a celestial life? Could the call of King Benjamin and President Monson really be a request to help us learn how to live a celestial life?

After I had struggled with this new idea, I decided that if it were really true, surely I ought to be able to find it in the teachings of the prophets. Then I found it. The following quote comes from a member of the First Presidency, given at General Conference. I guess I just hadn’t been ready for it when it was given.

President Marion G. Romney said,

By serving and lifting others…. we experience the only true and lasting happiness. Service is not something that we endure on this earth so we can earn the right to live in the celestial kingdom. Service is the very fiber of which . . . life in the celestial kingdom is made.

“Knowing that service is what gives our Father in Heaven fulfillment, and knowing that we want to be where He is and as He is, why must we be commanded to serve one another? Oh, for the glorious day when these things all come naturally because of the purity of our hearts.[18]

Can you imagine how well prepared for celestial life our current prophet is? Do you have any doubts about how easily he will fall into the next life, where he can continue to minister to others?

In conclusion, this is a hibiscus flower. I have a tree in my yard that in the summer, looks something like this. It has a beautiful flower on it. It’s a great tree—not so great for Utah—but a great tree. It’s beautiful. When I was shopping a year later, I found a bush that has the same flower on it. And I thought, “How cool am I? I can put them both in the front yard, and they will match, and it will be beautiful.” And then I found out that it is the exact same bush. It is the same flower. It doesn’t match; it’s the same flower.

If you really want to be a tree, it will take a lot of work, especially at the beginning. You must constantly be pruning anything away from the trunk that will threaten to turn it back into a bush. My young friends, you can make your life what you want it to be, but it will take a lot of work, especially in the beginning. You must be pruning away those things that waste time. If you want to be more than you can even imagine, you will have to check your pride at the door and learn to live God’s rules, by the principles of happiness that He has handed down to us as commandments. Do not forget who you Father is, and do not accept mediocracy.

I testify that Christ “is the light, the life, and the hope of the world. His way is the path that leads to happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come.”[19] It is only by and through our Savior, Jesus Christ, and in keeping His commandments that we can find His happiness and become like Him. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


[1] Matthew 13:46.

[2] George Macdonald, in Neal A. Maxwell, “‘Endure It Well,’” Apr. 1990 General Conference.

[3] See Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith (1976), 256.

[4] Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith (1976), 255–256.

[5] See D&C 130:21.

[6] Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith (1976), 255–256.

[7] See 1 Samuel 13.

[8] See Numbers 22.

[9] Shrek, DreamWorks Animation (2001).

[10] See D&C 3, 10.

[11] Bible Dictionary, “Prayer.”

[12] “Learning from Mistakes,” Ziglar, Oct. 10,2015,

[13] James 2:19–20.

[14] See 3 Nephi 11:37–38.

[15] See D&C 76:86–87.

[16] Moses 1:39.

[17] See Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, 95.

[18] Marion G. Romney, “The Celestial Nature of Self-reliance,” Oct. 1982 General Conference.

[19] “The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” Ensign, Apr. 2000, pp. 2.

3 Principles for Success

28 Apr. 2017


Three Principles for Success

Wow. Thank you. You look great! I have a question for you. Do you feel as great as you look? What a great privilege for me and my wife, Naume, to be with you today. With our two daughters we have our first degrees—both have graduated from BYU. We can look at you with great amazement for the opportunities which lie ahead of you. You, of course—by choosing to be in this consecrated and sacred institution—understand the expected end spoken of by Jeremiah because you have not only sought education, but you have also positioned yourself to seek Him with all your hearts.[1]

As you reflect upon the LDS Business College Honor Code, you, like Solomon of ancient times, ask the Lord for an “understanding heart.”[2] Of all the institutions you could have chosen, you chose to be here. Why? You are aware of the complexity of the world in which you are preparing yourself to fit out there. You are aware of your daily choices. You are aware that these daily choices will have a positive or negative impact, not only to your children, but to your posterity.

Solomon, in resuming his leadership role as a king, acknowledged the complexity of the multitude of people whom he had stewardship over. Solomon asked, “Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people.”[3]

Realizing the challenges of navigating your way through this intricate world, you chose to resume your career here. What a great choice. You should feel good! Feel great, right? With these kinds of choices there lies great opportunities ahead of you.

The Lord is pleased with your choices, just as He was pleased with Solomon’s request. He said this to Solomon, which He says to you today: “I have given thee a wise and understanding heart; so that there [is] none like thee.”[4]

You are gaining a balance with your spiritual learning along with your academic training. You will be more equipped to deal with any situation out there. The Lord further said to Solomon, “And I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches and honor: so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto thee, all thy days.”[5]

You grow “line upon line, precept upon precept,”[6] as you keep one eye to your envisioned profession, and the other eye to the scriptures and the ways of the living prophets and apostles.

You realize the Lord’s promise to Joshua when he was faced with uncertainty. Shortly after the death of Moses, Joshua resumed leadership. He was uncertain of what to expect in his new role. Are you uncertain what to expect out there? As you face the unpredictable world, take counsel from the Lord’s promise to Joshua, which, in reality, is a promise to you today:

This book of the [Lord] shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.[7]

President Howard W. Hunter counseled that we study the scriptures:

It is certain that one who studies the scriptures every day accomplishes far more than one who devotes considerable time one day and then lets days go by before continuing. Not only should we study each day, but there should be a regular time set aside when we can concentrate without interference.[8]

So, as we do that, here is my invitation to you, my dear friends: “With all thy getting get understanding.”[9] In getting understanding, there are three definitions I would like to look at. The first one is intelligence, and then discernment, and unity.

So, let’s look, as we listen to President Uchtdorf here talking about intelligence. I would like you to be thinking of these questions: how do I apply my mission experience to this present day? The second one: how do I overcome fear? The third one: How do I make big and small decisions? Fourth: how do I better study and apply the scriptures into our lives.

So, intelligence:

[Video—President Dieter F. Uchtdorf]

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf: As a people, we rightfully place high priority on secular learning and vocational development. We want, and we must, excel in scholarship and craftsmanship. I commend you for striving diligently to gain an education and become an expert in your field. I invite you also to become an expert in the doctrines of the gospel.

Young Man’s Voice: The best school on earth—the most important place in my life—is the temple, the House of the Lord.

Okay. I would like to invite you, with the preparation which you have made as you were looking at those pictures, I would like to invite you to participate with me. here. As you participate here is the rule: 30-second responses. If you go beyond, I will help you from here.

Now, share your impressions. As you do that, just listen to what—let me just share this quote from Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. He said,

One of the primal purposes of mortality is to learn—to gain knowledge and intelligence. Doctrine and Covenants 93:36 states, “The glory of God is intelligence.” You might think intelligence means being gifted in academic work, but intelligence also means applying the knowledge we obtain for righteous purposes.

Knowledge, both temporal and spiritual, comes in steps. My testimony grew line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, there a little (see Isaiah 28:10)—the way it does for almost all members of the Church. As a boy, I recall my mother reading Book of Mormon and the Church history stories to me. I felt a sweet, peaceful, reassuring feeling that what I was learning was true. This feeling developed into a sincere desire to learn more by studying the scriptures. Nothing has had a greater impact on my life than reading, studying, and searching the scriptures in order to gain more knowledge and intelligence.[10]

Any impressions you would like to share at this time? Anyone?

Zach Johnson: Zach Johnson, Seattle, Washington. I just think that it’s important to always be reading, always be . . . like, have it fresh in your mind. That way, when it’s time to bake a cake, you’re ready to go.

Elder Dube: Please stand up so that they can see you.

Young Woman: In D&C 93, it was basically saying that the knowledge of God is pure intelligence, and if we want to become like God, we have to gain that intelligence for ourselves here in our mortal existence and life.

Elder Dube: Thank you. We also need to act intelligently. Two summers ago during our only summer break in Tamara, the stake president invited us, my wife and I, to their home. This was in a boat—we were going to go in a boat and in a raft. And so, what happened here, I said to my wife, “You know what? You and I, we need to just stay in the boat because the only swimming which we are familiar with is the swimming which we enjoyed when we were young, in streams and puddles—if you call that swimming at all.”

So, we decided we would sit on the boat, and Sister Jensen, the wife of the stake president, said, “Well, good luck with my husband, because he is very persuasive.” So, we watched our three daughters—Rose, Rachel, and Edith—go into this raft, and they were really having a great time. Also, with persuasion from President Jensen and his wife, I thought after a while and I said, “You know what? I think I can try it.” So, look at what happened. I got in! I got on this raft. It wasn’t funny.

Now, I got as comfortable as you can be when you find out you are not comfortable, all you can do is raise your hand. I was trying to raise my hand, but at the same time, I was holding on for dear life. That was not an intelligent action, but a foolish action. It was important for me to consider what my limitations were, and the consequences of taking that step.

In the Old Testament, Saul felt pressured. The responsibility of leadership fell heavily on his shoulders. He knew very well that he should have waited for Samuel. When Samuel did not arrive after seven days, which was the time appointed, Saul decided to make a rash decision. He decided to present an offering to God himself, something which he was not entitled to do.

Upon Samuel’s arrival, which was shortly after Saul had offered the burnt offering, Samuel was shocked. Samuel asked Saul, “What hast thou done?”[11] Saul fumbled for words in justifying his actions:

Because I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that thou camest not within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered themselves together at Michmash;

Therefore said I, The Philistines will come down now upon me to Gilgal, and I have not made supplication unto the Lord: I forced myself therefore, and offered a burnt offering.[12]

This decision really cost Saul dearly. He went into depression, turned to a fortune teller for help, attempted murder, and in the end, took his own life. His decision to act hastily cost him dearly. Patience, knowledge, and preparation is the key to success and happiness. That’s right! Your effort and diligence in getting understanding will help you to know the mysteries of God, and as you continue in the path of discipleship, you will be given the greater portion of the word until it is given unto you to know the mysteries of God.

Any impressions? Anyone? Please.

Jesse Christensen: Jesse Christensen, Laguna Beach, California: I actually thought it was somewhat interesting you brought up, where you said, just wait. Be patient. On my mission, my mission president quoted me—the circumstance came for a bad reason, but—it can wait. We can be patient. And we need to be obedient, just kind of how the prophet Samuel was with Saul.

Elder Dube: Thank you. Any impressions? How does this—what we are talking about—really help us to overcome fear? Any impressions on that? Please.

Karanda: Hi, my name is Karanda, and I’m from Payson, Utah. I think that just being patient in general helps us to overcome fear because sometimes we rush into things, and we have these blinders on. We know what we need to do, just like Saul—he knew what the end goal was—but sometimes we forget the processes along the way. And that’s where Heavenly Father takes the time to teach us, in step by small step.

Elder Dube: Thank you. Please.

Jason Martinez: Jason Martinez from Mexico. I really like what you said about patience. I believe that the Lord, He knows what we need. And if we have patience, we will find happiness along the way and the Lord will give us at the right time what we need.

Elder Dube: Thank you. Any impressions? Remember those four questions again as you share your impressions. You remember: can I take my mission experience with me here? How do I overcome fear? What’s the other one? I need your help. I’m stuck. Do you remember the other two? How do I make small and big decisions? Okay, one more. How do I apply the scriptures? So please, share those impressions. Thank you for coming to my rescue.

Please. There is a sister there; would you stand so they can see you, those with the mics? Please, sister.

Woman: Hi. So, I was thinking of all the things, and oftentimes the adversary likes to makes us focus on the things hedging our way and blocking our road. And I think as we put on the lenses of the scriptures, and we start each day with the scriptures, it allows us to see the path that our Heavenly Father would show us, that He wants us to see. And it gives us the way to apply things in our lives. So instead of focusing on things that block our way, as we apply the scriptures in our lives, we can see the clear route.

Elder Dube: Thank you. Okay, one more. There was a sister there.

Woman: I just thought of my mission and how—sorry, I’m nervous—it took time for me to get understanding on my mission. When I first went to the field, it was hard to grasp all the concepts on my mission. And it’s just like here at college—I’m doing accounting. It doesn’t come easy for me. It’s hard to get that intelligence and apply it. But with patience and continued studying and faith, we can get the understanding that we need.

Elder Dube: Thank you. Okay, let’s watch this as we think of discernment. Let’s watch Elder and Sister Bednar here.


Moderator: This question comes from a young man in New Zealand, and just came in. And he says the following: “I find it hard to talk to my parents about situations that I have been in. I don’t want them to be disappointed with me or angry that I couldn’t cope with peer pressure. What advice do you have?”

Elder Bednar: This is a question where we have to be wise in how we answer this. It would be easy to say, “Well, just talk to your parents,” but this may be a case where parents possibly could be abusive, and that’s why he’s afraid to talk. So there is a lot that we don’t know, and we don’t want to give some generic answer that may not be appropriate to the specific circumstances of this young man.

So here’s a principle can help this young man come to the answer to his question. The spiritual gift of discernment is the ability to see not just with natural eyes, but with spiritual eyes; to hear not just with natural ears, but with spiritual ears. This young man needs to learn about the spiritual gift of discernment so it can operate in his life.

And what discernment ultimately means is not just recognizing between good and bad, but discernment is the capacity, the spiritual gift, to see the good in someone else that that individual perhaps has not recognized. And it’s also the ability to help them develop it.[13]

Okay, any impressions as we tie in any of those questions to discernment? Yes, those 30-second responses, please. Thank you.

Young Man: I would think that, as Elder Bednar said to see the good in other people, I think that can apply to ourselves as well. Sometimes we tend to see our faults more than our strengths.

Young Man: I would also say that the spirit of discernment really helps us to see not only the good in people, but really helps us understand how Heavenly Father sees us and how He can see others as well. Because as we discern, we discern their feelings, sometimes their thoughts. And that allows us a better understanding of how to help those individuals.

Young Woman: I think we have discernment as well when you are looking and seeing with spiritual eyes, and you can see how you can help people and know what you need to read in the scriptures. And that can help, as well, when you are struggling through things.

Elder Dube: Thank you. We’ll come back to the impressions. Let me just jump into the first principle. Remember, we said intelligence, discernment, and unity. Now, how do we bring all that together?

As I think of unity, I am reminded of my experience as a newly-called member of the Seventy in 2012, as I got into the Church Office Building in the auditorium hall. I got in there with these leaders from different parts of the world, and as I walked nervously, trying to find my way somewhere to sit—very, very nervous—Elder Holland spotted me. He came to me with a big smile, and said, “Edward, it is good to see you here!” Then he started playing with my cheeks! I felt like a baby.

You know, I noticed the following day, in the very same building, Elder Holland playing with Elder Oaks’—his senior—cheeks! And I just was amazed. I mean, to feel this love and unity. To feel the love and unity among the Brethren, but also to feel how this connects us with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Is this the love and unity which Heavenly Father recorded in John, when He said, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”[14]

Or this same love, Elder Holland said this about Heavenly Father’s love for us in sending His Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ, to come and sacrifice for us. Elder Holland said this:

It is the grand truth that in all that Jesus came to say and do, including and especially in His atoning suffering and sacrifice, He was showing us who and what God our Eternal Father is like, how completely devoted He is to His children in every age and nation. In word and in deed Jesus was trying to reveal and make personal to us the true nature of His Father, our Father in Heaven.[15]

I just want you to know that, as you look at these principles closely in seeking understanding— “With all thy getting get understanding”[16]—in intelligence, in discernment, and in unity, you will find success.

I said I am going to ask you for impressions, so 30 seconds. Actually, we are going to 20 seconds now. How does this discussion relate to applying my mission experience to what I am doing now? Anyone? Please, sister, right here.

Stephanie Brown: My name is Stephanie Brown. I’m from West Valley, Utah. I didn’t go on a mission, but I was married the first time when I was 19, and I have four children. Three of my four are inactive, and I have found that the more I’ve been able to study myself and to be able to better myself as a person, it has spilled over into my children’s lives for the better.

Elder Dube: Thank you. The second question—how does this relate to making big and small decisions? Please.

Diandra: My name is Diandra. I’m from Indonesia. I think that making big and small decisions takes lot of patience, lots of thinking, and with intelligence. And thinking about how our decisions affect other people is going to be very helpful because every decision that we make in our lives is not just going to affect our life; it’s going to affect our family or future family.

Elder Dube: Thank you. You’re right. Next question—we discussed about this overcoming fear, right? The fourth one—how does this discussion relate to receiving revelation and guidance for a career? Please.

Young Man: I think that when we read the scriptures, it helps us to look through proper lenses, like, with spiritual lenses, so we are able to see what the best opportunities, the best plan that our Heavenly Father has for us in careers or our education, that we may be trying to achieve.

Elder Dube: Thank you. Brothers and sisters, my dear friends, I know that as you take time to study those scriptures and think about them, and as you listen to the impressions—note what I said, maybe the impressions when we listen to the choir, or . . . I know that everything, all the preparations which were made for this devotional, it helped you to be taught. My invitation to you—will you act upon those impressions? I want you to know that as you act upon those impressions, you will find the success which you are seeking.

The Lord Jesus Christ lives today. I know He does through those 15 men we sustain as prophets, seers, and revelators. I so testify, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


[1] See Jeremiah 29:31.

[2] 1 Kings 3:9.

[3] 1 Kings 3:9.

[4] 1 Kings 3:12.

[5] 1 Kings 3:13.

[6] Isaiah 28:13; 2 Nephi 28:30, D&C 98:12, 128:21. See Isaiah 28:10.

[7] Joshua 1:8.

[8] Howard W. Hunter, “Reading the Scriptures,” Oct. 1979 General Conference.

[9] Proverbs 4:7.

[10] David A. Bednar, “The Glory of God Is Intelligence,” Liahona, Oct. 2007.

[11] 1 Samuel 13:11.

[12] 1 Samuel 13:11.

[13] “Face to Face with Elder and Sister Bednar,” May 12, 2015,

[14] John 3:16.

[15] Jeffrey R. Holland, “The Grandeur of God,” Oct. 2003 General Conference.

[16] Proverbs 4:7.