Turning Points Are Times to Trust
For several months, we have been celebrating with many special events the 125th birthday of the LDS Business College. In preparing this talk, I found myself asking [slide 1]: What do these 125 years of experience look like? Lynn M. Hilton paints the picture for us in The History of LDS Business College and Its Parent Institutions 1886-1993 (published by LDS Business College, 1995). It is a vivid picture of men and women preparing thousands of students with employable skills in a spiritual environment and of those same men and women [slide 2] applying the principles of faith, patience, and trust amidst Turning Points, where one decision could have changed everything.
In July of 1886, William Dougall proposed to several citizens that the youth of Salt Lake City should have a school like the Brigham Young Academy that Dr. Karl G. Maeser had started in Provo. They all agreed to help. While Dr. Maeser selected a teacher to train as the principal, the name they were called at the time, William Dougall got pledges of $1,000 each from Wilford Woodruff, president of the Twelve Apostles; Elias Morris, a prominent and successful local businessman; and George Q. Cannon, counselor to President John Taylor in the First Presidency. Woodruff, who was handling Church financial matters under President Taylor, also pledged $10,000 from the Church. This donation was money the Church did not have, but it illustrates the faith of these brethren. (Hilton, 118)
And so exactly 125 years ago today, November 15, 1886, the Salt Lake Stake Academy, now known as LDS Business College, opened its doors to 84 students. Since that day, the fate of the College has hung in the balance several times. There is a powerful theme running through the history of three of those turning points,where one decision changed everything. From its infancy, funding was an issue for the College. Salaries were paid through Church appropriations, which consisted of part cash and part produce from the Church General Storehouse.
The Turning Point came in 1893 when the Church was not able to furnish appropriations for the institution any longer. As a result, President Done [slide 3] and the faculty [slide 4] were compelled to allow the institution to die, or work at a financial loss.” (Hilton, 60.) Acting with faith, patience, and trust [slide 5], they chose to continue working diligently even at a financial loss. President Done approached The First Presidency and the Church Board of Education with a plan. They agreed.
Now we all know, when men and women act in faith,obstacles tend to arise. And five years later on June 27, 1898, President Done reported to the board: “With your consent, I . . . assumed the entire financial management of the school, engaging to pay the teachers associated such proportion of their nominal salaries as income from tuition would justify. The result [has been] a loss to all of us of about fifty per cent of our nominal salaries.” (Hilton, 60-61, from William Done’s report to the board, College Journal History, unpublished, June 27, 1898)
How had these early school leaders and faculty continued for five years amidst such impoverished circumstances? The school was considered a temporary entity, it used borrowed or rented quarters, and each new academic year was planned only after funds had been found, which always occurred just a week or two before classes were to begin (Hilton, Preface), and yet the president and faculty had still acted in faith, diligently putting forth their best effort and then waited patiently trusting in the Lord that the right thing would happen.
By May of 1899, many believed the College would be closed because of its financial problems. John Henry Evans of the faculty described the graduation exercises as being “gloomy as a funeral. They were held in the Assembly Hall [on Temple Square]. Friends greeted one another in silence and extreme gravity. The very day was cloudy and foreboding.” Of those taking part on the program, Dr. Karl G. Maeser, the first superintendent of the Church Board of Education and the first principal of the school, was the only one who had encouraging words concerning the future of the College. In his broken German accent, he declared [slide 6]:
“The school is not dead! Nor is she going to die! On the contrary, her future will be more glorious than her past!” (Hilton, 68, from John Henry Evans’, An Historical Sketch of the LDS University, published in S. Book, 1919, 24-28.)
And now we see how the Lord works. That remarkable prediction together with letters of protest written against closing the school inspired Joseph E. Taylor, first counselor in the Salt Lake Stake stake presidency, to undertake the task of saving the College. With conviction, he preached, “The Lord will be displeased with us if we let this institution die.” In less than a month, Taylor succeeded in raising the $15,000 necessary to begin the next year. (Hilton, 121) Within two years, enrollments had doubled and financial support had more than doubled and the College was relocated [slide 7] to a new campus at 70 North Main Street. Dr. Maeser’s prophecy had come true. During the tenure of the next three presidents, the LDS College advanced rapidly to become one of the foremost educational institutions in the state and eventually ranked highest among schools in the West.
Feramorz Y. Fox [slide 8] became president in 1926 when enrollments were at an all-time high of 2,195. The Great Depression hit in 1930, and by December of 1931, President Fox found that in addition to his administrative duties at the College, he and his son were working desperately to sell apples and potatoes. His diary entry for February 16, 1932, speaks of his personal financial distress. “Local banks are closing. Times are certainly precarious. In my own affairs, my assets have been frozen. Interest on the farm is nearly a year overdue. Anna [his wife] takes these things philosophically and cooperating 100% in self-denial.” (Hilton, 79, from Fox’s, Diaries, 54)
The College also suffered financially during those difficult days. The Turning Point came when enrollments gradually fell to 703 students. The Church Board of Education decided to close the entire educational enterprise consisting of the high school and the junior college. President Fox, much like Willard Done, approached the board with a plan to allow the business department part of the junior college to continue as LDS Business College (Hilton, 3). The board agreed. (Hilton, 78)
The very next month, President Fox went to the Utah State National Bank for a loan to keep the school open. The bank agreed upon the condition that the Church would countersign the note, which it did. This assistance kept the doors open, and the debt with interest was carried several years until it was paid in full. President Fox said “the intent was to pay the interest and principal on the note from future student tuition.” That was a real act of faith. (Hilton, 123)
Sure enough, obstacles arose. The 1933-34 academic year began with very low enrollments, with the result that only 78 percent of the contracted salaries were paid. The balance was simply canceled because there were no funds to pay it and no possibility to borrow more money. Once again the president and the faculty [slide 9] suffered the shortfall. (Hilton, 123) But they didn’t give up. Having faith in the College [slide 10] and its purpose in the Lord’s kingdom, they worked with diligence and patience . . . trusting in the Lord that the right thing would happen. By fall of 1934, the worst had passed and President Fox and the faculty rejoiced over increasing enrollments once again.
In 1961, yet another major turning point occurred. The Church Board of Education decided the College’s operational budget would not be subsidized any longer, the LDS Business College would be operated like a business, and the next president would be paid a salary plus an incentive based on the financial success of the school. R. Ferris Kirkham [slide 11], an experienced accountant, businessman, entrepreneur, and adjunct faculty member, was offered the job. (Hilton, 125)
As President Kirkham expressed it, “Nobody else wanted that job. . . . because there was nothing there. . . . [The College] was so far in the hole you couldn’t see your way out. . . . I saw the thing as a challenge and took it over . . . with the specific understanding and charge . . . [to] make this school self-sustaining.” (Hilton, 81)
The LDS Business College was moved to the Enos Wall Mansion [slide 12] at 411 East South Temple. As the chief financial officer and the president, Kirkham focused on all aspects of the College, especially building a surplus of funds, which provided a new financial foundation. Soon, the College was able to add new academic programs, purchase new land and erect student dorms, build a library wing, achieve accreditation status from the Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges, and leave behind the manual typewriter era for the computer era. Most of all, the College had been preserved once again to provide thousands of students with a quality, skills-based education in line with LDS standards and ideals. (Hilton, 125)
When I was hired fresh out of graduate school in 1973 to teach English, I remember President Kirkham at the first fall faculty meeting [slide 13] announcing that the College was “solvent.” To me that word had something to do with a cleaning solution. But I quickly learned that “solvent” was the watchword for all of us and meant the College was still meeting its financial obligations under the charge the president had been given. In short, we still had jobs.
In the late 70’s, President Kirkham informed us that even though the College was solvent with a consistent healthy enrollment of 1,800 students, the Church was considering selling it to a national chain. At our insistence, President Kirkham obtained permission for the faculty and staff to accompany him to the Board of Trustees meeting where the topic was to be discussed. [slide 14] Acting with faith and trust in the Lord, we walked with President Kirkham from the College to the Church Administration Building. Moyle Anderson, the senior faculty member, pled our case for the College not to be sold. Several weeks later, we were filled with overwhelming gratitude to the Lord and the board for deciding to keep the College.
As usual, obstacles arose, and by 1985 President Kirkham could see the perfect storm on the horizon. Changes in market conditions, increasingly high maintenance costs of the Mansion, new costs of assuming the retirement fund of the faculty and staff, and continually expensive computer upgrades (Hilton, 126), all combined to threaten the solvency of the College and thus President Kirkham’s ability to honor his charge to keep the school out of the red and in the black.
The Turning Point came when President Kirkham, desiring to save the College from being sold to a national chain, approached the Board of Trustees with a plan to buy the College – the name, campus, and educational programs. There was general approval by the board for this offer until two faculty members wrote a letter expressing strong faculty support for the College to be brought back under Church administration. And so we waited with faith and patience, trusting in the Lord that the right thing would happen. President Ezra Taft Benson made the final decision to bring the College back into the Church Educational System, to provide an operating budget, and to appoint a new president. (Hilton, 82) When President Gordon B. Hinckley decided to move the College to this spot in 2006, those of us who remembered the ups and downs of those years sighed with relief.
Clearly, the Lord was involved at each Turning Point in the decision to keep the College, a decision that changed everything. Why? Why do you suppose the Lord preserved the LDS Business College? For the students! For those students [slides 15 & 16] who have gone before you [slides 17 & 18]. Richard L. Evans, known for the Sunday program of Music and the Spoken Word; four apostles, including Elders Bruce R. McConkie and LeGrand Richards (President Richards’ grandfather), Elders Marvin J. Ashton and Russell M. Nelson; and my father and mother, Andrew Delbert and Olive Crane Smith, who met while attending LDS High School. And for you students now! For each one of you! The Lord knew that you would want to come to a campus where the learning of employable skills would be infused with gospel principles, where the Learning Model would be used for a pattern of learning, and where the faculty and staff would work together to cultivate a nurturing and spiritual environment.
And so what does the Lord expect of you? His expectation of you is the same as it was for each president of the College from the beginning down to our President Larry Richards. The Lord knew theirs would be a daunting task. But he also knew each one was prepared with the necessary skills and talents to handle the unique challenges during his own administration.
It is the same expectation the Lord had for Joshua who faced the daunting task of taking the children of Israel into the promised land. To Joshua, who must have been feeling inadequate, overwhelmed, and discouraged like many of you might be feeling at this point in the semester, the Lord commanded: “Be strong and of a good courage.” Notice it was not a suggestion; it was a command. Joshua must have hesitated because the Lord repeated the command a third time:
“Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed:” Now here comes the reassuring promise: “for the Lord thy God is with thee . . .”
Do you think that like Joshua, Willard Done must have felt inadequate to the task? He was 21 years old at the time. What about F.Y. Fox who was 45 and Ferris Kirkham who was 32? They might have started out with great anticipation and enthusiasm, just like you started this semester. But as obstacles arose, what did they do to remain strong and of a good courage?
What does being strong and of a good courage look like? We find the answer in three gospel principles: faith, patience, and trust.
Joshua became strong and of a good courage as he acted with faith, patience, and trust, allowing God to shape his character and the course of his life. Similarly, when we consistently act in faith long enough, patiently persevere long enough, and trust in the Lord long enough, God’s purposes for our lives begin to unfold and we, too, can be strong and of a good courage, prepared to accomplish the things the Lord wants us to do.
Let’s look briefly at the application of each principle. First, faith. The Lord tells us in the Joseph Smith translation of Hebrews 11:1 that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Elder Neil L. Andersen said: “Faith is not only a feeling; it is a decision.” (“You Know Enough,” General Conference, October 2008) A decision to DO something, a decision to ACT.
When the Israelites arrived at the Jordan River, it was harvest time and the river was overflowing its banks. The Lord instructed Joshua to assign one man from each of the 12 tribes to lead forth carrying the Ark of the Covenant. The Lord promised to divide the Jordan, but the 12 men had to step into the overflowing waters first. Do you suppose any of those men looked at those raging waters thinking, “I’m not moving till I see dry ground”? Do we approach our obstacles with this secular attitude: “seeing is believing”? Just as with Joshua and the 12 priests, the College presidents and faculty, the Lord requires us to demonstrate our faith through action. He blesses us for our faith in him and his word only after we take those first steps into any worthwhile enterprise.
When Presidents Done, Fox, and Kirkham took up their charge, they worked diligently to fulfill their commitment to the Church Board of Education, and when the Turning Points came with low enrollments during the lean years, they did not wait to be acted upon but instead acted with faith by bringing a plan to the Brethren.
Second is patience. It can be all too easy for you to bypass faith and patience in exchange for temporary solutions because your generation more than any other is used to on-demand response. You text and within seconds get a reply; you google and within a jiffy access tons of information. There’s instant credit, instant messaging, instant everything but one thing . . . the Lord’s timing. He has called our attention many times to the principle of patience. He warns us in Hebrews 6:12: “Be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”
Patience, then, is the ability to persevere with faith as we work diligently through obstacles toward a goal, which may be for many of you just finishing this semester, taking a deep breath over the holidays and finishing next semester until semester by semester you’ve reached your educational goal. The Lord allows us to struggle along the way so we can develop the skill of exercising our faith and patience. He knows what we are capable of, but we need to discover that for ourselves.
Third is trust. According to Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary, the Latin word for faith is fido, which means to trust. “To trust is to be confident in God’s character and declarations with an unreserved surrender of our will to his guidance.” I believe many of us find it easy to trust in God’s character and declarations. However, we find it much more difficult to trust with an unreserved surrender of our will to his plans.
I discovered after finishing my bachelor’s degree that the major obstacle to trusting in the Lord was my self-will. I had planned to teach for a while at a high school in the valley, get married, and have children. In short, following the pattern of my mother and my older sister. But while doing my student teaching, I discovered that teaching high school was not for me and to make matters worse, there was no husband anywhere on the horizon. Then, the Lord provided a fellowship for me to go onto graduate school. It was difficult to say, “Thy will be done” and to set aside what I thought was a very good plan in favor of His plan, His methods, and His timetable. I had to be willing to let go and as Proverbs 3, verse 5 says: “Trust in the Lord with all thy heart and lean not unto thine own understanding.”
I believe the hardest work any of us will ever do in this life is to arrive at that place of total trust and to humbly surrender our will to His. Experiencing the rigor of my doctoral studies taught me the truth . . . that the Lord did not expect me to prove myself by myself . . . but to be brought to that place of total trust in Him to help me.
Those experiences in life, no matter how difficult, that pull these three principles of faith, patience, and trust from theory into practice will help us to “be strong and of a courage.”
I have been given the opportunity to experience the power of this triple combination during many a Turning Point in my own life. Let me share just one.
After waiting on the Lord’s timetable for many years, and to be honest, not all the time with patience, my knight in shining armor finally arrived. I naively thought the difficult part was over. David and I built our dream home up Emigration Canyon and settled in. But obstacles arose as I kept having miscarriages and finally my biological time clock ran out. The next year, David’s two business partners left us with unfulfilled promises and all the debt. Our emotional roller coaster ride began . . . you know the feelings . . . shock, disbelief, fear, and doubt. I found my “trust teetering,” as Elder Neal A. Maxwell would say, and my world of peace filled with turmoil.
I searched the scriptures for comfort and for counsel. That’s when I found the Lord speaking to me through the scriptures on faith, patience and trust. Mosiah 23:21-22 sunk deeply into my soul: “Nevertheless the Lord seeth fit to chasten his people; yea, he trieth their patience and their faith. Nevertheless – whosoever putteth his trust in him the same shall be lifted up . . .”
And Elder Maxwell’s words kept resounding in my ears: “How can you and I really expect to glide naively through life as if to say, ‘Lord, give me experience, but not grief, not sorrow, not pain, not opposition, not betrayal, and certainly not to be forsaken. Keep from me Lord, all those experiences which made Thee what Thou art! Then let me come and dwell with Thee and fully share Thy joy!” (“Lest Ye Be Wearied and Faint in Your Minds,” Ensign, May 1991, 88)
At such Turning Points, rather than giving up, the challenge is to try to figure out where the Lord really wants us to go, who he wants us to become, and what we should do with what we have been handed. David and I asked ourselves a litany of questions. Without a family of our own, what should we do with the rest of our lives? Should we stay in this home, which was built for a family, or should we move? If we move, should we move to another house or a condominium?
We struggled through the summer to maintain focus on the eternal perspective and not let our temporary circumstances cloud our vision. Daily, we experienced sharp side-by-side opposites. But ultimately, by praying, fasting, searching the scriptures, and diligently doing all we could, fear gave way to faith; impatience gave way to patience; and “my will” gave way to “Thy will.”
By mid-November we had decided to hang on rather than take out bankruptcy and try to sell the home in the spring. David came home late one night and while getting the mail from our mailbox at the side of the road, he was prompted to go next door to the couple from California who was renting. Tom was shoveling the snow and David grabbed a shovel and helped him. Afterward, David asked Tom how he and his wife, Kathy, liked living up the canyon. They loved it. They wished they could buy a home up the canyon. David told them ours was for sale.
Tom and Kathy came over after Thanksgiving, walked through our home and said they were interested. They left and I cried and cried. David reassured me: “Carolyn, we can wait until the spring.” I responded, “Oh, David, they are going to buy the home and she is pregnant.” “How do you know that?” he asked. “Women just know those things,” I replied. All the while, I was opening the Doctrine and Covenants to Section 111 verses 5 and 8 that I had read the previous week. The Lord is speaking to the Prophet Joseph Smith but I felt he was speaking to us: “Concern not yourselves about your debts, for I will give you power to pay them. . . . And the place where it is my will that you should tarry, for the main, shall be signalized unto you by the peace and power of my Spirit, that shall flow unto you.” We knew the Lord had literally sold our home to a couple from California in the dead of winter when nothing had sold up the canyon for three years.
It was a tremendous relief. But at the same time, I felt like Elder Boyd K. Packer who told about confiding one time in Elder Harold B. Lee that he could see no way to move in the direction he had been counseled by one of the Brethren to go. Elder Lee said: “ ‘The trouble with you is you want to see the end from the beginning.’ I replied that I would like to see at least a step or two ahead. Then came the lesson of a lifetime: ‘You must learn to walk to the edge of the light, and then a few steps into the darkness; then the light will appear and show the way before you’. Then he quoted these 18 words from the Book of Mormon: ‘Dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith’.” (BYU Today, March 1991, 22-23)
David and I had heard the Lord through the scriptures, we packed up, paid off our debts and with $5,000 left over and with increased faith, we stepped into the darkness and patiently tarried in a little two-bedroom apartment for a year, trusting in the Lord to guide us where he wanted us to be.
And so why does the Lord expect you, despite your current challenges, to be “strong and of a good courage;” to act with faith and patience, trusting in the Him? Because just like the generations of past students, you, too, need to prepare to provide for yourself and your family. You, too, need to prepare to serve in the kingdom wherever the Lord needs you. You, too, need to prepare to bless your children and others as you tell them of the times when you diligently worked through the obstacles, whether educational, physical, or financial, with nothing but your faith, patience, and trust in God to sustain you.
And just like the generations of past students, you, also, have devoted faculty, staff, and administrators who have faith in this College and its purpose in the Lord’s kingdom and who are working diligently to teach, uplift, and assist you in preparing for whatever your future may hold.
Even as you learn the applied skills of accounting or professional sales, of medical assisting or interior design, I hope and pray that you will also develop the skills of acting with faith and patience, trusting in the Lord that the right thing will happen at your personal Turning Points. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.