Take the Time to Make a Difference
I am grateful to be with you today. As I look out into the audience, I can see the excitement and determination in your faces that have brought you here at this Church business school. I appreciate you for your presence here today because I recognize that you are here by choice. My presence is by assignment. However, I want you to know that I am grateful to be here, to have this experience, and to feel your spirit and determination.
I have wondered what I almighty say to a group of bright, inquisitive students. I feel the weight of responsibility in trying to make a difference in your lives during the precious time we spend together. As I was struggling over a topic, I was advised that you have a special theme this year, that theme being “Take the Time to Make a Difference.” This theme is not an idle statement to be included with apple pie and motherhood, but it is a worthy challenge – a challenge to be taken seriously by each of you. One of the great tragedies of life is that too many leave this life without leaving a single footprint or a tiny ripple in the waters of life. Too many have not taken the time to make a difference.
The charge to “take the time to make a difference” is especially appropriate for you because you are here for that very purpose – to make a difference. You have decided to invest your time, money, emotions, and energies into preparing yourselves for the life beyond school. You want to make a difference. The mere challenge reminds us that a difference will not just happen. Contrary to any beliefs, hopes, or desires no difference of significance was ever a result of happenstance, luck or good fortune. It will take time to make a difference. Further, it will take more than just time. It will take goals, focus, and energy. It will take hard work and persistence and it will take courage. For surely a difference will not be made without the full devotion of out loyalty to objectives and ideals, with desire and discipline as the engine to the fulfillment of our dreams. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow put it into perspective in a few short verses from his poem “The Ladder of Saint Augustine.”
We have not wings, we cannot soar
But we have feet to scale and climb
By slow degrees, by more and more
The cloudy summits of our time
The heights by great men reached and kept
Were not attained by sudden flight,
But they while their companions slept
Were toiling upward in the night
So you might ask what is the difference you want to make as a student, an eventual graduate of this school, or simply as an individual making your way in the world of the masses? What is your priority of impacts? What difference do you want to make in the lives of others? What shall be your footprint in a wonderful, yet turmoil-filled world? What is the difference you will make in the lives of those you associate with? When your life’s example of service, trials, and achievements has answered this question for you and others, you will discover that the grandeur of the difference will be in yourself – for a virtue has its own reward.
How do we make the big difference? I suppose there are many ways and many priorities, but for today I would like Timothy to set the stage for the single point I would like to make. His counsel was: “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12). My encouragement to you would be to make your difference by being proud of your peculiarities and living those principles that make you peculiar. You are a student of a special breed. You are here not just because you want to learn to run a computer or to write a program. You are not here just because you want to improve your English skills, learn accounting, or whatever you are studying. You are here because you want to link temporal learning with values, principles, and spiritual growth.
To put things in perspective let me remind you that your temporal being did not exist before you came here and it will not exist when you leave this earthly state. It has been stated that you are first and foremost a spiritual being seeking a mortal experience, not a mortal being seeking a spiritual experience. Your highest loyalties and living should be toward the fostering and promulgating the spiritual side during your temporal pursuits. It is the living of the principles that transcends mortality that rewards both the spiritual and the temporal. It is the big difference. The Savior put it all into perspective when He said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).
Most and perhaps all of you are LDS. You have a responsibility to live the covenants you have made. All of you are students of this great college. You have a responsibility to exemplify the values and ideals of this institution. So as you go out from this school into your communities, cities, and families, you have a responsibility to make a difference by exemplifying that which makes you different. You have a responsibility to radiate the values of the LDS Business College. The Savior was speaking to you and me when He said, “Let your light so shine before men that thou might see your good works and glorify your father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). He is speaking to you, not only as an individual but as an accountant, as a programmer, as a teacher, or whatever, for we are a people under covenant and obligation. We have the great opportunity to light some candles as we go out into the world. From this body there should be some 250-300 lighted candles shining before the world – teaching, touching, and making a difference.
May I be excused for drawing rather heavily from some personal experiences? You will note that I will not be expounding on many failures, but rather talking about a few experiences that have left a lasting impression on me. Some of you will have similar experiences yourselves.
I graduated from Brigham Young University back in 1960 – a long time ago. That summer Sister Edgley and I were married. We packed up an old 1953 Ford and took off for graduate school at Indiana University. We were excited about the adventure. We were excited to pursue our goals, and in fact, we were most excited to live among nonmembers. We wanted to be Mormons among non-Mormons. We wanted to be an example. Yet, we entered that new phase of our life with a little uncertainty and anxiety because neither of us had ever lived among nonmembers. We wondered how we would be accepted and how we would adjust to this new environment.
On the first day I attended school at Indiana University, I was in an economics class taught by Professor Ross Robertson. As was common on the first day of his class, Dr. Robertson asked each of us to introduce ourselves and tell from what school we had graduated. When it was my turn, I gave my name, and said I had just finished school at Brigham Young University. Dr. Robertson stopped the introductions and said something like this, “It is wonderful to have another great student from Brigham Young University in this class.” Now, he did not say this about the very capable students from Indiana, Minnesota, or Harvard. He then asked, “Do you know so and so from BYU?” I knew of him. “Do you know so and so, also from BYU?” I knew him. Then he named others, some of whom I knew and others I did not. Then he said, “They have all been outstanding students and great examples.” As I savored the undeserved limelight for those few moments, I was grateful for a string of LDS students that preceded me at Indiana. I was grateful for the impression and difference these students had made in the life of a professor and probably others. I was proud to be singled out for the good that was now expected of me, and I thought to myself, “I have a responsibility.” I was determined not to mar the reputation of myself or those who had left such a legacy of example. I was grateful for the effect that this newfound legacy was about to have on my life, and I felt perhaps it had become my turn. This legacy was a motivation to me throughout school. I want to assure you that I felt a tremendous responsibility to follow in the footsteps of those who preceded me.
The accolades that came in that class, which were unearned by me but which I was proud to receive, came not because we were all associated with a great academic institution. They came because the values and the principles of the Church reflected in the curriculum and the lives of its students; and now no less was expected of me. Such is the opportunity of one coming from any Church school, especially a school that carried its name – LDS Business College. At Indiana I was grateful that a footprint had been left, a candle had been lit.
Later, after I had graduated from school, I had a number of job interviews. The interviewer of one well-known company referred to my graduation from BYU and my assumed valued as taught by the Church. He remarked, “I don’t think you would fit in our company. On many occasion we must entertain by drinking and socializing with customers. I just don’t think that would fit with your background.” I readily agreed and told him that his was not the type of company I would want to work for; truly I would not feel comfortable. My values were not up for compromise. We parted, friendly on the surface, but inwardly I had a very negative impression about the company, an impression that remains even today, some thirty-five years late.
Later I interviewed with another company. The interviewer referred to my resume and said, “Brigham Young University, a Mormon.” I responded, “Yes.” Then he said, “It would be good to have another Mormon in the company.” He then went on to tell me about Del Wright, one of the executive vice presidents of the corporation, and how much admiration everyone had for him and for his beliefs and principles. I was grateful to Del Wright (Stake President Wright), who had created an example and left a legacy that is still referred to today – many years after his death. A footprint had been left, a candle lit. I felt comfortable with this company and I accepted the job. I also felt a responsibility to live the values that Del Wright had exemplified – to attempt to keep the candle burning.
A couple years later, I was sent to a seminar in Boston. I was the only Latter-day Saint in the seminar. As we introduced ourselves, I made reference to my attending Brigham Young University. I always referred to BYU as my alma mater because it immediately identified me as a Mormon. One of the two professors teaching the seminar stated, “Brigham Young University – another Mormon. It is good to have you with us.” I felt pleased again to be singled out among all those in attendance.
After the first day of the seminar one of the professors invited a half-dozen of us to his room for further discussion and socializing. Drinks were served. I responded with a 7-up and thought nothing more of it. I was sitting in the room with the others, glass in hand, when the other professor walked into the room. As he visited with us I suddenly felt uncomfortable because my glass looked just like everybody else’s and he could not know what I was drinking. So I quickly gulped down my drink, then in a very loud and obvious voice I asked, “Could I have another 7-up?” – hoping that would remove any doubt. The admonition of the Lord came to mind when He said, “Abstain from all appearance of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22).
In my entire working career among nonmembers, I have never been embarrassed, nor felt uncomfortable for living the standards of the Church. It has been an invigorating and stimulating process. It has been the easiest thing I have done. It has been rewarding, interesting, and sometimes even humorous. For example, some years ago while still working for this same corporation, I was sent to Paris to meet for the first time the president of a newly-acquired toy company. I had no idea that the president knew I was a Mormon. I am sure he did not have the slightest idea what a Mormon was. However, when I arrived at the airport, he greeted me by saying, “Dick, tonight we will have dinner at a very fine French restaurant. But, before we go to dinner I have arranged for you to come to my home for drinks and to meet some of the office staff.” I was comfortable with that because I knew how to handle the drinking part of it. When we arrived at his home, I was surprised and touched to find that he had made special arrangements to have every flavor of soft drink and fruit juice imaginable. While he had no idea what a Mormon was, somehow he had learned about a few principles that made me different, and was courteous and thoughtful enough to make sure I would be comfortable. Later that evening, we went to the restaurant and he began the process of ordering the wine. The maitre-de began to present the finest wines for our consideration. If any of you are familiar with the protocol, you know that first the maitre-de presents his recommendation. The person ordering the selection will then smell the cork, but almost as a matter of procedure, will turn away the first three or four bottles saying it is not quite right. About four bottlers later the cork smells okay, so he pours a little into his glass, whirls it around, tastes the wine, then declared it “just right.” After this protocol had been met, my host then began filling the glasses, one by one. As he approached my glass, I just put my hand across the top and said, “No, Michelle, I will not have any wine.” He was dumb folded. There was absolute silence. Then after a few moments he said, “But, Dick, this is wine.” I said, “No, Michelle, I would not care for any wine.” Then with even more confusion, he paused for a few moments again, with absolute silence, and asked, “Not even wine?” He just couldn’t believe that even a Mormon would not have wine. I said, “No, Michelle, not even wine. I’ll just have water.” Again there was dead silence, and then he asked me “Water?” I said, “Yes, just water.” Then came his final response, “Dick, you must be the finest connoisseur of water in the world!” We all had a good laugh and I was grateful to someone at corporate headquarters who cared enough to advise Michelle about what was important to me. I was grateful for a Frenchman who was considerate enough to make a young Mormon businessman feel at home and at ease with his values. I felt proud to be recognized as a Mormon.
One of the most gratifying moments of my experience working with that company was my departure to come work for the Church. My business associates were very gracious and considerate. A farewell dinner was held at a country club in Minneapolis. My boss and the chairman of the board picked me up and personally took me to the country club. As we were entering the club, my boss turned to me and said, “Dick, we have arranged this dinner a little different than any we have ever had. I think you will like it.” When we entered there was indeed a cocktail party in progress; however there was nothing but punch, soft drinks, and fruit juice. My heart swelled. I felt how grateful I was for ideals, how wonderful it was to live the standards, how rewarding it was to attempt to be an example, and how considerate people were to those who live their values. I was hoping in my heart that somehow maybe I had lit a candle and maybe left a footprint with those nonmember friends I had learned to love and respect.
On one occasion I was involved in working with a search committee to find an executive for one of our companies. We had looked long and hard, interviewing many candidates. One of the finalists, of about six, was a Latter-day Saint. When his name surfaced our professional search consultant said to me, “Dick, he is a Mormon, isn’t he?” I said, “Yes, he is.” He then responded, “He drinks – I have had drinks with him.” There was silence. Then this nonmember consultant said, “I don’t think he is your man.” What a lesson to be learned! A candle had been snuffed out. A footprint washed out by the winds of indiscretion.
On another occasion I was searching for a person to fulfill a very important position at Church Headquarters. I began to focus on someone I had never met, but was getting good recommendations on this person from a number of sources. Before I contacted him, I wanted to get a final recommendation from one of his previous bosses, the controller of General Electrics. When I explained to this business executive what I was looking for and the name of the person I was interested in, he said something like this, “You could never do better. He is a Mormon you know.” Of course I knew he was a Mormon. That is why I was interviewing him. Then came the clincher, “He is not only eminently qualified, but he is the most honest man I have ever met.” He got the job, and I was grateful for a man who had lived his values and touched a life. A candle had been lift, a footprint left.
James Russell Lowell stated:
The only conclusive evidence of a man’s sincerity is that he gives himself for a principle. Words, money, all things else are comparatively easy to give away, but when a man makes the gift of his daily life and practice, it is plain that in that truth, whatever it may be, he is sincere.
In his wonderful play of Hamlet, Shakespeare charged:
This above all, to thine own self be true,
And it must follow as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
The greatest influence any of you will have will be in the homes you will soon be establishing. I have seen young children grow up to follow in the footsteps of their parents. I have witnessed and shared the emotion of a grateful son or daughter giving loving respect and recognition to an exemplary parent with the words, “They are my hero – the greatest influence for good in my life.” There is no greater expression of gratitude or influence than these choice words. Unfortunately, I have also seen the opposite. I have personal knowledge of the far-reaching effect, the continuing ripples of an ancestor that went astray – an ancestor who did not live the values he knew. In only three generations, hundreds have followed in his footsteps, many experiencing the miseries of mortality rather than the joys of righteous living. Our legacy cannot shed itself of the clay that is so patiently being molded by the small and large deeds continuously shaping the character of our lives and leaving footprints in the sand. I witness every day the righteous posterity of those who forged ahead, driven by faith, duty, and principle. Most of us here today are the benefactors of such courage and devotion. It is in your homes you will indeed leave a footprint in the sands of time. It is in your posterity that you will leave the ripples of the eternal waters that go on and on and on. Therefore, be an example in your home, in your word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Here is where the big difference can be made. Here is truly where our example transcends mortality into the eternities. Here is where the ripples go on and on, getting larger and larger with time and eternity.
In your own lives, as single students, professionals, or moving into your homes as married students, there should be, there must be certain non-negotiables in your life. These non-negotiables are the things that will make a difference. These will shape the footprint left in the sand. They will affect the depth of the impression. Such virtues are honesty, integrity, charity, loyalty, kindness, cleanliness, and fidelity. These are virtues that should describe members of Christ’s church. These are the virtues that should depict a student of this business college. They are sustained by a steady diet of prayer and scripture study and the nourishment of the spiritual side.
One never knows the tracks he leaves or the ripples he makes. The effect and influence of example, good or bad, often goes unacknowledged, but never unnoticed. Silent eyes are continuously watching and in their own way responding. Further, the world is looking for a leader. No necessarily leaders of fame or notoriety, but someone who will just step forward, standing for seemingly little things, like principle value and decency.
There is so many in today’s world that are literally paralyzed into inactivity because of lack of leaders or lack of example – good, decent people who needs someone or something to activate them. A few years ago more than a dozen able men witnessed a young girl being chased and beaten by a male assailant on a Boston bridge. Not one stepped forward in response to her crier for help. All witnessed her death as she jumped from the bridge in an attempt to escape her assailant. A few nights ago many of these witnesses were interviewed on a television news show. All of them appeared to be decent, caring people. All were ashamed of their inaction. And all of them said, “If someone had just taken the lead, if only one would have stepped forward, I would have been to the rescue and would not have to live with the awful burden of my inaction.” The big difference – only one to step forward.
I recognized that as I have talked to you I have painted a picture full of reward, satisfaction, accolades for living the principles of the gospel and exemplifying our values at all. One could easily conclude from what I have said that virtues will always be recognized and rewarded by others, rewarded for living the higher standard that all would like to rise to, even the unvirtuous. In fact, that is not always so. There are always those on the sidelines who will attempt to mock, ridicule, and drag us down to a level of living that will make those mocking and ridiculing appear to be virtuous. The reality is vividly described in Lehi’s vision of the tree of life. There were those, supposedly the sophisticated, learned, and pretty people that mocked the humble follower of Christ from the large and spacious building across the river, the great gulf of water. And so it is today. We must all decide which side of the river we tread. We have a long history and experience of being persecuted for right. Our ancestors were robbed, beaten, raped, and murdered for principles. Our legacy of principles and persistence has made us strong, loyal, and committed. We will stand tall for our values.
The fifth chapter of Acts describes the trials and tribulations of Christ’s faithful twelve. The apostles had been put in prison for teaching about the savior. The high priests cause them to be put into prison for their teachings. An angel of the Lord opened the prison door and let them out. When the high priests and guards sought them out, they were not hard to find. They were again “standing in the temple teaching the people.” They brought them before the council and accusingly asked, “Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name?” Peter and the others answered, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” The scriptures indicate that the council was “cut to the heart and took counsel to slay them.” One member of the council, Gamaliel, a Pharisee and a doctor of law, counseled caution. He explained that others have risen up and claimed to be prophets, but they were false and their following just died out. He further pointed out that if Jesus was a false prophet their movement would die its own death and they should not have to worry about it. And then the clincher as he stated, “But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it, lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.” The council agreed, so they called the Apostles together again and explained they were to no more teach Jesus Christ. To reinforce their instruction they beat them before they let them go. The final words of the chapter were, “And they [the Apostles] departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. And daily in the temple and in every house they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ” (see Acts 5). Imagine rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.
My brothers and sisters, we want to make a difference. We must make a difference. We need to take time to make the difference. Let us do it for standing for what we believe – being an example – as timothy said, “In word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” Truly, virtue is its own reward.
We sing a song in this Church. The chorus reads, “True to the faith that our parents have cherished, true to the truth which martyrs have perished. To God’s command, soul, heart, and hand, faithful and true we will ever stand.” We can make a difference. Let us leave a footprint in the sands of time. Let us leave a small ripple in the great waters of eternity. Of all the people of the world, we know the unfathomable sacrifice our loving Savior has made for us. We better than any know the pain, humiliation, and suffering. We know why we stand for what we do. Perhaps if called upon, we would rejoice to be counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. May God bless you is my prayer. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.