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You Are Called to Stand Up and Stand Out
by President J. Lawrence Richards
LDS Business College devotional
January 10, 2012
Let me share with you something Elder Paul V. Johnson stated here in 2009 at our commencement. He is our commissioner of Church education and he said: “There are no better days than these days, because ‘these are [your] days’ (Helaman 7:9). You are here on earth at this time for a reason. You have what it takes … You have skills, knowledge, and natural talents given you from God. [And] if you live righteously, you will have access to the inspiration and strength you will need to triumph over [every] challenge [you may face]. You will have the protection of a worthy life, guidance from the Lord through the Holy Ghost … prophets, seers, and revelators, and the power of sacred promises that are yours because you keep covenants.” (LDS Business College commencement address, April 2009)
I want to echo and reinforce Elder Johnson’s words. You can do this. You can do everything that is being asked of you to do here. You can be what Father in Heaven intends you to be. Your time here is very critical in the process of your becoming. You are here to learn what you must know so that you can do what you must do, that you may become what Father in Heaven intends you to become. Therefore, I plead with you not to waste your time in acts that would rob you of the Spirit. I plead with you not to be casual about the covenants that you have made. Your time here cannot be flittered away by small and unproductive thinking. Do not take counsel from your fears. Every fear you have hides a vision of your eternal potential. What you do with those fears will mold your character and will bless your life.
In my professional practice I was a banker. I liked banking, because there were lots of rules. As long as you followed the rules, everything worked very well. They gave you a book of rules. Being a banker was relatively easy as long as you follow the rules. So the Ten Commandments—I understand half of them, because they start with “Thou shalt not …” Are you with me? I married a woman who understands the other half of the commandments and that scripture in the Doctrine and Covenants that says you should “be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of [your] own free will” (D&C 58:27) was perplexing to me. What’s that about? What am I supposed to do?
My wife, and others of you in this room, have a love of success. Some of us have a fear of failure. You can be just as successful leveraging a fear of failure as a love of success, as long as those fears do not block your vision or paralyze your actions. You are a child of God, and you are endowed with the capacity to become as He is. How possibly, could you be a son or daughter of a parent, and not have the capacity to become what they are? That’s impossible. And the morning you wake up and truly believe you are His and you have a genetic disposition to be like Him and to reach out to Him in every fiber of your being, when the sun rises on the day that truth beats in every recess of your heart, and in that very moment that you decide to put all the limitations you perceived in the past behind you, that is the day you will move forward at a more rapid rate in your life.
And for somebody here today that is holding on to some limitation you believe holds you back from becoming what God intends you to be, just give it up. Will you just let it go? Nothing is created by trying to saw sawdust. Today is the day to move rapidly forward, and to let the past go. This is the day you can begin to see what you are capable of; this is the day that you can walk into a classroom with confidence that the Lord is on your side and that He will support your efforts to gain an education. Why? That you may be prepared in all things, so that He can “send you again to magnify the calling whereunto [He has] called you, and the mission with which [He has] commissioned you.” (D&C 88:80) That is the day that you will come to know the joy of the Lord and rejoice in the moral agency He has granted you to choose the right.
Robert Frost penned this poem, about the choices we make every day to be different from the world. It is being different that helps us truly become a son or daughter of our Father in Heaven. You know this poem. Here’s what he wrote:
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
(Lathem, Edward C., ed., The Poetry of Robert Frost, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, p. 105)
Brothers and sisters, you have been called to travel a road less traveled by the world. You’ve been called to stand—you’ve been called to stand in holy places, to stand in the office of your stewardship, to be a light set upon a hill. Why shun that? Why have a desire to be like the world? That is not your calling; it is not your nature. It is not your divine commission. It is not what you were born to do. Now, I know much of your training, growing up in this day and age, is how important it is to be part of a team, to go along with group norms, to sit in nice rows and not stand out, so we don’t have to deal with you. I testify to you that you were not born to blend in. You were not born to be part of a crowd. Yours is to stand out and to stand up.
Listen to the scriptures: “Wherefore, lift up your hearts and rejoice, and gird up your loins, and take upon you [His] whole armor.” I’ll stop— put on all of it, not part of it; not the part deemed sociable or acceptable, but all of it. Carrying on: “That ye may be able to withstand the evil day, having done all, that ye may be able to stand. “Stand, therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, having on the breastplate of righteousness, and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, which [the Lord has] sent [his] angels to commit unto you;
“Taking [upon you] the shield of faith wherewith [you] shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked; “And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of [His] Spirit, which [He] will pour out upon you, and [His] word which [He] will reveal unto you, and be agreed as touching all things whatsoever [you shall] ask of [Him], and be faithful until [He] come, and ye shall be caught up, that where [He is] ye shall be also.” (D&C 27:15-18)
What a promise! My young colleagues, this whole issue about becoming is more than just simply doing. There is a difference. When you go through the motions because someone said you had to, and you act without desire and without real intent, then you waste precious molding experiences that have been particularly tailored by a loving Father in Heaven to help you with your own personal growth.
Listen to the words of Elder Russell M. Nelson: “Let your experience at LDS Business College be a step in your eternal progression. The diploma that a graduate gets is symbolic of a task completed. Important as that is, what they are becoming is of greater importance. To become is more important than to do.”
So let’s be very practical and very specific on three points. The first has to do with integrity. Francis Bacon, an English lawyer and philosopher, wrote this: “It is not what we eat but what we digest that makes us strong; [it is] not what we gain but what we save that makes us rich; [it is] not what we read but what we remember that makes us learned; and [it is] not what we profess but what we practice that gives us integrity.”
Let me just take one little aspect of this point, and let me be your dad for a minute. Let me give you a little lecture, a little blessing with a warning. Each of you in this room made a commitment to a bishop and a stake president that you would live the Honor Code. It applies to the way you act, the way you dress, and the way you are groomed. Your daily, consistent obedience to the dress and grooming standard will bring you blessings. Your casualness about that will rob you of the spiritual help you are entitled to. You impact every person on this campus in a negative way, and you have no right to do that. You have no claim on the sacred tithing funds of the Church from those who are supporting you here. You have no right to bring that kind of reflection upon this institution. I have no desire to be a policeman, handing out citations for unshaved faces or jeans that are ripped or holey. You have your own moral agency. You have the integrity of the commitment that you have made. And with all of the love of a tender parent, I would suggest that if you are not willing to “man up” to that, I would invite you to withdraw, that the Spirit of the Lord would not be impeded here in this temple of learning.
I don’t care what is fashionable or what time you woke up in the morning. I don’t care if the right clothes are in the washing machine or if you are having a bad hair day. I’m inviting you to have integrity. Yield to the will of the Brethren who have set the standards.
President Benson said this: “When obedience ceases to be an irritant and becomes your quest, in that moment you are endowed with power.” (Quoted by Elder Donald L. Staheli in “Obedience—Life’s Great Challenge,” Ensign, May 1998, p. 81.
Why do we care so much about this issue of you living with integrity? Listen carefully to the words of President Packer and then Elder Eyring. President Boyd K. Packer: “Spirituality, while consummately strong, reacts to very delicate changes in the environment.” Let me do that again: “Spirituality, while consummately strong, reacts to very delicate changes in [the] environment. To have it present at all and to keep it in some degree of purity requires a commitment and a watch-care… The spiritual atmosphere in which students are to learn and what they receive, will not emerge spontaneously! [It will] happen only if … caused to happen and thereafter maintained [only] with unwavering determination.” (“I Say unto You, Be One,” http://speeches.byu.edu/reader/reader.php?id=7071)
Now Elder Eyring: “Outsiders are wrong when they say, ‘I can’t understand your people on your campuses. You care about how your students dress. You care about honor codes, you care about whether your faculty are faithful to covenants that they [have] made. What’s that got to do with education? How uneducational.’ ”
Continuing, he says, “Well, they just don’t know what we know, and that is, if we conduct ourselves in such a way that we invite the Spirit of God and we work our hearts out, our students if they do the same will learn at a rate that the world will just be amazed.”
Brothers and sisters, those are promises and statements by prophets, seers, and revelators. I invite you—I plead with you not to let obedience to the Honor Code be an irritant. Let it be your quest, and you will be endowed with power, and you will learn at rates that will just amaze the world. That is a promise. Integrity is number one.
Number two: Priorities. Sister Julie Beck, general president of the Relief Society: “When our priorities are out of order, we lose power. If we need power and influence to carry out our mission, then our priorities have to be straight. Education is wonderful, but being able to feel the Lord’s power and His Spirit upon us is the highest education we can receive. With that, we have power and influence. Without it, we will not be able to navigate in this life. The adversary will pick us off one by one, and we will be drawn off the course by the many, many voices that are there distracting us. With the Lord’s Spirit upon us, we are strong and solid, and will be able to walk with Him.”
And now, President Eyring on the same topic: “Families and units of the Church of Jesus Christ require leaders who know how to find out what God wants, know how to do it, and are determined to get it done.”
Finally, let me add this to priorities: When we give more reverence to our culture than to our covenants, our casualness will bring unintended consequences to us, to our families, and to generations to come. My young friends, when we are set in our priorities and have God and His work are first, we can be taught from on high. We can be sanctified, and we can be endowed with power to give as the Lord has spoken (See D&C 43:16).
Power comes from cleanliness, and cleanliness comes from submission. To the world that is an incredible contradiction. I will read it again. Power comes from cleanliness, and cleanliness comes from submission. To the world that is an incredible contradiction. To those of us who know the Savior, it is a divine truth. And what blessings come from setting our covenants as our highest priority?
Elder Scott said this: “Spirituality yields two fruits. First, inspiration to know what to do, [and second, the power] to do it.” (“To Acquire Spiritual Guidance,” Ensign, Nov. 2009, 7.)
And Elder Eyring concluded: “We may have to pray with faith to know what … to do, and we must pray with determination to obey, but we can know what to do and be sure that the [Lord has prepared a way for us to do it].” (“The Family, http://speeches.byu.edu/reader/reader.php?id=7912.)
Now the last point: Integrity, priorities, personal revelation. Elder Richard G. Scott: “By careful practice, through the application of correct principles, and by being sensitive to the feelings that come, you will gain spiritual guidance.” (“To Acquire Spiritual Guidance,” Ensign, Nov. 2009)
I testify to you spiritual guidance will come as you study statistics and English and anything else that bothers you. I plead with you not to leave the Lord out of your efforts to study temporal things by the power of His Spirit.
In conclusion, my friends: these are your days. You have been brought here by the largesse of others and by the Spirit of our Father in Heaven and your good decisions. Here we can do whatever Father needs us to do, if we live with integrity, if we have our priorities in order, and if we seek personal revelation. I invite you to join with me in a personal quest this semester, to live at a higher level of personal consecration, that we may be entitled to an extra blessing of the Spirit. I invite you to join me and be serious about it. Forget the past and move forward, no matter what the grades were last semester. They don’t count anymore. What counts is what happens today and tomorrow, and for the next 14 weeks.
Why do I wish that for you and for myself? I do not want to live below the privileges that Father in Heaven may have for me, and I want the same for you. I want you to reap all of the blessings Father has for you, and to feel His love in abundance. So I invite you to shave your face and cut your hair, and sisters, watch what you wear. It does make a difference. You have made a covenant; we will hold you to it. It’s only fair.
I pray the Lord’s Spirit to be upon you. I pray that He will give you comfort. I pray that He will give you courage. Remember, sometimes if you pray for courage, He may send you a lion. But also remember this: that all lions that are not self-invited are chained. Let me state it again. As you pray for courage, Father in Heaven may send you a lion. But if it is a lion that you have not invited, they are all chained.
May the Lord bless you as you try to become what He wants you to be. I testify to you He is real. He is your Elder Brother. You have no comprehension of His love for you. Joseph Smith is His prophet. Thomas S. Monson stands in the place of that prophet for these our days. Fourteen other men who join him hold the keys to this dispensation and the administration of it in these our days. And I leave you my testimony in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.