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Devotionals

Kelly D. Shepherd

This Is a Time of Learning

I’m happy to be here with you today. This is an amazing opportunity. It really is—to be in your presence, to be in the presence of young people like you. I’ve been here since last May, and I’ve come to the devotionals each week. I recognize that you always have these amazing speakers that have accomplished great things in their lives.

So, today you are going to have to practice something that my mother practiced with me. She was amazing. You see, she didn’t seem to have these great expectations for me, but if I ever accomplished anything, she was very complimentary. She was always so surprised. When I graduated from high school, she was amazed. And then when I graduated from college a couple of times, every time it seemed like the most amazing thing had happened.

I remember actually bringing my wife home before we were married to introduce her to my family, and they were so pleased that I could get a date. It was just amazing. And the second time she came with me, they were really amazed, weren’t they? Surprised. Now, I know Brother Nelson up here knows my parents, and he knows—he was their stake president, so he knows them very well. But my mother just made me feel like I had accomplished wonderful things no matter what I did.

So, if you can practice a little of that today—no matter what happens, just think: you’re sitting here with wonderful people in this beautiful setting. You’ll feel the Holy Ghost. We’ve already felt the Holy Ghost. We know that Heavenly Father is with us. And appreciate, then, if I say anything that’s worthwhile, anything that inspires you. Then we’ll be well fed today.

This College is a very unique place. It has a three core things that are just unique. One is that we are here to strengthen discipleship. We’re here to teach practical skills. And we’re here to cultivate a nurturing environment. And all of that can happen; that’s driving my comments today. I hope all of that happens today—that as we sit here in this environment, we’ll feel the Holy Ghost and we’ll be directed.

I hope to share some practical skills from my experiences that might help you in your life. But ultimately, if you’re going to be true disciples, you’re going to have to make some choices. You’re actually going to have to do something about what you feel today, and I invite you to do that. If we could employ those things, then today’s experience will be worth it for all of us.

You live in a critical time of life. It’s a time when you are learning—your teachers hope you are learning—massive amounts of information. But during that time of learning, you are also making some very important decisions. And those decisions will affect the rest of your lives. It’s such an important time.

When I was your age, I learned something very valuable, and it happened to be on the baseball field. I spent lots of time on the baseball field. President Richards mentioned that my family and I got to go to Europe and lots of other places to play. But I learned a very important lesson. It’s a simple lesson. It’s simply this: you know, the very best hitters in baseball are going to get out six or seven times out of ten, so if they’re successful at getting a hit three times out of ten, they’re considered outstanding.

Now, I don’t know if you think 30% success is very good, but in my life and in my view and in the world of baseball, it’s very good. And it also taught me the important lesson that I never had an excuse not to be completely prepared every time I went up to bat. Even if I was going to get out, I had to be prepared. It also made me want to prepare myself to play defense and do everything I could so that I was ready to play. It never gave me an excuse to not be in condition or in shape. Even though I was going to “get out” most of the time, it didn’t give me an excuse not to be prepared.

 That’s an important life lesson. And you might be thinking, why is that so important? Well, life is actually really hard, and there’s a good chance that you are going to have some setbacks in life. In fact, there’s a pretty good chance that the first time you apply for a job you’re not going to get it. There’s also a chance that the first job that you get might not reward you financially as much as you think you are worth. There’s a pretty good chance that you won’t get to use the skills that you think you are prepared to use. And if you’re lucky and you’re a young man, there’s a pretty good chance that your first child won’t look like you. That girl will look like her mother, and that will be wonderful, won’t it?

Life is full of setbacks. There are going to be challenges. But that cannot be an excuse for not being prepared in every possible way. Never, never, never give yourself that kind of an excuse.

I want to bring a couple of ideas together today; I hope we can do this. As Church members, you have grown up hearing that you are a chosen generation. You’ve probably heard that all of your life, that you are a chosen generation. And you might wonder, what does that mean to be a chosen generation? You need to know that the world does not think you are a chosen generation. The world calls you something else. They call you Generation Y. And their description of you is not always flattering.

Some people say that you are called Generation Y because you ask questions like this: Why should I get a job? Why should I leave home and find a place of my own? Why should I move out when my parents take care of me? Why should I wash my own clothes? Why should I clean my own room? Why should I get married and take on additional responsibilities? And that list continues. That’s the world’s view of your generation. But that’s not the Church’s view, and that’s not Heavenly Father’s view.

You live in an amazing time. In fact, this is the most amazing time in the world’s history. As I consider a few of the things that are happening in the world today, you know that in the history of the world, there has never been a better time for communication. Communication is so accessible. In the history of our world, there has never been a better time for transportation. You move. The world moves. There has never been a better time for health, for health care. There has never been a better time in our world’s history where there has been more creativity.

This is an amazing time, and as a Church member, I hope you realize there has never been a better time in our world’s history when gospel teaching has been so organized and so comprehensive.

The president mentioned that I worked with Seminaries and Institutes, and I’ve been working with Seminaries and Institutes for about 33 years. The year before I became a seminary teacher, the Church Educational System had made a decision. They decided that the text for the course of Seminary and Institute would be the scriptures. Before that, there were all kinds of topics, all kinds of things that were happening. But they decided we would study scriptures, the standard works.

There was actually a lot of pushback. People thought that the students wouldn’t be able to handle studying scriptures every day. They thought they would be bored; they wouldn’t be able to do it. They wouldn’t bring their scriptures. Now, you are the beneficiaries because your parents went through that system. It took a few years, but they became used to bringing their scriptures, and they became used to studying and learning from the scriptures. And so if you were brought up in the Church, you were probably brought up with scriptures in your hands, reading scriptures. And that’s no surprise to you.

Other changes have happened. Preach My Gospel came about a few years ago. That was a major change in Church teaching. Before that, missionaries went out with memorized lessons in their minds, and they would say what they had learned from memory. And that all changed.

More recently, we’ve had Come, Follow Me and the youth curriculum, where the gospel has been taught in a different way so that you can understand and comprehend and then teach those that are around you. Most recently, even in Institute, we have just begun teaching four cornerstone courses. This is a new curriculum. All of you will be required to take four cornerstone courses. These will help you prepare for the world that you live in.

There has never been a better time. There has never been more comprehensive, more organized teaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ in the world’s history.

So this is the time that you inherited. You didn’t have a lot to do with it; you actually just inherited this world. But the reality is, people that came before you have done some amazing things to put you in this position. You, metaphorically at least, stand on their shoulders, so that this generation can accomplish things that no other generation in the history of man could accomplish. But you are ready to do that, if you take your place as a chosen generation.

A few generations before you came, there was a generation that is called the Greatest Generation. Probably your grandparents, maybe your parents or grandparents were part of what we call the Greatest Generation. Some of the words that describe that Greatest Generation include these: they took personal responsibility, they were accountable, they had a strong work ethic, they were self-sufficient and self-reliant, they were humble, they were loyal, they had character, they were courageous and brave, they believed in honor and family and faith and community. There was a commitment to marriage. Virtue mattered. Life was precious. They talked about life being precious. They were selfless. They had gratitude. They certainly had pride in their accomplishments, but it was with great humility.

It’s interesting that even the usage of the words that were used to describe that Greatest Generation has changed. Over the last decades, Google—we’re thankful for them—they have actually scanned the contents of books and publications, and they do word counts. They recognize that words that were used previously even to describe this Greatest Generation have been used less and less in our generation. They found that words like character and conscience and virtue have all declined in the last few decades. The usage of the words gratitude and humility and kindness are down over 50% just in the last few decades. Even the description of the usage of those words has changed. But you, as a chosen generation, cannot forget that those characteristics and those words are what Heavenly Father wants you to be.

In our world, people are more concerned about themselves than they are about others. Maybe they have forgotten, or maybe they never knew what you know in your heart, that “when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.”[1]

A chosen generation, especially you, needs to remember that the very covenants that you make that will save your life and bring you eternal salvation include the opportunity to “mourn with those that mourn . . . and comfort those that stand in need of comfort.”[2] We have to reach out, and not look in.

In a recent study by the University of Michigan, the researchers found that students today are 40% less able, they have 40% less capacity, than students in the 1970s to understand what other people are feeling. The researchers concluded that college students of today are so busy worrying about themselves that they have little time to spend empathizing with others.

But brothers and sisters, you and I know that that’s why we’re here. If you look around you, the people on your right hand, the people on your left hand, the people in front of you and behind you are what Elder Maxwell called the “clinical material” with which we need to work.[3] But he said that clinical material is actually going to try your patience. It’s going to try your character. It’s going to be difficult. But when we learn to serve each other, then we develop the characteristics that our Heavenly Father wants us to develop.

The Savior himself taught that “whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake . . . shall save it.”[4] President Monson explained that it means that “unless we lose ourselves in service to others, there is little purpose to our own lives.”[5]

So, as we look around, we talk about cultivating this environment. This College is the place where that environment can be cultivated. We can start to serve each other, and when we get confident with that we can start moving out, we can serve and love those around us in our jobs and every association that we have. And then we will really meet the purpose of this College, because that’s why we’re here.

Another shift that’s happening in the world is an increased shift towards materialism, that things are becoming more important than people and than the word of God. Every year, UCLA does a study with incoming freshmen. In 1966, the researchers found that 42% of the incoming freshmen said that becoming rich was an important goal in their life. The study in 1990 found that 74% of incoming freshmen felt that becoming rich was important. The most recent study found that becoming rich is the top goal of incoming students.

This is a distorted view of what Heavenly Father has given us and blessed us with. Now, because of this kind of feeling, this kind of thinking, I’m not surprised but I’m actually really disappointed that students across the country are dropping out of college to play fantasy sports. They have found a way to make money without effort. There is some effort involved, but they’ve certainly forgotten what Nephi taught us when he talked about being industrious and laboring with our hands,[6] which he said was living “after the manner of happiness.”[7] The getting of wealth is the end goal of many of these students, and that’s all they’re worried about—not what they can do with their money, not how they can help.

We do learn in Jacob that these riches are certainly a blessing from Heavenly Father, and He’s willing to bless us with wealth, but we should use that wealth to do good, to bless others, not just ourselves.[8] I think this has been understood by many, many generations. Even the earliest pioneers, when they arrived in this valley, understood. They didn’t come here to get rich. They didn’t come here for job opportunities. They came here to serve God, to build the kingdom of God. And whatever happened would be a great blessing.

In researching, I found that Elder Franklin D. Richards, great-grandfather of President Richards, spoke to an incoming group of immigrants in 1853, and he said this:

You have come into this place nearly penniless, and, in many respects, comparatively destitute, and with no one to take you by the hand. . . . [But] be of good cheer, and let not your hearts be sad, knowing you are doing right, and have gathered according to the word of the Lord. . . .

I have to say that if you have come to these valleys determined, as for you and yours,  to serve the Lord, you will find it the easiest thing in the world to fellowship with those whose hearts run together like two drops of water, and you will be blessed.[9]

And they were blessed. This valley blossomed like a rose because they were willing to work.

Your preparation at LDS Business College should be more than just your preparation for your next job, your next employment. I think it should be preparation for your deployment on any mission that God wants to send you on—that you can go out and bless the world as a chosen generation.

If you would consider for just a second, I wonder how many of your parents or grandparents chose their job because it was good paying or because they liked it. I think in previous generations, employment many times was more of a calling than a choice. One example of that might be President Hinckley.

When President Hinckley returned from his mission, he had plans to go to Cornell University and study. But his mission president asked him to meet with the First Presidency and describe the situation of the mission literature—the publications that they were using as missionaries to teach the gospel. They desperately needed help.

So President Hinckley made an appointment with the First Presidency. He met with them and described the situation. Again, he had plans to go to college; he had great plans. After his presentation, the First Presidency asked him if he would accept the job as the secretary to the Radio, Publicity, and Mission Literature Committee. They said it would be part time, but it was badly needed.

President Hinckley accepted the job. Now, he accepted the job because he knew it had to be done. It certainly interrupted his plans, but he began to work. It was President Hinckley that produced much of the early Church literature that was used. In the 1939 World’s Fair, it was President Hinckley that produced most of that material. Eventually, this job turned into a full-time job.

When President Hinckley thought about it—as related in his biography—and he said he wondered what life would have been like if he would have said no and pursued his own dreams. He concluded that he certainly would not have been a member of the Quorum of the Twelve and certainly would not have been President Hinckley had he chosen to follow his path.

I think in life we certainly want to work. We want to work to support our families. We want to work to make a difference in our community. But it’s not always about us. Sometimes it’s about everyone else.

Now, why are you really a chosen generation? One of your progenitors was righteous enough that he received a promise from our Heavenly Father. He was told that through his children—and that’s you—that this earth would be blessed, that the gospel of Jesus Christ and the priesthood would be taught to all the world because of these children.

Even in the early days of the Restoration, Joseph Smith was learning this lesson. He received this revelation: It says, “Abraham received promises concerning his seed, and of the fruit of his loins—from whose loins ye are . . . Joseph.”[10] Now, this promise is also ours. You are chosen because you are of the House of Israel. You are chosen because you are of the seed of Abraham. You are chosen because you accepted the gospel of Jesus Christ, and you live in a time, now, when you can do things that no other generation could ever have done.

Even the work of Joseph Smith is a precursor to what you and I have to do right now. The setting of the world, the possibilities, are in your hands right now, and they never have been before. That’s the possibility of a chosen generation. But the couple of warnings that I have tried to give today include these—this is in Doctrine and Covenants 121:

Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?

Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson—

That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon principles of righteousness.[11]

Your ability to fulfill your role as a chosen generation depends on your willingness to give up what the world is saying and teaching, to look around you, and to serve one another. It is to give up on the worldly riches and use them to do good, like our Heavenly Father has blessed us with them to do.

We talk about having joy. Joy comes because we know who we are and we actually do what we are here to do. Joy doesn’t come because others praise us or recognize our efforts. Joy comes from inside; it comes from our Heavenly Father.

Brothers and sisters, you are a chosen generation. I cannot tell you often enough or strongly enough how important it is that you recognize your place in history. You cannot fail. You cannot fail because the work is too important. It is too important. You cannot fail because everything is in place for you to accomplish the mission Heavenly Father has given you to do. You cannot fail because in your hearts you know that you are called, and you will be chosen to do this great work.

Your preparation has begun here at LDS Business College, and I ask you to take full advantage of every opportunity that comes your way. Let’s do the things—those four ideas that we talk about often—becoming disciples of Jesus Christ, learning practical skills, and nurturing each other in that kind of environment. As we do this, I can promise you what will happen. Heavenly Father has a great work; you are in position to begin that great work and to do that great work. And we will succeed. And I testify of this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

 

[1] Mosiah 2:17.

[2] Mosiah 18:9.

[3] Neal A. Maxwell, “Jesus, the Perfect Mentor,” Ensign, Feb. 2001.

[4] Mark 8:35.

[5] Thomas S. Monson, quoted in “President Monson: Service Brings Joy,” Prophets and Apostles.

[6] See 2 Nephi 5:17.

[7] 2 Nephi 5:27.

[8] See Jacob 2:18–19.

[9] Franklin D. Richards, in Journal of Discourses, 1:317–318, 320.

[10] D&C 132:30.

[11] D&C 121:34–36.

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