My message is for those who are discouraged. Discouragement has a way of affecting and upsetting all of the emotions you and I are capable of feeling. It can manifest itself when losing a loved one; it can arrive when striving to learn a new subject; it has a way of persuading returned missionaries they will never be as good as they were on their missions; it can viciously show its face when someone is desperately striving to overcome an addiction; and it can arrive any time when finding and maintaining employment or an eternal family.
Eleven years ago, I was discouraged. I had moved to Utah from California as a result of an impression that I needed to be here. I had applied for more than eighty jobs over several months during the 2008 Recession without a single job interview. My mother encouraged me to seek help from the Church’s Employment Resource Center, and so I made an appointment to join a workshop they were providing to the community. I was embarrassed to attend, because I felt like I should be so much further along in life than I was. The missionaries there were so kind. They gave me a little burgundy workbook filled with practical and inspiring content designed to help people identify and articulate their strengths. But the most valuable thing I saw and felt that day came from a quote from President Gordon B. Hinckley that read:
“The Lord would want you to be successful. He would. You are His sons and His daughters. He has the same kind of love and ambition for you that your earthly parents have. They want you to do well and you can do it.”
I wanted so badly to believe the prophet’s message applied to me. With the help of Employment Resource Services, I found employment and, shortly after this, a friend spoke to me about LDS Business College and suggested I try it out. Now, I have no shame in telling you I have never been a good student – the one-size-fits-all approach to public education never fit me very well growing up– and I never imagined I would work in higher education. Although I began my first semester at LDS Business College with optimism, shortly after that I found myself very discouraged. On a day of particular day I was walking in front of the multi-purpose-room when a one-liner impression came to me that said “David, I want you to be successful.”
I have felt impressed to focus my remarks upon these words from President Gordon B. Hinckley: “The Lord would want you to be successful.” It has been my earnest prayer that, as the Lord’s son or daughter, He will “teach [you] all that [you] must” know, do, and feel during our time together so that you might begin the process of becoming what Elder Neal A. Maxwell once described as a “high yield, low maintenance” disciple.
In your pursuit to be successful, it is important to first go through the process of discovering what success really is and means for you. The world’s interpretations and measurements of success are most often not aligned with the Lord’s definition and metrics. While the world would persuade you it involves riches, favor, or eminence, others with “sound understanding” would argue that it is something individual and must be founded on correct principles.
Today I would like to share four principles of success. This list is not intended to be comprehensive, but these principles will be illustrated by sharing stories about real people with their permission. It is my hope that, through these stories, you will find personal application and see you are experiencing success now and believe what President Thomas S. Monson said that “no failure ever need be final.”
Principle 1: Never Give Up
Samuel Clark came to LDS Business College after receiving a prompting that he should be here. He felt inadequate, because he thought he was older than the average student and lacked self-esteem. He came to my office completely panicked just a few weeks into his first semester and expressed he felt that he would never get a college education and especially, a degree. Through his discouragement Samuel chose to connect himself with every possible resource he could, which included a dedicated service missionary, tutors, mentors, faculty, staff, and even his bishop. He never received recognition for achieving a high grade point average, but he did continue pushing through one semester after the other, regardless of the new challenges that discouraged and tempted him to give up. After so much sweat, tears, and exhaustion, the day finally came when Samuel walked across a stage wearing a black robe and black cap, and received a diploma.
Along the way, Samuel longed to have an eternal family and worked very hard to find a right person he could marry in, what President Russell M. Nelson described as, “the right place, by the right authority.” This was a lengthy and sometimes miserable process for him, and he was often ready to give up. Then, several months after he graduated, he came into my office and said enthusiastically, “I think I just found my future wife!” Shortly after his thirty-second birthday, Samuel married his beloved Ruth in the Payson Utah Temple.
Samuel and Ruth were ecstatic to begin their lives together. However, during their honeymoon, Ruth became very ill and, upon receiving medical attention, was diagnosed with stage four cancer. Imagine the discouragement! Yet Samuel and Ruth took this in stride. Ruth immediately started chemotherapy and began losing her hair. Upon posting this picture she wrote:
“Don’t let my smile fool you. I spent most of today crying and I cried even more watching my sweet Samuel have his head shaved so we could be twins. I’m allowed to cry. I’m still tough but being 34 and losing your hair as a woman is hard and I’m gonna cry all I want about it. #LoveIsLousderThanCancer”
Ruth and Samuel chose to find ways to try to be optimistic. They referred to this experience with cancer as part of their “adventure.” After about five months of aggressive treatment, Ruth was notified the cancer was completely gone. This newlywed couple was overjoyed. They went forward celebrating and making plans for their future. However, just a few months later, Ruth became ill again and returned to the doctor. To their disappointment, they learned that the cancer returned and had now spread to other vital organs.
It has now been nearly a year since then, and Samuel and Ruth continue to live life and fight cancer in all the ways they know how to. Samuel recently posted this picture and wrote, “I sure love this girl! She has been through so much but has endured it magnificently! I’m glad she was born so she could be my best friend forever!” Regardless of what the future holds during this mortal “adventure,” Samuel and Ruth Clark continue to express and show love for each other with a determination to never give up.
Brothers and sisters, what difference could it make in your life if you never gave up on your worthy ambitions? Thomas Edison said, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” Did Samuel find success only on the day he graduated or got sealed in the temple? Certainly, those were celebratory moments, but Samuel experienced success every time he submitted a homework assignment, performed his very best on a presentation, fought against temptation, forced himself to be positive, and chose not to give up. Even more, success for Samuel was not only about not giving up, but it was also about getting back up – Paul Harvey once said, “Someday I hope to enjoy enough of what the world calls success so that someone will ask me, ‘What’s the secret of it?’ I shall say simply this: ‘I get up when I fall down.’”
Two things you should never give up on is yourself and your family. None of us are finished products – we are all still going down the assembly line of development by becoming capable and trusted disciples (or students) of Jesus Christ. But some of you have family who, for various reasons, have made unfortunate choices that have greatly affected their life. It is true that “No other success can compensate for failure in the home,” but Elder Marvin J. Ashton provided additional insight we must have, especially those who question their success as a parent, when he said, “I believe we start to fail in the home when we give up on each other. We have not failed until we have quit trying. As long as we are working diligently with love, patience, and long-suffering, despite the odds or the apparent lack of progress, we are not classified as failures in the home. We only start to fail when we give up on a son, daughter, mother, or father.” Now perhaps some of you might even feel you have failed in this regard or maybe you feel you did give up at some point. I would revert you back to what President Monson said that, ”No failure ever need be final.”
Sometimes, choosing to never give up also involves choosing never to give in. This means not giving into pressures to criticize, condemn, or complain. It means not giving in to laziness, dishonor, dishonesty, anger, pornography, pride, cynicism, and the list goes on. You and I will continue to be confronted with the temptation to give in to doubts about our faith and give more credibility to Google and other attractive sources than the unmistakable experiences of feeling the Holy Ghost, witnessing miracles, receiving answers to prayers, and the feeling of what Elder Richard G. Scott described as “peace of conscience and peace of mind.” Instead of giving in to what you don’t know, never give up on what you do know. As Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf said, “doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith.”
Choosing to never give up or give in means not only working hard but working with heart. Let me explain: a marathon runner knows there will come a point in the race when they will hit what is called “the wall,” which is the moment things go from feeling really hard to almost impossible, but you can see even the most average runners push through this by having a worthy reason in their heart to keep going. Sometimes you can see these people wearing a picture of a loved one taped to the back of their shirt. Maybe they are pushing someone in a wheelchair. When you work with heart, you do the right things for the right reasons. And when you have the right reasons to accomplish a worthy objective, you can endure and accomplish the most incredible things.
And so, brothers and sisters, never give up. Why? Because the Lord would want you to be successful.
Principle 2: Live After the Manner of Happiness
Brailee Anderson was hired to oversee devotional logistics at LDSBC some years ago, and, as an employee, I often considered her to be something of a Swiss Army Knife – she brought enormous precision, brilliance, and simplicity to the work she did. I oversaw the devotional at the time, and we would often meet together on a weekly basis to conduct stewardship interviews and organize the work. I would start these meetings by asking, “How are you doing?” She would smile, slightly nod her head, and say, “Doing good!” At the end of the meeting I would ask, “Is there anything I can do for you?” She would smile, slightly shake her head, and say, “I’m good!” After about a year of hearing this every week, I finally asked how she could always be doing good. Certainly, she was not immune to the challenges everyone else has. Her response has been teaching me ever since. She simply said, “I don’t like doing bad.” She then described a list of “holy habits and righteous routines” she would go through each day. She would begin each morning listening to a general conference message. She would then prayerfully study her scriptures, listen to a podcast, exercise, and limit social media. She would review her homework assignments and other commitments, prioritize them, and create a simple plan to accomplish those things. She would serve others, most often by giving words of encouragement, a listening ear, and sharing infectious humor. These things were her way of living after the manner of happiness.
Happiness comes when we live after the manner of happiness. Philosophers have argued for centuries about what happiness is and how to obtain it, but Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf described it in its simplest terms: “The happiest people I know are not those who find their golden ticket; they are those who, while in pursuit of worthy goals, discover and treasure the beauty and sweetness of the everyday moments. They are the ones who, thread by daily thread, weave a tapestry of gratitude and wonder throughout their lives. These are they who are truly happy." Did you hear the ingredients he listed? The happiest people pursue worthy goals, discover and treasure everyday moments, which Elder Neal A. Maxwell described as “the molecules that make up eternity,” and they are grateful.
One of the most effective ways to find happiness is to share happiness. During my teenage years, my parents had a quote on the refrigerator from President Gordon B. Hinckley that said the following, “The best antidote I know for worry is work. The best medicine for despair is service. The best cure for weariness is the challenge of helping someone who is even more tired.”
Now, I fully understand that there are many who are affected by depression or other illnesses and circumstances where feeling happy feels impossible. This is something I am personally well acquainted with. Depending on its source, some solutions to finding happiness really are nothing but fairy dust. But listening to, trusting in, and following the guidance provided by the Author of “the great plan of happiness” will always lead to eternal happiness.
There are things in this life that we think or we hope will make us happy that actually will not. I remember once asking my mother for her opinion on whether she thought I should purchase a car that I could not afford. I wanted so badly to hear her say, “Great idea – go buy it!” My mother has always had the most persuasive ways of helping her children make better decisions in a practice only she can genuinely do. She looked at me with those big, blue eyes and said, “David, I just want you to be happy.” Immediately, I began to feel what I already knew, which was that purchasing this car was a decision that would not make me happy.
And so, brothers and sisters, live after the manner of happiness. Why? Because the Lord would want you to be successful.
Principle 3: Be Kind
I would like to introduce you to Iris Arnold. Shortly after Emily and I were married, we moved to South Provo and met the Arnold family. Brandon and Kara Arnold were the proud parents of four children, and Brandon served in the bishopric of the ward. Almost two years ago, while Brandon and Kara were celebrating their wedding anniversary, Iris attended the birthday party of a friend. As she prepared to leave and stood near the car with her cousin and grandfather, a weary driver veered off the road hitting all three of them. Iris’s cousin and grandfather were critically injured, but the impact was so great that Iris passed away just a few weeks from her seventh birthday. The neighborhood did all they could to wrap their arms around the Arnold family. Many people gathered after church to cast off white balloons into the air to honor Iris and her life. Generous donations were made from many sources to aid the family’s medical expenses. Considering everything they must have been going through, Brandon and Kara issued a statement to the community expressing appreciation for the support and concern and asked that the same courtesy and love be extended to the driver that caused the accident. They said, “While [our] hearts are broken, they also ache for the young man involved.”
Iris was known for being lively, intelligent, vibrant, loving, and pure. She loved Cosmo, BYU’s mascot, and thrilled after seeing him perform. As the Arnolds prepared to leave the chapel toward the cemetery, they were unexpectedly welcomed by Cosmo standing near the burial plot holding a large, hand-made sign that read “We love Iris” and a drawn picture of Iris and Cosmo holding hands with smiles on their faces.
Fred Rogers said, “There are three ways to ultimate success: The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind.”18 While a story so tragic could have resulted in so many other ways, the Arnold family and their loved ones have shared, encouraged, brought about, and infused kindness in the world around them. Truly, as Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin said, “Kindness is the essence of greatness.”
What does it really mean to be kind? Is it only about saying nice things, or does that only scratch its surface? A kind person speaks things that uplift and encourage others, but they also show their kindness in the things they choose not to say when confronted with criticism, irrationality, emotion, and anger.
A kind person is honest, and they demonstrate this in how they keep their covenants, commitments, and agreements.
A kind employee seeks to be “faithful and competent,” and they demonstrate this in how they represent their organization with honor and integrity and fulfill their responsibilities utilizing their best thinking and efforts.
A kind roommate is respectful, and they demonstrate this in how they consider the needs of others in their home and peacefully seek to resolve conflict when it arises by caring more about making things right than they do about being right.
A kind student enters class having done all they can to spiritually, mentally, and physically prepare for the day’s discussion. They pray for their teacher and others in the class. They seek to ask thoughtful questions and provide inspired answers. They fulfill their part in group assignments. They would never cheat, and they honor their commitments they have made to the College.
If you struggle to be kind, then I would invite you to learn and master the art of kindness by considering two things. First, ponder carefully what I like to refer to as the Packer Principle: “What doctrine do I need to understand to change my attitude and behavior?” And second, prayerfully and carefully study the life of Jesus, who was and is the epitome of kindness, identify how He treated women and men, and then plan specific ways to duplicate His behavior into your daily activities.
And so, brothers and sisters, be kind. Why? Because the Lord would want you to be successful.
Principle 4: Live So the Atonement of Jesus Christ can Work in Your Life
Two dear friends and former students, one of them by the name of Emily, drew this picture and gave it to me shortly before they graduated some years ago. It depicts the Parable of the Sower, which is also known as The Parable of the Soil. You look at this picture and you can see enormous symbolism. You see that the Sower is only captured from the shoulders down. Any of us can be Sowers and sometimes doing that anonymously can be the most meaningful. Emily had been affected by enormous trauma. I remember the day I met her: an enthusiastic student leader brought Emily to my office after feeling impressed that I needed to meet her. I extended my hand and said Hello. Emily smiled, looked down, and even though her mouth said “hi” nothing audible came out of it.
I soon learned that Emily was estranged from her family and was here in Salt Lake City alone. At times she would become so affected by past memories that she could become unresponsive anywhere from a few minutes to a few days. By pleading with the Lord for help only He could give, Emily stretched herself by making goals that were big for her, some of which were simply just to talk to another person or make a comment in class. She was always trying to look outside of herself and help those around her in quiet ways, and so she began getting involved in service opportunities on campus.
We could see Emily was making enormous progress. She was serving in visible volunteer assignments, and all who knew her were thrilled to observe how far she had come. But then one day she became affected by the inappropriate use of another person’s agency. She reported what happened to the Title IX Office and then to local law enforcement. She had grown so much, and I was so terrified this event would, understandably, bring on crippling discouragement. I prayed so hard the day I accompanied her to the police station as she gathered the courage to report what happened and take steps to overcome this. It did not happen all at once, but Emily found “strength beyond her own” by reaching out and up, perhaps like Peter did when he fell into the ocean, to the only One she knew was fully competent to rescue her.
A few days before her graduation, Emily shared the following in the LDSBC weekly devotional:
“Brothers and sisters, it is good to stand before you today, in large part because I am not afraid. When I came to LDSBC, I was too shy to use the elevators. Or to take TRAX. Or to ask anyone for a ride. I lost 15 pounds in my first semester! So, if you’re searching for a fit and trim lifestyle, crippling anxiety is one way to go. Unfortunately, that anxiety also kept me from attending Devotionals. It took over a month, and every ounce of strength I had to walk into that room for the first time.
“I worried today about standing before you. This assignment came in a time of particular spiritual weakness for me. I worried about my capacity to convey anything meaningful… But if, in my time of weakness, I can stand unafraid before a room of people that at one point I could not enter for lack of strength… How foolish of me would it be not to take the chance, to acknowledge the role of the Atonement in my life, and encourage you to do the same? It is real. It is strong. It is good. Lean on the Savior, no matter your strength, or weakness. We need Him.”
What do we learn from Emily’s story? There are many applications, but instead of identifying them I would invite you to pay attention to what you have already felt and listen carefully to the following message from Elder Bruce C. Hafen:
“[I]f you have problems in your life, don’t assume there is something wrong with you. Struggling with those problems is at the very core of life’s purpose. As we draw close to God, He will show us our weaknesses and through them make us wiser, stronger. If you’re seeing more of your weaknesses, that just might mean you’re moving nearer to God, not farther away…. Of necessity, the plan is full of thorns and tears—His and ours. But because He and we are so totally in this together, our being ‘at one’ with Him in overcoming all opposition will itself bring us ‘incomprehensible joy.’”
Brothers and sisters, what difference would it make if you lived so that the atonement of Jesus Christ could work in your life? This does not mean you have perfect thoughts, feelings, words, or actions. From the Biblical Greek we learn that the word “sin” suggests missing the mark, like in archery. From this translation some have suggested that righteousness, then, is target practice. Many would not feel discouraged so easily if they looked at righteousness as practice, but the adversary is engaged in persuading people that the Lord is an umpire with a “three strikes! You’re out!” attitude when in reality He is more like a coach helping you become, what Elder Quinton L. Cook described as, “shipshape and Bristol fashion.”
When my dad served as bishop, he would inculcate to his ward that when you do God’s work, you get God’s pay. The Lord’s compensation program is incomparable to any Fortune 100 company, and the dividends you receive by investing your time and talent into ministering to His children yields a return on investment ever so high and impossible to quantify.
Even more, it has been my experience that there is a direct correlation between magnifying your church callings and success in your career. I did not know it at the time, but the Lord was teaching me how to do my current job when I was a missionary, when I served as an elders quorum president, working with the young men, and even when I was the temple day planner guy (this was some made-up calling at a single's ward).
And so, brothers and sisters, live so that the Atonement of Jesus Christ can work in your life. Why? Because the Lord would want you to be successful.
Not only does the Lord want you to be successful, but He can help you be successful, even right now in your academic programs! He knows everything about managing a business, network administration, medical assisting, and project management. He is the Great Accountant, who can help you balance your life just as you would a financial statement. He is the Master Designer, and the Perfect Lawgiver and Advocate. He can reformat your mind and rewire your heart, and do not be surprised when He upgrades the software of your capabilities by issuing a call to serve him and “tax your talent[s].” But remember that none of us are finished products, and to the Lord you are an asset that never depreciates in value. The greatest acquisition of your life should be the day you finally give him the deed to the greatest purchase in all human history, which occurred in the Garden of Gethsemane and on Calvary’s cross. Then when the day comes when He reviews the General Ledger of your life’s choices, you will know that He has paid all the debts in full and that you are His – forever.
Do you see how He can help you be successful, whether if you are a student, or in your career? I hope you never choose to be discouraged but walk with a keen sense of anticipation of what lies before you. If I had known eleven years ago, and thousands of times before and after that, how much I had to anticipate, then I would never have chosen to be discouraged.
The Lord wants you to experience success not only in school but also in your career, in your callings, and especially in your home. You may not have a degree yet, but your life is your credentials, and it matters! Your life is given to you as a great gift, and “these [are your] days never to be forgotten.” I believe the day will come when we will look back upon our time and circumstances on this earth and see that we have been blessed by the hand of Him who loved us first and loves us most. Elder Bruce C. Hafen described it this way: “On that day of celestial reunion we will fully comprehend what it means to be there, together — something we would never understand without that long, hard journey in the earth school. I believe we will gasp as we realize we are actually there, in that place.”
And so, brothers and sisters, never give up, live after the manner of happiness, be kind, and live so that the atonement of Jesus Christ can work in your life. Why? Because the Lord would want you to be successful.
I bear you my witness this is true in the name of Him who is, as the author of Hebrews wrote, the “high priest of good things to come,” even the Lord Jesus Christ, amen.