Skips to main content

Jill W. Larsen

Do What You Are 

It is indeed a pleasure and an honor for me to be with you today. I usually type these Devotional talks, not give them. I must say, I was astonished when I received a call from President Woodhouse informing me of this award.

I’m certain the selection committee decided to overlook my accounting grade when they were considering me for this award. But I want them to know that I did finally learn how to do a spreadsheet correctly while working for a tax accounting firm for 15 years.

I am truly an ordinary woman who had the good sense to attend LDS Business College where I took the first step in creating a firm educational foundation for what has transpired in my life. One of the most important purposes of a college education is to prepare men and women to be responsible and intelligent leaders and participants in the lives of their families, in their Church, and in their communities. LDS Business College provides the resources and instruction to prepare students for life’s challenges, in both a career-oriented and spiritual way. The business world today is looking for people with principles and integrity. Every employer should have confidence that a graduate of LDS Business College possess these qualities.

It was 36 years ago that I was where you are today. As I was graduating from high school, I had to make a decision about continuing my education. It was difficult. I knew that marriage and family come first, but I was also aware that the Church has consistently urged young women to seek education and prepare for their careers. I did not choose marriage or education, I chose marriage and education. Did I want to go to a four year college, or invest two years in obtaining an associate degree in a business-related field?
In Proverbs 23:12, I found great counsel: “Apply thine heart unto instruction, and thine ears to the words of knowledge.” An education provides enrichment, fulfillment, vision, teaching, learning, and understanding. It opens doors to better employment opportunities.

President Hinckley has said: “You belong to a church which espouses education…. Train yourselves to make a contribution to the society in which you…live. There is an essence of the divine in the improvement of the mind. ‘The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth’ (D & C 93:36). ‘Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection’ (D & C 130:18). … Education is an investment that never ceases to pay dividends of one kind or another.”i
Education is a continuous process of growth as we go through the experiences of life.

In an articles published in the Ensign in December, 1980, entitled “Education without a Classroom,” the author talks about continual learning: “Our Heavenly Father has blessed us with the resources we need to continue learning all our lives. He has given us brains with infinite capacity, a world too complex to ever bore us, the freedom to pursue our own interests, and the ability to structure our own time. All we need to do is take advantage of the possibilities that daily surround us.”

With the help and encouragement of my parents and a kind and loving Father in Heaven who listened to my countless prayers asking for guidance, I chose to enroll here at LDS Business College. What could be better—as the Mission Statement reads: “…a spiritually-grounded career education founded on the divine doctrines and principles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” A school that offered a career-based education and spiritual enlightenment. My parents were pleased that I would be in such a good environment. As you go out into the business world, you will truly come to appreciate the close educational and spiritual environment this college provides.

I remember being excited and somewhat apprehensive as I began taking courses here. I was on a “no nonsense mission” to “get in and out” with an associate degree. I took classes in the morning and worked part-time in the afternoon. I remember parking was a real problem. Is it still a problem? It won’t be after the new campus is built. Weather permitting, I studied out on the front lawn and as I pass here, I see that is still happening. I recall, we didn’t have a cafeteria—only vending machines. Institute classes were wonderful—a spiritual diversion from the technical environment.

I remember great friends—many from Idaho. I noted from the Pathways publication that as of the fall semester of 2003, there were 284 international students from 49 foreign countries attending classes here, which makes up 22.5 percent of the total student population. It seemed to me, back in my LDS Business College days that there were that many students here from Idaho! What a great multi-cultural student body you have. What a great opportunity to learn from one another.

I remember classes being small, with teachers who were willing to give individual attention as they saw the need. I remember taking endless shorthand dictation. (Most of you here probably don’t even know what shorthand is). You’d be surprised how I have used that ability in many ways throughout my life. I remember countless typing classes where I would say to myself as I was typing, “Now don’t make a mistake!” In those days, we couldn’t make mistakes. It was too hard to correct them! When I graduated in 1968 with an associate degree in Executive Secretarial Training, I had met the requirements of taking shorthand at 120 words per minute and typing at 90 words per minute, with a high percentage of accuracy. I felt that I had accomplished something great.

Upon graduation, I continued working, then full-time, for the mechanical and electrical contractor I had worked for while I was in school. In 1970 I married my boss’s son and my life changed both personally and career wise. Three weeks after my marriage, I found myself in New York City. My husband was attending Columbia University where he received an MBA degree in finance. I went from Salt Lake City to New York City. It was quite a shock. We took the “red eye special” flight to New York and as we took a taxi into Manhattan at 6:30 a.m. on a rainy, humid, September morning, I thought to myself, “What have I done?”

We had been there only three days when it was time for me to find a job. After all, I was going to help put my husband through graduate school. LDS Business College had trained me to be an executive secretary. I began interviewing and my associate degree got me through the door. I eventually had three job offers: The New York Hilton Hotel, Saks Fifth Avenue (which would have been great for my wardrobe), and Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. I chose the New York Hilton because I thought it would be the most interesting of the three and mostly because I had a good impression of the man I would be working for. He was a family man (there were family pictures all over his office) and he treated me kindly. And so began an incredible three years.

By day I worked as a secretary to the assistant director of sales for the largest convention hotel in New York City, and by night I typed my husband’s school papers. I was quite a novelty at the hotel. I was a “Mormon girl” from Utah. I was asked the usual questions: Does your husband have other wives? Are you allowed to dance? I thought you were required to wear black? Is it true you don’t drink or smoke and are you kidding, you don’t drink coffee? But I was treated with respect and I learned much from my co-workers.
One of my jobs was taking the minutes (shorthand, I might point out) for the sales meetings held every Monday morning. As I walked in the room the first Monday, I found a nice cup of coffee at my place at the table, along with everyone else. I simply moved it aside. This went on for about a month. One Monday morning I walked in the room and found a welcome glass of orange juice at my seat.

Some of the language used in the office was rather “unique” and people were continually asking me to “excuse” their language.

One day I was called down to “Human Resource” (in those days it was called “Personnel”) and asked if I had any “religious holidays” that I needed to have off. I was in an office of about 40 people who were mostly Catholic or Jewish. Of course, there were several Jewish holidays, and Good Friday was a day off for the Catholics in the office. I thought, well, how about April 6th or the 24th of July, but I simply said that Sunday was the Sabbath for me and that I tried to live my beliefs every day. They couldn’t quite figure me out.

I had many opportunities to do missionary work. My testimony was solidified in New York City. I felt like I was watched all the time and there were many opportunities to “do what is right.”

My late father always told me, “You need to live in the world, but not of the world.” In New York I learned how to live “in the world” while holding true to the teachings of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

As I was preparing this talk, I thought a lot about how things have changed in the business world in 36 years. Let me highlight some examples:

     °In New York, I took three hours of shorthand a day. I spent the rest of the day transcribing it.

     °I typed on an IBM Selectric typewriter. Do you remember typewriters? My accuracy had to be as close to perfect as possible. In the Church Administration Building today, I think we may have two or three typewriters in the whole building. If I have a form to fill out that requires a typewriter, it’s like going on a scavenger hunt to find one.

     °Next came the IBM “Correcting” typewriter. They were a little bit of heaven. I could make a mistake and then be able to correct it by simply hitting the correction key. Of course, I had to remember to replace the correction ribbon in the typewriter.

     °Then along came the dictating machines. They were wonderful. My boss would simply dictate into the machine and all I had to do was learn how to put earphones in my ears and use a foot pedal. No more taking as much shorthand.

     °Shortly thereafter, IBM came out with their Mag Card Machine. My boss would dictate into a machine that contained a magnetic card. I, in turn, would put the card into a transcribing machine and I could transcribe his dictation.

     °And how magnificent was the IBM memory typewriter. It recorded the typewritten text of the document by applying different codes after which I could save it and play it back any time I wanted.

     °And then came the computer. Being trained in using the computer is where most of you came in because I suspect you have never known anything else. Think about what the college offers you today in the latest computer technology—technology that was first introduced to the students here in August, 1966.

     °Now we have computer software and Microsoft. In my day, it was IBM. What would we do without Microsoft today? We had WordPerfect; we now have Word, Outlook, Access, PowerPoint, Excel and many, many other powerful software programs.

In my cupboard at work, I have a “quick course” manual for numerous software programs. I have had to learn these programs. Learning is a continuous, life-long experience. You have learned how to learn here in your studies. You will be amazed at your capacity to absorb and acquire new knowledge and skills as you embrace opportunities that will come to you as you navigate the course through life. You are now being prepared to step into the business world with enthusiasm and confidence in your abilities.

In early 1973, I found I was expecting a baby and I knew my life would change again. My husband was working on Wall Street at Morgan Guarantee Trust and I was still at the hotel. Everything went well until May when my husband was offered a job in San Francisco beginning in September. The baby was due in August, so we had to move clear across the country. I gave notice at work that I would be leaving in July. I was going to miss the friends I had made in New York, but I had a new learning experience ahead of me—that of being a mother.

A mother is the first and most important teacher in a child’s life. British essayist G. K. Chesterton once compared a full-time specialist in a single discipline with a full-time mother, who is a generalist in all the disciplines of life. He observed that the specialist is something to everyone, but the mother is everything to someone. A prospective mother should take her education seriously enough to become an inspiring teacher, not only because she profoundly influences her children’s lives, but also because she improves the quality of her own life.

Being a mother is important to me. I spent the early years of our daughter, Tiffany’s life at home with her in Foster City, California where we lived for 21 years. I have learned much from this sweet, smart, and obedient daughter. I can truly say, as John did in the Third Epistle of John, verse 4: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.” She has been a joy to us all her life.

During the time home with Tiffany, professional men in our ward and stake would ask me to come in for a week or two while their secretaries would go on vacation. During that time I worked for the president of Shasta Beverage, an accountant, a litigation attorney and in several other professions. When Tiffany started kindergarten, I returned to work two days a week for a San Francisco law firm that had a branch office in Menlo Park, California, close to my home. I would go to work after Tiffany left or school and world work half a day and would be home to meet the school bus. I eventually began working part time for a tax accountancy firm in Menlo Park. My boss was a bishop and the other accountant in the office was in a bishopric. I also did work for a certified financial planner in the office.

As Tiffany was in school longer hours, I worked more hours. But, because I worked for members of the Church who knew the importance of family, I never missed a school event. When Tiffany was sick, I was able to stay home with her. I worked for the accountancy firm for 15 years—8 years full-time. Fifteen long and exhausting tax seasons. It was a continual learning experience.

During this time, I served in Church callings as they came. While Tiffany was in Primary, I served in the ward and stake Primary organization. When she went into Young Women, I was her Beehive advisor for two years, and then was called to serve in the San Francisco Stake Young Women’s presidency. When Tiffany left to attend BYU, I taught the Spiritual Living lessons in Relief Society. During this time, my husband served in the bishopric and served on the high council of the San Francisco and Menlo Park California Stakes for nine years. We led a busy life.

In 1995, we decided to move back to Salt Lake City where our families resided. We had been the only siblings away for 21 years. Our parents were getting older and we thought it was time to move closer to take care of them. It was then that I applied for employment with the Church and I was offered a job to be secretary to Elder Loren C. Dunn. I worked with Elder Dunn for five years until he went emeritus (meaning he retired while retaining his title as Elder) and I have worked with Elder Monte J. Brough for the past four years. Sometimes I feel as though I have a 40-hour-a-week Church calling. What a blessing this has been in my life.

It is a joy for me to go to work each day. What an exciting and challenging environment I have to work in. I have the privilege of working with men who have been called to build the kingdom of God on this earth. I marvel as I see the exceptional abilities of these men. I know that the Lord is at the head of this Church. I also know that the Holy Ghost can be a powerful instrument in guiding the work of the gospel. I have had many instances where the “still small voice” has prompted me to find a misplaced document or has inspired me to do work well beyond what I feel I am capable of doing.

President Hinckley has said: “The major work of the world is not done by geniuses. It is done by ordinary people who have learned to work in an extraordinary manner.”

I am just an ordinary woman whom the Lord blesses each day to help make His work move along. Sometimes I feel like the work goes on in spite of me.

The Seventies’ secretaries were in a staff meeting recently where the secretary to the Quorum of the Seventy made the comment that these brethren have been prepared all their lives to be General Authorities. In turn, their secretaries have also been prepared for their place in the organization and administration of the Church. That struck a cord in me and as I look back on my life, I can see how I have been prepared for the work I do at the present time. I obtained my business education through the Church educational system and I have learned much from the blessings and trials in my life. I have been humbled and strengthened to be able to keep a positive attitude while dealing with the challenges.

Now in my own small way, I would like to leave with you some advice. I do not profess to have all the answers to life’s challenges, but I do have a strong testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I would encourage you to do what you are. Do live a Christlike life because you are sons and daughters of a Heavenly Father who loves you very much. Your life is a manifestation of what you think about your Heavenly Father and His son, Jesus Christ. Believe in yourself as a child of God.

President Hinckley, in his book Stand a Little Taller, gives such worthwhile advice: “Believe in yourself. Believe in your capacity to do great and good and worthwhile things. Believe in the nature within you, the divine nature, that you are in very deed a son or daughter of the living God. There is something of divinity within you, something that stands high and tall and noble. Get above the dirt and the filth of the earth and walk on a higher plane with your heads up, believing in yourselves and in your capacity to act for good in the world and make a difference.”

Your circumstances differ. You may be married, single, live alone, belong to a part-member family, be a single parent, be a parent with preschoolers or teenagers, or not have any children living at home. Not every member of your family may want to live righteously. You may find that your own spirituality fluctuates. But, despite your situation and your own spiritual fluctuations, you can all do important things that will help to center your lives more completely on the Savior.

Creating and living a Christlike life is a continuing task. Your attitude and efforts influence those around you and help them to center their lives on the Savior.

Each of you should look at yourself today and envision what you can become. It has been said, “God love you the way you are, but he loves you too much to leave you that way.” Ask yourself these questions:

     °Does my Heavenly Father know my voice?

     °Do I talk with him morning and night?

     °Do I read my scriptures on a regular basis?

Scriptures are “your letters from home.” They give you encouragement, provide a path to follow—they give you strength.

Nephi said in 1 Nephi 18:3, “And I, Nephi, did go into the mount oft, and I did pray oft unto the Lord; wherefore the Lord showed unto me great things” (emphasis added).

If you are humble and teachable, if you are spiritually “in tune” and living righteously, and you approach the Lord in humility, you are worthy to receive personal revelation. The Lord will show you “great things.”

You live in an important time of world history. No one has lived when there are more advantages and opportunities pertaining to salvation. Every gift, ordinance, and teaching is available for your growth and development. You need to be aware of your situation and use the possibilities before you to the fullest as you endeavor to live a Christlike life. You must keep in mind that earth life is the time for making choices. Eternity is a time for remembering what you chose!

No doubt there will be problems, temptations, sorrows. You all must overcome these. But if you are prepared through righteous living to make correct choices and retain faith and confidence in your maker, you can go on to fulfill the divine purpose of your mortal probation. You know what is right and what is wrong. You know when you are doing the proper thing. It is so much easier to “do what is right.” By doing what’s right you enjoy peace and happiness. Remember what God said to Oliver Cowdery as he began his labors as scribe in the translation of the Book of Mormon: “…Be faithful and diligent in keeping the commandments of God, and I will encircle thee in the arms of my love” (D & C 6:20).

Living a Christlike life requires us to conform our lives to the truth and light we have received—having sympathy and charity for the unfortunate and those in error.
Edward Markham’s poem “A Creed” describes the results of nourishing those around us:

There is a destiny that makes us brothers.

None goes his way alone.

All that we send into the lives of others

Comes back into our own.

You have splendid possibilities within you, talents and gifts which you need to develop and use in being of service to others.

President David O. McKay wrote, “Our lives are wrapped up with the lives of others and we are the happiest when we contribute to their happiness.”

There are always those who need a helping hand, who need to feel noticed and accepted and loved. Norma B. Ashton, wife of Elder Marvin J. Ashton, related this incident about her husband: “One winter Sabbath my husband and I were attending a stake conference. As often happens, a member of the stake presidency took Elder Ashton in to greet the Primary children who were meeting separately. He spoke to them briefly, patted the heads of a few children sitting close to him, and left to join the main body of the conference. As the two men were walking down the hall, they heard the running of small feet and a voice calling, ‘Elder Ashton.’ Elder Ashton stopped, waited for a little boy to catch up to him, and asked, ‘What can I do for you?’ Looking up with hurt in his eyes, the young lad said, ‘You didn’t pat my head.’ Elder Ashton gave the young man an extra pat or two, ruffled his blond hair a bit, and was rewarded as the Primary child smiled and ran back to his class. Only a pat on the head, but just what this child needed. He was assured that he was an important as those on the front row.”

One of our important roles as brothers and sisters in the gospel is to be “givers of pats.” The touch of a hand, a word of appreciation, or an expression of love—as small as these things seem to be, they can help people feel worthwhile and needed.

No quality is an enduring or comforting as charity. Charitable people seem to have all the fun. They are the people others are drawn to. They use their energies in positive ways that bring many rewards to others, as well as themselves.

Charity can be exercised in the smallest ways. Mother Teresa made this comment: “We must not drift from the humble works, because these are the works nobody will do. It is never too small. We are so small we look at things in a small way. But God, being Almighty, sees everything great. Very humble work, that is where you and I must be. For there are many people who can do big things. But there are very few people who will do the small things.”

This is a simple and humble lesson Mother Teresa teaches us.

Service will help you forget your own problems and it will give you great capacity to endure your own disappointments, or at least put them in proper focus.

One of the most important lessons of survival in this stressful world is to learn patience—Christlike patience. Orin L. Crane had this need in mind when he wrote the following lines:

Slow me down, Lord!

Ease the pounding of my heart

By the quieting of my mind.

Steady my hurried pace

With a vision of eternal reach of time.

Give me,

Amidst the confusion of my day,

The calmness of the everlasting hills.

Break the tensions of my nerves

with the soothing music of the singing streams

that live in my memory.

Help me to know

The magical restoring power of sleep.

Teach me the art

Of taking minute vacations—of slowing down

to look at a flower;

to chat with an old friend or make a new one;

to pet a stray dog;

to watch a spider build a web;

to smile at a child;

or to read a few lines from a good book.

Remind me each day

That the race is not always to the swift;

That there is more to life than increasing its speed.

Let me look upward

Into the branches of the towering oak

And know that it grew great and strong

Because it grew slowly and well.

Slow me down, Lord,

And inspire me to send my roots deep

Into the soil of life’s enduring values

That I may grow toward the stars

Of my greater destiny.

Each of you is about to embark on a journey that will last the rest of your life—the journey of becoming the person that your Heavenly Father intended you to be. You have been fortunate to attend LDS Business College. You have a foundation of a good education. Build on this firm foundation a life of career success, along with spiritual accomplishment. There will be good times and there will be bad times. Some decisions you make will be good and some will be mistakes. But remember, your Savior set the example for you to follow in living the principles of the gospel and strengthening your spiritual potential, in being charitable and giving service to others, in radiating appreciation for your blessings and in developing patience and love. Remember, do what you are!

Nephi stated: “Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus said the Father: Ye shall have eternal life” (2nd Nephi 31:20).

I wish for you great success in your career endeavors and much happiness in life. I am grateful for my educational and spiritual experiences here at LDS Business College and I am so appreciative and humbled by this award.

I bear witness that the gospel of Jesus Christ is true. I have a testimony of my Savior; I know He lives; I know He loves me. I know this because He has blessed me to be able to endure difficult times with hope and assurance that He is by my side. I know that when I pattern my life after my Savior, I have peace, success and happiness. This is my prayer for each of you. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

i Gordon B. Hinckley, “Rise to the Stature of the Divine within You,” Ensign, Nov. 1989, 96.
ii Pam Bookstaber, “Education without a Classroom,” Ensign, Dec. 1980, 50.
iii LDS Business College Mission Statement.
iv Pathways, Winter 2004, 3.
v Marie K. Hafen, “Celebrating Womanhood,” Ensign, June 1992, 50.
vi Gordon B. Hinckley, Stand a Little Taller, 225.
vii Gordon B. Hinckley, Stand a Little Taller, 160.
viii David O. McKay, Conference Report, Oct., 1962.
ix David O. McKay, Conference Report, Sept-Oct., 1950, 150.
x From the book Hope, comp., Elder J. Richard Clark, “The Royal Road to Happiness,” [1988], 136-38.
xi Ardeth Greene Kapp, My Neighbor, My Sister, My Friend, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1990.

© Intellectual Properties Inc.


Close Modal