Thank you and Goodbye
I’m lucky to have an office next to these gentlemen (the two staff members who sang a special musical number), and very often in the morning I will hear them singing at the top of their lungs, so it’s a real pleasure to have an office next to them.
Thank you for being here today in this historical building at this wonderful time of the year. I love Thanksgiving and the holidays. As we look around us, we see what is going on in the world today—the natural disasters, the violence, the attack on the moral fabric—it puts fear in our hearts and in our minds.
President Monson said in an address in the April 2009 General Conference, “The moral footings of society continue to slip, while those who attempt to safeguard those footings are often ridiculed, and, at times, picketed and persecuted. Wars, natural disasters, and personal misfortunes continue to occur.”
It would be easy to let all of the events going on in the world, and even here in Salt Lake, make us discouraged and even fearful of what our future might be. I’d like us to turn our thoughts and attitudes away from these events and troubles to the blessings of being members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We need to be grateful for the knowledge we have that our Savior Jesus Christ lives, and that we can be with Him again with our loved ones. He has given us the gospel as a guide. We have living prophets to guide us and to help us make it through these troubled times.
We need to keep a positive attitude as we face the challenges and trials in the world today. Elder M. Russell Ballard told students at a devotional at Utah Valley University that they are sons and daughters of loving heavenly parents, and because of the plan of salvation, we can become like our Father in Heaven. He said,
“You enjoy knowledge of who you are more than any other people on the face of the earth. . . . Because you have the gospel of Jesus Christ, you know that you are a son or a daughter of eternal [parents]. . . .
“You have to keep a very positive, upbeat outlook on life,” rather than having a “woe is me” or “things aren’t working out the way they should” attitude, individuals must have faith in a loving Heavenly Father—especially when prayers appear to be unanswered or answered in a different way than one would like.
“We can get ourselves thinking sometimes in a way that is spiritually destructive. . . . Rather, let’s just take the position if we understand the great plan of happiness, we understand that this process of going through mortality is going to be tough! . . .
“Whatever the challenges are that you may be confronted with in your life, you will have inner strength. You will have inner conviction. You will have a spiritual power within you to be able to always see that whatever the battle is . . . [you are] going to win.”
We must have faith in Heavenly Father to know what He thinks is best for us. We need to be patient and be willing to do what He would have us do. He has given us simple things to help us become closer to Him. Prayer is of vital importance to stay close to our Heavenly Father, and if you are not saying your prayers daily, start today and don’t stop.
Elder Ballard said that other simple practices like fasting, searching the scriptures daily, and faithfully attending your sacrament meetings—without the disruption of technology—all help individuals in their personal worship.
All these simple things help us to keep a positive attitude as we face the challenges of everyday life. And you will have challenges. You will also need to remember to have patience. God knows what we need and will answer our prayers when He determines it is the best time to answer those prayers.
President Monson has always loved birds. He enjoyed learning about them and studying them. He even raised racing pigeons at home. He liked to study birds and be able to identify them in the wild. One day, he learned the story of John James Audubon, a famous ornithologist, naturalist, and painter who was noted for his expansive studies to document all of the types of American birds.
When he went on a business trip, the artist left at home a box containing over two hundred of his beautiful drawings of birds. The detailed illustrations depicted birds in their natural habitat. Upon his return, he found that a pair of rats had entered the box and chewed through the paper, destroying years of work. President Monson related this during a Dixie College commencement in St. George:
“[Audubon] was devastated and spent weeks nearly paralyzed by grief. One day he awakened and realized that his attitude would have to change. He picked up his notebook and pencil and went out in the woods. ‘I felt pleased,’ he said, ‘that I might now make better drawings than before.’
Like John James Audubon, our attitudes can have a tremendous impact on our lives. It can make us very happy or miserable, contented or discontented. It is up to us to decide what our future will be. Are we going to follow the teachings of our Heavenly Father, and keep a positive attitude, and enjoy the benefits of the gospel? Or are we going to be miserable, and follow the ways of the world, and be miserable and discontented?
Several years ago, I had some things happen in my life, and I felt that I had been wronged by an individual. I was pretty miserable. My countenance was not very good; I frowned all the time. I was not very happy. People could see by my outward appearance that I wasn’t happy. About three months later, I decided that I had to change because I couldn’t keep going like this. I had to find a way to solve this problem.
I decided that there was nothing I could do to change the person that I felt had wronged me. I had to change myself because I was the only person I could change. And I did so. And I changed my attitude, my outlook on life, and I was a lot happier. You can do the same thing yourself.
Let me tell you a story about a soldier who had a positive attitude amongst a great deal of pessimism. In the story, “A Beautiful Silver Star,” Ivan T. Anderson relates his experience as a member of a military police battalion during World War II. It was the duty of the battalion to take prisoners from the frontlines to crudely constructed stockades. I quote from his story:
I shall never forget December 24, 1944 and a German prisoner of war who helped me to make it a memorable one for me. It was a bitter cold night, and I found myself on duty, helping to guard more than 1200 German prisoners. One of our company, a man from the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, stopped blowing on his hands long enough to say, “What a cold, miserable Christmas. Just because we are stuck out here doesn’t mean we can’t do something about it. I’m going out and find a tree.”
“Forget it,” another MP shouted. “There are no trees around here. Besides, we haven’t got anything to decorate it with.” Not to be discouraged, Smoky went out into the darkness and later returned with a bedraggled specimen.
“You call that thing a tree?” our heckler continued. “In Texas, we’d plow that under for a bush.” With a positive attitude, Smoky began to decorate his tree with ornaments made from gum wrappers, candy wrappers, etc. Several of the men not stationed directly at the stockade began to help our zealous friend in his seemingly impossible task.
As we worked, I suddenly heard a voice from the stockade. “American! American!” Turning towards the compound, I saw a German prisoner with one hand extended through the barbed wire. With the other hand, he was motioning towards me. I quickly threw a shell into the chamber of my rifle and approached him with caution. What I saw in his hand astounded me. The prisoner had made a beautiful silver star, entirely from gum foil, that was a work of art. He placed the star in my hand and motioned to the top of the tree.
Hoping he spoke some English, I said, “That star has such detail. Are you a professional artist?” By his puzzled expression, it was obvious that he spoke no more English than I spoke German. So I took his contribution over and I placed it on top of our tree.
As we completed our tree, we began to sing Christmas carols. I know that several prisoners joined in on “Silent Night.” The last strains were fading into the night when I heard the same voice again call, “American!” This time the prisoner had both hands extended through the barbed wire. Again I approached with caution and again I was amazed at what he held in his hands. This German sculptor had made intricate figures of Joseph, Mary, and the Christ child. He pointed at our tree and handed me this detailed work.
I nodded my thanks and carefully placed the delicate figures where he had indicated. As I placed the tiny figure of the Christ child made from a stick base and professionally covered with foil, the light from our fire actually seemed to give it a heavenly glow. I thought how far we had strayed from the teachings of Jesus and felt tears stain my eyes.
Looking at the stockade, I saw that the prisoner was still behind the barbed wire, so I hurried back, smiled, and warmly shook his hand. He returned my smile and the firelight caught tears that were in his eyes. Our meeting was brief; we were two ships passing in the night. And yet I feel this man would agree that our only hope for lasting world peace would be a return to the teachings of this tiny figure he so beautifully molded in this cold winter night.
It’s amazing what a positive attitude will do. I want to spend just a couple of moments talking about being grateful, being that it’s Thanksgiving in a couple of days.
Again, I love this time of year, and it brings out the good in people. In March of 1831, before the Church had been organized a year, the Lord said to the Saints in Kirtland,
Ye are commanded in all things to ask of God, who giveth liberally; and that which the Spirit testifies unto you even so I would that ye should do all in holiness of heart, walking uprightly before me, considering the end of your salvation, doing all things with prayer and thanksgiving, that ye may not be seduced by evil spirits, or doctrines of devils, or the commandments of men; for some are of men, and others of devils. . . .
And ye must give thanks unto God in the Spirit for whatsoever blessings you are blessed with.
Five months later, He gave to the Church in Zion, that is Jackson County, Missouri, this commandment. Now, notice how the Lord puts the commandment to be thankful along with other strong commandments. He said:
Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy might, mind, and strength; and in the name of Jesus Christ thou shalt serve him.
Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Thou shalt not steal; neither commit adultery, nor kill, nor do anything like unto it.
Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things.
“‘I believe,’ said President Joseph F. Smith many years ago, ‘that one of the greatest sins of which the inhabitants of the earth are guilty of today is the sin of ingratitude.’”
President Monson said,
We can lift ourselves and others as well when we refuse to remain in the realm of negative thought and cultivate within our hearts an attitude of gratitude. If ingratitude be numbered among the serious sins, then gratitude takes its place among the noblest of virtues. Someone has said that “gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.”
I would encourage each of us to look around and see with renewed sight the things that God has given us. Thank Him for those things daily in our prayers, perhaps not asking for quite as much. Look around you and thank the individuals that have served you, even in the little things. We often overlook expressing gratitude to our family and loved ones and those that have impacted our lives. We get caught up in our everyday lives and forget to express gratitude to them.
When I completed my basic training, the next part of my training didn’t start for a couple of weeks, and I had to go across country to my new posting. I was able to get leave granted to me, so I went home, surprised my family, and spent a week with my family. They took me to the airport to go back to finish my training.
Our family was one that didn’t express outward appreciation for each other or express our love for each other or give any physical hugs or anything else. Well, after I had been back for a week, I got a call from the Red Cross to call home. I was told to call home because my mother had passed away. It had a great impact on my life because I had not taken the opportunity to express my love for her, to express my appreciation for the example she set for me. This has haunted me for the last 44 years. Don’t let this happen to you.
I like what KSL Newsradio’s Doug Wright does when he signs off each day from his radio show. He lost a son in an accident several years ago, and it had such an impact in his life that at the close of each day’s broadcast, he tells his audience: “When you go home tonight, make sure that you hug the people you love.”
President Monson said in October 2010 General Conference,
We often take for granted the very people who most deserve our gratitude. Let us not wait until it is too late for us to express that gratitude. Speaking of loved ones he had lost, one man declared his regret this way: “I remember those happy days, and often I wish I could speak into the ears of the dead the gratitude which was due them in life, and so ill returned.”
The loss of loved ones almost inevitably brings some regrets to our hearts. Let’s minimize such feelings as much as humanly possible by frequently expressing our love and gratitude to them. We never know how soon it will be too late. . . .
When we encounter challenges and problems in our lives, it is often difficult for us to focus on our blessings. However, if we reach deep enough and look hard enough, we will be able to feel and recognize just how much we have been given.
As you head home, or even if you stay here during the Thanksgiving holiday, take the opportunity to express your love for your loved ones, for all they have done for you. In some cases, it might be kind of hard for you to do that. But take the time on bended knee to thank your Heavenly Father and ask Him for His help in expressing that love. And express your love to Him for all that He has done.
I’m very grateful for the last 23 years I have spent at the College serving students and being able to get to know thousands of students as they have come to our doors. Take the opportunity to take advantage of the situation you have here at the College. You’ve got a beautiful facility; you’ve got teachers who care about you and want you to succeed.
I have a strong testimony of Jesus Christ and His love for each one of us. I want to express my love for my family. They’re not with me today, but I love them very much, especially my granddaughters. That’s what’s so great about being a grandfather—you get to spoil your grandkids and have fun with them, and their parents can’t do anything about it. I say these things this morning in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior, amen.
I’d like to thank Dillon for teaching us about building spiritual and temporal things. And I’d like to thank Doug for teaching us about the power of attitude and gratitude, and for being a really true friend for many years.
My friends, I’ve sat on this stand for many devotionals, watching your faces light up as you listen to the speakers. Sometimes I’ve wondered what I would say to you if I was asked to speak to you.
Well, today I have that chance. In this season of Thanksgiving, coupled with the realization that I am leaving the College, I have found that my thoughts are truly full of gratitude. I want to share some of those thoughts with you.
Doug had mentioned the same thing, that I am grateful for 14 years of experience at this College. I’m grateful for them because they have allowed me to be with you and with thousands of other students before you. They and you have shaped my life. And for that I am grateful.
In my work here, one of the things that I do, as was mentioned, is I collect and distribute student stories. I have the chance to sit with students like you and interview them. I see faces in this crowd; I have interviewed some of you as well. I type as they talk and write it all down, and then I take those words and form them into stories that we share with the world to tell the world how remarkable you are, and how remarkable the experiences are here, and how lives are changed here at the College.
I have done that for a long time, and doing that was bound to have a profound effect on my own life. And it has. I’ve been humbled to hear what you go through to get here and then what you accomplish once you are here.
I want to share a few of those. I’ve heard stories of uncommon courage, like Emily, a young woman who nearly died in a very serious car accident years ago. She had to learn everything over again, even how to swallow, she was so beat up in that accident. And yet she came to the College to regain her ability to study and to serve—which was one of her greatest loves of life.
There have been stories of selfless service, like Mark, who was a student who came here to learn how to rebuild computers. But he didn’t stop there. He went on to give everything he had to take several of those computers and himself to a remote African village to set them up in a medical clinic there that needed them.
I’ve heard stories of exceptional endurance, like Leilani. She was a single mother who laundered linens from a local hotel all night long, every night, while she studied so she could attend school during the day and be there for her children in the evening.
I’ve heard stories of quiet determination, like Amram, who came here to learn business management and health professions so he could build medical clinics in his own country where they were sorely needed by his fellow men.
I’ve heard stories of supreme sacrifice, like Alex, a young woman from Hungary who spent all the money that she had to serve a mission, and then through some very sweet miracles, was still able to come to the College and earn her degree.
I am inspired by that, by you, and I’m grateful to know you. I’m grateful to share the elevator with you. I love to visit with you; I’ve enjoyed learning about you there. I spoke with David Lu yesterday, and I asked him, “What should I talk about today?” And he said, “Jesus.” Okay.
But I love to chat with you, to work with you, to watch your progress, and to observe how much your instructors desire your success. I want you to know that for every year I have silently cheered as I’ve worked with commencement and the process that gets you to walk up there to receive your diploma. There’s a giant joy in my heart when I see that. When that happens, I could not be prouder of you than if you were my own.
I’m grateful to know that all of us—students, staff, faculty and administrators—have been chosen to be here. I’m using the word chosen with a purpose because I know it’s true. Here’s how I know that:
In 14 years, I’ve never once heard anyone on this campus say that they came to LDS Business College because “It sounded like a good idea.” Or “I threw a dart at a map and this is where it landed.” Or, “It beat playing video games in my Mom’s basement.” No! Every person in this room came here for a reason and a purpose. That includes you, and it includes me.
Think of it this way: there are about 7 billion people in the world. There are about 2,000 people at the College. That means each one of us here are 1 in 350 million. I don’t think that sounds like coincidence at all. I do believe we have been chosen to be here.
And now, at this moment in my life, I’m grateful to have an even clearer understanding of why we are here. In the past few months, I’ve been taught a deeper understanding of how Heavenly Father shapes our lives for His purposes. You’ve heard this before: He can make so much more of your life than you can make of it by yourself—if you will let Him. And I know that’s true!
Here’s how I know: About 4 months ago, a strong impression came to me that I should start wrapping up my work at the College. It kind of surprised me. John and I talked about it, and he had the same impression. I thought maybe it was time to be home more, and spend more time with my children and grandchildren, and to relax. I must tell you right now I will, indeed, be home spending more time with my children and grandchildren.
But I’m not going to be relaxing.
Before saying anything to anyone, I started finishing up projects, and organizing my files, and wondering what was next. Looking back, I believe the Lord was qualifying me for my next assignment He had planned for me.
In September, here at the College, I met a woman from London who founded a humanitarian organization 20 years ago that helps rebuild the lives of people living in refugee camps in Iraq and throughout the Middle East. The moment I met her, the Spirit told me to pay attention to her. In the course of a very short conversation, I felt prompted that her organization would be my next assignment. And so it is. She and those in her organization were looking for someone here in Utah to help build their presence here. I have the skills they need, including knowledge that will be useful to them as they expand the partnership they have developed with the Church.
I have shared that story with you because it has great application to you. Just like you, when I came to this College, I did not have the skills set I needed for my next assignment. But by being here, working here, and learning here, I have been personally fitted for my next task by my Heavenly Father.
The same will happen for you. You will learn skills here, both spiritual and secular, and then you will move on. Your career will add more skills. Your Church work will add more skills. Your life experiences will add more skills.
But please realize that the reason we learn anything here on earth is not to just make us marketable in the world—it’s to make us useful to Him—to build the kingdom for Him, to serve others for Him, and by so doing, to ultimately return to Him.
Do you know that He has a specific mission for you here? We all do. In Doctrine and Covenants 88 we’re told that we are part of “the first laborers in this last kingdom.” That’s an incredible thought. We are part of the first laborers in the last kingdom. We are His. And we’re told that we are to teach one another. Why? He tells us in verse 80: “That ye may be prepared in all things when I shall send you again to magnify the calling whereunto I have called you, and the mission with which I have commissioned you.”
He’s telling us that before we ever got here, we had a calling and a mission. We are here for a reason, and we are being hammered together, and fitted up, and added upon every day to prepare us for our next step and then our next step and then our next step.
You see, I thought I might just be kind of finished and was going home to a quiet place. And I am going home. But there still is something more yet that I have to do for Him, and that is significant to me. And this is why I say once again to you that Heavenly Father can make so much more of your life than you can make of it yourself—if you will let Him.
That takes a lot of trust. I looked at Proverbs 3: 5–6 to teach me how to do it. It says: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”
If we could master that one skill, we would be directed for the rest of our lives. If we could learn to trust in the Lord with all our hearts, that’s the first time. Lean not to our own understanding—remember I told you that there were a couple of months there where I just wondered what was going on, but I kept exercising this trust in Him, both John and I, that He would give us direction. Trust in the Lord; lean not to your own understanding. And then “in all thy ways acknowledge him.” Acknowledge that He is in charge and that He will teach us and tell us what we are doing. And what? He will direct thy paths. You have to learn how to do this—trust in Him, and He will direct your paths.
That is one of the main things I have learned at the College, that it is true that He can make much more of us than we can make of ourselves. He has made much more of me than I could have ever made of myself.
Now in this season of gratitude, as I close my remarks today, there are some people I want to thank:
I want to thank my friends and colleagues here. I’m not going to name you because there are too many here. But I have been blessed by your faith, your diligence, and your spirit. You have lifted me when I’ve been down; you’ve tolerated me when I didn’t deserve it; you’ve smiled at me and encouraged me, maybe at times when you didn’t realize how terribly I needed it; and you are indeed the ultimate example of faith and sacrifice and service.
My supervisor and friend, Craig Nelson, is not here today, but I still want to thank him for having enough faith in me to give me sometimes very hard things to do. That has helped fit me up for my next work. He’s been my only supervisor in 14 years, and we have done many great things to further the mission of this College. I have learned much from him.
I want to thank President Richards, who has truly come to the College “for such a time as this.” It is not an easy task to lead a college, and I sometimes wonder how he sleeps at night, given the wonderful possibilities and the potential problems. But he is calm and wise and able, and I’m grateful for the chance to work alongside of him and to learn from his counsel.
I want to thank my assistant Caleigh and all of those who have worked with me in the past years for the great help that you’ve given to me. And I want to thank my children for their understanding, their wisdom, their patience, and their insight. I so look forward to being with them more.
I want to thank my husband, John. This is going to be hard. Can I just tell you, you have to marry the right person. Just do it. It will make all the difference in the world because if you marry the right person, there is nothing that can stop you. And if you don’t, I think your life will be very difficult.
And I did marry the right person. He truly is the most patient man on the planet. At times, my work has been very difficult, and he has been the stable, constant person in my life who held me, quieted me down, and reminded me who I am, and why I’m here. This man has helped me build parade floats, he has waited for me for hours in the parking lot downstairs, and he has stood quietly and solidly by my side during events and through all I have done here. I’m grateful for that. I wouldn’t have been able to do what I’ve done were it not for his love, his support, and his belief in me.
Finally, I end with a testimony of gratitude to my Father in Heaven. When I think about the sacrifice that He made so that His Son could come to this earth, knowing full well why, my heart nearly bursts with gratitude. And then of course, when I think of the Savior Himself, how He walked among men and taught and lifted and healed and loved, and then gave the ultimate sacrifice to atone for me and for all of us, then my heart nearly does burst.
I bear testimony to you, brothers and sisters, that if you will follow His teachings and His guidance, that if you build that trust in Him so that He can direct your paths and help you build the life that you were meant to build, that you will become an instrument in His hands, a tool in His toolbox. And He will be able to use you in assignments that He has yet for you to fulfill that mission that He has for you. I can promise you that your life will be filled, and you will be amazed and astounded, and you will feel His love. I leave these thoughts with you, grateful for the time I have spent here, and grateful for knowing you. And I do this in His name, Jesus Christ, amen.
 Thomas S. Monson, “Be of Good Cheer,” Apr. 2009 General Conference.
 Marianne Holman Prescott, “Stay Positive, Elder M. Russell Ballard Tells Institute Students,” Church News, Nov. 3, 2015.
 See Marianne Holman Prescott, “Stay Positive.”
 Thomas S. Monson, “Three Bridges to Cross,” Dixie State College commencement, May 6, 2011, mormonnewsroom.org/article/president-monson-remarks-at-dixie-college-commencement.
 Ivan T. Anderson, “A Beautiful Silver Star,” in Memorable Christmas Stories, compiled by Leon R. Hartshorn.
 Doctrine and Covenants 46:7, 32.
 Doctrine and Covenants 59:5-7.
 In Journal of Discourses, 25:52.
 “The Divine Gift of Gratitude,” October 2010 General Conference, https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2010/10/the-divine-gift-of-gratitude?lang=eng .
 “The Divine Gift of Gratitude,” October 2010 General Conference, https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2010/10/the-divine-gift-of-gratitude?lang=eng .
 Verse 70.
 Esther 4:14.