David Sturt

27 Mar. 2018

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Currents of Commotion

Thank you for that wonderful testimony. I think it blends perfectly with what I’m going to speak about today. Also, what a wonderful choir. It sounded fantastic. I love hearing music, and such well-sung music.

It’s also a privilege to be here. I’m appreciative to President Kusch for inviting me and my wife to be here today, and to share some thoughts with you. Being with you and being sort of back amongst college students just brings back some great memories, and a whole bunch of thoughts. As I look out at you and see you in your chairs, thinking, “Okay, what’s ahead of me in my life?” and “What’s going on?” and “Where am I going to be working?” and “How is this all going to work out?”

I promise you it all works out. Even though you may be nervous or wondering “What am I going to choose?” or “Where am I going to work?”, just go with it. Heavenly Father will help you, and someday you will be old and gray like me, and sharing some thoughts with other students who are coming along the way.

I am reminded of an experience I had years ago, when I was in college. I was in a religion class, and it was on the New Testament. We had finally reached the end of the New Testament, into the book of Revelation. I remember our professor, a teacher, said something to me that I have never forgotten. He said that in the coming years—and this is a hundred years ago, right? I’ve got gray hair now; it’s many years ago—he said in the coming years, our news would become R-rated. And I remember thinking, what?

He said, “Yeah, your news, your regular nightly news, is going to become R-rated. It’s going to be filled with graphic violence, sexually disturbing content, and massive disasters.” And I remember thinking to myself at the time, “I think he’s a little over the top on this. Where is he going with this?” Sometimes, do you ever think maybe your teachers are a little dramatic? And I remember thinking, “This guy is kind of dramatic, kind of talking a big thing.”

Well, sure enough, it wasn’t but a few years ago when I finally just completely stopped watching the news on television—for all of the same reasons. It was incredibly depressing, and often shocking. If you look around in the world today, it’s exactly those kinds of things that he talked about. And these conditions, it can be easy to become fearful and helpless. You can spend, literally, hours a day listening to the negative and upsetting reports of terrorism, of crime, of world problems, or the unraveling of the moral fabric of society.

In time, lengthy exposure to this barrage of net negativity becomes oddly addictive, and we find ourselves being drawn into these turbulent currents of commotion. The currents are swift, and its waters are deep and foreboding. If we are not careful, we can find ourselves being “tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (Ephesians 4:14). 

In our own church, there are challenges and problems. Some are struggling with concerns about Joseph Smith, about events in Church history, and some of the teachings of modern prophets and apostles. Just as the prophets foretold, we are now clearly living in times of uncertainty and moral upheaval. There is much more open questioning about the existence and nature of God, and the divinity and even historical authenticity of Jesus Christ.

In the cover story of a recent National Geographic magazine that I was reading in December, the question was culled out in one of the boxes, “Might it be possible that Jesus Christ never even existed, and that the whole stained-glass story is pure invention?” These are topics and discussions that I don’t remember seeing when I was a student.

So how do we navigate all of these turbulent times, these challenges, these waves of things that keep coming at us? How can we keep our own sense of spiritual balance and stability, when it feels like everything is in constant commotion around us?  I wonder if sometimes you wonder, “What is the world like ahead for me? Where are things going? Do I have the hope that previous generations did of having a successful life, and meeting my dreams and hopes and aspirations?”

All of these currents of commotion remind me of an experience I had while river running on a section of the Colorado River years ago, when I was 18. It was on West Water Canyon, near the Colorado border. Some of you may have been on that stretch of the river. I was with a group of older friends who loved to run rivers. We had a couple of rafts with us, and about a half-dozen kayaks. I was in one of the kayaks, and it was only my second kayaking river trips, so I was still a bit of a rookie, and still kind of wondering about how this was all going to pan out.

Our group leader gathered us together at the beginning of the trip, and he told us that the water was running a lot higher than he had seen before. It was spring run-off, and it was big. That got everybody else really excited, because they were thinking, “Man, we are going to have some awesome rapids! This is going to be great! We’re going to have this great experience.”

I didn’t quite know what to think about that, being still a bit of a rookie in a kayak. When we put into the river, the water was calm and smooth. The canyon was wide open. It was a sunny day. It was beautiful. It was just easy to maneuver around. I felt very comfortable and confident in my little kayak. Pretty soon, water fights started to break out, and I’m thinking to myself, “This seems more like a float trip than the white-water trip that everybody was raging about. This could be kind of a boring afternoon.”

Things started to change pretty quickly. The canyon walls started to narrow in, and the water started picking up speed. Pretty soon, we were in some pretty good-size rapids. If you haven’t been in a kayak before, it’s a really snug fit. The kayak is usually pretty small and skinny, and you smash your feet and your knees deep down into the kayak, and they kind of get pinned in there so that you can feel tight and you’re not going to flop around inside the kayak. It’s also really top-heavy, so anything you do wrong, you’re going to find yourself upside-down and under water. That happens pretty easily. Then you have a spray skirt, which is tied around your waist and sort of snaps around the edge over the kayak, so it keeps the water out and you can keep dry inside.

Again, if you are flipped over, you end up upside-down really fast, and you have to use a paddle to be able to do this roll where you pull the paddle back and you can bring yourself back up out of the water.

I was still a bit of a rookie about that. I had it most of the time, but once in a while I would have to pull out. If you had to pull out, after you couldn’t breathe anymore trying to get up, you would reach forward to the front of the kayak and pull the spray skirt off and you kind of wriggle out of the kayak and up to some fresh air.

It was interesting entering this section of rapids, still wondering if I knew how I was going to roll back up. Once we got into the main section of rapids, I got pretty nervous. These were big rapids that would just move you around like a cork in a washing machine. It was heavy, and I could tell just looking at the eyes of my buddies that they were looking a little spooked too, like it was a little bit big.

After getting through a number of the rapids, we came to a section of the river that everyone had talked about all along. We were able to pull over to a small ledge and get out of our kayaks and walk down to the edge and look down over this section of river that had these rapids. That’s when I knew I was in way over my head. The first big rapid below us was called Skull.

I don’t know who names these rapids, but you will kind of get a feel for this as I go through and talk about each of these. This was formed by a huge rock that had kind of come right out into the middle of the river, and so the water poured right over this rock and into this sort of massive hole. And then there was about a 7-foot wave that was this big reversal on the other side of that hole. And that reversal would just basically push you right back into this huge hole. Just looking at the size of that wave and how small you are in a kayak, I thought, “Man, if you get pulled into that wave, it will just flip you over, chew you up, and spit you out.” And I thought, “Note to self: stay out of that one.” Right?

That wasn’t the worst part. Just below and to the right of Skull was this huge whirlpool created by this big eddy. The whirlpool was called “The Room of Doom.” Doesn’t that sound like a cool whirlpool? The Room of Doom. It sounds ominous, right? Like it could have been out of the Raiders of the Lost Ark or something.

The guys I was with pointed out these logs that were stuck in the Room of Doom. It was about a 50-foot wide huge whirlpool that was just kind of spinning, and there was all kinds of debris and stuff that was just floating in there because it couldn’t get out. It would just float around that thing. That was pretty scary to me.

Then one of the guys leaned over and said, “Yeah, the last time I came through here, I saw a bunch of dead sheep just kind of circling in the Room of Doom.” I was like, “Thank you for telling me that.” Now I’m scared to death about how to get through this thing, because if you got caught in Skull and spit out in the Room of Doom, you would be there for a long time. In fact, they told me that they had had to rescue boats before. It was literally such a powerful whirlpool that you could not paddle a raft out of it. They would have to get ropes and winches and actually winch the thing out—they’d have to cut the bottom of the boat out, and then you would have to haul it up over the mountain to get back to safety.

I was thinking, “Yeah, and I’m in this little tiny kayak. I’m a dead man if I get into that.”

Then they pointed out the third and final danger. If you were able to avoid Skull and not get sucked into the Room of Doom, the main current ran right into this huge wall, which they also named Shock Rock. That is where the whole current of the river just slams into this big wall, and it creates this big wave up the side of this wall, and it really flips boats easily because the boat gets stuck along the side of the wall, the water comes in, and it just flips you over. The problem is, you can get sucked down along the side of the wall and dragged along the side of the wall under water. Again, not a happy thought, thinking about what happens to me if I go under in all of that.

As I stood there, I was genuinely scared. I thought, “What did I get myself into?” And I realized there was really no other way out of this canyon from where I was sitting, besides going right through it. You just had to go through the rest of these rapids. And I wondered, what would happen if I flipped? What happens if, just above the rapids, I went over, and going through that rapid either under water or scrambling? I wondered, how long would I sit circling in the Room of Doom before somebody could rescue me. It was scary.

That’s when I learned the value of an experienced guide. The leader of our group had run a lot of rivers, and he had run this particular river many times. After carefully scouting out the rapids, we gathered around him as he began to lay out the routes that we needed to take, specifically, through these rapids, so that we could have the best chance of getting through safely. He pointed out exactly where we had to enter the rapid, where we had to cut across the river, and exactly what to do, step by step, all the way through the section.

As in other areas of our lives, it is one thing to hear those instructions, and it’s totally another to actually remember what he said, and actually follow those instructions. I must have been sitting there with eyes about this big as he is describing exactly what we needed to do, and I think he noticed the fear in my face, and he said, “Hey, for you we are going to do something a little different.” He said, “Here is what we are going to do.” He pulled out one of the most experienced kayakers, and he said [to him], “You are going to go first, and Dave, you are going to follow him. I want you to follow his every move.”

So as we pushed off—he pushed off first, and I watched him go out. I said a really fervent prayer that I would not die. I’m not joking. It was very real. And I started to paddle out. As I got out in front of the rapids, it was scarier than I thought. It was thunderous. You could hear Skull. It was scarier than I expected, and the currents were powerful and I was nervous. I worried that any wrong move would be disastrous. However, I kept a laser focus on the kayak that was about 50 feet in front of me. Once he paddled around the rock formation and out in front of Skull, I watched as he cut perfectly right back across the river, and I followed every single thing he did. I paddled like my life depended on it.

I am happy to say, as you can tell because I am here today, that I made it through in one piece. For a late teenager at the time, that was one really intense experience. But I learned a bunch of lessons from that, some big life lessons.

The first lesson is that life is like a river. There are some calm sections. There are some really exciting sections, and then there are some flat-out dangerous sections of the river of life. And from what I can see—if you think the rapids of life are getting big now, they are only going to get bigger up ahead.

Can you imagine for a minute what it would have been like for me had I run that river with no guide? With no sense of where it was going? With no sense of where the rapids really were or how to get through them?

In life, like on dangerous rivers, we need a trusted and experienced guide. That guide is the Lord Jesus Christ, whose life, Atonement, and Resurrection we celebrate this coming Easter Sunday. The Lord, our Guide, literally knows every inch of this river. He knows where the rapids are. He knows the routes through them. He also knows what we can handle and what we can’t. He also knows exactly how to rescue us when we flip over. And best of all, His entire mission is to help us get through this river of life safely and securely to the other side.

However, in order for Him to guide us, it requires something essential on our part. It requires us to listen to Him, to follow Him, to come unto Christ, to not reject Him, not ignore Him, not second-guess His directions or His counsel. His promise has been there since the beginning of time: “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). Virtually every prophet and every apostle has also pleaded with us to receive Him as our guide.

“And again I would exhort you that ye would come unto Christ, and lay hold upon every good gift” (Moroni 10:30). 

How do we come unto Christ? How do we have Him as our guide as we navigate through these currents of commotion in our lives? What do we do? Here are a few simple thoughts for you to consider, as you think about how you are using Him as your guide.

First: Come and learn of Him

Get to know your guide. The Lord said, “Learn of me, and listen to my words; walk in the meekness of my Spirit, and you shall have peace in me” (Doctrine and Covenants 19:23).

He also counseled: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matthew 11:29). 

When I read His words, I begin to understand them. His words bring light and wisdom to my mind. My confidence and trust in Him grows. Learning of Him draws me closer to Him. I want to know what He knows. I want to see the things that He did and hear the things that He said.

As I get to know Him more, I find that I love Him more. When I read His words often, they linger in my mind and make their way into my heart. I love our Guide. I am so grateful that He has descended below all things. He knows every inch of this river of life that we are going through. We can trust Him. And again, the more we come to learn of Him, the more trust we can have in Him, and the more we can pay attention to His counsel.

Second: Come and follow Him

Follow Him. He knows the way. He knows where the dangers are. He has given us routes through the rapids. He has taught us how to avoid drowning in the ever-changing currents of commotion around us. His directions are called commandments. They are filled with eons of wisdom and experience. They are not just guidelines that we can casually ignore. They are powerful. They save lives.

The Lord counseled us: “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself unto him” (John 14:21). 

He also said: “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them” (John 13:17). And in one of the most simple admonitions that He taught: “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).

It was so much easier for me when I was following that kayak in front of me, than if I had to just remember the instructions and directions. There is something wonderful about having a guide and simply trusting in that guide and following him carefully. The Lord, our Guide, clearly explained, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). If we follow him with the same focus that I followed that guide past Skull Rapid, He will bring us safely through.

Third: Come and find forgiveness

Sin separates us from our Guide. When we ignore or break His commandments, we begin to lose our direction and become disoriented. When we disconnect ourselves from our Guide, we make even more mistakes and put ourselves in even greater danger. When we sin in even bigger ways, it is like being sucked into the Room of Doom. There we get stuck, circling around and around, until we come to realize that we can no longer get out on our own. The only way out is with the help of a rescuer.

Fortunately, each of us is blessed with a bishop. He can work closely with the Lord to help pull you out of the whirlpool and save your life.

I have found, on a personal level, some of the most tender moments in my own life have come when I have sought the Lord’s forgiveness and found it. It is an extraordinary experience. The Lord’s forgiveness melts away the pains of regret, brings a deep and thorough soul cleansing, and fills us with His love and His joy. If there is one big lesson I have learned, it is how merciful the Lord is to all those who choose to repent and to come unto Him, as was just spoken by Joao earlier.

“I will be merciful unto them, saith the Lord God, if they will repent and come unto me; for my arm is lengthened out all the day long” (see 2 Nephi 28:32). Don’t you love that metaphor, that image? His arm is lengthened out all the day long. He is just reaching out to grab you and to hold you, pull you back in. That image of the Lord’s arm being lengthened out is just like I would imagine a rescuer, sitting on the rock right next to the Room of Doom, reaching out his arm to grab my arm. Let me help pull you in and get you out of that danger. I am so grateful for the Lord, because that’s what He wants to do. He has already atoned for our sins. He wants us to reach out and grab His hand and let Him help us to safety.

Four: Come and find fellowship

The river of life can be painful. We can and do get hurt. There are those here in the congregation today who may be feeling hurt or damaged or filled with pain. You may have experienced heartache or the loss of a loved one, either physically or spiritually. The Lord has restored His Church so that we can gather together to help each other.

Each of us can help ease one another’s burdens by being loving, by not judging, and by giving the gift of kindness to one another, just the same as on the river. By working together, we can encourage each other, support each other, learn from each other, and even rescue one another when we go over. We are grateful that we have wards, that we have groups, that we have families, that we have friends that can be wonderful supports of fellowship to help us on this journey and this river of life.

Number five: Come and find strength

In the river of life, we cannot float passively along. We have to act or we will be acted upon by the currents of commotion. That takes strength both mentally and spiritually. That takes real paddling. That takes listening to the voice of the Guide, even when it gets hard, and even when we get tired.

I’m asking each of you to really paddle—not just sit back and talk about who is not doing this or that, or whether your boat captain knows what he is doing. The rapids are getting bigger. Focus your attention on following the Lord, our Guide and our Redeemer.

The Lord has promised: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth, give I unto you.” Then He says this, and I think this is something for our day, for us to remember and be reminded of: “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).

Brothers and sisters, resist the temptation of fear. Do not give into it. Do not feed it with your thoughts. Fear undermines your faith. Fear steals your power to act and to exercise faith. Do not yield to it. Note it for what it is, and do not give your thoughts to it. Do not surrender to that which you don’t know. Build on the sacred experiences that you have had. Do not forsake the Lord our Guide because you cannot explain everything. I urge you not to criticize those who have been called by the Lord as prophets and apostles. They are human, and yet they have keys. The revelation of God is with them. Stay out of the currents of commotion that would steal away your faith and your power.

In conclusion, let me testify that this is the work of God, that this is a plan of salvation that our Heavenly Father laid out—a plan with agency, with challenges, with rapids, with all the experiences that you are facing and that you will face in the years ahead. However, He has not left us without a Guide. I am so grateful for that Guide. I am so grateful for the Savior Jesus Christ, for the restoration of His Church, and the principles of the gospel that have been restored, that give us understanding, that help us orient ourselves so that we know exactly how to get through the difficulties that we have in our lives and the difficulties that lay ahead.

I am so thankful for His love, for His mercy. I am grateful for each of you. I am grateful for the fact that you were born for this. You were born to come in a day such as this. I’m optimistic about what lies ahead. Whenever we see the difficulties of life rise up, we see the power of God extended and expanded through you and with you. He is with us. He will continue with us. There are great days ahead.

I hope that you will have faith and hope and confidence, and not get stuck swirling in the currents of commotion. Stay above them. Listen to the Guide. Pull hard, and you will discover all of the joys and hopes and dreams that you have ahead of you.

In conclusion, I add my words to those which have been said many, many times throughout history: “I would that ye should come unto Christ, who is the Holy One of Israel, and partake of His salvation, and the power of his redemption” (see Omni 1:26). In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


Bio

David Sturt is an Executive Vice President of the O.C. Tanner Company, a $500 million global recognition and workplace culture company. He is also a New York Times bestselling author of "Great Work: How to Make a Difference People Love," and newly released "Appreciate: Celebrate People, Inspire Results." He was recently named one of the top three most influential visionaries in the incentives industry by Incentives Magazine.

His work and interviews have been published in Harvard Business Review, Wall Street Journal, Fortune, and NPR, and he co-authors a weekly leadership column on Forbes.com. David has spoken at TEDx, and to thousands of business leaders at conferences and companies all over the world.

David has a degree in training and development, an MBA from BYU, and has two decades of experience in research, innovation and leadership. He was born in England, raised in South Africa (where his family joined the LDS Church), and educated in the U.S. and Asia.

David has been married for 31 years and loves being with his wife, Stacie, and their four children and spouses. He enjoys golf and tennis and all kinds of watersports including windsurfing and surfing.

He is currently serving as stake president of the Salt Lake Cottonwood Stake.

Elder L. Whitney Clayton

20 Jan. 2018

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Intending to Build a Tower

By Elder L. Whitney Clayton

Brothers and sisters, I am very happy to be here, and happy to have that experience in Argentina recalled for you and for me. I’m still wearing some of the “helados.” I learned that there was nothing like “helado” in Buenos Aires, or anywhere else in Argentina. And I tried it everywhere else in Argentina as well. But that was a happy experience our boys had, and a great lesson as Kathy has explained to you.

We are so happy to be here with you. I have thought and thought about what I might say to you, and concluded that I would share with you a few experiences that have been meaningful to me, and I’ll try to weave some scriptures in to help you see why they have been important to me.

I believe at this point in your lives, when you are working so hard on the things you want to become, that it is important to remember the larger picture of what you are becoming. You are getting an education, which is terrific and fundamentally important. In this world, you can’t really get too much education. So, get all the education you can possibly get. That’s a very important principle, and it will become more important as the world goes on. The world has very little patience for people who are not educated these days, at least economically.

But there is a larger sense to education I would like to call to your attention, and I do so sharing some experiences that have been meaningful to me, and I hope will be helpful to you.

I start with a scripture which I will use as a springboard for my remarks. This is one that is taken out of context; the context doesn’t really fit the use I will give to this verse, but the verse will be familiar to you. From Luke 14: “For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he hath sufficient to finish it?” (Luke 14:28).   

That expression the Savior gave of building a tower was used for other purposes, but with respect to where you are, what you are doing, what you hope to become, and the long life which is out in front of you—a long and happy opportunity to build a great life—I would invite you to consider thoughts about counting the cost and thoughts about ensuring that your life is complete in the rounded sense, complete in the fulfilling sense. And that, in the long run, you will be pleased with what you did with your life, with how you lived, and where it took you.

Let me then suggest a couple of thoughts. One experience I have never forgotten—it seems very insignificant today—but years ago, Kathy and I lived in Sacramento, California. We lived out on the east side of Sacramento, just north of a freeway called Highway 50. It was the freeway from Sacramento to South Lake Tahoe. We would travel that freeway now and then, going out east for one reason or another.

Not long after we moved there, on the south side of the freeway, someone began to build a building. I don’t really know what the building was destined to become. The reason I don’t know that is, along the way, construction stopped and it was never started again. It was this skeleton of a building, maybe a little more than a skeleton. It wasn’t just the framing; a lot of the work was done. But it just froze. Every time we drove by, I thought about that scripture: “What man among you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first to count the cost…?”

I don’t know what the problem was. I wondered if it was an economic problem, or if there was some other issue that arose. I don’t know what stopped it. I thought how terrible it was for that building to not be completed. I’ve since seen that there was a much larger message in that, and how terrible it is for a life not to accomplish all the good, all the wonder, all the beauty that Heaven intends it to accomplish. Heaven wants you, and wants me, and wants all of us, to have satisfying, noble, uplifting, joyful, happy lives. I’ve learned as I’ve watched over a lifetime that there are paths that lead to those destinations of happiness and joy and fulfillment and satisfaction and usefulness and purpose—and so many roads that lead to other places.

That building on the side of Highway 50 is ever in my mind. In fact, the last time we were there—or maybe I was there; I’m not sure Kathy was with me—I actually drove out, years later. We were in law school there 40 years ago. I drove out to see if it was still there. You will be glad to know that it was not. The city reached that part of East Sacramento, and whatever it was that was going to be there is no longer there.

You have so much promise. You have so much potential. You have so much capacity to become something in this life. I’m not talking about becoming rich or famous. I’m talking about becoming a person of substance, a person of worth, a person who is dependable and trustworthy, a person who is capable, a person to whom responsibility can be given without fear, a person in whom another person—a husband or a wife, or other people, children—can trust without reservation. I am talking about the kind of person who is comfortable in any society and among any group of people.

People of substance, people who have made something of themselves through righteous living, develop an internal sense of well-being and an internal sense of composure and grace that other people who choose other paths don’t enjoy. They may enjoy other things, but they don’t enjoy the things that most ennoble a life.

With that in mind, let me invite you to consider some things that will help you build lives that will be useful to you. This morning, in the Meeting—the seven Presidents of the Seventy attend the Meeting of the Quorum of the Twelve, almost all of the meeting, every Tuesday morning. I just walked out of that meeting when I came over here. One of the members of the Twelve, talking about a matter that will come for final decision before long, said, “Well, the concrete is still wet for this idea.” And that’s what I’m talking about. You are young. It would be very hard for me to go back in life and decide I’m going to be a doctor, or I’m going to be a civil engineer. I’m a little too old for that. It’s a little too late for me to do a lot of things, but for you, almost all of you who are here, your concrete is still wet. Your concrete will cure, it will harden over time. It will harden as life goes on. So think carefully.

Let me tell you a couple of stories that make this thought clear. When we lived in Buenos Aires, there was a friend there, a member of the Church, who had a company that built sailboats—large sailboats, yachts, beautiful yachts. Occasionally he would take us out on the Rio de la Plata—the river that separates Uruguay to the north at that point, from Argentina on the south—and we would go sailing for the day. He used to race sailboats from Buenos Aires straight east toward Africa. Of course, Africa is all the way across the ocean. He would sail down this big river; it was twenty miles wide at that part of the river, and down at the mouth of the river where the river flows into the Atlantic Ocean, it is 200 miles wide.

The race was from Buenos Aires to a place called Punta del Este, the eastern point of Uruguay. Because the river is so wide and because there is absolutely no elevation there—everything is flat—if you are in the middle of the river, you can’t see the sides of the river once you get downstream a little closer to the Atlantic Ocean. He explained how carefully he had to steer that boat by the compass. He said, “If you are only off by a degree or two, you may pass by Punta del Este without seeing it.” And where is the next stop? Africa. “So,” he said, “we learn to keep our eyes on the compass because an error of just one or two degrees can make a huge difference.”

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf—Elder Uchtdorf now—spoke about that same concept with respect to a tourist airplane that left New Zealand to fly to Antarctica only to learn, sadly, that their avionics, their systems for steering the aircraft, were out of kilter. They learned that when the plane crashed into a mountain because they had just been off for a degree or two for hundreds and hundreds of miles (A matter of Degrees, April 2008 General Conference).

In that sense, President Russell M. Nelson, in his press conference and in his first remarks to the Church upon being announced as the President of the Church, reminded us to “keep on the covenant path.” Do you remember that? He said it several times. One time I believe he said, “stay on the covenant path,” and he corrected himself. He said, “Keep on the covenant path” (President Rusell M. Nelson Named 17th President of the Church). There is safety in the covenant path, or on the covenant path.

Let me take you to a scripture that explains that concept. “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:

“Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).

Those who venture off the strait and narrow path by even a degree or two, over a period of a lifetime, will find that the separation that degree or two has caused in their lives between the strait and narrow path and where they ended up, has taken them to destinations they didn’t want to reach. It is so easy to just allow a little bit of room off the edge.

My first mission president—I had two—used to say to us, “Don’t be tape-measure Mormons.” And it was a really clever way of saying, “Don’t measure the strait and narrow path to find out how wide it is so you know how much you can get away with.” He said, “Look for the center of the strait and narrow path, because that’s where safety is.”

With respect to these concepts, let me take you to two or three other quick thoughts. This is one, another experience from South America, that was tremendously meaningful to me. Kathy has heard me share this all over the world. It was one of the most instructive experiences I have ever had.

We arrived in Argentina in August of 2002, and there was an economic collapse. In December of 2001, Argentina had four national presidents in ten days. The value of the peso had gone from one-to-one with the dollar to one-to-four. So if you had a dollar bill, you were lucky, because you could buy a lot more things. But if you had pesos, your capacity to purchase things in the marketplace was greatly diminished. People weren’t allowed to take money out of banks, and it was hard to find an ATM to get cash.

In that circumstance, I was asked to go up to Paraguay, which is the country to the north of Argentina. It is a much smaller country geographically, economically, and by population. When Argentina became so sick with its economic malady, Paraguay—which depended on Argentina for almost everything—became sicker still.

I’d only been in Argentina two weeks. I had not been in South America since 1971 when I finished my mission. So more than thirty years later, I didn’t know anything about Paraguay. I had never been there before. I met with the six stake presidents in Asunción and asked them to tell me all the good things that were happening in their stakes. I didn’t want to talk about the problems. I thought, “I don’t have the answers to those questions. I haven’t been here long enough to have any advice for you, brethren, so just tell me all the good things.”

The first one did, and he told me a couple of problems. As they went around the semi-circle in front of me, by the time we got to the last stake president, he had completely forgotten the question, with the help of the others who had preceded him, and just listed all these serious problems. I was kicking myself mentally: “Way to go, Brother Clayton,” was basically what I said to myself. “They have listed for you, they’ve recited these very serious problems that the people of their stakes are facing in this time of economic turmoil and collapse and desperation. You don’t have any advice for them. What are you going to do?”

As I had that thought front and center in my head, a question came into my mind as a fully-framed question: “Elder Clayton, ask them this question: ‘Presidents, for the people in your stakes who pay a full tithing, who pay a generous fast offering, who hold family home evenings, who read the scriptures as a family, who magnify their callings, and who go out and honestly serve as a visiting teacher or a home teacher every single month—for that group of people in your stakes, presidents, how many people are there who have problems in today’s world in Paraguay that they cannot solve?’”

So I asked the question. I said, “Presidents, for the people in your stakes who pay a full tithing, who pay a generous fast offering, who magnify their calling, who are diligent and faithful home teachers, who hold family home evening and family prayer—for that group of people in your stakes, how many people are there that can’t address and resolve the problems they are facing on their own, without the Church having to step in and solve the problems for them?”

The stake presidents, in a single motion, looked up to me with surprise. What did they say? They said, “Well, none. All the people who do those things are doing fine.” Do you get the message? All the people who are doing those things are doing fine. This isn’t rocket science, brothers and sisters. It’s called the center of the strait and narrow path. It’s called “don’t be a tape-measure Mormon.” Don’t wander off the path. Safety is found in the center.

As you build your lives, you want to have another experience recounted to you that I had some years ago practicing law in southern California. I had a case that took me to San Diego. We lived in Irvine, which is not quite midway between Los Angeles and San Diego, and I drove nearly every day for almost half a year to San Diego because of a case that I was handling down there. And as I was driving, the temple was being constructed. The San Diego Temple is right on the side of the freeway.

As I watched, and I had been watching along the way, but as I watched, I noticed something very interesting. You would be interested, by the way—it is so close to the freeway that Time Magazine said years ago that the LDS Church didn’t understand the need to separate church and interstate. It’s a beautiful temple. If you go to San Diego today and you listen to the traffic reports, since it’s right by the freeway, the traffic reporters will say, “It’s ten minutes from downtown to the Temple, and it’s fifteen minutes from the Temple to Carlsbad.” That kind of thing. It is a monument. Everyone knows where it is.

I watched as the land was cleared. They brought in heavy equipment, and they pulled with earth-moving equipment, they pulled all the brush off. They leveled the land. They prepared the land for the building of the Temple. I watched, each day as I would drive by and look at the site in the afternoon, on my way home, as they dug the holes for the footings and for the utilities. I watched as they poured concrete and put the steel superstructure up. I watched as they began to put the floors in for the various floors of the temple, poured the lightweight concrete that made those floors. I watched as the rest of the utilities went into the building, and then when they put the exterior cladding on the outside so it looked like a temple.

I watched as they then began to do more work with the land and bring in the landscaping. I watched when they put the statue of the Angel Moroni on the top of the building. It was a day, by the way, that the traffic slowed. Until then, traffic kind of went by, but that afternoon on the way back, the traffic slowed. And it wasn’t because of an accident ahead; it was because everybody was seeing the temple with new eyes, with the Angel Moroni statue on top.

That experience reminded me or taught me some valuable concepts about building lives. Heaven starts with the basic commandments that level the land, that clear away the brush from our lives, that clear away the things that are obstacles. And then Heaven continues by laying a solid foundation, by putting within us a steel superstructure of commandments and of faith on which other things can then be added.

Ultimately, the most important things in the temple are things which are inside it. And that is true, also, even in the décor of the temple. If you go to the temple, you will note that there are messages being taught by the level of décor in various places—ending, of course, in the celestial room. When you look at a temple, you see a metaphor for the building of our lives, for the way that God helps us to become something. He starts with the basics and moves on to the finest refinements of the inner soul, when we are ready for that.

When we think about building lives, we think about keeping the commandments of God. People who keep the commandments of God don’t need to be rescued from the ill effects of poor choices. They don’t make those poor choices. People who keep the commandments of God find an inner strength because God helps put it there. People who keep the commandments of God find an internal embellishment, an internal design work almost, that makes people who have kept the commandments over years, beautiful people. 

I have learned that this is something almost all of us can see in other people. We can tell a Church member from afar in an airport. You have probably had that experience. We have it all the time. We’ll see someone and say, “That is a Church member.” Someone will walk by us on an airplane and I will think, “That was a Church member who went by.” It becomes obvious over time.

Let me take you to one or two additional thoughts, and then I will close. This verse from the Book of Mormon, which is repeated in almost the same language all the way through the Book of Mormon, is not taken out of context, I think, at all, but sometimes I think it is misunderstood. In various places we find this phrase, “For the Lord God hath said that: Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land; and inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall be cut off from my presence” (2 Nephi 4:4).

I don’t believe that “prosper in the land” means a Mercedes-Benz in every driveway. I do believe that those who keep the commandments of God prosper in all the ways that matter most. I don’t think the Lord cares if we have a Mercedes-Benz, and has little sympathy for those who think that is something they have just got to have. There is nothing wrong with it, but if we start judging our self-worth by the name on the back of our shirt, or the car that we drive, or the neighborhood that we live in, we have failed to become people of real substance. And there is nothing wrong with those things. They are good things and they can be very appropriate in lots of circumstances. It is when they are the way we see ourselves, when they become the way we judge ourselves as to how valuable we are as a person, that we have gotten off the track.

When we prosper in the land, we prosper because God has blessed us—with peace of conscience, with revelation and inspiration when they are needed, with a family which is happy and intact. When we prosper in the land, we prosper because we have become dependable, both for the Lord and other people. Husbands trust wives. Wives trust husbands. Children are confident in the goodness of their parents and are not deceived.

When we prosper in the land, the Lord can look upon us with kindness always, but with expectation that we will be something that He can use, wherever He sends us and whatever our position in life may be.

I want to bear testimony that God blesses us, and that God expects you to become people of substance, people of value, people of worth, people who can be trusted, people to whom He can give the Kingdom and much responsibility for bearing it off. He needs you to raise righteous children, to have happy marriages, to be the light for the world. He needs you to be everything that He wants you to be, not because it would bless Him so much, although it is His work and His glory to bring to pass eternal life (see Moses 1:39), but because He loves you and wants you to experience the joy that comes from a lifetime of good choices that grow into wonderful consequences.

I bear testimony that God lives. I know He lives. That Jesus Christ is His holy and resurrected Son, that this Church is His Church. It is the only true and living Church on the face of the earth. It is the only Church that has within its ranks those who hold the priesthood of God and are authorized to use it. I bear testimony of its prophetic trajectory. It will accomplish all that the Lord has said it will, and it will do it because there are wonderful people inside it who keep the commandments and serve God with all their heart, mind, and soul.

I bear this testimony to you and express love to you and gratitude for all that you are doing in becoming people of substance and worth, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

 

Think Big, with Faith Not Fear

Sister Kathy K. Clayton 

What beautiful, triumphant music by both the pianist and the vocalists. That was spectacular. Thank you.

I am so happy to be with you. It is a treat for me to enjoy your company and a treat for me to be adjacent my husband, whom I adore. It was fun for me to greet a few of you as you arrived. To several of you who are clearly native Spanish speakers, I indulged myself with a bit of a “mucho gusto.” I hope you don’t mind. I recalled as I did so, lots of “mucho gusto’s” that I offered not so many years ago – recently enough that it’s still a very vivid memory – when we lived in Buenos Aires on an assignment for my husband.

We arrived there, all those years ago, with my not knowing any Spanish at all. It was a little intimidating. In fact, it was enormously intimidating. I remember so clearly that arrival. We’d been on an all-night flight – some of you who are South Americans know what that is. One must fly all night to get from here to there or there to here. That all-night flight is a bit dizzying in its own right. We were picked up at the airport and hustled off to the little condominium that was to be our home for, it turned out to be, four years. We didn’t know at the time how long we would be stationed there, but that assignment ended up lasting for four years. When we arrived in the downtown Buenos Aires residence, we ascended that little elevator. Someone carried our bags into our new living room and hustled my husband off to his new office. I was left in the condominium with several of our children and one of their friends. Among our seven children, six of them were single at the time of that move, so several of them had accompanied us initially to see the world their parents would call home for the next undetermined period of time.

Left in that foreign place with those children, I walked to the window and looked out where I admired groups of beautiful, elegant Argentines who I assumed didn’t speak English. I knew I most certainly didn’t speak Spanish and I felt the blood drain from my face. One daughter, who was about your age, stood at my side. She had become my friend as well as my daughter. (That’s what happens when you get to be at the same altitude as your moms and dads – you become their friends.) She looked at me and I think read my thoughts. She said, “Don’t jump, Mom!” I was thinking of it, but I wouldn’t have done it. I did feel a little fearful. In fact, I felt quite fearful – so uncertain of how I would manage this. It seemed so much and so daunting and so hard and so over my head.

We had several sons who had come with us in addition to that daughter. Those boys took to the streets. They had some money that we had gotten from the ATM machine at the airport. They were equipped for their adventure with a 100-peso note, which in those days, during a time of economic disaster in Argentina, was the equivalent of about twenty dollars. In normal times that wouldn’t have seemed like so much, but at that time it probably looked to many Argentines more like what would trigger in our thoughts the sight of a thousand dollars. It just seemed like a lot when people were pinching their pennies so assiduously. Our boys took that 100-peso note and took to the streets to conquer Buenos Aires and Argentina in general.

They returned triumphant – that’s what made me think of “triumphant” as I listened to your beautiful music. Our boys returned to tell us and their sister of their escapades and first experience on the streets of Buenos Aires. They said they had found, right off the bat, an “helodos” store. You know what that is. It’s that sticky, gooey, delicious ice cream you eat with a little shovel. So good! They proceeded to tell us that, since they didn’t speak Spanish either, they went through the line, as was the procedure at this store, and they pointed to the flavors that they wanted, then they pointed to the “cono” that they wanted their ice cream to be put into. When they got to the end of the line to the cashier, they handed him their 100-peso note. They told us how big that cashier’s eyes got and how he wagged his finger at them and said, “No tenemos cambio,” which means, “We don’t have change for that!” He would never in his wildest dreams have change for a 100-peso note in his cash register. He would have been vulnerable to desperate people who wanted that change.

I, still feeling fearful and overwhelmed by the fear and newness and the foreignness and the differentness of it all, said to them, “Oh, that’s so sad!” – launching into a major pity party about how “you poor boys couldn’t even get your ice cream cones in this strange place.” They looked at me with an expression of bewilderment and said, “Mom, we got our ice cream comes!”

I’ll bet some of you can guess what they did, especially the boys among you. I was feeling overwhelmed; they were feeling triumphant. I said, “What did you do?” Some of you probably know, but I will tell you. They just told the cashier, communicating with gestures, “Well, then we’ll just have to buy 100-pesos worth of gelados.” So those three boys, with six hands among them, returned to our new home with six bags. Each bag held three Styrofoam containers of gelados, with a small piece of dry ice on top of each container. The boys carried those eighteen Styrofoam containers home and put them in our freezer, the freezer in the apartment below us, and the freezer in the apartment above us. And we ate helados for days.

My message to you is think bigger. Think bigger. Don’t be paralyzed or governed by your fear. If this new place, these new studies, these new people, and – for many of you – this non-native language, feel like a lot, feel a bit daunting or foreboding or impassable and impossible, don’t let those feelings dictate your governing principles. Take some risks. Think big and conquer this grand new adventure, which is yours to embrace for the taking. Go home with bags and bags of helados, not a pity party of paralysis because you believe it is just too hard.

I know by way of testimony that the good God who loves us all is mighty in every regard, and delights to save us – save us in the ultimate sense, and save us in the immediate sense, from fear. Please, dear brothers and sisters, embrace this opportunity with great faith and subjugate the fear. Trust that there can be helados enough for days, for a lifetime, if you will step forward and think bigger with confident trust in the God who loves you and will bless you. I know that is true. I leave you my love and my testimony, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


Bio

Elder L. Whitney Clayton was sustained as a General Authority Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on March 31, 2001. He has served as a member of the Presidency of the Seventy since 2008 and was named Senior President of the Quorums of the Seventy on October 6, 2015. He assists Elder Dallin H. Oaks in supervising the Mexico Area and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland in supervising the Middle East/Africa North Area. 

Elder Clayton served as a counselor in the South America South Area Presidency in 2002 to 2003 and as President from 2003 to 2006 while living in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Previously he served as an Area Seventy for the North America West Area for six years.

He has served in a number of Church callings, including full-time missionary in Peru, regional representative, counselor in a mission presidency, stake high councilor, bishop, stake mission president, and Gospel Doctrine teacher.

Elder Clayton earned a bachelor’s degree in finance at the University of Utah and a law degree at the University of the Pacific. He was an attorney in California from 1978 to 2001.

Elder Clayton was born in Salt Lake City, Utah on February 24, 1950. He married Kathy Ann Kipp in August 1973. They are parents of seven children.

Mark Willes

14 Mar. 2018

Video

Audio

Quotes

 

Transcript

Small Things Matter a Lot

My dear brothers and sisters, I am grateful to be with you this morning. I don’t know how many of you know that I am actually a substitute for someone who was scheduled to speak today and couldn’t make it. So, they asked me if I would come in his place.

It reminds me of the story of a man. They were having a Quaker meeting, and the man who was scheduled to sing got sick and couldn’t do it, so they asked somebody to substitute for him. He got up and did just a terrible job. He sang off key, he forgot the words—it was just awful. And he felt very badly about it, so one of the members of the congregation came up to him after and said, “Thee should not feel bad. Thee did thy very best. ‘Tis he that asked thee should be shot.”

I don’t want to tell you who asked me. I ask a special interest in your prayers, that something I might do might be of benefit to you today. I want you to know how much we love President and Sister Kusch. They are perfect for the time and place. I know how much they love you, too, and how much they are willing to give to lead you. I also know how much the Lord loves them, and that He is working through them to bless your lives. We are all blessed because of who they are and what they are.

I don’t see a clock up here. I’m going to take my watch off so I don’t go over time. A former professor, as you know, you just push a button and they go for fifty minutes. And I don’t have fifty minutes, so I’m going to put that watch right there.

You’ve probably heard the story of the Catholic boy and the Mormon boy who wanted to learn a little bit more about each other’s religions, so they decided they’d attend each other’s church. They first went to the Catholic church, and they listened to the Mass, and they saw the priest make the sign of the cross. The Mormon boy turned to the Catholic boy and said, “What does that mean?” He explained the symbolism of the sign of the cross.

They then went to a Mormon meeting and they watched the speaker very ceremoniously take off his watch and put it on the pulpit like I am doing. The Catholic boy turned to the Mormon boy and said, “What does that mean?”

The Mormon boy said, “It doesn’t mean a thing.” We’ll make sure it does mean a thing.

My topic today is to talk about small things that matter a lot. In Alma it says, “Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass” (see Alma 37:6).

Then in the Doctrine and Covenants: “Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great” (see Doctrine and Covenants 64:33).

I’d like to share some stories with you about things that, at the time, seemed very small, but turned out to have very large consequences—for evil as well as good. And this principle applies to literally everything we do, which is why we have to be so careful in the decisions we make.

President Kusch mentioned that I worked at the Federal Reserve system for some years. The Federal Reserve system is a bank for other banks; it is the central bank. My first job there was to run the research department—probably the best job I ever had. I just kind of sat around and thought big thoughts and wasn’t accountable for anything. It was just really wonderful.

And then they asked me to be the chief operating officer. I had been in that job for about two weeks, and an FBI agent walked into my office and said, “We have reason to believe some of your employees are stealing money from your bank.”

I didn’t even know where the money was at that point, let alone how they would get the money out. So I called in the vice president responsible for cash—yes, there was a vice president responsible for cash—and I said, “This agent says they are taking money out of our bank.”

He said, “It cannot happen.” Ten days later, that FBI agent walked out of our building with ten of our employees who, in total, had stolen 1.4 million dollars in cash. On one occasion, they walked out of our bank with $900,000.

One of those walked from our building to the courthouse—which turned out to be next door, which was a blessing; they didn’t have to take them very far—was the son of a minister. His grandfather was a minister. He himself had thought about going into the ministry. A second one was the daughter of a police captain. The third one was the son of a deputy sheriff. The fourth one was an assistant Scoutmaster.

In other words, nine out of the ten of those who were walking over to be charged with grand theft looked and behaved just like you. They were clean-cut. They were good kids. They ranged in age from 19 to 25, and if you were to sit them in these seats down here, you would say, “They look like they go to the LDS Business College.”

How could that possibly have happened? It turned out that two of them were counting coins one day—now, the way you count coins in a Federal Reserve Bank is you run them through an automatic counter and then, before you seal the bag, you put it on a scale to weigh it, to make sure that the counter was accurate. And if it comes within a certain tolerance, you then seal up the bag and put it on the pallet.

One of these young men said to his friend, “Just as a lark, I’m going to see if I can take one quarter out of that bag and if it will still pass tolerance.” So he took one quarter out, slipped it in his pocket, put the bag up on the scale, and for some reason it looked like it weighed the right amount and they sealed it up.

They said, “Well, that’s kind of cool. If we take one more quarter, we can get ice cream for lunch.” So they did the same thing with the next bag—one more quarter. Now we’re talking about fifty cents—weighed the bag, sealed it up, and went and bought ice cream for lunch that day. They thought that was the end of it. It was a very small thing, and who was going to miss twenty-five cents?

The trouble is, there was one bad apple in that department, and he watched them do it, and he went up to them after and said, “I saw you take that quarter. And if you don’t help me, I’m going to turn you in, and you will lose your jobs and be counted as thieves.”

If they had had the courage to say, “Yes, I’m going to repent of this; turn me in,” that would have been the end of it. But they didn’t. Over a period of time, he was able to recruit them and then some others, until there were ten of them involved. You could beat any security system if you have ten insiders involved, and that’s how they carried money out of this bank. It started with a quarter.

So, when we are tempted to look at one pornographic picture, it’s not a little deal. It’s a big deal. When we are tempted to take one drink that we shouldn’t drink, it’s not a little deal. It’s a big deal. One experiment with inappropriate drugs—not a little deal. It’s a big deal.

You know, Satan is very smart. He rarely comes at us and asks us to commit a really huge sin, but he knows where we are weak. He comes at us and he says, “I’m just going to get you to do a little teeny thing. And then when you do that, you’re going to be so embarrassed, you’re going to try to cover it up, and before long you are doing more and more and more.” And then he has you. I hope and pray you will never let even little sins be part of your life.

That is why the Savior said, “I …cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance” (see Doctrine and Covenants 1:31). It’s not because He wants to be mean; it’s because He loves us and wants to bless us.

Second story: President Kusch mentioned that I got my PhD at Columbia University. What happens when you get a PhD is, you go through all the course work, and then you have to take an oral examination with three or four or five senior professors from the university, who are free to test you on anything that they think is relevant to your discipline.

I was getting ready to take my orals, and three of my fellow students had just taken theirs and flunked. I thought, “Oh, my goodness. What am I going to do?” I had made it a practice, throughout my academic career, never to study on Sunday. It just didn’t feel right to me to study on Sunday. You have to make your own decision; I’m not telling you what to do. I’m just saying that, for me, keeping the Sabbath day holy meant not studying on Sunday.

Besides, I studied so hard the rest of the week, I needed a break. I needed a better day, and Sunday was always a better day. So, I would never study on Sunday. I went in to my PhD examinations, knowing that my friends who had just failed had studied seven days a week. I had only studied six days a week, and they had failed. What was I going to do?

About the third question they asked me, I had no idea what the answer was. I thought, “Oh boy, that’s what I was supposed to study on Sunday, and I didn’t get it.” And all of a sudden, I looked at them, and I said, “I don’t know what the answer is, but to find out the answer, here is the hypothesis I would set up, here’s the data I would gather, here is how I would analyze the data, and then I would be able to get the answer.”

That happened three times. I actually started having fun. They were asking me these questions; I knew most of the answers. Every time I didn’t know the answer, I would respond that way, and I was just feeling really quite good about everything. Then as soon as I walked out of the room, I thought, “I have failed.”

You see, the Spirit was with me when I was in the room, but as soon as I walked out, He just left and I was on my own. I walked into our seminar the next day, and our professor—who had been one of those examining me—didn’t see me come in, and he said to the students, “I just want you to know, one of your fellow students just passed his orals with one of the highest marks we’ve ever given in the 35 years I’ve been at the University.”

Don’t misunderstand; I’m not that smart. But I do know how to be obedient. And there is no question in my mind that, because I was obedient in observing the Sabbath, when I had done all I could do, the Lord did the rest. And oh, my goodness, what a remarkable blessing that is. You have exactly the same promise. When you keep the commandments, after you have done all you can do, the Lord will do the rest.

President [Russell M.] Nelson has said, “Obedience brings success; exact obedience brings miracles” (R. Scott Lloyd, “Elder Nelson Delivers Spiritual Thanksgiving Feast to MTCs,” Church News, 4 December 2013). I had a miracle that day, and thankfully, have had many since—because the Lord is so kind, and because He loves us and wants us to succeed if we’ll just do it His way.

When I went to General Mills and I was the chief operating officer, one of our divisions was a restaurant division. It’s why I’m a little fatter today than I was a long time ago. When you’re in the restaurant business, what you do is you go around and eat in your restaurants and everybody else’s restaurants, just to compare the food and see about the service and all these other things. I love that job, unfortunately.

One day we were out on the West Coast and we were eating in a competitor’s restaurant, and one of our restaurants was the Olive Garden. How many of you have eaten in an Olive Garden restaurant? Bless your hearts. Thank you very much. I’m still a shareholder. This was a Friday night. We walked up to the restaurant. Now, what should happen at Olive Garden is, when you walk up to the restaurant, you walk in, and somebody says, “Welcome to the Olive Garden.” They make you feel wonderful; the hot food is hot and the cold food is cold, the service is fast, and you get more than you could possibly eat at a very good price.

We walked up to the door, and there was nobody at the door. We walked in and there was nobody to receive us. This was 5 o’clock on a Friday night. Five o’clock on a Friday night at an Olive Garden the waiting line should be about an hour. There was nobody waiting. Finally, somebody wandered out and said, “Can we help you?” Well, of course you could help us, that’s why we’re here. We’d like to eat, thank you very much.

So, they took us in and sat us down in the almost empty restaurant, at the one table where the beautiful California sun was coming right into our eyes. So I said, “Would you mind having someone pull the shutters down?” Sure enough, twenty minutes later, somebody came and pulled the shutters down. The hot food was not hot; the cold food was not cold. It was the worst experience I’d ever had in any restaurant, let alone one of ours. I was feeling terrible.

Fortunately, I had the man who ran our restaurant division sitting next to me. He was about to die. I asked the server, “Can you have the manager come in?” On a Friday night in a restaurant, the manager is always there.

“Well, the manager is not here tonight.”

“Can you have the assistant manager come?”

Finally, the assistant manager came. I pointed to the lettuce on the floor, told him the hot food was not hot, the cold food was not cold, the service was very slow. And he’s kind of looking off like he is on something. It was California; he probably was on something, I don’t know. I turned to the man who ran the restaurant group and said, “We’re coming back in a week. You have always told me how responsive running restaurants is to good management. I want to see what you can do with this restaurant in one week.”

I came back a week later. I walked up to the door. The door flew open— “Welcome to the Olive Garden.” There was a big waiting line. The hot food was hot; the cold food was cold. It was an absolutely different and wonderful experience. I called the new general manager over. You are business students; did you get that? The new general manager.

I said, “I assume you have about 125 employees in this restaurant.” He said yes. I said, “Out of those 125, how many did you have to fire to get this dramatic improvement in the performance of this restaurant?”

Do you know what his answer was? “One.” I didn’t ask—I hope it was that assistant manager, but I didn’t ask. I was too kind. All the rest was a matter of appropriate training, setting the standards, and then holding people accountable to those standards. The servers were happy because their tips were way up. The management was happy because his performance was way up. The customers were much happier, because they were having a fantastic experience in this restaurant. All because—we had the procedures in place, we had the standards in place—they just didn’t have a manager who was helping them know how to, and then live up to, those standards.

The LDS Business College has standards and procedures and practices in place. If you want to be successful, all you have to do is work hard to measure up—to follow the standards, to follow the process, to follow the things that are put into place for you—and you will be successful.

When you go to work for somebody, they have procedures and plans and standards in place if you want to be successful. You just have to do what they have laid out to do.

If you want to save your immortal soul, thank heavens we have a God in heaven who loves us, and He has laid out a plan—a perfect plan. All we have to do is understand the plan and follow the plan, and He will give us, yes, literally miracles, in this life as well as in the life to come. It doesn’t mean it’s always easy, but it’s a whole lot easier than being a failure.

How many of you are returned missionaries? Oh, my goodness, look at that. I just want to digress for a minute. My grandmother and grandfather met at the LDS Business College. So, if you’re a returned missionary, which a large percentage of you are, look around. I mean, who knows who you might meet here. That was probably uncalled for, wasn’t it? I’m sorry; I couldn’t resist that.

I want to tell you one more story, as part of my testimony. Every Sunday we take the sacrament, and those sacramental prayers, which are found in the 20th section of the Doctrine and Covenants become so commonplace to us that we tend not to think about them. When we returned from our mission, I was asked to teach the priests quorum, and I would have them practice with me, saying the sacramental prayers—slowly, slowly so that they could feel as well as hear the words.

We were once at the MTC and had an American Sign Language district in our branch, as well as seven other languages. We asked two of the elders who were learning American Sign to do the sacrament in Sign. The way you do it, for those of you who don’t know, is that you kneel down, then you stand up, sign the prayers, and then kneel back down, then stand back up and hand out the trays. We had prepared all of our missionaries, who came from all over the world, and we said, “We’re going to do this in American Sign, and then we want you to read while the sacrament is being passed, we want you to read slowly the sacramental prayers.” It was fascinating to watch what happened.

First of all, to see the sacramental prayers in Sign was a moving and touching thing. Not a sound, but you could just start to visualize those remarkable promises. And then I watched our missionaries as they were reading slowly and thinking about, deeply, the sacramental prayer. First one, then another started to weep. Before we were finished, they were all weeping, because they were internalizing the remarkable promises in those prayers. We recall that we promise—we promise—to take upon ourselves the name of the Savior, to always remember Him, and keep His commandments. And He in turn, then promises us that we could always have His Spirit to be with us.

I’m going to tell you a story that’s going to sound like it doesn’t have anything to do with this, and I hope you find out that it does. At this same Federal Reserve Bank in Philadelphia, we had in our vault 18 billion dollars in cash and negotiable government securities. And one day, for family home evening when our children were very young, we decided we would take them down to the vault for family home evening. We took them down to the vault, and the man who was in charge of the vault brought a little table out like this, and he put two things on the table. He first put a brick of twenty-dollar bills.

Now what a brick is—when the money is minted by the Treasury, it’s sent in these bricks to the Federal Reserve Bank. There were 1,000 twenty-dollar bills in this brick, wrapped up. So that was $20,000. And then next to that, he put a single sheet of paper that had what looked like scribbling on it, and he turned to our young children and said, “If I were to give you one of these, which would you like?”

Well, they sold drinks on the golf course, so they knew what a $20 bill was, so they said, “We’ll take that brick of 20-dollar bills. That’s $20,000.” I thought, oh my. Good choice. Not the best choice; you see, that paper sitting next to it that had the scribbling on it was actually a negotiable U.S. Treasury Certificate worth $100 million. Twenty thousand dollars—good choice. One hundred million dollars—better choice.

We all have choices in life. Sometimes the choices are between good things and bad things. Those are actually simple choices to make, or at least, they should be. Because the instruction and the promises of blessings are so clear that when we make a good choice we will be blessed, and when we don’t make a good choice we won’t be blessed. So those should be easy, simple choices. 

The more difficult choices are between good things and better things. When the Savior left, He said, “I will leave you the Holy Ghost” (see John 14:16-18, 26). And the Holy Ghost promises not only to teach us things and to testify of things, but to help us make everyday decisions between good things and better things. When we have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, we can lead our lives in such a way that we can have blessings we never dreamed possible, because literally every day He will help us make those choices.

Now, does He care what cereal you eat in the morning? He doesn’t care. I still care; as I told you, I’m still a shareholder. He does not care. But He does care about what you study, and where you work, and who you marry, and where you live, and all of those other important decisions that you have to make, because those decisions determine His ability to use you to carry out the plan He has in mind for you. He loves you, and He wants to bless you. And if you listen to and follow the Spirit, you can always be sure He will never lead you astray.

I hope you know we love you, and we’re proud of you. I feel your spirits and am grateful for who you are and what you are. May you have the courage to always make the little decisions right. May you have the spiritual sensitivity to listen to the promptings of the Spirit, and make the big decisions right, so the Lord can bless you with all that He has, I promise and testify and pray, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


Bio

Mark H. Willes retired as president and CEO of Deseret Management Corporations in April 2012. He had served in that capacity since March 2009. In addition to those duties, in May 2010, he was appointed the president and CEO of KSL Television and Radio. He retired as chairman, president, and chief executive officer of Times Mirror in April 2000.

Mr. Willes joined Times Mirror as CEO in June 1995. Also, he served as publisher of the Los Angeles Times from October 1997 to June 1999. Before joining Times Mirror, Mr. Willes was vice chairman of General Mills, Inc. in Minneapolis, Minnesota. A 15-year veteran of the company, he served as the president and chief operating officer from 1985 to 1992 when he was named vice chairman. He was executive vice president and the chief financial officer from 1980 to 1985. Mr. Willes previously served with the Federal Reserve System. He was president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis from 1977 to 1980 and first vice president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia from 1971 to 1977, having joined the Federal Reserve System in 1969. He began his career as an assistant professor of finance at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, from 1967 to 1969.

Mr. Willes was raised in Salt Lake City, Utah. He received his A.B. degree from Columbia College, New York City, and his Ph.D. from the Columbia Graduate School of Business.

An active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Mr. Willes has served in a number of Church assignments including President of the Minneapolis Minnesota Stake and the Hawaii Honolulu Mission. He was recently released as a Branch President at the Provo Missionary Training Center.

President and Sister Kusch

09 Jan. 2018

Video

Audio

Transcript

The Only Name Whereby Salvation Cometh

by President Bruce C. Kusch

Brothers and sisters, what a blessing it is to be with you this morning. I am very grateful to welcome you, to express our love to you and for you, and our excitement as we together begin this semester.

As Sister Kusch talked about the picture, I could see the picture that she was talking about. When I think about that picture, I also think about two young kids many, many years ago that were in love, that just wanted to do what the Lord wanted us to do, and I also realized that back then, I had some really cool sideburns.

Today is another day never to be forgotten at LDS Business College. And as I thought about what Sister Kusch was teaching us, I had this impression that I wanted to share as a further witness of what she taught us. And that is: If we will live today seeking the Lord’s guidance, He will bless us that we might have glorious tomorrows, and I know that that is true.

When each of us were born, we were given a name by our parents. And the manner of naming and the traditions of naming children varies around the world.

In the United States, generally children are given a first, a middle and a last name. Added to the name could be “Junior,” or “Senior,” or even a Roman numeral to designate a new child – male child – with the same name as the father, grandfather or even perhaps great-grandfather.

In Africa, there are nine different factors that can influence the way a child is named. These are things such as events on the day of their birth, where the child falls in the birth order, names that may convey a warning, the day of the week that the child was born, and the religious faith of the family.

In China, when people introduce themselves, they will state their last name first, followed by their first name. In Chinese culture, it is rude to use only someone’s first name or to only call them by their last name.

You may have met someone who was named after a famous person, a family member, or even a character in a movie. For example, one of our missionaries whose last name was Bond, was given the first name of James. My middle name is Calvin, and I was named after an uncle who died in the Second World War.

In Mexico, we discovered that it was not unusual to name male children after faithful and exemplary men in the Book of Mormon. One of our missionaries was named Mahonri Moriancumer Perez; another was named Angel Moroni Sanchez.

Now, remember that we had a missionary named James Bond. So, in our mission, all at the same time, we had a super spy – James Bond – we had Mahonri Moriancumer – the brother of Jared, and we had the Angel Moroni. It was epic!

Now, names may also differ by generation. In the 1880s in the United States, some of the most popular male names were John, William and George; for females they were Mary, Anna and Emma. In this decade, some of the most popular female names are Sophia, Emma and Olivia, and some of the most popular male names are Jackson, Aiden and Liam.

Some of you may have a gift for remembering names. For others, it may be a bit of a struggle. As an example, some of you know that on our first date, I forgot Sister Kusch’s name. That is a true story! I have also shared that on another occasion when I was having dinner with some friends and their young daughter wanted to make place cards — name cards — for everyone at the table, as she prepared them, she could not remember my name. And so, we went in to sit down, I sat at my place and I saw a name card that simply said “other.”

Now as a final example, sometimes names may be changed from what they were originally.

My paternal grandparents emigrated to the United States from an area of Eastern Europe. In doing some recent family history research I have come to learn that my last name was spelled differently there than it is now spelled here. It was likely changed when my grandfather arrived at Ellis Island in the United States. Sister Kusch has a grandfather on her mother’s side, who also “Americanized” his name and changed the spelling upon his arrival from Sweden. These kinds of things make for some interesting family history research challenges.

However, regardless of the country where we were born and the cultural traditions that influence how children were given a name, there is one name that each of us share and that is common to each and every one of us as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is the name: Jesus Christ. All that we do in the Church, we do in the name of Jesus Christ. The Church bears His name. We pray in His name. This talk will conclude in His name.

As members of the Church we are a collective band of Christians, not unlike those described in Alma chapter 46:

“For thus were all the true believers of Christ...called...yea, all those who were true believers in Christ took upon them, gladly, the name of Christ...because of their belief in Christ, who would come.”

The Scriptures are clear and plain in helping us understand the importance of believing in and on the name of Jesus Christ, and our willingness to take upon us His name. In fact, our salvation, our very salvation depends upon it!

In section 18 (verses 21-25) of the Doctrine and Covenants we read:

“Take upon you the name of Christ... And as many as repent and are baptized in my name, which is Jesus Christ, and endure to the end, the same shall be saved. Behold, Jesus Christ is the name which is given of the Father, and there is none other name given whereby man can be saved; Wherefore, all men must take upon them the name which is given of the Father, for in that name shall they be called at the last day; Wherefore, if they know not the name by which they are called, they cannot have a place in the kingdom of my Father.”

My hope this morning brothers and sisters, is that the Holy Ghost will help each of us learn and come to a deeper understanding of the vital importance in our lives of taking upon us the name of Jesus Christ; what it means to be willing to take His name upon us, and the promised blessings that are associated with doing so. I believe it is much more than we generally realize as members of the Church. It is no trivial matter and our willingness to take upon us the name of Christ, and all that it entails matters – a lot. What we each learn about taking upon us the name of Christ will not be as much about what is said in this devotional, but more about what each of us does following this devotional.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks taught that some meanings of taking upon us the name of Christ upon us are obvious, while others are only evident to those who have searched the scriptures and pondered the wonders of eternal life.

By way of commandment, each candidate for baptism, in expressing their desire to be baptized, comes forth with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, indicating that they have repented of their sins, declaring their witness and willingness “to take upon them the name of Jesus Christ, having a determination to serve Him to the end...” (Dallin H. Oaks, “Taking Upon Us the Name of Jesus Christ,” Ensign, May 1985). As we enter into the waters of baptism, and as we receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, we affirm that witness and declaration by sacred and solemn covenant.

It is our privilege each week, as we attend sacrament meetings to partake of the sacrament, to renew our commitment and covenant and willingness to take upon us the name of Jesus Christ, and to further witness our determination to serve Him to the end.

We also take upon us the name of Christ when we publicly proclaim our belief in Him. It is easy, as we think about those who have served in the mission field, to reflect on experiences had as missionaries; contacting people on the street, on a bus, in a store or some other place, and classify those as publicly proclaiming our belief in Christ.

But what about now? What do we do now? There may be opportunities to share the gospel with those that are not of our faith. You will have an opportunity to proclaim your belief in Christ in classes this semester, or perhaps in callings as you serve in your wards. As important as those will be, you will powerfully and publicly proclaim your belief in Christ one day and one act at a time, by simply living true to what you know and to what you believe as Latter-day Saint. If you do that, you will have additional opportunities to “stand as a witness of God at all times, and in all things, and in all places...” (see Mosiah 18: 9).

Now I am confident that many of you have had opportunities to “stand as witnesses” of God and of the Savior prior to coming here. Before joining the faculty at BYU-Idaho, I spent many years in the high technology industry in Silicon Valley, California. My responsibilities required a substantial amount of travel throughout the United States, Europe and Asia. In Asia, particularly, consuming large quantities of alcohol is an important part of doing business. In fact, it is considered rude and antisocial NOT to drink. And, not doing so could prove detrimental to having important business dealings with other people. So, what was I to do as a Latter-day Saint? I learned that if I simply refused to drink, without an explanation, I would be committing a social offense. But, I also learned that if I explained that if I did not drink for religious reasons, I would be respected for living by my standards and by the standards of my religion. And, once people knew, they always made sure that I had an alternative beverage when the liquor started to flow, and everyone knew that they would always have a designated driver.

Now, many years ago, while serving as a bishop, I received an email that startled me. It was sent by someone that I worked with, but I did not know well. It began: “Dear Bishop Kusch.” My first thought was, “What have I done or what have I said in front of this person that would have been inappropriate or somehow disrespectful to what I believe as a Latter-day Saint? I learned as I visited with this man, that he and his mother were members of the Church, that he had been baptized as a young boy many years ago, and now they were looking to find their way back to the Church, and they did not know how to do it, and they thought I might be able to help.

A friend in Idaho worked as a school counselor. Her last name was Miller. There was also a teacher and a nurse who had that same last name at the school. To distinguish amongst the three, they were known as “Mrs. Miller the counselor, Mrs. Miller the teacher, and Mrs. Miller the nurse.” It is highly likely, brothers and sisters, that you will have or will be known, at some point in time as “the Mormon.”

So, brothers and sisters, we take upon us the name of Christ, and express our willingness to do so when we are baptized and become members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, when we partake of the sacrament, when we proclaim our belief in Him and when we signify our willingness to work in His kingdom.

Now let me share two final examples, and perhaps two of the most important, and two that will require the greatest measure of the Holy Ghost to teach you the importance of these things.

In scripture, both ancient and modern, the Lord speaks of temples – places where He would “cause His name to dwell,” (Deut. 12:11) and houses “built unto my holy name” (D&C 124:39, D&C 105:33). In the dedicatory prayer of the Kirtland Temple, the Prophet Joseph prayed for a blessing, “...over thy people upon whom thy name shall be put in this house” (D&C 109:26).

Elder Oaks taught that this petition refers to the Savior giving His authority for His name to be used in sacred ordinances in the temple. He said: “Willingness to take upon us the name of Jesus Christ can therefore be understood as willingness to take upon us the authority of Jesus Christ. According to this meaning, by partaking of the sacrament we witness our willingness to participate in the sacred ordinances of the temple and to receive the highest blessings available through the name and by the authority of Jesus Christ when he chooses to confer them upon us” (Ibid).

There is greater power in the temple than we realize, many of you have received your endowments and made sacred covenants. Some of you have yet to make those covenants. Each and every one of us here today can and should be worthy of holding a temple recommend, and holding such a recommend and using a recommend. As you go to the temple to perform baptisms if you are not yet endowed, and participate in confirmations, that is one way to take upon you the name of Christ and His authority. As we attend the temple, as we participate in ordinance work there, that is a way that we take upon us and show our willingness to take upon us the name of Christ.

In contending with Zeezrom, Amulek taught him that:

“...he (Christ) shall come into the world to redeem his people; and he shall take upon him the transgressions of those who believe on his name; and these are they that shall have eternal life, and salvation cometh to none else” (Alma 11:40).

And King Benjamin taught his people:

“...because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ...for...this day he hath spiritually begotten you...for your hearts are changed through faith on his name...therefore, ye have become his sons and his daughters...And there is no other name given whereby salvation cometh; therefore I would that ye should take upon you the name of Christ...and whosoever doeth this shall be found at the right hand of God, for he shall know the name by which he is called; for he shall be called by the name of Christ” (Mosiah 5: 7-9).

The blessings received in the temple qualify us to return to the presence of God and the Savior. Only when we exercise faith in the name of Jesus Christ, when we repent of our sins, when we enter into and keep sacred covenants, and keep His commandments can we, with confidence, hope to lay claim on the Savior’s mercy and His atoning sacrifice.

So, my friends and fellow Christians, as this new year has begun, and as this new semester begins, I invite each of us to set aside some meaningful time to study and deeply ponder:

What it means to take upon us the name of Jesus Christ?

What it means to serve Him until the end?

What it means to be willing to take upon us His authority in holy temples?

What it means to honor the covenants we have made, to live repentant lives that we might qualify to receive the Savior’s mercy and every blessing of His atoning sacrifice?

It has been stated that “honor is the presence of God in man” (attributed to Pat Conroy). I know that as we honor the name of Christ, He honors us, He changes us, and we become more like He is.

I know that He lives. I know that He knows my name and I know that He knows your name. I know that taking upon us His name and believing in and on Him will bring blessings into our lives that we can hardly imagine and comprehend. Of these things, I bear my witness in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.

 

Like an Instrument in an Orchestra

by Sister Alynda Kusch

Good morning to you all, it’s wonderful to join you in this historic place for our fist devotional of the semester. Frequently students ask President Kusch and I, “How I can be prepared for the future?” and “How I can come to understand what the Lord would have me do?”

I want to share with you this morning some things that I have learned about how the Lord knows us, how He lifts and guides us, and how He would lead us if we allow Him to do so.

Last week I was studying in second Nephi the words of Nephi and Jacob, and even the chapter of Isaiah. I was reading them with you in mind and there are four things that I would like to share with you that are important for us to remember as we have a conversation about how the Lord guides and directs us.

One: Jacob reminds us that God knows all things (2 Nephi 9:20). This knowledge should give us great comfort and confidence in following where the Lord leads us to go.

Two: Jacob also reminds us that we are free to choose (2 Nephi 10:23). Agency is a great blessing; fundamental to our mortal experience, but along with freedom or along with freedom to choose comes great responsibility – to know and follow the Lord – to choose liberty, righteousness and happiness.

Three: Jacob also teaches us that the Lord remembers us (2 Nephi 10:22). This should help us in times of uncertainty and difficulty – that we are not forgotten or alone, but rather that the Lord is very aware of us.

And, the last thing Nephi thought to include is a phrase from Isaiah that is repeated four times in the space of 14 verses (2 Nephi 19-20) both in the Book of Mormon and also in the Old Testament. Even as the children of Israel were wandering away from the Lord, this is the repeated phrase that we should remember: “But his hand is stretched out still.” Think of the visual image of that – the Lord reaching down to lift and help you. It’s a wonderful thing for me to imagine.

So, keep those things in mind.

Last September I was visiting our daughter who lives in Arizona as they welcomed a new little baby into their family. During the time that I spent there, I had the opportunity of attending a concert in which my grandson played. His name is Clayton. He is a junior in high school and he plays the violin for the community pops symphony.

Our seats were close enough to the front that I could see the conductor very well, but most importantly, they were close enough that I could see and look into Clayton’s face as he played. As the concert progressed, I couldn’t help but think about the phrase that we hear often about how the Lord orchestrates our lives his. With regard to that phrase, there were things during the concert that were very interesting to me.

It was clear who was in charge – the conductor. He had large sheets of music on which every musician’s part was printed so that he would know what they were supposed to do and he would be able to keep them together and playing at the same place at the piece.

The chairs of all of the musicians were positioned so they were facing the conductor so they would know when to begin, how loud or soft to play and very importantly when to stop.

Remember that because the Lord has all knowledge, He is aware of all of our circumstances, and He is clearly the one who is in charge. In the same way that the musicians watched and followed the conductor, we can trust the Lord to direct our paths and to help us properly play the music of the gospel.

Before we left for the concert, I could hear Clayton playing through each piece so that when he got to the concert hall, he was prepared and practiced.

Our preparation and practice with regard to gospel things happen as we are prayerful, as we read and study the scriptures, as we accept callings and serve faithfully, as we attend the temple, as we diligently endeavor to stand as witnesses of Christ at all times and at all things.

Clayton told me that the music they were playing in this concert was some of the most difficult that he had ever played, but it was wonderful and his favorite.

As I was sitting where I could see his face, I could tell what was happening in his mind during each piece. As he came to a portion of the last song that was particularly challenging for him, his demeanor changed. He sat up straighter and slightly forward, his eyes focused on his music and there was even a little furrow in his brow as he concentrated so hard and completely on what he was doing.

There are times in our lives that require the same kind of effort and concentration, when things are complicated or difficult and we must focus all of our attention in living the gospel and being disciples of Jesus Christ — on doing the things that allows the Holy Ghost to be part of our lives and to guide us — all the while trusting that Isaiah’s words are true and the Lord’s hand is always outstretched to us.

After the difficult portion of the song, I knew that we had come to Clayton’s favorite part because suddenly there was a huge smile on his face as he played the rest of the piece. He was thoroughly enjoying the experience.

And, as often happens in our lives, after a challenging period where we have been tested and tried, after a dark and sleepless night, the morning comes, the sun shines again and we are happy and joyful.

In the orchestra, every instrument is different – they look different and sound different — but all of them are needed and the musicians need to play their parts well, which adds to the richness of the music as a whole piece.

As it is with us, we are different and unique in wonderful ways. We are collectively here to share our experiences and our testimonies so that we can live and bless each other. And then we look to the Lord who leads and guides, who teaches and corrects, and who is faithfully there always.

I know that when we trust in He who has all knowledge, who knows and remembers us, and whose hand is forever outstretched to us, our lives are better and our path can be made clear.

This is a picture that I carry in my wallet and look at it often. It is a picture that was taken on the day that President Kusch and I were married, and it reminds me that I am loved by a wonderful man.

But it also helps me to remember a lesson that I have learned over and over again during the years that we have been married. And it helps me remember that the Lord knows and loves us, and will guide our lives if we let Him.

Both President Kusch and I were raised by parents who were not famous. They were not known beyond their own wards and stakes. They were not known by civic leaders. They never went to college, and President's father was not a member of the Church. But they were very good people who worked hard, loved and supported their children, and were examples of lives well lived.

This is important to note because it’s part of the miracle of us being here today in our responsibilities at LDS Business College. We are the most ordinary people that you will ever meet, and by the world’s standards, we are nobody. But that’s not the case with the Lord. He loves us. He knows us. And He is wanting and concerned about who we are becoming.

So, when I look at this picture, I see two very young kids who had no idea of what life had in store for them, except that we knew that we loved each other. We made a promise the day that we were married that we would try our best to live in a way that would allow the Holy Ghost to lead us.

All of these things lead to the second reason why I carry this picture in my wallet.

We moved our young family to San Jose, California in 1979 and we built a very good life there. I loved my life. It was a great place to raise our children. I had good friends, a wonderful ward, warmer weather, and I could see myself living there forever. It was wonderful and I loved it there!

But in 2002, the Lord had something else in store for us and I am and will be forever grateful that we followed what we felt — what the Lord wanted us to do at the time.

You see, I did not know how much I wanted to live in Rexburg, Idaho (being a Southern California girl, I will tell you that the thought had never crossed my mind), but the Lord knew. What a gift He gave to me. Our years at BYU-Idaho were remarkable, filled with miracles, challenges, opportunities and many blessings.

Now this is the lesson I learned: If planning my life had been left up to me, I would have settled for much less than what the Lord was wanting and willing to give to me.

I would’ve stayed in California, all the while thinking myself happy and lucky and blessed. And I would have missed out on the glorious life that the Lord has given me, because we have tried to follow where He has wanted us to go.

So, I look at this picture and remember this lesson.

Now, I am not saying that we don’t make any plans or set goals for the future. That’s not what I’m saying. We can and should make plans that guide our actions, but we can't tell the Lord what’s best for us. He knows that. Rather, if we prepare ourselves to receive His direction, and act upon those promptings, then we live a life that is much better and much more glorious than what we could have planned for ourselves.

I did not know how much I would love LDS Business College, but the Lord knew. We had been home from Mexico happily living in Rexburg, Idaho for less than six months when President Kusch was approached about coming here and being part of the College.

When he came home from campus that evening and told me about the opportunity, he said something really interesting. He told me that some three months before we came home from the mission field, he had some strong promptings about LDS Business College but had not said anything about them to me.

I’m sure that my reply back to him was just as interesting. When I told him that some three months before we had come home from the mission field, I had had some very strong promptings about LDS Business College, and I had not said anything to him.

I have come to understand that it was the Lord educating our desires. He was helping us really want to come here.

I knew the first time that I walked through the building that I very much wanted to be part of what was happening here on this campus at this College.

So, if you want to know how to prepare for the future – it is by living currently, in a way that allows the Lord to guide you, and then listening and following the promptings that you receive.

I am grateful for a loving Heavenly Father who has taken two young kids who were virtually clueless about life and has given them much more than we could’ve imagined for ourselves. This is the way that He works with His children, if they will allow Him.

I love my Heavenly Father and I testify to you that Jesus Christ is His son. I am grateful for the continuous support and love that I feel from them. I leave you with my love and my hope that this semester will be wonderful


Bio

President Bruce C. Kusch grew up in Southern California in a part-member family. After graduating from high school, President Kusch enrolled at California State University in Long Beach. He served a mission in the Guatemala-El Salvador Mission.

After completing his mission, while attending university and institute classes, he met Sister Kusch in the institute choir. A little less than a year later, they were married in the

Los Angeles California Temple. Then, just four years later, President Kusch was called as bishop of their ward, the same ward he grew up in.

Eventually, they moved to Northern California where President Kusch worked and consulted in the high-tech industry before deciding to move to Rexburg to teach at BYU-Idaho. President and Sister Kusch both taught at BYU-I, and President Kusch also went on to serve for four years in the administration at the school. He also served as a stake president in Rexburg.

In 2012, President Kusch was called to preside over the Mexico Cuernavaca Mission. After their mission, the Kusches returned briefly to BYU-Idaho before President Kusch accepted the position of chief academic officer at LDS Business College in 2016.

In April 2017, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf announced that President Kusch would become the 13th president of LDS Business College.

President and Sister Kusch are the parents of four children and have 17 grandchildren.

Raymond Robinson

23 Jan. 2018

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Working with Others to Succeed

Thank you, BC Voices, indeed, how can I keep from singing? How can any of us keep from signing when we know the words to the song, the song of redeeming love. Thank you to Brother Decker, Brother Santos, your music gives me courage this morning. Brothers and sisters, I'm grateful to join you this morning. Grateful for being a brother with you, grateful for the opportunity over the last week to join in sustaining a new president of the Church, his counselors, and the Twelve. I’m grateful that you’re here today!

I recognize that this represents an investment and I hope that as you come with that investment I hope and pray that you’ll be blessed. I’m impressed to see this symbol of your readiness to learn, these notebooks, journals, to record impressions and thoughts. My hope is that some of the things that we discuss today are not worth writing down word for word but that they prompt thinking in your minds, feelings in your hearts of how you may continue because you are here at LDS Business College that distinguishes it for many business colleges in the world doesn’t it?

Each of you has reasons—perhaps many reasons—for coming here to school. You’re planning for careers, you might need a credential, you want to develop your skills, you want a college experience, some of you might even be here because your parents insisted. Well, whatever the reason, you are here, something is happening through all of it.

You are learning from and working with the people here—faculty, staff, other students, and it is this thing that happens that I want to visit about today. Apple founder Steve Jobs said: “Great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people. As we listened to the choir this morning, it reminded me of Elder Holland teaching that “every voice in the Heavenly choir is needed, whatever our part. Now, although I do work in music and cultural arts, growing up I always wanted to be an athlete maybe like some of you, and it was simply height, speed, and skill that kept me from a career. I’d like to tell a little story.

Steph Curry, star player for the Golden State Warriors, sent a text to Kevin Durrant, trying to recruit him to play with them. It said, “If you win MVP or I win MVP, it doesn’t matter. We’re trying to win championships. And if you do win, I’ll be in the front row clapping for you at the press conference.” Durrant join the team, the team went to the championship, and they did it by passing to each other and helping each other in a historically great way. Each member of the team found it easier to shoot, easier to defend, and ultimately easy to win because they lifted and help each other.

Well, I am not aware of any courses that are focused specifically on the subject of working together; however, you and I will spend much of our lives experiencing and experimenting with it. It happens in our families, with colleagues and collaborators, and it’s critical to our individual and collective success. All of us have and will work with others—and we want to do it successfully. So what does that mean?

Think about stories you already know—Alma and Amulek, the sons of Mosiah working together to bring people to Christ, Emma Smith, Eliza R. Snow, Sarah Granger Kimball, and other women forming the Relief Society and building the city of Nauvoo; just last week we heard President Nelson remind us that the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve would work very close together to move forward in the Lord’s work. The most important, the greatest achievements in the world that we can be part of are not individual, but collective experiences.

In my own college experience, I was involved in a lot of group projects—and you might be also. You might find yourself in the group and all the work falls to you…or you might not know what to do, and wait until someone else brings forward some ideas…or you’re a person that finds that the ideas in the group are so different that it’s difficult to come to an agreement… Whatever your experience is, learning to work together presents a challenge and a huge opportunity.

Have you ever been involved in really successful groups? Projects where everyone seemed to be involved and energized, everyone seems to "own" the project, and everyone shares in the sweet taste of success? Your experience with successful group work may have happened in class, or it may have happened at work, in your family, ward, stakes or in your missions.

What makes these experiences successful? As part of my academic research, I studied how faculty members work together—across many disciplines—and how those working relationships affect productivity. Research across many industries points to a pattern: The way we work with others affects our individual and group productivity.

Now that might not be surprising, but I hope as we discuss a few ideas you will identify some skills and perspectives that you can develop and adopt as you become more and more the leader our Heavenly Father wants you to be.

So now, think of an example of someone that you love to work with, someone you would give your highest ranking to on LinkedIn. What do they do? What are they like? How would you describe your interactions with them?

One day, as was a young faculty member at BYU, I heard a knock on my office door. I opened it, and there stood a member of the Philosophy department. He asked if he could come visit my class, as he was interested in how I approached dance classes. After the class, he spent several minutes explaining in detail what he had observed and appreciated about the class, and how much he had enjoyed it—and learned from it.

So how do you think I felt? I’ll tell you. I was motivated. I was motivated to learn more about what I was doing and how I could do better. I realized from what he said that I could dig much more deeply into my own work, and I wanted to work harder. I also wanted to work with him. We created projects together, involving students and faculty members from many disciplines. I couldn’t have done any of these projects alone, and he couldn’t have done them alone, either.

In my research, I have asked people to describe others who are great to work with. There are some common answers, regardless of industry or discipline.

  • These people care about others and their success, and they find ways to show it.
  • They expand others’ opportunities, perspectives, relationships.
  • They are collaborative; they are interested in sharing the load and in learning from what others can share with them.
  • They have a vision for and an investment in the future.

One professor shared with me a story of a time he was discouraged. He was feeling the pressure to successfully publish his scholarly work as he tried to earn tenure at his university. A colleague reached out, was interested in him, and helped him succeed. This is the way he described it:

"I was at a very low point… I didn't have a book contract… I was ready to throw in the towel. Then a colleague asked, "How are things going?" I told her some of my doubts and that I was ready to sort of give up. She met with me over the course of a couple of weeks where we talked out my doubts, she pushed me to send some stuff out…and I got a contract. I didn't ask for this, and it basically was a lifesaver."

Here's how some others described people they enjoy working with:

  • They are willing to listen to me.
  • They notice when I'm having a bad day, and really want to help.
  • They appreciate the work that each person tries to put in every day.
  • They support my work by helping me connect with people.
  • They have a stake in the group’s success.

If these sound familiar to you, it's not surprising. We often use these behaviors as markers of people who are just nice. But don't be fooled – these behaviors are very very powerful. Why do you think it is that when the Savior was asked which of all the commandments are the greatest, he replied "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind…and the second is like unto it, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" (Matthew 22:39)?

There must be something so powerful associated with the behaviors with loving God and showing that love by loving our neighbors that these are the great commandments. They encompass all the other commandments, and they give expression to all gifts. These commandments help us become the people God wants us to be, and do the things He wants us to do.

So, as you consider people you love to work with, how do they affect you? How do they affect your work? Do they energize you? Help motivate you? Help you see new ways through and around your problems? The answer is certainly yes. They help us do better, and they help us want to do better. Here's what it sounds like as people describe their experiences:

"I'm willing to bend over backwards to do anything… Because she is paying attention to what's going on in my life. I'm not just on an island doing my own thing, but we’re working together toward our goals.

"Having others show support for your work, know what you do, what you're working on, that really makes you feel like you're part of some kind of collective enterprise."

"You – in a sense – positively pressure each other and it's less likely that things fall through the cracks."

Interestingly enough, while supportive partners and coworkers see good in each other more often than not, they don't avoid areas that need improvement. They give good, helpful advice and even criticism when things need to be changed. But, they give it from a perspective of caring for your success. The One who loves us most desires not only to see us improve but to become people who can be in His presence. He wants to cleanse us and make us perfect. I’ve been blessed to work with people who have loved me and helped me see where I can improve, which is a characteristic of the Savior: "…Whom the Lord loveth, he chasteneth.” (Hebrews 12:6)

Group efforts become more efficient and synergistic as members love and listen to each other, help each other become better, and carry responsibility for group success.

Each member of a group comes with different skills, perspectives, and gifts. We understand this concept from the teachings of the Apostle Paul, who taught: “There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord…to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit, To another faith…to another the gifts of healing, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy…” and other gifts. “But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit…For the body is not one member, but many…the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee.” (1 Corinthians 12: 4-21)

When everyone works together, pulls for one another, individual gifts can save time and effort for the whole group.

In my daughter’s high school career, she was finding it challenging to comprehend advanced math. She would spend hours trying to understand and work through her assignments. Then, a single phone call and a short conversation with her aunt, a high school physics teacher, helped her both comprehend the problems she was struggling with, and approach other problems with greater capacity and better understanding. So, 20 minutes of effort by one person saved hours of someone else’s time. When this principle is applied across a whole group, imagine how effective it can be. We need the skills and gifts of many to solve problems worth solving.

One person I visited with described it this way: "we are going to get farther by opening our arms than by sharpening our elbows." This statement reminded me of the experience I've had as a part of the leadership of the Nauvoo pageant. Each week during the month of July a group of about 120 members of the church –individuals and families, old and young – come to participate. They don't come for a theatrical experience so much as they come for a service and missionary experience. Over the years, we've learned that group success hinges on people caring for each other and helping one another. We’ve had to have people work together as saints—it wasn’t enough to act, or to pretend to be saints. As part of the experience, participants are taught a couple of dances. The instruction sounds something like this:

"Now friends, as you perform the steps you’ve been taught, chances are high that at some point someone will step in the place you think you're supposed to be. At that moment, you have a great opportunity. You’ll be tempted to think that someone is standing in your place, that they are keeping you from doing what you’re supposed to do. Instead, think about how can you help them, and how can you adjust your part so we work well together? No one in the audience will know if you are standing in the wrong spot…but they will certainly feel and understand if the people working together on stage are doing it in a harmonious way. You see, more important than sharing a dance is sharing how living the gospel and following the Savior helps us work and live together in love.” And that’s the story of Nauvoo, and that’s the story of true saints everywhere, isn’t it? As you continue your schooling, and pursue careers in various fields, the group work will not stop – in fact, it will intensify. You have an opportunity now to develop skills and perspectives that will influence the culture of every group you are part of – your family, your coworkers, your wards, and stakes.

Now, when we talk of culture in an organization, we are really trying to find ways to describe the unwritten rules, how we interact with each other, the processes that are not part of published processes.

Now, I've worked for an organization that had a very challenging culture. It was low in trust and high in blame. Rules had been implemented that on the one hand, were created to make clear how work was to be done; however, the unintended consequence of these rules was that it was also clear who was to be blamed when things went wrong. In practice, staff members regularly sent emails to large groups of people pointing out the faults of others. They had conversations where they pointed the blame for mistakes at others. Staff members on formal meetings were certainty civil, but back-channel conversations were often toxic, filled with gossip, backbiting, and blame.

A new manager was appointed. And these are the messages he shared often, publicly and privately:

  • Nothing is broken here.
  • We have everything we need to succeed.
  • We need your gifts.
  • We are here to learn together.

These are pretty encouraging messages, aren't they? And his behaviors matched the message. He was intensely curious, interested in what staff members were thinking and doing. And because of his interest, staff members wanted to share ideas and efforts with him. His example encouraged others to practice some of the same behaviors. Staff members began talking about how great it was to work together. And people from other areas began to ask if there were any opportunities to join this group. It was a happy time, and it was a very productive time.

This story really happened. Now, it didn't change the culture of the whole organization, but it did change the culture of a large part of the department, those who trusted in the possibility and vision of really working together. That department was able to make contributions that affected the whole organization.

So let’s review some key attributes and behaviors that you can cultivate while you're here preparing for your future success. Remember, these are things you've already considered because you have observed them in others that you appreciate working with.

  1. Care about others and their success. You do this by asking questions and being interested, by showing compassion and appreciation. You give trust easily.
  2. You expand others’ perspectives and opportunities. You do this by sharing what you know, whether you have information that might be helpful, or you have relationships that you could build for others.
  3. You are collaborative. You believe that others have something of value to contribute to your success, and you are willing to contribute to theirs.
  4. You include others, both by inviting them to participate and offering to help.
  5. You are oriented toward the future. You engage in discussion and research to help create a vision for the future, and you invest your time and talent in creating it.

Now it's a little bit of a downer to share the alternative behaviors; you know them as well as I do. They are ordinary ways of working: selfishness, criticism, gossip, blaming—all the things that make work less enjoyable, isolate group members, and fail to get the very best work.

On the other hand, positive behaviors and attributes enhance both individual and group productivity, cultivate unity and community, and create a culture where everyone feels like they belong and they want to contribute.

What would our families, our classrooms, our companies, our communities be like if we are successful in learning and practicing these things?

The most successful example I can think of came a long time ago. The people of Enoch listened to and received the two great commandments, and all other teachings of the Lord, through their prophet. And they were productive, so productive that poverty was unknown. So productive that enemies couldn’t prevail against them, and they were called Zion "because they were of one heart and one mind." (Moses 7:20) And as we remember, the whole city was taken up.

Here’s another example: After the Savior visited the descendants of Lehi and established His church, the people experienced similar success: "and there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people." (Fourth Nephi 1:15)

That success lasted nearly four centuries. What a culture!

As you go through life, not everyone you work with will see and understand the importance of these ideas; but when you can find and work with others who see things the same way, group work will be joyful as group members learn, grow, and create together. When you choose to work in this way, you also have the opportunity to invite others to do it with you.

My brothers and sisters, my friends. I have a testimony of this promise – that by following the two great commandments, loving and following God, and loving and caring for our neighbors wherever they may be – we will prepare for and experience now the blessings that are promised to the faithful. The blessings of the gospel are practical. They help us find success –the kind of success that ultimately makes us happy—the kind that makes us like Heavenly Father, which is why we came to earth.

I join with you in celebrating the opportunities to learn and grow together as you work here at LDS Business College. Business can mean a lot of things—it can be aggressive and self-interested, it can indicate buying and selling, it can mean being part of exciting, accelerating world of technology, innovation, and enterprise. A business college can prepare you for all these things and more. But when you put the words Latter-day Saint before business college, it implies that the way business is done here has very specific meaning to be done in the Lord’s way—in love. May the Lord continue to bless each of us as we follow Him, His living prophets, and as we strive to work in every setting to become like Him is my prayer. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


Bio

Raymond Robinson has served as director of the Music and Cultural Arts Division of the Church’s Priesthood and Family Department since 2010. Before his appointment, he led the dance department at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. He earned continuing status in the dance department at BYU and has held visiting posts at Michigan State University and The University of Michigan.

He graduated from BYU with a BA in public relations, the University of Utah with an MFA in modern dance, and Michigan State University with a Ph.D. in higher, adult and lifelong education.

He served as a full-time missionary in the Alaska Anchorage Mission and has served as a stake high councilor, elders quorum president, bishop’s counselor and choir director.

Raymond is married to Julie Wilson, and they have seven children.

Ricardo Rosas

06 Mar. 2018

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Authenticity as a Son or Daughter of God

I’m very, very, happy to be able to share a message with you all. I hope you are doing great this morning. Many of you don’t know, but devotionals are assigned months ahead, and when I was asked to share a message with all of you, this topic came to me immediately in my mind. I feel that it is a great blessing to be able to share this with all of you. This is one of the blessings of working for LDS Business College. I’m also very happy to see some of my friends; in fact, one of my college roommates is sitting over there, so I am so surprised to see him. That is awesome! Friends from my previous job of Publishing Services Division and Seminaries and Institutes and CES. I’m really happy that they are here to support me, and of course, my amazing beautiful wife trying to help me feel a little less nervous. I don’t know if that is working. But we’ll go from there.

I hope that, as I share my message with you all, you are able to be uplifted and edified, that we can all learn from each other. As you can see, I’ll be talking about authenticity as a son or daughter of God.

I would like to be able to set a tone for this message. I’m going to pretend that we are all in my living room and we are talking comfortably. (showing a slide of Ricardo's wife and Ricardo sitting in their living room at their home) Isn’t she beautiful? I don’t know; that’s just me. I’m going to set that picture in my mind, as I share this, and I hope that makes us feel a little more comfortable, at least for me.

I’m going to give you a little background about myself. I was born and raised in Mexico City. I am the oldest of five children. I have one brother and three sisters, and I also am a third-generation member of the Church. My grandmother got baptized in 1937 when she was 12 years old, in Central Mexico. I am the oldest grandson and the oldest son, and I am the first grandchild and son that goes on a mission, that gets a university degree—so in a nutshell, I am very used to being the first one in my family to spearhead things for my siblings and my cousins. No pressure there—I guess I got used to the pressure.

I also grew up surrounded by art. I grew up with music and with so many artistic inspirations. That upbringing gave me a strong passion for design and for communications, for messaging and for storytelling. I remember that music was a big part of my family growing up. When my father was young, he was in the rock music scene, in the late ‘60s and ‘70s. I remember there are pictures of him with his long hair. He would be in rock bands touring the country. There were always musical instruments and musical equipment spread around the house.

My mom always complained to my dad because her poor living room décor was accented by hidden electric guitars behind the couch, or stowaway drum sets under the stairs, or amplifiers. She would always complain when she would find little pieces of speakers or microphone parts inside her china in her hutch. So, there was all this chaos of musical references and equipment all over my house growing up. And this is also because my father, besides being a musician, he was an electronic engineer with a specialty in musical equipment.

Art and music were also so much a part of my growing up, I remember with a lot of nostalgia, having jamming sessions with my siblings where we would get together and sing, play the guitar, and just enjoy the time together.

When it comes to art, I grew up admiring the work of painters like Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and Picasso and many others. And all of that color, all of that vibrancy just was embedded in my visual upbringing. I grew up in a culture that is very rich and all those visuals are intrinsic to everyday life.

I remember when I went to Ricks College, my painting class, my teacher would call me “the wild Mexican painter.” It is because I would add a lot of color to anything that I would start painting, and even if it was a barn in the middle of Idaho, I would just add all this color to it. That is just part of me, adding color to things.

After my mission, I received a full-ride scholarship to go to the BYU English Language Center, and then I went to Ricks College, and then to BYU—Provo. And by the way, that is not my wife (showing a slide of Ricardo and Ricks College friend); that is my friend Elia from Portugal. I made a lot of friends from all over the place, and unfortunately, she passed away a couple of years ago. She was an amazing woman! I enjoyed the experience of having a Church education and learning secular things but also learning about the gospel.

At BYU, I was able to meet my beautiful wife. We are opposite sides of the brain—I got a BFA in graphic design and visual arts, and she has a degree in statistics. So guess who keeps the books at home? She does. We have six children, and two of my boys experience a spectrum of autism. (Showing slide of Ricardo's wife and children) I won’t go into details on that, because that would be a conversation for another day, but needless to say, there is always an adventure, something going on, never a dull moment in the Rosas household.

Once I graduated, I worked in agencies in Salt Lake, in corporations in New York for some time, and my last job was at Church headquarters. It was a nice mix between the agency environment work and also the corporate world, and all those experiences helped me to learn and grow in my profession.

When I was working at Publishing Services Division, the visual identity office asked all the Creative Directors to help introduce the new Global Visual Style Guide. And I had the blessing to be able to be part and develop a training, a two-day training in Spanish and English, to introduce the Global Visual Style Guide in other areas of the world. In fact, I traveled to some countries to do these presentations and this training.

I’m sharing this with you to give you some context of this element that I’m going to share. This is an image of the Global Visual Style Guide. The Global Visual Style Guide has a vision statement that says: “All people can discover God’s eternal plan and feel inspired to grow.” I could spend a whole hour talking about this concept, but what I want to emphasize today as I share my message, is the concept of "Discover." There is a portion of this definition of the style guide of the Church that I really like. It says, “Our communications allow people to explore truths at their own pace and depth. We are a front door that is open and inviting; we are not a conveyor belt wheeling people inside.”

My hope is that today you will be able to discover something that resonates with you and that you will be able to apply it as you go back to class, back to the office, or in your personal life.

We live in a world that is constantly labeling us, framing and influencing who we are, based on a very vague and unrealistic idea of what it is like to be human. The world is very loud, and tells us how to act, how to dress, how to love, who to love, who not to love, and who to hate. We are told that being authentic means that you can do as you please, that you own your life, and that no one should have rules over you or limit your behavior, good or bad. We are told that we have to follow our heart no matter where the path takes us, and that our gender and life are merely circumstantial. We are all bombarded with messages about finding your inner self, about being true to who you are, to speak your truth. That’s what the world says.

We all have felt that pressure, and sometimes we might have wondered how genuine we are according to the values and standards of the world. I did a quick search on quotes about authenticity online, and I found some really, really good ones that celebrate our uniqueness and very inspiring as well. But I also found some that, as I read them, I could see the intent of the authors is a positive one, but they made me think that authenticity was all about being self-centered, digging in your heels, or making other people feel that you are pushing your own agenda onto them.

I’m going to read one of those quotes that I found. It says, “Don’t let the expectations and opinions of other people affect your decisions. It is your life, not theirs. Do what matters most to you; do what makes you feel alive and happy. Don’t let the expectations and ideas of others limit who you are. If you let others tell you who you are, you are living their reality—not yours. There is more to life than pleasing people. There is much more to life than following others’ prescribed path. There is so much more to life than what you experience now. You need to decide who you are for yourself. Become a whole being. Adventure” (see quotes from Roy T. Bennett, Goodreads).

So I took a minute to look at this quote, and I thought, what can the Spirit help me discern from this statement? It’s not that this quote is completely bad; but to me the big key is to find the influence of the Spirit. As Moroni states in Moroni 10:5, “And by the power of the Holy Ghost, ye may know the truth of all things.”

This really helps me as I am exposed to information, to be able to take and leave what is best for me according to the influence of the Spirit, and discern this as a piece of inspiration and not as an ultimate guide for my life. So just think about this. Is it bad to be true to who we are? Is it questionable to wonder if we fit the mold? Is it okay to recognize our uniqueness or our unique circumstances, and leverage them to help define us? Is it bad to speak your truth? Is it bad to claim authenticity? How can I be an authentic son or daughter of God? We might wonder that.

There is a quote that I love from Elder Quentin L. Cook. He says, “Some misuse authenticity as a celebration of the natural man and qualities that are the opposite of humility, kindness, mercy, forgiveness, and civility. We can celebrate our individual uniqueness as children of God without using authenticity as an excuse for un-Christlike behavior” (The Eternal Everyday, October 2017 General Conference).

Can you see the contrast between the previous statement and this one? What I understand from this quote from an apostle of the Lord is that being authentic is the opposite of being rebellious, popular, or attention-grabbing. Even if some of us happen to be in the spotlight, our approach should be a delicate balance between being in the arena and letting our light shine in quiet confidence. When necessary, we can express our authenticity with the intent to bless others, and not to exalt ourselves.

I remember when I graduated from BYU a long time ago, there was a filmmaker that came to speak to our graduating class. In the BFA program, there were only about 15 students that got into the program every year. He told us this: “You are about to enter a profession that is filled with many talented people that do not share your values. Make sure you are aware and be prepared to face and learn from it. Make sure you decide beforehand the kind of job that will allow you to both grow professionally and keep your testimony.”

I never thought that I would learn firsthand to keep my testimony intact in the workplace, and also in my life’s journey. I had to take a close look at my life and understand that I can be an authentic son of God, and I can let my shine to bless others in a way that is hopefully shown more with actions than with words.

For me—and I get a little emotional when I talk about the Savior, because He is my Friend—the Savior is my authenticity model. When Jesus was arrested, and He was taken before Pilate to be judged—I can only imagine this scene, seeing the Savior in that setting in quiet majesty and confidence, being interrogated about His identity as our Savior, as the Son of God, His authenticity as a Son of God was challenged.

I’m going to show you a little short video of this event.

 

 

To me, this is a very powerful example of authenticity. We might not likely face the same situations as the Savior here. We might never have an angry mob after us. We might never have to stand or defend our identity as sons or daughters of God. Our stand for authenticity might be more private, more subtle, more in between the lines. But it is still a stand that we must take and walk confidently.

As I mentioned before, authenticity does not equal popularity, nor in pushing our agenda on anyone. It is about being at peace about who we are before any circumstance. Think about that, with alignment to the gospel.

I see it as staying in the light, with true love and understanding of our relationship with God and ourselves. At the core, to me, that’s where true identity and authenticity are found through the Spirit. As I mentioned earlier, there are many voices out there that are very powerful, and their definition of truth defers based on what is convenient to their own agenda.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson referred to it as “moral relativism,” which means that whatever is true to someone should be okay with everyone, and therefore undervalues any core set of beliefs. In other words, it is like the wild, wild west of authenticity and truth, because all is relative. Elder Christofferson gave a message to all Seminaries and Institutes faculty to share this message.  He said:

“We must help our students in the Savior’s term, do truth, that is, wholeheartedly embrace the light of Christ that is in them and welcome the added light and truth that comes through the Holy Ghost. Resisting, rationalizing, and pretending will not do. Only repentance and obedience to the truth can deliver the ‘authenticity’ many covet. Only repentance and obedience can preserve and enlarge our happiness and freedom” (see Elder Christofferson's addresses: "Growing Need to Defend Truth," Mormon Newsroom, Jan. 26, 2018).

To me, this statement further confirms that authenticity comes directly from the Spirit, and is linked to our actions and our relationship with God. So you see, it is not what other people say; it is what you really feel here (Ricardo pointing to his heart).

Now, does this mean that we should judge and shun away or oppress others that choose to live their authenticity in a different way than the gospel teaches? I do not see it that way. Our Savior, in His infinite wisdom and mercy, knows each one of us intimately and can see the complete picture of who we are. Unconditional love is key, and keeping things from an eternal perspective, knowing that we are a work-in-progress, will help us to help, love, and support others and ourselves through this journey of life. 

We might not have everything figured out, and we might not have all the answers, but as Joseph Smith states, “When we walk up a ladder. You must begin at the bottom, and ascend step by step until you arrive at the top; and so it is with the principles of the gospel—you must begin with the first, and go on until you learn all the principles of exaltation. But it will be a great while after you have passed through the veil before you will have learned them. It is not all to be comprehended in this world; it will be a great work to learn our salvation and exaltation even beyond the grave” (see Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 2011, Chapter 22: Gaining Knowledge of Eternal Truths, 261-270).

So you can see that, because of our divine heritage, our life—at least for me, what I have been learning is that it is truly a search for authenticity and our connection with God, step by step, little by little. Once we find it, that authenticity is linked to our testimonies. It is the foundation for discovering who we are as sons and daughters of God.

Let’s look at the word discover again, in the context of this message I am sharing with you. We do that discovery as we open to the Spirit, and we allow His guidance to help us define us, and not the world, but the Spirit. Only that will help us to walk confidently in any area, and it will sustain us under any worldly pressure or scrutiny. It will give us the ability to gather the peace and confidence we need to do what we need to do in our daily lives.

I have learned that before we adhere to any label that defines our identity, it is important to see ourselves from an eternal perspective. There is a quote that I really like that I found on the Church website, “Mormon and Gay,” on mormonandgay.lds.org. It says: “We should exercise care in how we label ourselves. Labels should be used thoughtfully and with the guidance of the Holy Ghost. Labels can affect how we think about ourselves and how others treat us and may expand or limit our ability to follow God’s plan for our happiness. Labels may impact our goals, sense of identity, and the people we call friends. If labels get in the way of our eternal progress, we can choose to change them.”

That’s how important labels or identity or authenticity is for our lives.

On a personal note, I would like to share. I am a very visual person, and I participated in a video on the Church website. I created these paintings to represent the concept of closeness to God and authenticity. This is an original painting, and this is a picture that I took above for the dresser in my bedroom. Later, when I created the painting, this was blown up, built and created by five artists in a mural that is 30’ by 13’. It was humongous! I actually have portions of this mural in my office, framed, if you ever want to go by and see it.

To me, this is my constant reminder of my connection with God and my authenticity as His son. I will share with you something super personal that to me, what this painting means in regards to myself and my connection with God.

No one can define me, even if the pressure is strong, even if it takes reconciling, even if judgment comes, I am  defined privately in the quiet chambers of my heart and soul, in the soft voice and impressions of the Spirit, as I take time to know the Savior intimately, as I read of Him, commune with Him, and embrace Him in my life, confirming to me that the Savior loves me for who I am. That He, my Father in Heaven, has already given me an identity before this world was created—that identity is of His child, His son or His daughter, with divine DNA.

I want to be able to close. I am hoping that all of us always remember our divine authenticity as we walk through this life. I love to think that, regardless of what happens, that we are walking tall, just as it is shown in this painting—we are walking tall, with our hands stretched up towards heaven. I know that the Lord loves us, just as who we are; that no matter what, He is always there to sustain us and help us let our light shine.

I know that this gospel is true and that we are truly of divine heritage. I know that authenticity is a divine gift, and as a gift, we must nurture it and protect it. We cannot let the world define us.

I want to thank all of you for listening, and when I walk on the campus, your smiles and interacting with the students. I want to thank my coworkers for their love and support. My friends are here, and my wife, for being such an amazing woman. And of course, my Savior Jesus Christ, for giving me the ability to understand more of the Atonement every day, and for allowing me to grow and hopefully always grow closer to Him.

I say this with a lot of love, and I hope that as we go back to our daily activities today, that perhaps we walk a little closer to heaven, thinking that we are okay just as we are, as long as we are closer to Heavenly Father. And I say this in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, amen.


Bio

For over 20 years, Ricardo has a vast experience working in agency and corporate environments. He has worked in the marketing, communications and design industry in Utah and New York. He has designed for many top-tier companies, including Neiman Marcus, the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA), FranklinCovey, Goldman Sachs and most recently for the LDS Church Public Affairs and CES departments.  

Ricardo has won many visual communications awards from the Utah Advertising federation and the American Institute of Graphic Arts, including a copper ingot from the AIGA SLC Best of Show competition. He was also a nominee for a Pearl Award for excellence in design. His experience in marketing, creative, branding and communications strategy and his attention to detail are the basis of every project he is involved in. He takes advantage of his diverse background to give a fresh perspective to the work he produces.

In addition, his strategic approach to his work as it is applied to business helps him understand his clients’ projects from a business owner’s point of view. As a branding and marketing expert, he knows how to build a brand and message from the ground up and develop marketing strategies and tactics that produces results and improves the clients’ bottom line.

Ricardo possesses a keen understanding of the audience his projects target. He is networked and has the understanding that gives him keen ability to keep the message on target.

Ricardo loves shaping messages leveraging all aspects of communications, art, music and anything that inspires him to be a better person. He enjoys crafting messages that are both compelling and meaningful. He delights in art in any form or medium, he is passionate about education, loves being with his six children, and most of all, considers the time with his wife Elizabeth priceless.

Ricardo graduated from Brigham Young University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design.

Robert Heyn

20 Mar. 2018

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Why Be Self-Reliant?

Well, brothers and sisters, what an honor it is for me to be able to share a few minutes with you today. I feel very humble and I am especially grateful because LDS Business College is an institution that I admire and I feel is giving a very important service to the young adults of the church and specially to return missionaries.

As an introduction to the message that I want to share with you today, allow me to tell you about The Academy for Creating Enterprise, the organization that I work for. The Academy is an organization that trains and helps members of the Church in developing countries to start and develop small businesses. Even though the Academy’s principal activity is business training, the main goal of the Academy is to help members of the Church to become self-reliant and to lift themselves out of poverty.

Lately in the Church we have heard much about self-reliance. In 2013, the Church started what is known today as the self-reliance initiative. The main objective of this initiative was to put members of the Church in the path of self-reliance and empower them to overcome poverty and become prosperous. Since the beginning of the self-reliance initiative over 500,000 members of the Church have received training and are in the pathway of becoming self-reliant. The Church defines self-reliance as “the ability, commitment, and effort to provide the spiritual and temporal necessities of life for self and family” (see Handbook 2: Administering the Church, 2010, 6.1.1).

The Lord has promised on several occasions that if we keep the commandments we shall prosper. This promise is repeated more than 60 times in the Book of Mormon.  “Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land” (2 Nephi 1:20).

Now, you may ask, why do I share this with you? I hope all of you understand that one of the main purposes and reasons you have arrived at this great institution is to help you achieve your goals of becoming self-reliant and prospering in the land. I would be so bold to say that Heavenly Father wants you, and all his children, to be blessed with the abundance of the world. In the Doctrine and Covenants he said: “And it is my purpose to provide for my saints… For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare”(Doctrine and Covenants 104:15, 17). Brothers and sisters, Heavenly Father wants you to be prosperous!

Heavenly Father does not want to see his children living in poverty. In the words of President Hinckley: “I believe the Lord does not wish to see His people condemned to live in poverty” (“The Perpetual Education Fund,” General Conference, April 2001).

Now, the question is: why? Why does Heavenly Father want you and me to be prosperous?

In the Book of Mormon, we find the story of when Nephi was asked to build a ship that is found in chapter 17 of first Nephi. Nephi starts by explaining that they have been traveling for the space of many years, and to be exact it was eight years that they were traveling in the wilderness. During that time, they suffered so much affliction. The women bore children in the wilderness, they lived upon raw meat, and they lived in tents. Finally, they arrived in a land that they called Bountiful, because of its many fruits (see 1 Nephi 17:5).

Now, put yourself in the position of Nephi’s brothers, when Nephi came and said that the Lord had commanded him to build a ship. Obviously, they complained and murmured. On the other hand, Nephi’s reaction was totally different. His reaction was “Lord, whither shall I go that I may find ore to molten, that I may make tools to construct the ship after the manner which thou hast shown unto me?” (see 1 Nephi 17:9). Why such a different reaction? I think the answer is in chapter 12, many years before this happened. This was even before they left Jerusalem. In chapter 12 of 1 Nephi, in the first verse, it says that the angel asked Nephi to “look, and behold” his and Nephi’s brothers’ posterity. But even before he sees them, Nephi was able to see the land of promise. That was the big advantage Nephi had. He knew where he was going, he had a vision. His brothers didn’t. How important it is for you to have a vision. You need to understand where you are going and why. You need to understand the why of your education and the why of your future career. And you need to understand why your Heavenly Father wants you to be self-reliant and prosperous.

President Thomas S. Monson has taught: “Self-reliance is a product of our work and under-girds all other welfare practices. It is an essential element in our spiritual as well as our temporal well-being.” He then quoted President Marion G. Romney: “Let us work for what we need. Let us be self-reliant and independent. Salvation can be obtained on no other principle. Salvation is an individual matter, and we must work out our own salvation in temporal as well as in spiritual things” (“Guiding Principles of Personal and Family Welfare,” Ensign, September 1986, First Presidency Message).

Let me present to you three main reasons why Heavenly Father wants you to be prosperous.

The reason, number one, Heavenly Father wants you to be prosperous is so you can provide for you and your family. This is a main responsibility for all members of the Church. The Apostle Paul counseled the priesthood and fathers of the Church when he said: “But if any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel” (1 Timothy 5:8). As parents in the Church, it is our responsibility to provide for the material needs of our family—including food, education, healthcare, wholesome recreational activities, and to have the necessary provisions for emergencies. This responsibility cannot be delegated to the government, the Church, or any other organization. Being self-reliant enables you to maintain independence as a person and as a family. It gives you the freedom to act in accordance to the righteous desires of your heart.

The reason, number two, that Heavenly Father wants you to be self-reliant and prosperous is so you can help in the establishment of the kingdom of God upon the earth. Being self-reliant allows me and you to have the means to make financial contributions to the kingdom, and then be co-participants with the Saints in the construction and maintenance of temples, church meetinghouses and different Church programs—programs such as family history. And then, it also allows us to establish everything that is necessary to prepare the earth for the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Missionary work and the proclamation of the Gospel is another area where we as members of the Church have a vital responsibility. Not only have we the responsibility to share the gospel and invite all to come to Christ, but also as families we have the responsibility to support and pay for our children’s missions. On occasion, we will have to help pay for relatives or even other members’ missions. Some think that because they do not have the means to pay for their child’s mission, they are released of such responsibility.

Let me share with you a story that my bishop in Lehi shared with me. My bishop, who is a seminary teacher, told me about a young man who attended his early seminary class every day, but almost at the beginning of the class he would fall asleep. (I know that has never happened to you in any classes, I understand that, not even now). So after several days with this type of behavior, my bishop decided to talk in private with this young man. My bishop was very upset with the lack of respect this young man was showing for his class.

Even before my bishop as able to say anything, the young man started to apologize and asked my bishop for forgiveness because he was falling asleep during his class. The young man explained that every day he and his mother would wake up at 4:00 in the morning to cook tamales. Later in the day, his mother delivered the tamales to restaurants around the town. The young man added that with the money they are making from selling the tamales, they are paying for his sister’s mission who is serving in California.

My bishop said that he had to hold his tears, and then he said to this young man, “You can sleep in my class whenever you want. No problem.” I can imagine this young man’s sister serving with all diligence because she knows of the efforts of her family in order for her to serve the Lord in the mission field. I can only imagine the type of missionary this powerful young man will be when he goes on his mission in a few years.

I would also like to share a personal experience. When I joined the Church many, many years ago—I don’t want to say how many years ago, I was a very young man—I was 19 years old. And just a few weeks later, not even a week, I was called to be the clerk in the ward.

I had a great bishop. The bishop, one day, invited me to come into his office, and he invited me to go in a mission.  I said “Bishop, I can’t go on a mission. You know it has been very difficult for my family that I joined another church. Now if I tell my mother I’m going to quit school to go on a mission, that is going to be very difficult for them.”

Then my bishop said, “Well, I understand, but you need to pray about it.”

And I said, “Oh yes, no problem. I’ll pray about it.”

So I went in my prayers, and I remember praying something like, “Heavenly Father, I know I need to go on a mission, but I know you understand that I can’t go. So we are even, okay?”

Obviously, I didn’t feel right with that type of prayer. I changed my prayer and suddenly, I had this very strong feeling that I needed to go, that I needed to serve. I went back to my bishop and said, “Bishop, I’m going to go.” He got all excited; he even opened one of the drawers in the desk, and he got the application—the missionary application—and we started working on it.

Then we would get to the financial part of who was going to support me for my mission, and he asked me, “How much money do you have?”

And then I really laughed. I said, “Bishop, I just joined the church a few months ago. I don’t have any money. I never planned on going on a mission.”

And then he said, “What about your parents?”

And then I really laughed. I said, “Bishop, they don’t want me to go. They will never support me.”

He said, “Well, just ask them.”

So I went home. I waited for a moment when my father was alone. I didn’t want my mother to be around; I knew her very well. So, I talked to my father. I said “Dad, you know this mission that I’m going to go [on]?”

He said, “Yeah, yeah”—they were very upset about it—and then I said, “Well, we need to pay for it.”

He said, “What? What do you mean? They are not even going to pay you for doing it?”

I said no. I explained that in the Church, missionaries pay for their own missions and families help pay for it.  My father stopped for a minute, thought about it, and then he asked me “How much is it?”

I gave him the figure—and these were the years when missionaries would pay a 100% of their mission—and then he thought about he said “Well, I’ll pay 50% of it. I’ll give you half of the money.”

I said, “Okay, could you please sign here very quickly? This is what you need to file.” And I was very sure that my mother wasn’t around.

Brothers and sisters, I can tell you that, because of their support, they received many—plenty—of blessings. They were prosperous. They had enough and to spare, even after I went on my mission.

Being self-reliant allows you to dedicate your time and talents to the building of the kingdom of God. It will allow you to spend time in your callings, to do your family history, attend the temple frequently, and to engage in the work of salvation. Being self-reliant will give us the freedom of serving in the kingdom when and where we are most needed.

The third main reason why Heavenly Father wants you to be prosperous is so you can help to take care of the poor and the needy. In the words of President Gordon B. Hinckley, “It is our solemn obligation, it is our certain responsibility…  to ‘succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees’” (“The Perpetual Education Fund,” April 2001Genereal Conference).

In the Book of Mormon, we have a good example of how to utilize the prosperity and abundance that Heavenly Father will bless us with. In Alma first chapter it talks about the prosperous circumstances that the members of church lived and what they did with it: “And now, because of the steadiness of the church they began to be exceedingly rich, having abundance of all things whatsoever they stood in need—an abundance of flocks and herds, and fatlings of every kind, and also abundance of grain, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious things, and abundance of silk and fine-twined linen, and all manner of good homely cloth.

“And thus, in their prosperous circumstances, they did not send away any who were naked, or that were hungry, or that were athirst, or that were sick, or that had not been nourished; and they did not set their hearts upon riches; therefore they were liberal to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, whether out of the church or in the church, having no respect to persons as to those who stood in need” (Alma 1:29-30).

One of the goals of the gospel of Jesus Christ is to end poverty upon the earth. One of the characteristics of the perfect society of Enoch’s city, which the Lord called Zion, was that there were “no poor among them” (Moses 7:18).

You can start with this obligation today! Start by contributing liberally and generously to the fast offering fund of the church. As we are blessed with the abundance of the earth, it is our responsibility to give “liberal to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, whether out of the church or in the church.”

I marvel to see the generosity of so many members of the Church. I have seen members of the Church making donations to many good causes. I know of good people who have been blessed with prosperity who prefer to give their money to help relieve the needs of others, rather than to buy a bigger house or a luxury car. Their joy is in the giving, not in the getting. The Savior taught this principle when he said, “Give, and it shall be given unto you” (Luke 6:38). [My] personal experience with [my wife] Yolanda is that the more we give, the more we have.

My good friends, I congratulate you today. The fact that you are pursuing an education is a strong indication that you are on your personal path to become self-reliant. I wish you tremendous success in your studies and in your future career, and especially to those of you who will start your own businesses. Never forget that the purpose of your education and career is to help you become self-reliant and fulfill the purpose of your creation. In the same way that the ship was a means for Nephi and his family to get to the Promised Land, your education and career are a means for you to become self-reliant. Please do not confuse the means with the objective. Elder Robert D. Hales said, “Only when we become self-reliant can we truly emulate the Savior in serving and blessing others” (Robert D. Hales, “A Gospel Vision of Walfare: Faith in Action,” in Basic Principles of Welfare and Self-Reliance, booklet, 2009, 2). [2]

I want to recall the Lord’s promise made several times in the Book of Mormon, that if you keep the commandments “ye shall prosper in the land.” Never forget that Heavenly Father wants you to be prosperous. He wants to bless you with the abundance of the earth. But at the same time, always remember why: so you can support your family, so you can help in the establishment of the kingdom of God upon the earth, and so you can succor and bless the poor and the needy. Get involved now! You do not need to wait until you have all the riches of the world to start making a difference. Many organizations can use your time and talents. Even small monetary contributions can make a big difference.

Never forget who you are. You are sons and daughters of a Heavenly King. You are sons and daughters of God. You are the children of the promise. You are the children of the covenant. There are countless blessings and responsibilities waiting for you. But, more importantly, Heavenly Father is counting on you! You are the best He has!

I testify of the divinity of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He is the son of God. He was born of a virgin, and He lived on this earth, and He taught us the way. He chose the way, and through His sacrifice and Atonement, we have the opportunity to repent and to change our lives, and then we will be able to live with Him and with our Heavenly Father again. He lives today. He is a real person with a body of flesh and bones, but glorified and perfect. He directs this Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He is at the head of the Church, and He has called apostles and prophets to guide us and to help us, in this—the way of returning to Him and to Heavenly Father. Of this I testify in His sacred name, even Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, amen.


Bio

Brother Robert H. Heyn was born and raised in Bogota Colombia. He has a degree in systems management from Politecnico GranColombiano University and an MBA from Brigham Young University. His professional career includes working for corporate and nonprofit organizations, and as a business owner.

Currently, Robert is the CEO of The Academy for Creating Enterprise, an organization that trains Latter-day Saints living in poverty how to achieve sustainable self-reliance by starting and developing small business. With a history of over eighteen years, the Academy has trained more than 12,000 members living in the Philippines, Mexico, Peru, Brazil, and Africa.

Robert currently serves in the Church as a member of the Young Men General Board. Previously he served as president of the Mexico Tijuana Mission, in a stake presidency, high councilor, bishop, mission councilor, and as a missionary in the Colombia Bogota Mission.

Robert is married to Yolanda for 35 years. They have two sons and two granddaughters

Sunny Mahe

27 Feb. 2018

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Elsie and Three Things to Remember

Good morning. I’m so excited to be here. That’s totally not the right word. I’m totally nervous to be here. This building is just so overwhelming—I feel like you can’t enter this building without feeling some of the Spirit that is here.

I want to share with you a little bit about my little daughter Elsie, and then I’m going to share with you a few of the miracles that we experienced around that story, and then a little bit of why that should matter.

It was just an ordinary Tuesday, back in the fall of 2016. I had sent my four big kids off to school, and my three little ones—Tank, Elsie, and Seal—were happily running from room to room. They were playing with two neighbor’s kids that I was also watching. I was busying myself with household chores while the kids were running around and playing, and I was just enjoying the sound of their laughter.

I was in the kitchen washing dishes when Elsie’s friend came and tapped me on the hip. She said, “Elsie is hanging by the string.” I didn’t really have any frame of reference as to what that could possibly mean, so without even turning off the water, I wiped my wet hands on my baggy, black sweatpants and I walked into our front room to find that my daughter Elsie had become entangled in the cord from our blinds.

I quickly took her down and I began CPR. I sent my son to get help and a neighbor came and administered a priesthood blessing. The paramedics were called, and Elsie was Life Flighted to Primary Children’s Hospital. She spent a week there before she passed away.

Now, if this is all that you knew from our story, it just sounds like a very tragic, sad thing to have happened. But I want to share with you a few of the miracles that we experienced. First of all, you should know that I am really not the kind of mom that watches other people’s kids all the time. I have seven kids of my own, and they make a big mess. And so, I’m typically pretty embarrassed about the state of our home, because it looks like seven children live there. So I don’t offer often. And I think because people know that I have seven kids of my own, they don’t think to ask me.

That morning when I was watching a neighbor’s children, I received a group text. It was a close friend of mine and she needed somebody at the last minute to watch her two children. So I said yes. I came to find out later that that text was actually never meant for me, that it was meant for her visiting teacher who is coincidentally also named Sunny. But if not for her daughter being there that morning, I’m not sure how long it would have taken me to find Elsie.

My neighbor who came and delivered the priesthood blessing, he just happened to be running a little bit late for work. The paramedics are typically stationed about fifteen minutes from my home, and they just happened to be on break three minutes from my home. And lastly, I’m not a doctor or a nurse; I have no medical training. I think the extent of it is from TV shows and girls’ camp certification when I was about thirteen years old. But I performed that CPR perfectly. By the time the paramedics arrived, I had gotten her heart started and she was taking breaths on her own.

With all of these little miracles that fell into place, we were given every reason to hope for the best possible outcome. So, when the results from her scan came back that there was very little brain activity and even that was declining, I wondered why. Why was I able to save her, but I wasn’t able to save her? What was the point of all these little miracles lining up. We sought for answers and comfort within the walls of the temple, and our answer came in the form of organ donation. Because I was able to get to her just in time, she was able to be a life-saving miracle for others. We received confirmation that, although Elsie’s mission was much, much shorter than we would have hoped, her mission was finished here.

What does that have to do with any of you? Well, the one thing that all of us in this room have in common is that our missions here are not finished. How do we remain faithful and endure to the end of our mission?

President Spencer W. Kimball said that perhaps the most important word is remember (See "Circles of exaltation," address to religious educators, Brigham Young University, June 28, 1968). I’ve thought of three key things to remember, and they all have to do with the plan of salvation.

About four years ago, my husband surprised me with a trip to Texas to visit my family for Valentine’s Day. My step-dad had given me a box of See’s chocolates—the Bordeaux, they are the best ones, if you are wondering—and my mother had just replaced the carpeted stairs that she had in her home with this beautiful hardwood. I was at the top of the stairs double-fisting the chocolate, and I was in my socks, and I forgot all about the hardwood. On the very first step, I slipped and tumbled, tumbled, tumbled all the way down the stairs. I got to the bottom of the stairs and I’m doing a little self-assessment, and I noticed that the chocolate was safe.

I don’t know how much you were listening to the introduction, but at one point in my life, I was a very good athlete. I trained for the Olympics, I was like a world-class athlete. And as I’m sitting there at the bottom of the stairs with my safe chocolate in my hand, I thought, “This is definitely the most un-athletic thing I’ve ever done in my life.” I felt like, in that moment, my body completely forgot who I was.

That was my first thing that we should remember—remember who you were, that here on earth there are going to be times when you will be tempted to hate your body, that you will be tempted to feel like your body has betrayed you. In those times, remember that at one point you didn’t have one. When the trials of life come and they feel heavy and unbearable, remember that you chose to come here to learn and to grow, and to prove yourself worthy of the blessings to come. And remember that there are things that we knew and understood there that made all of this not only worth it, but desirable.

The second thing—you know, most people know who my husband is, here in Utah. He grew up here, he played football at Brighton High School, he played at BYU. I didn’t grow up here. I grew up in Texas, and when he played for the Eagles out on the East Coast, we kind of enjoyed a little bit of anonymity. When we moved back here, I was a little bit unprepared for that to be gone again. The very first time I handed my debit card to somebody at the grocery store, they looked at the last name and said, “Oh, my. Do you know Reno Mahe?” Yes, I do.

It was a little bit of a culture shock to me, especially having been an athlete myself. I must have thought I was kind of hot stuff too. The very first ward that we moved back to, we were sitting near the back during sacrament meeting, and right after sacrament meeting, my husband was out in the hall with my daughter, and—I’m probably exaggerating, but this is how it felt at the time—it felt like the bishop ran down the aisle straight towards me.

He reached out his hand and said, “Sister Mahe, we have the best calling for your husband.” And then he must have been able to sense that I was a little bit unimpressed with that, and so he followed it up with, “Don’t worry; we’ll find somewhere to stick you a little bit later.” That’s awesome.

It’s a little embarrassing to admit that this was a pretty big hit to my probably over-inflated ego. I remember wondering at the time, is that who I am now? I’m Sister “Reno Mahe’s wife”? And don’t get me wrong, he is awesome, and I feel very, very lucky. But I remember thinking that maybe he is a little bit lucky too. I felt like an afterthought. I felt overlooked and forgotten.

It was taking enough of my time, mulling it over and pouting, that I decided to take it to prayer. The answer that came was in a scripture. It is in 1 Nephi 21:15-16: “For can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee, O house of Israel.

“Behold, I have graven thee on the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.”

So my second thing to remember is remember who you are. You are a beloved child of God.

My family and I, being Tongan, we had the opportunity to attend our local Tongan ward for a while. While we were there, we had the opportunity to go on the Pioneer Trek. We happened to be there at the same time as then-acting general Young Women’s president Elaine S. Dalton. Upon meeting her, our men and our Young Men were able to perform a haka for her.

Probably some of you are thinking that seems a little weird, because you have seen those done at football games and you know, it’s kind of like a war cry. But when done in that spirit of respect, it’s actually very, very touching. It was an honor to be there and to part of it. We, as the women and Young Women, stood to the side, being very proud of our Young Men, having this thing that they could offer. After they finished, Sister Dalton said, “Oh, men, that was wonderful. And now we have something for you, right, girls?” And we just kind of panicked. We looked at each other like, “I didn’t prepare anything. Did you prepare anything? No.”

And she said, “Okay, here we go. One, two, three. ‘We are daughters of our Heavenly Father, who loves us, and we love Him. We will stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places as we strive to live the Young Women values, which are: faith, divine nature, individual worth, knowledge, choice and accountability, good works, and integrity. We believe as we come to accept and act upon these values, we will be prepared to strengthen home and family, make and keep sacred covenants, receive the ordinances of the temple, and enjoy the blessings of exaltation’” (Young Women Theme).

I remember saying that so many times when I was growing up through the youth program, but it never sank into my heart as much as it did at that moment, as we testified of that truth, that we are children of God, that He loves us, and we love Him back.

It’s a lot harder to feel loved and blessed when things are not going well. But Elder Orson F. Whitney said, “No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude, and humility…. It is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we came here to acquire” (quoted by Spencer W. Kimball in Faith Precedes the Miracle, 1972, 98). 

I think perhaps because we cannot see the way that our Heavenly Father sees things, or understand the way that He understands, that it’s difficult to see His love when we experience sorrow or disappointment. His answers can be different from the ones that we’re hoping for, and so they don’t seem like answers at all.

I think of my own children. Sometimes they will say to me, “I’m hungry.” What they mean is, “I want a popsicle.” So when I give them instead a healthy dinner, it doesn’t really seem like the most loving option to them, even though it is exactly because I love them that I do it. In Matthew 7:9-11, the Lord says, “Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?

“Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?

“If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask of him?”

You are a beloved child of God. Remember who you are.

And then my last one. I don’t know how much my husband loves when I share this example, but when he was growing up, he was one of several boy cousins around his same age, and they were a rambunctious group of boys. They were loud, and they loved to play, and make a mess, and he remembers that he had certain family members that just had no patience for that, that as soon as they would start coming in the door, they would say, “Oooh, you guys are gross and dirty and smelly and loud. Get out of here!” And they would slam the door and lock it. So no matter if they were thirsty or hot or tired, they just had to play outside until the adults were done talking and they could go home.

And so then, fast forward twenty years or so, and these are the same family members that are so proud, “I want you to meet my nephew, my nephew Reno Mahe. He plays in the NFL and he’s going to speak to our ward on Sunday.” And I have to wonder, that if those family members had known who he would grow up to be, if they would have treated him the way that they did when he was a little boy.

Keeping that in mind, if you really knew who you could grow up to be, how does that change how you treat yourself? How does that change the way you treat those around you?

The third and final point is remember who you will be. When trials come—and they will come—remember this. Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin said, “The Lord compensates the faithful for every loss.… every tear today will eventually be returned a hundredfold with tears of rejoicing and gratitude” ("Come What May, and Love It," Joseph B. Worthlin, October 2008 General Conference).

As the Lord revealed to Joseph Smith, “Peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;

“And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high” (Doctrine and Covenants 121: 7-8). 

As we remember who we were, who we are, and who we will be along this path of mortal life, may we be strengthened in our resolve to be true. May we be more assured of our heavenly parents’ love for us. He sent His Son to provide a way for us to return to Him because He loves us, and He wants our eternal happiness. I am truly grateful for the knowledge of eternal families and the plan of salvation and the restored gospel on earth.

I love my Savior, and I am so grateful for every opportunity to testify of Him, and I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen


Bio

Sunny Mahe grew up in Allen, Texas. She came to Utah to attend BYU, where she became an All-American member of the Y's women's volleyball team.

At BYU, she met and married Reno Mahe, a BYU football player and current coach. After college, they moved to Philadelphia where Reno played football for the Philadelphia Eagles for five years.

Sunny has been a columnist for The Daily Herald, but her primary focus has always been her family. Reno and Sunny have eight children.

In the fall of 2016, the Mahe's three-year-old daughter, Elsie, was involved in an in-home accident and passed away after a week at Primary Children's Hospital in Salt Lake City. The couple started a foundation in Elsie's honor — The Miracles From Elsie Foundation — which gives financial assistance to families experiencing medical crises, provides grief counseling to families who have lost a child and promotes organ donation awareness.

Tim Ballard

20 Feb. 2018

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Finding Light in the Darkness

I’m often asked the question: “How do you deal with that darkness? How do you keep lights on in the darkness?” And when people ask me that question, I realize it’s very applicable question. The answer will be very applicable to all of us, because we are all dealing with forms of darkness in our lives. You don’t need to be doing anti-trafficking work to be dealing with darkness.

We signed up for this mortality as part of that plan. Part of the divine part of that plan is that we are confronted with darkness. The minions of the adversary are here. That’s scriptural. They are here among us. It’s dark. It’s not if but when that darkness is going to come knocking at your door.

So if I could come up with an answer to the question of how we keep—or how I keep—the lights on, in the darkness where I work, perhaps there is something applicable.

I have met a lot of amazing people who have taught me a lot of amazing things about finding light in the dark, and I want to introduce you to one of these people. It was one of the very first operations we did as our private foundation, as Operation Underground Railroad. In fact, it was the very first operation we did. And we were going to look for a little boy. His name was Gardy Mardy, and his father’s name is Guesno. This is Guesno Mardy. He is a bishop in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, and the little boy, Gardy—his son—was born in Utah, in St. George. But at the time living in Haiti, this little boy was kidnapped, and he was trafficked. He was kidnapped from the church parking lot. The pictures you are seeing here were taken just a couple of weeks before he was taken.

He was taken from the LDS Church parking lot and thrown into a trafficking situation. There are over a million children forced into slavery—and that’s just sex slavery. If you include the labor slaves, there are up to six million children. So you can imagine—as horrifying as this is—it is even more horrifying to consider what happened to this little boy in this LDS family in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, is happening all over the place.

When I learned about this case, I was an agent in the government. I read about it in the Deseret News, because this little boy was born in Utah. I tried every way I could to make this case a U.S. case, so that we could go in with the power of the U.S. government and investigate and find this child. But I couldn’t find the nexus back to the United States. I couldn’t do it.

I called the father, Guesno. I flew him up, and I sat down with him. I explained to him who I was and how we wanted to help him. I said, “Guesno, what is being done to find your son?”

And he answered my question with a question of his own, a cruel question. I call it cruel because it was hard for me to answer, and it was unexpected. He said, “To answer your question about what is being done to find my son, I want to ask you, Tim, do you have children?”

I said, “Yes, I do.”

He said, “Could you sleep at night, knowing that one of your children’s beds was empty, and you didn’t know where that child was?” And I couldn’t help it; the tears began forming in my eyes as they formed in his eyes. I said, “No, I couldn’t.”

He said, “Well, to answer your question, I can’t sleep at night. So, I walk the street of Port-Au-Prince, arbitrarily picking some neighborhood, hoping that I will hear my son Gardy cry. That’s my plan.”

And through his tears and my own, I promised him. I said, “Guesno, more can be done. We can do more.” And I promised him that I would never stop until we found his son. Well, the problem, of course, like I had mentioned, I couldn’t break into this investigation and still maintain my employment in the federal government. And this was the single, kind of breaking point for me, where I made the decision with my wife—after much prayer and fasting—to leave the government and to go looking for these kids who are outside the jurisdiction of the United States. And Gardy Mardy was the first one we were going to go to.

So we raised a little money—just enough to do a couple of little operations. I didn’t know, I was trusting the Lord to help us after that. We got enough money to go into Port-Au-Prince, open the case file, and we determined through phone calls and other evidence that this little boy had been trafficked into what looked to me like an orphanage.

As we investigated this place—it was a compound, it was big, big walls, and it said “Orphanage” on the side—but we determined quickly that this was not an orphanage. It was not an orphanage; it was a trafficking center. It was a front. And this is how children get stuck into this. People set up fake orphanages in developing countries, and innocent people bring abandoned children, which are everywhere in a place like Port-Au-Prince, and they deliver those children to what they think is an orphanage. The children are taken and they are sold out the back. In this case, these children were being sold for between $10,000 and $15,000 each. This is modern-day slavery.

The police asked my team to go in undercover and to look for this little boy, and pretend to be purchasers, traffickers. We got into this place, and we had hidden cameras everywhere documenting the evidence, and we couldn’t see Gardy. There were 28 children in rags, beautiful children—and to think they were all for sale, and the criminal organizers of the place were very straightforward. They said, “You must have heard of us. You know what we do. We don’t adopt children; we sell children. Which one do you want?”

The police had asked me—we always work with the police. We’re in 15 countries all around the world, and we always work with the police—they had asked me to go ahead and go through with a purchase so we could get the evidence, all the while hoping we are going to get this little boy, that he is in here.

I can’t see Gardy, but I see this other little boy come walking around the corner—this beautiful little boy, looked to be about three years old. And my heart just melted when I saw him. I knew that he was the one—I didn’t know why, but I knew he was the one I needed to purchase in this sting operation. So I go over and I pick this little boy up. And the footage you are seeing is actual footage from the actual operation from our hidden cameras.

I picked this little boy up, and I start walking around, and I walk into these dark outbuildings, looking for Gardy, looking for other kids, with my camera out. And the deeper I get into the building, the darker it gets, the quieter it gets, and the more easily I can hear what was always there, right behind me. That was the little footsteps of another little child. I swing around, the boy in my arms, and I see this little girl with a terrified look on her face.

I don’t want her to be following me around, so I ask her to leave. All these children—these 28 children—are on the verge of starvation. Doctors later verified this, which makes what happens next all the more significant. I took out a candy bar, and I gave it to the little girl, and I said, “You need to take this outside and go eat it.” She would not budge. She looked me square in the eye, and she took that candy bar, and she did something with it that I’ve never seen a child do, especially a child on the verge of starvation.

She took that candy bar and she broke it in half—like muscle memory, didn’t even think—and placed the other half into the hands of the little boy that was in my arms. And I knew instantly that this act of love was a manifestation of a bond here, that they were brother and sister. And I thought, how terrifying for this little girl that she believes—how many Americans, how many westerners have come to this place, picked up a child, and that child disappeared.

So I knelt down and I held her hands, and I told her as best as I could that we were here to help, and that she would never have to be apart from her brother, ever. We went outside and negotiated the deal. We told the trafficker—who tried to deny, by the way, that they were brother and sister, because they thought they were going to lose the deal—but we insisted that we knew they were, but we needed to buy a girl anyway, so we ended up purchasing both of these kids.

We moved the party with the criminal organizers into a nicer hotel where we would do the money exchange and capture this criminal act, which would allow us, then, the opportunity that the police could go in and take these 28 kids out. And that’s exactly what happened. The operation was very successful. The children were all saved, pulled out, and the traffickers went to jail.

But it was a bittersweet experience, because as the children were being liberated, and I was at the hotel, and I had these two little children with me—their names Mia and Marky—I was calling back to the orphanage, where the police were going to liberate the other 26 kids. And I was calling, “Is Gardy there? Is Gardy there? Did you identify Gardy?”

Bishop Mardy, Gardy’s father, is in a different hotel, waiting in the lobby. We couldn’t have him near us; it was just way too emotional for him. He was just praying all day. His cell phone wasn’t working; we couldn’t call him. And I confirmed within an hour or so that the little boy was not there, that he had already been trafficked. He had already been sold. And I couldn’t call his father.

So there were beautiful things happening over here, and still darkness over here with Bishop Mardy. I had to go to the hotel where he was waiting, and I had to sit down with him, and I remember walking into that hotel, and his eyes met mine, and we both knew—he knew instantly. His son wasn’t holding my hand, like we had envisioned. He wasn’t with me. He could tell by the look on my face.

We sat down, and I couldn’t even look at him. I just hurt so bad. We had so much hope. And he said, “My son was already sold, wasn’t he?” I couldn’t even look him in the eye. I just looked at the floor and acknowledged, nodded. He began to weep. But he only cried for about 15 or 20 seconds. Then he lifts his head back up, and puts that classic Bishop Mardy smile back on his face—which is always on his face, the day I met him this smile was on his face—and he is smiling at me. And I’m looking at him very confused, thinking, look, we need to be really sad for a little bit here. And he is smiling and beaming, and a light.

He said, “Tim, don’t you realize what just happened? Don’t you realize that if my son hadn’t been kidnapped, those 28 children would still be enslaved right now? Your team wouldn’t have come down here.”

I said, “Yeah, I didn’t think of it that way, but I guess you are right.”

And then he said perhaps the most profound thing I’ve ever heard a human being say to me. He said, “If I have to give up my son so that these 28 children can be rescued, that’s a burden I’m willing to bear.” And then to prove he meant that and he believed that, the next day, Bishop Mardy went down to the police station, and he went to the police, and he said, “I will take any of these children—my wife and I [they have five kids of their own]—I will take any of those children that were rescued in the name of my son, and I will raise them. I will be their father.”

And Bishop Mardy went home with 8 of those 28 kids that day, without knowing that Operation Underground Railroad was actually going to support this immense cost, which we are doing. He didn’t even know that. He didn’t even ask for that. He just did the right thing. That’s when I learned something. And then he came back to me right after and said, “When’s our next mission? When’s our next underground operation? Let’s do this again.”

We have done it again, many, many times. Over one hundred children have been rescued on that island since that time, because of that sacrifice, and Guesno Mardy has been a part of many of those—really, all of those—operations. And I realized the lesson. I can’t imagine a darker existence than what this man is going through. I can’t dream up in my mind something darker than knowing that my child has been taken and I don’t know where that child is, that I know he was taken by evil people and traffickers. Imagining what is going on, where that child is, what is happening—as a parent, I can’t imagine that darkness.

So from the trenches of that darkness, from that war raging inside Guesno Mardy’s soul, he learned—he had to learn—how to turn the lights on. How do I get into light from this darkness? And the answer, the number one thing on my life that I’ve learned about how to turn the lights on in the darkness, is service. You serve. Guesno Mardy serves. He serves at all costs. He serves even when it’s irrational to serve, bringing eight children into his home. That seems pretty irrational. But he needs the light, and he knows where to get it.

Shortly thereafter, I was back in my hotel room that night. I was thinking about all this, and so much was weighing on my mind, and I called my wife at 2:00 in the morning. I have a little formula that I use when I’m dealing with attachment issues. We get attached to the kids we help, and I’m really attached to Mia and Marky, these two little kids. And I was laying in bed that night, thinking of Guesno and thinking of Gardy, thinking of the 26 kids, but mostly these two kids that I had bonded with—what’s their fate? Where are they going to be?

And look what Guesno just did. He just took eight kids home. I wanted to detach, because I was having anxiety over the whole thing. So I knelt down to pray, and I prayed that—and I’ve done this prayer before—that I could detach from the kids that we were helping, because if I attach too close to all of them, I could never move on. And usually it works. As I prayed, the more I prayed for that detachment, the more I saw those kids. The opposite was happening. The more I saw them—I saw every scene before my mind before me, every scene with me with them, even scenes that hadn’t happened, I was seeing. And then I freaked out even more, and the prayer wasn’t working.

I have another formula when I don’t get answers to the prayers that I want. I don’t know if this is gospel or not, but when I don’t get answers to the prayers I want, I call my wife to see if she has a better answer. I called her up and I told her what was going on, and she said, “You want to adopt those kids!”

I said, “No, I do not. Are you crazy? We have six kids of our own.” We have a seventh that snuck in somehow after that, but at the time there were still six. And I said, “No, I don’t.” And she was just silent on the other end. And she would tell me later that something happened to her—that she felt she needed to infuse light into the darkness that I was dealing with, that the children I was telling her about were dealing with.

She said, “You know what? You need to go adopt them. You need to go and figure this out.” So we went for it. International adoptions are a long time, but Mia and Marky are actually coming home in about three weeks, after about a three-year adoption process. That picture was me just a couple of weeks ago, with them.

Again, I learned this lesson from my life, that that act of service, even though it wasn’t comfortable, it’s not easy, I couldn’t believe she made that decision. But the light that came into our souls and to our family by emulating the example of Guesno Mardy of service, of trying to serve, and the more I thought about this—and I could go on and on, all the examples—I thought about how really this idea of service turns the light on in the darkness. It really is scriptural. It really is part of the gospel plan that the Lord has designed for us.

I’ll explain that in a second, but before I do that, I want to show you some actual footage from the stories I just told you. This is actually a music video that was done by a music group called Gentri. You’ve heard of Gentri, right? And Madilyn Paige, on The Voice? These are all LDS performers. They’ve got some of this footage put together, this music video I want to show you. All the footage you see on this is from this operation. The little kids you see, those are my kids, Mia and Marky.

And the songs they chose were just so perfect, because the first song in this music video, you will recognize, and it’s someone in the dark crying for help. Maybe it’s your neighbor, maybe it’s a family member. Maybe it’s you, yourself—you are dealing with some kind of darkness. And then what happens—the light that comes in, the service that brings this light. And I think this video does a great job. And then after the video, I’m going to explain, to wrap up, how truly this is part of the gospel plan.

I learned a lot from Guesno Mardy about finding light in the darkness, but then I’ve realized it was always right before me. When Alma, in the book of Mosiah, in chapter 18, took the people to be baptized at the waters of Mormon, he explained to them what that covenant would look like. He said if you are willing to do this, if you are going to make this covenant with God, then you will have to be willing to “mourn with those that mourn; and comfort those that stand in need of comfort” (Mosiah 18:9). That is our covenant, and every Sunday when we renew that covenant, it’s explained again to us. Remembering the Savior is to serve people, and the promise is the Holy Ghost, the ultimate light in the darkness.

It didn’t just work for Bishop Mardy because he learned on his own to do it, but he was applying his covenant, a true principle of the gospel—the same covenant and the same principle that we too can apply and utilize to bring light to our own souls, to bring light to those around us, and carry out our mission and mandate here on the earth.

It is my testimony that this is the truth. I love the song we just sang. It was about the darkness of the world and the light of the gospel that will bring light to every land. Look at those words. That is the gospel light. That is what we are talking about. And our covenants turn that light on, and service activates that covenant. That is my testimony, and I leave it with you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


Bio

Timothy Ballard is the founder and CEO of Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.). He also serves as O.U.R.'s jump team commander for rescue operations. Ballard began his career at the Central Intelligence Agency where he worked cases dealing with terrorism and Latin America. He has spent over a decade working as a special agent for the Department of Homeland Security where he was assigned to the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and deployed as an undercover operative for the U.S. Child Sex Tourism Jump Team. He has worked every type of case imaginable in the fight to dismantle child trafficking rings.

Ballard has worked undercover in the United States and in multiple foreign countries to infiltrate child trafficking organizations. He is an expert at managing internet investigations, particularly those dealing with file-share networks where pedophiles and traffickers go to trade in child pornography. He has trained hundreds of law enforcement officers at home and abroad in best practices to liberate children from sex slavery.

After serving an LDS Church mission to Chile, Ballard graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s in Spanish and political science from Brigham Young University. He went on to graduate summa cum laude with a master’s in international politics from the Monterey Institute of International Studies.

Al Carraway

13 Feb. 2018

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Quotes

Lance CasagrandaAl Carraway

Transcript

Embrace the Unexpected

Hi! You guys, that was so good. Singing…that’s not a talent of mine. I picture in the pre-earth life, like, you stand in line to get talents, and I feel like the singing talent was happening at the same time as, like, I don’t know, a taco stand line or something. That’s where I was.

We’re going to have extra fun today, mostly because I’m still heavily medicated from surgery. But it’s fine. I’m Al. Don’t worry if you have no idea who I am, because you will know more than you want to by the time I sit down. So, it’s fine. I’ll tell you a little bit of how I got to be standing here in front of you right now. I am from New York. I met the missionaries right before I turned 21. I listened to them because I felt really bad for them, because they were just really precious looking. I didn’t think—when I first saw them, I thought, “Who wears helmets still?” I didn’t know.

Anyways, the way that I saw it was religion was something people turned to when something was going wrong in their life, as some sort of mental comfort or whatever. I don’t know. And that wasn’t me. At age 20, I honestly thought I’d peaked in life. Right? Surely things cannot get as good as they are right now. I had a studio apartment. It was the size of a single, like, bathroom. But I loved my bathroom-sized apartment. And I worked full-time at a hospital—nothing impressive. I did parking enforcement. I gave people parking tickets at the hospital. No one liked me. It’s fine.

But I loved what I was doing, and I loved who I was. I did. I loved who I was, and I didn’t want anything to change. But I felt so bad, because they were dorky, and I humored them. I wanted to prove to them, I wanted to show them, like, hey, all these blessings you’re working toward? They’re all in your head. Sorry. And the only way I could do that was to live exactly how they taught me to live, tried to, and to live it long enough to allow contrast to happen, if it were to happen. And then show them, like, see? Told you. Nothing happened.

So, this is my quest. I am out to live the gospel, to prove the missionaries wrong. Every day, I would read the Book of Mormon. Every day. And what I would read about? I had no idea, because it made no sense to me at first. But I did it because I told them I would. And every day, I would pray. And I just know, I know that they were the worst prayers Heavenly Father has ever heard. Ever. I had never said a prayer before in my life. I had never prayed before, but I did it, and it was awkward. It was so incredibly awkward. I kind of felt like I was leaving a voice mail. I don’t know, this idea of talking to yourself. But I did it every day, because I told them that I would. And every day, I would do these really awkward and uncomfortable efforts, in quest to prove them wrong.

The funny thing about trying and the funny thing about asking is that we’re blessed. No matter how awkward or terrible we think our efforts are, we are blessed by our efforts of trying. One day I woke up at 4:00 in the morning. I couldn’t sleep, so I called my missionaries. I don’t know what I was going to say to them; I didn’t think they would answer because it was 4:00 in the morning. And they did. And my first reaction was to start screaming at them, and so I did. I’m yelling, and I don’t know what I’m yelling about, but it’s really loud, and somewhere amongst all my screaming I yelled at them, and I said, “I want to get baptized!”

Uhhh. I didn’t think that was what I was going to say. I didn’t even know that that’s what I wanted to do until I said—well, until I yelled it. And when I yelled it, oh, I felt it! I felt it, and I got so embarrassed, I just hung up the phone on them. Can you just imagine this for a second? Four in the morning, “Hey! Baptism!” Click. What on earth?

This decision came out of nowhere. It came out of nowhere that not only did it surprise me, it surprised my missionaries. They called me right back, and they were more confused than they were excited. They called me back, and they were like, “What? Why? What happened?”

So I decided to get baptized, and that was wild! That was wild to me, because even though I knew that this was true, even though I could feel that this was right, I was embarrassed. I was ashamed. So embarrassed and ashamed to be part of anything to do with this Church, so embarrassed that I didn’t invite a single person to my baptism.

Well, I invited one person. His name was Scott. And at the time, I didn’t know who Scott was, so it was awkward. He was dating one of my sisters at the time, but I’d never met him before, I’d never spoken to him before, and I called him up and I said, “Hey. I’m kind of getting baptized.”

He said, “Can I come?”

And I said, “I think that’s why I called you.”

The day of my baptism, having not invited anyone except whoever Scott is, the room was packed—so many people there that they couldn’t all fit. They were flooded out into the hallways, and that meant the world to me. Just by them being there, was a testimony to me that what I was doing was right, and so I got baptized. And that was neat. I liked it. It was fine. Sometimes you hear stories of people coming out of the font and they’re yelling or crying or whatever, and that wasn’t me. I was happy because I’d done what I’d done, but mostly wet, and like, really cold.

But when I got confirmed, oh, this is my favorite part. I love this part. Because, you know, when I got that gift, I physically felt myself get that gift. The contrast is huge. The difference is real. And at that exact second, I was not embarrassed anymore. I was not ashamed in any degree, and I wanted to yell to all of New York, “Happiness is real! It’s real and it exists, and you can have it. They have these boys with doofy helmets who will talk to you.” 

I realized that I had the answer to the questions of the universe. Woah. Some people go their entire lives seeking after what we know, and sometimes not ever finding it. And so, when you have something that you love, when you have something that just makes you feel good, you want to share it, right? So, I turned to my friends—and I feel like I had a lot of friends—I did, I had a lot of friends, friends that I loved and trusted and would tell everything to. And not one of them, not one of them stayed. They all left. They wanted nothing to do with me and what I was a part of. And it hurt. It hurt to see how easy it was for them to leave and how quickly they did.

So then I turned to my family, and I love my family. My family is super, my parents—my parents have been separated for as long as I can remember—and my dad—I love my dad! We are as close as you could ever imagine. And at the time, I lived just a few blocks away from where he lived, and every day, without fail, I would walk to my dad’s house and I’d make him lunch. Every day. I was the only one of my siblings that would tell him everything. I’d tell him about boys, and he hated it. And I loved that he hated it, because I thought it was funny. And every year for our birthday he takes us out to birthday brunch.

It is my 21st birthday, and my dad—my best friend and biggest support—he looks me right in the eye and he says, “Al, I don’t want you as a daughter anymore. You have to pick [between me and] this church that you just found out about a few weeks ago.” And how small, how small my knowledge was at the time. Out of everything there is to know about the gospel, the only thing that I knew at that time was that the Book of Mormon was true. I hadn’t even read it all the way through. I don’t think I made it past a few chapters until I knew it made everything true. And that’s not naïve of me; that’s what the Spirit does.

He said, you know, “This church or me.” Your dad. And I remember thinking, “What an easy decision for a difficult situation.” Right? I already chose who I wanted to follow, didn’t I? That is what happens when we get baptized. I already recognized that this happiness that I didn’t even know existed, that it does! And it only comes from the gospel. I knew that. I could feel that! I knew that because I spent twenty-one years of my life thinking and seeing if it came from somewhere else, and it doesn’t. It does not.

So I decided right then and there, and I said, “Dad, I’m sorry. I love you.” He really kept his word. I’d walk to his house still; he’d lock the door. He’d close the blinds. I would call; he would never pick up my calls. He would never return my voice mails.

And I went to work at parking enforcement, and I looked like the fake cop. I had these badges that meant nothing, and this dress-up—I wore a tie, and I had these men’s suit pants, which were the most unflattering pair of pants a girl could ever put on. They were huge. So you know what I would do? I would hide the Book of Mormon in the front of my pants and you couldn’t tell it was there. That’s how big they were. Not often, but several times, all of my coworkers and all of my bosses—I had a few of them—they would all get together and they would lock me in an office. They would lock me in an office just to scream at me. And they would say, “You are not a good person. What you are doing, what you are part of, is wrong.” And they made me watch these terrible, terrible and untrue videos about the Church.

How hard it was! I didn’t know how to defend the Church. I didn’t even know how to defend myself. The only thing that I knew was that those few chapters made everything true, and how hard it was to see everyone that I loved so much either scream at me or just leave. Gone. I felt like I was being punished for doing what I thought was the right thing.

Every time things got hard, every second that I had free, I would pull the Book of Mormon out of my pants, and I would read it. Every chance I could. I would fake bathroom breaks just to read scriptures. And not once did my situation change because of it. Not really. But every single time, I was given the strength and the knowledge to be able to handle what I was going through. That book—that is where strength comes from. I don’t know what I would do without that book.

And so, what do you do when you have just turned 21 and you live in downtown Rochester, New York, where the night life is very active, right outside your door, and you don’t have any friends? Well, I’ll tell you what you do. I don’t know how many of you have been home on a Friday or a Saturday night by yourself. You have these fleeting thoughts of, “I feel lame.” Maybe not; maybe that was just me. That’s how I felt, because every Friday and Saturday night for months—these were long months—what I would do every Friday and Saturday night was I would make up church talks for fun. I get it. It’s wild. You guys aren’t even laughing; it’s like that is too wild to even laugh at.

What I would do during the day, because I worked the evening shift, every single day I would go out with the missionaries and help them teach investigators and less-actives. I remember thinking, “Yes! Heavenly Father, I want to go on a mission! What do you think?” And I knew my answer was going to be yes. I knew it. Because that is a righteous, good thing to want to do. So why be denied a good thing? And do you know what my answer was? Move to Utah. Uhh, not what I asked for. Thanks, though.

I didn’t want to move to Utah. I honestly completely forgot Utah was even a state until I met all these missionaries. I thought maybe—maybe if I asked differently, like, reworded my prayer, I would get a different answer. Not the case. And I thought maybe, maybe if I told Him how much it would mean—so much to me, it was so important—[He would allow?] it to happen. But that was not the case.

Now, my answer came as a reoccurring thought—a reoccurring that that I figured if I ignored long enough, it would go away. No. Weeks and weeks and it kept coming back, and finally what it came own to is, “Wow. I just found out that God is real. He is real. He, in reality, speaks to us, and who would I be if I said, “Hey, God, you are wrong.” I can’t say that. Who am I to say that to Him? And how guilty would I have felt if I had finally gotten an answer and I didn’t do anything about it? The guilt would have killed me.

So I was like, “Fine. I will go to Utah.” And it was hard. It was hard. I just wanted someone to support me. And everyone at church—you know, I didn’t see other members during the week. People drove up to two hours to get to church, and they understood the Spirit. Surely someone there would be like, “How great. Let me know if you need help with anything.” Or, “Wow, that’s interesting.” I even would have accepted that. But they all said the same thing, including my branch president. He said, “Al, don’t go to Utah. Don’t do it. If you move there, no one will like you. Al, if you move there, you won’t fit in. Don’t do it, Al. Don’t go.”

I remember thinking, “Don’t tell me that, because I’ve got to go still. He’s making me.” And how hard it was to feel like I was doing it absolutely and completely alone. Me trying to find a place in Utah is a whole other story that we just won’t have time for. So, I will cut to the chase of getting down to two days before I am supposed to move. Someone is moving into my apartment. I quit my job already, and nothing has worked out. If it doesn’t work out for whatever reason, I will be very broke and very homeless, so you can imagine how nervous I am, right?

And I am mad! I am. I am so mad at God, because every day I am trying and I feel like I have nothing to show for my efforts. And I am mad, and I started yelling at God, and I said, “I don’t know what else to do. I don’t know what else to do. I’m praying, I’m reading, I’m fasting, I don’t have anything to show for it. Why? Why is something so right so hard? Do you care, still, about me? Are you even there at all?” I was just pleading for an answer just to know why I have to move, and He didn’t answer me that.

And it was hard because, you know, when my dad found out it was the first time I had heard from him in a really long time, and he said, “Al, why are you leaving me? Why are you moving all the way across the country to a place you have never been, where you don’t know a single person? Why?”

And what was I supposed to say? My dad—he’s not a religious man—so I can’t be like, “Dad, God told me to, so it’s fine.” He wouldn’t have understood that, and how hard it was to see him so confused and hurt and offended and worried. I did not have the answer to give him any comfort, and to me, to not have that comfort for me. And I was so scared I forgot how to turn my car on. I am so scared, I can’t turn my key. And I didn’t even know if I was supposed to take a right or a left on my driveway, and I drove all the way to Utah Valley, Utah. I didn’t stop once. I couldn’t. I knew that if I stopped, doubt, temptation would start to seep in. I knew that if I even took a break, I would end up in a direction Heavenly Father does not want me to go in—literally, at the time, back home to New York. But spiritually, I think there is also a lesson there.

I didn’t stop to eat. I didn’t even get drive-through food. That’s how much I didn’t stop. And I put my entire life into a two-door Alero Oldsmobile, which isn’t much of a life, if you think of a two-door car made in the 1990s. I don’t think they even make two-door cars anymore. But I was so excited to get here, because of how hard it was, because this was where He wanted me. This was what He wanted me to do.

And you know, here I am, I just left behind the only way of living that I know of. New York is very different from Utah. And I left, and I had to cope with the idea that I could never see my dad ever again. And I drove across the country, and luckily something worked out for me to live as I’m driving here. Talk about grey hair. I think that is textbook definition of 11th-hour blessings. And you know, this is it, this is my new home. This is where God has brought me. And I was so excited, because I knew this was all God’s working and making, that this was where things would start to get better, and easier, and start to make sense.

This is the day I’m looking at my new home and the grass is up past my hips. It was really tall. It was really dead. There were all these broken toys and rusted treasures braided into the grass that had been there for—I don’t know how long. And I don’t know where they came from, but there were three, maybe four kids running around my backyard with zero clothes on. Couldn’t tell you either. I don’t know what it was. At this point I am so grateful I didn’t know what it was, because something smelled so bad, and I just said to Him, I said to God, “This is where you brought me? With the naked kids and the smell? Neat.”

Hear me out. I meant to bring my blankets. I did. But they somehow didn’t make it into my car. It would be a very long time before I would get a job out here, and an even longer time to get paid for that job. When I eventually got a job and eventually got paid for that job, driving by a Target, that was a really good day for me. But it wouldn’t happen for a while. So here I am, across the country, lying on the floor, wrapped in a towel. This is where my new faith had brought me.

I went my very first day in Utah, I went to Café Rio—we don’t have those back home. I was very excited. I’m standing right in the middle of everyone, holding a church book just like this. It was a biography on—I don’t know, one of the prophets—you know how you can tell when someone is just staring at you? It feels like lasers. That’s how it felt, like the lasers were every direction. I remember feeling really tense, and finally the guy gets my attention, the guy next to me, and he goes, “Pretty ironic, looking the way you do, holding that book.”

My heart broke. Immediately I thought of everyone back home saying, “Al, don’t go. No one will like you and you will not fit in.” I didn’t. How badly I wanted to turn to him and scream at him and just say, “Do you know what I just went through? Do you know how hard this is? Do you know what and who I had to give up to be here, and I didn’t even know why?” And guys my age—our age; I’m not old, you guys, I swear—they’re looking for temple-worthy girls, and that is a great goal. But I don’t exactly look temple-worthy. That not only did no one want to date me; they didn’t even speak to me. And not just guys our age; no one, in spite of my best efforts, no one, except for that man in Café Rio, spoke to me for a long time. And I think these feelings, just as human beings, really stink, but I think especially as women, to feel unnoticed, unwanted, damaged. Indescribable. And then, please for an answer, just to know why He wanted me to do all this and not get one, and to just go home and lay on the floor and wrap myself in a towel.

And I just relate too much to Laman and Lemuel. It’s in 1 Nephi 17—this is when they have been in the wilderness for a really long time, and I think we’re all familiar that they went into the wilderness because they were told that Jerusalem was supposed to be destroyed. At this point, Jerusalem hadn’t been destroyed yet, and Laman and Lemuel are talking, and he says, “Thou art like unto our father, led away by the foolish imaginations of his heart; yea, he hath led us out of the land of Jerusalem, and we have wandered in the wilderness for these many years; and our women have toiled, being big with child; and they have borne children in the wilderness and suffered all things, save it were death; and it would have been better [if] they had died before they came out of Jerusalem than to have suffered these afflictions.

“Behold, these many years we have suffered in the wilderness, which time we might have enjoyed our possessions and the land of our inheritance; yea, we might have been happy” (verses 20-21).

They’re mad! They’re mad that they had to leave everything. They’re mad that they have to live a life different than everyone else. And for what? Destruction that didn’t even happen yet? And so, I know that we have these moments, that leave us lying on the floor screaming at Him, wondering why, for what, blessings that haven’t even happened yet. But no pathetic attempt from the adversary can take away from the reality of what I felt when I got that gift. I refused to let some pathetic attempt from the adversary take away from the times where I did temple work for all of my grandparents. And I refused to let some pathetic attempt from the adversary take away from what I am feeling right now. I refuse to let some hardship take away from the reality where I have felt my soul dancing within me, to forget or doubt those times—those goose-bump moments, those heart-throbbing moments—and I could not deny that every time I have felt those soul-dancing and goose-bump moments, I have been living the gospel.

Yeah, hard times will consistently be there. That won’t change. I’ve spent many, many times yelling at God. Hard times will always be there, but so will Christ. And with Him, we can overcome and conquer absolutely everything! With Him, we can overcome and conquer every feeling of loneliness, or doubt, or inadequacy, or temptation or confusion. With Him, we can overcome and conquer the world, right? And I love that! If we think Heavenly Father will do anything to stop us from overcoming and conquering, we are wrong. If we think Heavenly Father will do anything to stop us from being happy right now, today, even in our trials, we are wrong. Comfort is always there, because Christ is always there. And He can be felt in the darkest and most confusing of times if we just turn to Him, and if we just choose to trust, choose to have faith, to embrace the unexpected, knowing who is guiding this.

Not once have things gone the way I had in mind. Not once. And that can be hard, especially if you think it’s a righteous, good thing that you’re asking for, especially if it means so much to you. How many times—you know, it’s then, it’s then where we have those fleeting thoughts and we wonder where He is, and if He really cares about me, right? But how grateful, how grateful I am that they did not go the way I had in mind, because they have been profoundly better than what I ever could have imagined for myself—greater than I even knew existed.

All of the promises, all of the blessings that we are trying so hard to obtain—in scripture, they are all written in past tense, right? Prepared. They are already there. Heavenly Father, He has already set the time, the love, the work, the effort, into preparing the absolute best ever created, and you can have it, if you just keep going, and if you just try. And if you choose Him, I don’t care how many times a day, and I love that. This is real! And I wouldn’t have a single thing I have now, if it weren’t for those exact moments I was screaming at Him, wondering where He was. It was every single moment I was wondering where He was that brought me to everything I have now, and it breaks my heart to imagine my life any different.

Embrace the unexpected, knowing who is guiding you. Because if having the most powerful, all-knowing Beings who ever existed on your side isn’t empowering, I don’t know what is. Alma 56:46 says “Behold our God is with us, and he will not suffer that we should fall; then let us go forth.” I want to echo that. Go forth! Fear not! Forget not whose hands you are in. Forget not that we have the answers to the questions of the universe. And as we all know, Jerusalem was destroyed. No matter the timeframe, do not let doubt or questions, do not let passing time dictate His promises and revelation given to us. Jerusalem was destroyed and promises were fulfilled, and revelation was fulfilled, just like for us to, will be fulfilled. Because the reality is, He is real! He is as real as your heart beating right now.

In this exact second, God is mindful of you. And the second after that, and all the seconds after that. Refuse to let some pathetic attempt from the adversary dim that. Your prayers have been heard, but greater is what He has in store for you, in the name of Jesus Christ, my best friend, amen.


Bio

Al Carraway is a multi-award winning public speaker, who has spent the last seven years traveling the countryside inspiring the world with her story of conversion, redemption and finding faith.

As a popular blogger, author of the best-selling book, “More Than the Tattooed Mormon," and recently released, “Cheers to Eternity," her messages have reached millions.

She is a native New Yorker, who now lives in Utah with her sweetheart Ben, and her two kids. Al works full-time at the LDS Church as a marketing manager.

Her passion is to tell everyone that happiness exists and it comes from the gospel, and that our efforts can — and do — make a difference. 

Follow Al on Twitter, Instagram or at AlCarraway.com.

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