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J. Larry Richards

What Is Your Personal Brand? 

Preparing our Hearts to Receive

I am humbled by this opportunity to speak and have felt the pressure of knowing that you are expecting me to have something to say. I have faith in the promise found in D&C 43:15-16. It suggests that if a teacher or speaker has done his/her best to sanctify themselves then they will be “endowed with power” sufficient to “give even as the [Lord] has spoken.”

Because of that I plead for the Spirit to help me and plead that you would plead for the Spirit to help us both – that I might speak by the Spirit and that you will receive by the Spirit so that in the words of Elder Maxwell, “the Spirit will arc between us so there is rapid and shared understanding.”

Let’s set the stage before we get to the topic of building your own personal brand. The 50th section of the Doctrine and Covenants gives us great insight into gatherings like this and our respective roles as we try to grasp the tailored tutorial the Spirit might have us learn for our collective and individual lives. 

D&C 50:13-14 suggest that in any gathering there is one who may be called upon to speak or preach. And what are they to preach? – The Savior’s gospel. And by what instrument or method are they to teach? – By the Spirit. And what is role of the Spirit? – To Teach the truth. Do you see the subtle difference between who does the speaking or preaching of the gospel and who does the teaching? The Spirit is the teacher and when a person speaks by the spirit it is carried “unto” the hearts of those present. Elder Bednar calls our attention to 2 Nephi 33:1 and helps us see that the spoken word can only come to the door of your heart and that you must let it in. You must receive it.

The act of “receiving” lies at the foundation of modern revelation. D&C 1:11 – the introduction to this entire book of revelation begins with the Lord’s conclusion: “Wherefore, the voice of the Lord is unto the ends of the earth, that all that will hear may hear.” 

Receiving, then is a willful act, and nowhere more prominent than in the promise of the Book of Mormon. Moroni 10:4: “I would exhort you that when you shall read these things ....that you remember how merciful the Lord has been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that you shall receive these things and ponder then in your hearts.”

Now one final look at D&C 50, and then perhaps our hearts will be ready to receive. Verse22 : “Wherefore, he that preacheth and he that receiveth understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together.” There is a distinction between the words “understand” and “edify”. Elder Scott stated: “The verb understand refers to that which is heard, it is the same message to all. “Edify” concerns that which is communicated by the Holy Ghost. The message can be tailored by the Spirit to the needs of each individual.”

Now that we understand the process, I invite you to open the door of your heart to “receive” and thus be edified by the Spirit.

What is a brand?

If I were to ask you what the Nike swoosh stands for, what would be your response? What is the emotional feeling brought to mind? What is the promise of the Swoosh?

Let’s try it again, how about a Jonathan Apple with a bite out of the right side? What is the brand? What is the emotional feeling brought to mind by the brand? What is the promise of the brand?

Here is another. A red and white bulls eye? What is the brand? What does it stand for? What is the emotional feeling brought to mind by the brand? What is the promise of the brand?

One more. A blue square with a white “F”? What is the emotional feeling brought to mind by the brand? What is the promise of the brand?

Question. Have you ever considered yourself as a brand? When your name is mentioned by those who know you or your work, what is the emotional feeling brought to mind? What do they think you stand for? What makes you memorable to others? What are the values your brand is based upon? What is the promise of your brand? Finally, how much equity or value does your brand have to others? 

A brand is anything that adds to or subtracts from your real or perceived value as a family member, friend, co-worker, community member, employee, student at the BC, and a ward member.

Now stop yourself right here. It is at this point that for some Satan whispers in your ear, “You stand for nothing, you are not memorable to anyone, no one has a positive emotional reaction to you. You have no value. Stop listening to Brother Richards and let’s ponder all things wrong in your life.” 

These thoughts are just a modern day version of the same dialogue recorded in the first chapter of the Book of Moses. Moses sees God face to face, talked with him and was shown a great vision. In the eight verses that cover this exchange, God refers to Moses as His “son” in three of those verses. And in verse six, He tells Moses that he is in the “similitude of His only Begotten Son”. Now that is a powerful boost – a pretty good esteem builder. That is a solid brand identity.

When the presence of the Lord withdrew from Moses, he was visited by Satan. And how did Satan address him? Was it an affirmation of Moses’ divine sonship? No. Verse twelve states “... Satan came tempting him saying: Moses, son of man, worship me.”

That is the same as “You stand for nothing, you are not memorable to anyone, no one has a positive emotional reaction to you. You have no value. Stop listening to Brother Richards and let’s ponder all things wrong in your life.”

Part of being valiant in the testimony of Jesus is believing that he is who he is, and you are who your really are - gods in embryo, and that he will magnify your honest efforts. That testimony of him has burned in you since before this world was. Your testimony was the sword and shield you wielded in the war in heaven in defense of the plan of happiness. Revelation 12:11 in part reads: “And they (those who fought along side Michael the Archangel) over came him (Lucifer) by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony…”. You have great worth and capacities. We are here to help you discover and develop it.

We are here to help you:

  • Know
    • Who you are and what you can do
    • Your relationship with heaven an be well grounded in it
  • Be Ready
    • To build families
    • To serve in the kingdom and community
  • Become
    • Confident in your abilities
    • Self-reliant
    • “Latter-day Saints” in every sense of the word.

These represent the foundation of your personal brand which we are helping you build.

Elements of a Personal Brand

So what are the elements of a spiritual and temporal brand built upon the foundation we have just described? What is it that will help you make your own mark in the world? May I suggest that your mark upon the world, your community, your family, and this college will be the result of what you choose to do with your head, your heart, and your hands.

Our Heads

President Hinckley said, “You have a mandate from the Lord to educate your head, your hearts, and your hands.” On another more popular occasion he said, “Get all the education you can get.” Why? The answer is simple: Leadership is the key to growth in the church and community. Education is the key to leadership.

Does that mean that all your education has to be in the classroom on a straight and uninterrupted diet of primary school, secondary school, college, and advance degrees? No. Neither is all the learning achieved in the classroom. It was Mark Twain who said, “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” There is very little of my college classroom education that has been relevant in my career. But my extracurricular activities at college, my active involvement in community projects, and my responsibilities in the church taught me leadership skills and became the laboratory in which I could hone the skills I learned in class.

Today’s educational environment is incredibly exciting and challenging. The first challenge is embedded in changing nature and speed of the world economy. For example: the amount of technical information is doubling every two years. Therefore, if you are starting a four-year technical degree, this means that half of what you learn in your first year of study will be outdated by your third year of study. The top 10 ten “in-demand” jobs in 2010, did not exist in 2004. Translation: We are helping you prepare for jobs that don’t exist yet using technologies that have not been invented yet, in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet. The U.S. Department of labor estimates that today’s students will have 10-14 jobs before the age of 38 and several different careers.

The 25% of India’s population with the highest IQ’s is greater than the total population of the United States. Translation: India has more honors kids than America has kids. 

So what does that mean? There may be some technical skills that get you a job, but it is unlikely that the technical skills will make you promotable, and flexible in changing markets and fluctuating economies. It means that you must learn how to learn and develop a passion for it. It means you become a life-long learner and love it. It means you view each new employer as a learning opportunity and become a sponge proactively seeking and absorbing knowledge.

The second challenge with educating your head is to learn wisdom. My favorite definition of wisdom is the power to judge rightly following the soundest course of action based on knowledge, experience and thinking. You see what good is knowledge without the power to judge rightly? Knowledge for its own sake is not good enough. We must know of things as they really are and really will be. We must be willing to pursue truth from all sources. If our pursuit of truth is confined to the sciences, then our knowledge of things as they really are is bound by the limits of the tools of our own invention. [Astronomy story]

With wisdom comes the capacity to be teachable. To be teachable is to be bold in your actions but to expect correction, to learn and to make adjustments. 

We are wise if we understand the pattern of the Lord and his prophets when they teach. The key is that they allow us to use our agency and participate in our own learning. Example: Moses 4:15 “where goest thou”, 1 Nephi 11 “what desirest thou?” “What beholdest thou”, [President Monson’s stories to me]. 

Our Hearts

Eric Shumway, former president of BYU-H said: “Fill your life with all the things that will improve your head, your heart, and your mind.”

Your heart is the place you sort out your values, priorities, and yearnings. It is the place where inspiration and direction about your life will be confirmed. In the book The Little Prince, the Fox, speaking to the Little Prince says, “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” 

There is great wisdom in that little quote. When our hearts are right I think we see things differently. With the heart we tend to see abundance, with only our eyes we often see scarcity and limitation. Therefore, how great the need for our hearts to be soft, contrite, and in tune with the powers of heaven. How does it get that way? Listen to the voice of the Lord; D&C 43:16: “Sanctify yourselves and ye shall be endowed with power that ye may give even as [the Lord] has spoken.” You want power from heaven to help you become what you have the capacity to become and to create a spiritual and temporal legacy? Watch your heart.

President Heber J. Grant made this promise and observation: “If we are faithful in keeping the commandments of God His promises will be fulfilled to the very letter. . . . The trouble is, the adversary of men's souls blinds their minds. He throws dust, so to speak, in their eyes, and they are blinded with the things of this world.”

Can you change your heart? Yes, there can be a mighty change – because the spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, can wrought a mighty change in your heart, that you have no more disposition to do evil but to do good continually (Mosiah 5:2)

Listen to President Hinckley:

“I am asking that we stop seeking out the storms and enjoy more fully the sunlight. I am suggesting that as we go through life we “accentuate the positive.” I am asking that we look a little deeper for the good, that we still voices of insult and sarcasm, that we more generously compliment virtue and effort. I am not asking that all criticism be silenced. Growth comes of correction. Strength comes of repentance. Wise is the man who can acknowledge mistakes pointed out by others and change his course. What I am suggesting is that each of us turn from the negativism that so permeates our society and look for the remarkable good among those with whom we associate, that we speak of one another’s virtues more than we speak of one another’s faults, that optimism replace pessimism, that our faith exceed our fears. When I was a young man and was prone to speak critically, my father would say: “Cynics do not contribute, skeptics do not create, doubters do not achieve (from Ensign, Apr. 1986, 2–4).

Such an attitude comes first from the heart and then it gets into your head and finally to your hands.

Our Hands

Three positions of hands apply when we talk about establishing a personal brand and creating a spiritual and temporal legacy. Picture with me a hand raised to the square, then hands reaching out, and finally hands folded.

First a hand raised to the square. Speaking of sustaining church leaders, President Monson stated: “As we raise our hands we pledge our hearts.” Follow the brethren. Is it blind obedience? NO. An ancient philosopher reportedly said, “I don’t obey God any more, I agree with Him.” If the Lord loved us enough to send prophets, surely we should be smart enough to follow them. There is safety in sustaining the Brethren with your hands, your heart, and your head.

Second, hands that reach out to others. Here is President Monson’s thoughts on a well known event recorded in the third Chapter of the Book of Acts. 

“Reflect a moment on the experience of Peter at the gate Beautiful of the temple. One sympathizes with the plight of the man lame from birth who each day was carried to the temple gate that he might ask alms of all who entered. That he asked alms of Peter and John as these two brethren approached indicates that he regarded them no differently from scores of others who must have passed by him that day. Then Peter’s majestic yet gentle command: “Look on us.” The record states that the lame man “gave heed unto them, expecting to receive something” from them (Acts 3:4–5).”

“The stirring words Peter then spoke have lifted the hearts of honest believers down through the stream of time, even to this day: “Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.” Frequently we conclude the citation at this point and fail to note the next verses: “And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up:

“And he … stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple” (Acts 3:6–8).”

“A helping hand had been extended. A broken body had been healed. A precious soul had been lifted toward God.”

“Time passes. Circumstances change. Conditions vary. Unaltered is the divine command to succor the weak and lift up the hands which hang down and strengthen the feeble knees. Each of us has the charge to be not a doubter but a doer; not a leaner but a lifter. But our complacency tree has many branches, and each spring more buds come into bloom. Often we live side by side but do not communicate heart to heart. There are those within the sphere of our own influence who, with outstretched hands, cry out: “Is there no balm in Gilead?” Each of us must answer.”

And Elder Holland reflected Brigham Young’s call in 1856 to do what we can do with outstretched hands.

“As surely as the rescue of those in need was the general conference theme of October 1856, so too is it the theme of this conference and last conference and the one to come next spring. It may not be blizzards and frozen-earth burials that we face this conference, but the needy are still out there—the poor and the weary, the discouraged and downhearted, those "[falling] away into [the] forbidden paths" … and multitudes who are "kept from the truth because they know not where to find it." They are all out there with feeble knees, hands that hang down, and bad weather setting in. They can be rescued only by those who have more and know more and can help more. And don't worry about asking, "Where are they?" They are everywhere, on our right hand and on our left, in our neighborhoods and in the workplace, in every community and county and nation of this world. Take your team and wagon; load it with your love, your testimony, and a spiritual sack of flour; then drive in any direction. The Lord will lead you to those in need if you will but embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ… Open your heart and your hand to those trapped in the twenty-first century's equivalent of Martin's Cove and Devil's Gate. In doing so we honor the Master's repeated plea on behalf of lost sheep and lost coins and lost souls.”

Third, let’s consider hands that are folded. John14:13-14. “And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.” A key to asking is to not ask amiss (2 Nephi 4:35). How do we avoid asking amiss? When we are in the earnest process of educating our minds by seeking wisdom, when our hearts are broken, contrite and we are in the process of sanctifying ourselves, when our hands are stretched out to lift others, then we have come to the same unity of mind, will, and action Nephi had as recorded in Helaman Chapter 10: 4-5 – we will not ask amiss.

“Calling upon the name of the Lord” with folded hands reflects a character that is teachable and humble. Many a great man or woman with great leadership ability is lost because they forget to call upon the name of the Lord. That is, they are great leaders but not great followers and hence are less serviceable to heaven. The Brother of Jared was a large and mighty man, almost a natural leader who forgot to continue calling upon the name of the Lord in a period of relative prosperity. 

Note what happened when the Brother of Jared repented. What was his purpose for calling upon the name of the Lord? -- It was for his brethren. Note the very same thing in Enos’s life (verse 8-9).

Brethren and sisters may we not live below our privilege to tap the powers of heaven. May we choose wisely and not be blinded by the weakness spoken of in Ether 12:27. May we be like President Monson who said, “I want to live my life in such a way that if the Lord needs an errand run, he knows Tom Monson will be there to run it.”

With our head on straight, our heart in the right place, and our hands doing the right things, we are ready to act and not be acted upon. We will be in the process of building our own personal brand.


The notion of a personal brand gives rise to the idea of living every day in a positive way – despite the challenges and setbacks. In the trial there is great growth, in the searing furnace of affliction our metal is fashioned that we might become as Joseph Smith wrote: “A smooth shaft in the quiver of the Almighty.”

Good Timber

by Douglas Malloch

The tree that never had to fight
For sun and sky and air and light,
But stood out in the open plain
And always got its share of rain,
Never became a forest king
But lived and died a scrubby thing.

The man who never had to toil
To gain and farm his patch of soil,
Who never had to win his share
Of sun and sky and light and air,
Never became a manly man
But lived and died as he began.

Good timber does not grow with ease:
The stronger wind, the stronger trees;
The further sky, the greater length;
The more the storm, the more the strength.

By sun and cold, by rain and snow,
In trees and men good timbers grow.

Where thickest lies the forest growth,
We find the patriarchs of both.
And they hold counsel with the stars
Whose broken branches show the scars
Of many winds and much of strife.
This is the common law of life.

From Mother Teresa we get this counsel:

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered;
forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, People may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, there may be jealousy;
Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you've got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God;
It was never between you and them anyway.

Ponder the example of Joseph Smith and his brand. 

So brothers and sisters, what is in a brand? You, your divine heritage, and your divine potential. What is in a brand? Your head, your heart and your hands. What is the product of your brand? A spiritual and temporal legacy that tapped the powers of heaven and bound you to blessings? What is the promise of your brand? That having done all you will stand in holy places and be not moved. That Heaven will bless you with blessings unnumbered. In the words of President John Taylor blessings of “thrones and principalities and dominions in the eternal worlds.” We are here to help you achieve exactly what you want… and then some. We are here to help you create and build your own personal brand and to give it value in the community and Kingdom. May the Lord help us both to do our part. He lives, He is the Christ, and the government of the kingdom is and will forever be upon his shoulders. He is the Wonderful Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. He stands at the door of your mind and heart and knocks. May you love him enough to let him in so he can direct your hands for good I pray in name of Jesus Christ, amen.


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