Skips to main content

Kelly Shepherd

By December 11, 2019 09:21 AM
Kelly Shepherd
Brother Shepherd has been employed with Seminaries and Institutes of Religion since 1983. He and his family have had assignments in Utah, Colorado, Florida, Texas, and Utah, for a second time, where he was the director of Training for Seminaries and Institutes and Director of the Ogden Institute before coming to Ensign College (which is a dream assignment and he is loving it).


I’m really happy to be here with you today to share some ideas and thoughts. If you were here last week, we had an amazing opportunity to see some very emotional videos. I know that people had tears in their eyes. Well I have to warn you, if you have tears in your eyes today, it will be for a completely different reason. I have no video. Just us.   

As President mentioned, I’ve been working in the Church Educational System for nearly 37 years. Also, before that, I attended college for about 12 years, and I was in secondary school for 12 years and also kindergarten. If you add that up, that’s over 60 years in school somehow. I know the math is a little fuzzy because I was also working in a career, but you get the picture. Either I am a very slow learner, or there is something about education and learning that I can’t get enough of. This has been my career of choice, my profession and my passion. Today, I would like to share some things I have learned during that time that have made a difference to me and hopefully it will be of some encouragement to you.  

I served a mission in Italy a few years ago, again the fuzzy math, my wife and I returned to Italy to live and we are planning to make another trip to Italy soon. In preparation for our upcoming adventure, I decided to brush up on my Italian, and I took an online course. I was reminded of many things, but one caught my attention, especially as I was considering the topic for this talk.  

In Italian there are verbs that are called “reflexive verbs.” A reflexive verb is, loosely, a verb whose direct object is the same as its subject. For example, "I wash myself"…so, if the subject in a sentence performs an action on itself, then the verb is considered to be reflexive.  

One of those reflexive verbs is to graduate from college, the verb is “laurearsi.” To graduate oneself. The conjugation of that verb in the present tense of “I graduate” is “io mi laureo.” Some people attend college to obtain a degree, while others, literally make of themselves what the degree or certificate represents. 

Let me illustrate. Years ago, my father received an honorary doctoral degree of humanities from a university. This took place after he had worked at the university for about 36 years. He had been instrumental in creating a student union building, student services and student government among other things. One of the last projects he worked on before retiring was to renovate and recreate the student union building. Which, to his surprise, was named after him upon his retirement.  

He was certainly honored to receive a doctoral degree, but what was obvious to me and to many others was that he had already become what that doctoral degree represented. His character, dedication, devotion and service to the college community was who he was - the degree did not change that at all.   

Today, I would like to talk about your college experience and what you are learning and more importantly, what you are becoming. Your degree or your certificate will not define you; you will define yourself. The degree may be like wrapping paper; it may be shiny and new, but what really matters is what’s inside, what you have become.  

Here are the four topics I want to talk about briefly: 

  1. Learning is not a spectator sport, real learning involves the mind, the heart, the body, the whole soul. 

  1. We learn together when we are gathered in a compact society.  

  1. We learn better when we put learning into action.  

  1. Learning is an individual choice, and it brings its own reward. 

Learning is not a spectator sport.  

If you are intent on learning you cannot stand back and watch and expect to learn. Learning involves physical, spiritual, intellectual and emotional, and intellectual engagement; you will need to engage your whole self in order to learn.  

I mentioned that my wife and I, after college, we traveled to Italy where I as employed to play baseball. Most people don’t usually connect Italy with baseball, so I had a unique opportunity to be an early ambassador for the sport, especially in the small town of northern Italy where we lived. One of the things I had agreed to do with the baseball organization was to conduct clinics for the youth in the community. During one clinic, I noticed that many young people were standing along the fence, they were observing, but they weren’t participating. I realized that because baseball was new, they were uncomfortable and they were hesitant to join in. I had the players on the field remove their baseball gloves and put away the bats and the balls, and we got a soccer ball and started a game of “kick-ball.” We used baseball paths, we used the baseball rules, but we used a familiar soccer ball. The combination of soccer and baseball allowed even those who were on the sidelines to join in. As we played together, they realized if they would just jump in, they could learn. Later, I was rewarded to watch these young people play in a baseball game. A ball was hit sharply to the shortstop who automatically knocked the ball down with his foot, picked the ball up, threw it to first base in time to get the runner out.  

My point is, you can’t stay on the sidelines and gain the benefits of learning. You just have to jump in.  

Elder Kim B. Clark, the former Commissioner of Church Education, taught, “The learning that allows each of 'us' to rise 'to the full stature of 'our' divine potential' is what he called deep learning: learning of the whole soul—the mind, the heart, the body and the immortal spirit. Deep learning applies to every kind of knowledge, whether spiritual or secular.”i

When we engage in that kind of learning, in deep learning, Elder Clark said, we will have increased power to do at least three things: 

  1. Deep learning increases our capacity to know and to understand.  

  2. As we begin to engage our minds, our hearts, our bodies and our souls in learning, our desire and capacity to learn increases!  

  3. Deep learning increases effectiveness and our power to take action.

For example, I ask students in my classes to act on inspiration or promptings they receive during the semester. One student felt inspired to share a talk we had read with a family he had taught on his mission. He said within twenty minutes he received a response from the father. He thanked him for the article and described how they had been off the gospel track for some time and they did not know how to start again. The article that was shared with him gave him the direction and inspiration that he needed to start back.  

This simple illustration is evidence that God knows what we are doing and what others need. If we act, our capacity to do good will increase and our willingness and ability to do the Lord's work will also increase.  

Learning deeply can help us become more like our Heavenly Parents. Becoming is a process. It is a process of change in (our) character and very nature… It comes through the redeeming and strengthening power of Jesus Christ. When we take action with ourselves, again the reflexive verb, the Savior will increase our capacities and helps us become, what we truly hope to become, more like our Heavenly Parents.  

While you are here at LDS Business College, I invite you to learn deeply, apply your mind, your heart, your soul, your body and as you do you will receive greater power to learn, to take action and you will become more like your Heavenly Parents.  

Now, today many of you are sitting here in response to President Kusch’s invitation to make devotional a part of your weekly worship, and you have responded faithfully, hoping that in coming here you might receive some guidance or instruction from the Holy Ghost - something you need in your life. I hope for the same, but why are you really here at LDS Business College? Speaking to students at BYU, President Kevin J. Worthenii explained: “since he became president of the Church, President Nelson has emphasized that the gathering of scattered Israel is the greatest challenge, the greatest cause, and the greatest work on earth. . .. 

He said, ... nothing happening on this earth right now that is more important. ... nothing of greater consequence. Absolutely nothing.”iii 

“The gathering envisioned by President Nelson is stunningly broad and at the same time remarkably focused... It involves “all of God’s children on both sides of the veil.”iv 

But what does that have to do with you and I and why we are here today?  

You are aware that the Church spends millions of dollars to support education. There are multiple institutions of higher learning in the Church Educational System. A large amount of money is spent by the Church to support LDSBC and specifically you, the students at LDS Business College. Why? 

“The Prophet Joseph Smith taught: “Intelligence is the great object of our holy religion. ... Intelligence is the result of education, and education can only be obtained by living in compact society.  

"One of the principal objects then, of our coming together, is to obtain the advantages of education; and in order to do this, a compact society is absolutely necessary.”v 

So, in part, the great gathering in the last days has included you and I being gathered here to this place, specifically for the purpose of being educated together. To what end? You know the mission statement of LDS Business College. It is “to develop capable and trusted disciples of Jesus Christ.”   

Brigham Young taught: “Education is the power to think clearly, the power to act well in the world’s work, and the power to appreciate life.”vi  

You and I have been gathered here as part of the great gathering. We have become an ideal ‘compact society,’ with students from around the globe, a motivated and talented faculty and a physical facility, an inspired college president and a physical facility and the resources that make our education possible. This is part of the gathering of scattered Israel. To bring you and me together, all of us together.  

The people who occupy the chairs next to you have unique experiences in the world and in the Church. Building relationships and sharing experiences enlarges and enhances our education. It makes us aware of things we would otherwise miss; it increases our vision, understanding, empathy and our capacity. Remember why we are here. Part of the great gathering is that you and I will become capable and trusted disciples of Jesus Christ.  

I love the opportunity to increase our learning as the worldwide experiences collide in our classrooms.  

In one of my classes on preparation for marriage, it became obvious that some had differing viewpoints. One faithful young man from India quietly explained that before he was married, he never saw his wife. He spoke to her on the phone but had never seen her face until after they were married. Most of the class was in shock, but he quietly continued to describe his marital happiness. As the class discussed these ideas, another single young man in the class described his situation. He too, was from a country where marriages were arranged. He simply said, “I want my parents to help me make this important decision, they are wise and know more about the world than I do. I know I will come to love the person they choose for me.”  

After a few moments of stunned silence one student observed, “no matter what country or tradition we come from, we can always ask our Father in Heaven to help us make the right choices, especially about such important topics.” I loved the classroom collision and the insightful conversation that brought us to that conclusion.   

In the instructions given to create the “School of the Prophets” the Lord said, “Appoint among yourselves a teacher, and let not all be spokesmen at once; but let one speak at a time and let all listen unto his sayings, that when all have spoken that all may be edified of all.” 

I’ve had students describe that experience, using these words: 

One student said, “I am learning that I love to participate and share what I have learned with others. I also love to hear what others have learned.” 

Another student said, “I still get very nervous when talking with people I do not know. However, I am beginning to feel more confident and comfortable with my classmates. I would like to get to the point where I can share what I have learned in a clear and meaningful way.” 

If you have been paying attention, you will have noticed some things that are distinctive about your educational experience at LDS Business College. You may have seen President Kusch in a TED talk describe immersive learning, and you may have seen posters describing the learning pattern here at LDS Business College.  

You are being invited to do much more than learn facts and figures, you are being invited to be immersed in the content and the process of learning.  

By gathering you to this place, at this time, the Lord is trying to give you power. Power to think, power to learn, power to act and the power to appreciate life. This integrated experience will help us all become more trusted and capable disciples of Jesus Christ in every aspect of our lives. We will begin to be prepared for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  

Elder David A. Bednar observed, “Learning by faith and from experience are two of the central features of the Father’s plan of happiness. We could not have simply memorized celestial laws in our premortal life and declared ourselves fit for the celestial kingdom. We needed to come to this mortal existence to experience certain things we could not experience in our premortal life. Experience is a key part of our mortal learning process. 

"Similarly, (we) cannot learn all (we) need to learn by memorizing or even discussing principles in a classroom... Experience connects theory with application and deepens our understanding of the principles and truths we learn.” 

In President Kusch’s’ Ted talk, he described handing accounting students a box of receipts on the first day of class and allowing them to determine how they would proceed to organize the receipts - how to organize themselves to learn and apply the concepts of accounting that would help them be successful.  

Your LDS Business College education combines learning and study and experience that will prepare you for anything. Let me illustrate using an account from the Book of Mormon.  

You all know the story of Nephi and his brothers being invited by Lehi to return to Jerusalem to get the Brass Plates. Consider this question: Was it more important for Nephi to get the plates or to have the plates?  

Lehi could have taught Nephi and his brothers all the facts found in the Brass Plates, and I’m sure he actually tried, but what did Nephi learn (for himself) by returning to Jerusalem to get the plates? And how did that experience affect his future study or his actions or the rest of his life? 

I think he learned a few things. Some of the things Nephi probably learned for himself was: 

  • God really speaks to prophets. 

  • God would prepare and strengthen those who would listen to the prophets. 

  • Money doesn’t solve all our problems.  

  • God would speak to him, Nephi. 

  • Faith is a principle of power and action. 

  • God will always provide. 

  • Miracles really do happen. 

I asked students in my religion class, my Eternal Family class, to take something they learn during the semester and apply it in their lives. A few semesters ago, one young lady said that after we had discussed relationships in families she decided she was going to make an effort to improve her relationship with her father, but he was living halfway around the world. So, she decided to text him and to see how he was doing. She said the response was pretty brief, “I’m fine.” She continued through the semester and she realized she wasn’t making much progress so she decided to call him and talk. She described the first phone calls, very brief and quiet, and slowly they started to talk. On the last day of the semester she reported that the night before her father had called her, and for the first time in their lives, they really talked.  

What did she learn because she was willing to act? Was it more important that she learned about families and relationships in class, or that she acted? 

You have enrolled in one of the Lord’s institutions of higher learning. The mission of this college is to develop capable and trusted disciples of Jesus Christ. Can those aims be achieved without your agency? Will you become a capable and trusted disciple of Jesus Christ because of the faculty or the administration? No, no external force can make this happen, this is your choice.  

Lehi taught his son Jacob that we are “free to choose”vii and we have been commanded in modern times to “be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of (our) own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness…”viii 

My hope is that you will make the choice to learn deeply, with your mind, your body, your spirit, even your whole soul. That you won’t sit back, that you will jump in.  

I hope you take advantage of this compact society where we have been gathered together. It’s a perfect society for learning and growth. Engage with students and teachers that are here.  

And finally, I hope, like Nephi, you put into action the things that you learn. Go and get the plates for yourself, you will never be the same.  

The mission of the College and God’s plan for our eternal happiness can only be achieved if you exercise agency and you choose to learn deeply. May God bless you and strengthen you. Take advantage of this wonderful opportunity that you have been given to be gathered together in a compact society dedicated to learning. May you be prepared to do all the things the Savior has brought you to this earth to do. I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.  


[1] Learning for the Whole Soul, August 2017

[2] Kevin J Worthen, September 10, 2019 • Devotional. Gathering” Education in a Compact Society

[3] . Russell M. Nelson, in Russell M. Nelson and Wendy W. Nelson, “Hope of Israel,” worldwide youth devotional, 3 June 2018, churchofjesuschrist .org/study/new-era/2018/08-se/hope-of-israel ?lang=eng; emphasis in original.

[4] Russell M. Nelson, “Let Us All Press On,” Ensign, May 2018.

[5] Joseph Smith, “To the Saints Abroad,” Elders’ Journal 1, no. 4 (August 1838): 53; emphasis added. Quoted in Terryl L. Givens, Feeding the Flock: The Foundations of Mormon Thought: Church and Praxis (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017), 37.

[6] (quoted by George H. Brimhall in “The Brigham Young University,” Improvement Era, vol. 23, no. 9 [July 1920]: 831).

[7] 2 Nephi 2:27

[8] DC 58:27-28


Close Modal