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Neal Hooper

I'll Go Where You Want Me To Go                                                                  

I am so grateful to be here with you all today. I’m also grateful that it’s summer semester and that it’s the end of the semester and we’re not filled to capacity. This is not the first time that I’ve had the opportunity to speak at this sacred pulpit, but it will be my last. And just to clear up any misconceptions, it’s not because I’m graduating. Contrary to popular belief, I’m actually not a student here at LDS Business College, nor am I the student body president. But I am so grateful for my time at the LDS Business College.

I just want to start by asking you guys a question: who can tell me what the three E’s of the LDSBC’s mission statement are?

[Audience member responds.]

All right! He gets the grand prize. Enlighten minds, elevate hope, and ennoble souls. We’ll get you a gift card to somewhere after the devotional. I just want to touch on these three things because I have a strong testimony that the LDS Business College meets these three aims.

I want to tell you a story that has profoundly impacted my life. There was a young man who felt prompted to attend LDSBC right after his mission, and summoning all the faith he possessed, he hopped on a train and he came out here to Utah with nothing more than a suitcase, a guitar, and a couple hundred dollars he had left over from doing summer sales. He found a little place off 200 West called the Downtown Duplex—has anyone in here lived in the Downtown Duplex? All right, I don’t need to add anyone’s name to the prayer roll. That’s okay.

After he had paid his deposit and his first month’s rent, he had $120 left to his name. He had not paid tuition, he hadn’t even bought his books, and he had no mode of transportation—which made dating difficult, but we’ll talk about that in a minute. Something else he didn’t have a lot of was hope. In fact, he had even bought a train ticket to return home because he didn’t see any path to success for him at LDS Business College. He thought that his adventure was over before it even began.

But something interesting happened. The day before he was going to return home on the train, he felt prompted to attend something called New Student Orientation. And so against all logic, he got ready and attended NSO. While there, he received a confirmation that he was exactly where the Lord needed him to be. He was guided to seek out and talk to the people who showed him scholarships he wasn’t aware of, and he even got a part-time student employee job to subsidize his steady diet of Top Ramen and rice. And it wasn’t long before things began to work out for this student, and his hope was elevated.

The reason that story has impacted my life so much is that it’s actually my story. That is a picture of me at New Student Orientation that I found somewhere in an unknown shared hard drive. And you might not be able to see it, but behind those eyes there is a lot of fear. I just want to bear you my witness that as I came onto LDS Business College campus, I felt and witnessed firsthand that it is a temple of learning, and that it is a safe haven for those who are downtrodden, and that it is a place where our hope can be elevated to new heights. I also learned something about hope and what it means. It means, “Hang on. Pain ends.”

After that first semester, I went on to do many things. I got very involved. I started a club at the campus. I got to ride a cake, which was pretty cool. I got to be involved with mentors and ambassadors, and to serve in leadership positions. And I even got to do some acrobatics, which I am no longer capable of doing, unfortunately. Doesn’t she look really scared, the girl over in the corner? She’s ready to call 9-1-1.

I also had many great experiences and opportunities that I am so grateful for. I got to rub shoulders with some of the “noble and great ones”[2] and be mentored by many people who helped me along the path. I eventually graduated in under two years—this is not a four-year school—and I learned firsthand the power of minds being enlightened.

I also felt the power of this quote from Elder Dale G. Renlund: “God cares a lot more about who we are and who we are becoming than about who we once were.”[3] But that was just the beginning.

After I graduated and I went on to work for the Church, I didn’t imagine that just a year and a half later I would have the opportunity to come back to LDS Business College and work full time doing something that I love—and that is working with amazing people. This is when my soul was ennobled; it was through each one of you. Over these last three years, as an employee for the College, I’ve learned what it means to lead. I’ve learned what it means to communicate with heaven. I’ve learned what it means to love. I’ve learned how to mentor and how to be mentored.

But most of all, I’ve become something much greater through heaven’s help and through the kind mentoring and love of each one of you. There have been many choice people and souls who have taken the time to improve my life and to help me along my path. But the one who has helped me the most and ennobled my soul far greater than anyone is my sweet and faithful wife, whose bright countenance and light I first witnessed in this very room almost four years ago. I would be nothing without her, and I’m so grateful for her.

If I were to share one piece of counsel aside from the importance of marrying up, it would be this: hold to the iron rod with a white-knuckle grip and never let go. The word of God will see you through dark and turbulent times. The word of God will empower you with the Spirit, and the word of God will save your soul.

I am so grateful for the LDS Business College and for everything I have learned and become through it, and to the wonderful people here. As I look out and I see so many people who have impacted me so deeply, I feel so inadequate of expressing my gratitude for each one of you, for the impact you’ve had in my life.

I just want to end with the words from our opening hymn:

I’ll go where you want me to go, dear Lord,

Over mountain or plain or sea;

I’ll say what you want me to say, dear Lord;

I’ll be what you want me to be.[4]

This is my prayer, and I leave that with you, with all of the gratitude I possess, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Adrian Juchau:

Thank you, Nancy. Thank you to those who put together that lovely video, and thank you, Brother Hooper. Thank you for your service here, for your examples. We hope that you all have learned something from their stories that can be helpful to you. Following my piece of this program, we will be privileged to hear from President Richards, which we look forward to very much.

Those who invited me—I would never of my own accord choose to do a musical number for you, not ever—but we ask you to do certain things, so I probably had better do the things the College asks of me so I can be a good example to you, right? Those who asked me to do that thought it would be appropriate if I took a moment to introduce the musical number I am going to play.

Here’s a scripture: “The song of the righteous is a prayer unto me.”[5] What does that really mean? If my wife were here today, she’d tell you right now that this arrangement that I’m going to play for you of “Lord, I Would Follow Thee,”[6] is not one of my best. Think about this “song of the righteous” piece. You’ve heard musical numbers before where you think, “They may be righteous, but they haven’t got a prayer.” That might describe me today. I’m not sure. I appreciate your prayers.

What does that really mean, though? I don’t know all that it means, but I’ll share with you just one quick little thought of what it means to me. I don’t want you to listen so much to the music today as I want you to pay attention to this message. The song of the righteous is a prayer unto me. We learn in the Bible Dictionary that “prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other.” My favor to you is when I have to walk over there and get behind that piano and my hands are shaking, that you not listen so much to the music but that you take that moment to find out what Heavenly Father’s will is for you and align yours with it.

You might turn—and I would invite you to do so now—in your smart devices to hymn number 220, if you’d like to look at the words while I’m playing, and consider that message. You read in the front of the hymn book that some of the greatest sermons are taught to us through song. There are no words today, but there are the words for you, and you can study those words while I play and you try to find out Heaven’s will for you.

This is a hymn of discipleship. This is a college of discipleship. We hold you accountable through grades for skills like accounting and interior design and those kinds of things. But heaven, who provides sacred tithing funds for you to be here, in a coming day will hold you accountable for what you have done to deepen your discipleship.

Discipleship has something to do with learning. It has something to do with following and doing and becoming. As you contemplate the message of this hymn, I hope you will ask questions like “What would heaven have me learn? What would heaven have me do to bless others? How can I strengthen my relationship with heaven?”

There are clues in this song.[7] Look at just the first verse, really quickly:

Savior, may I learn to love thee,

Has your love for the Savior grown during your time here at the College? Have you come to understand how His Atonement is meaningful to you as you are struggling with math, or your roommate, or your teacher? AS you understand His Atonement and apply it better in your lives, your love for Him will grow.

Walk the path that thou hast shown,

Are you pointing in the right direction? Are you on the right path? Are you moving along at a good pace? As we sang that opening hymn today, I thought to myself, “Yea, I’ll go where you want me to go, but it might take me a long time to get there.” I don’t know if you felt the same way. But the thing is whether we get there, right? And we made it—that’s good.

The next line:

Pause to help and lift another,

You might say, “But it’s finals. I’m so busy. I don’t have time.” Can you find strength beyond your own to serve another? To do the things that He would have you do? Anyway, I would just invite you to contemplate the message of this hymn while I play it. And if that’s not good enough, maybe just sit back and listen to the music, and I am hopeful with all of my heart that you might be able to feel something of the Spirit, and if the words don’t teach you something, maybe the Spirit will.

I’ll tell you just one little thought about what I feel like when I play this for you. I hope that I haven’t buried the melody of this hymn too much. I’ve introduced a counter-melody, and this counter-melody makes me contemplate the heavens. I love the stars. I love to ponder, looking at the stars. And you’ll hear that in here.

And if I ponder—this is a real story; this is how this arrangement came—as I pondered, looking into the heavens, I felt as though I transcended this mortal creation and beheld with immortal eyes the creation of worlds without end. And I knew in my heart of hearts that all that could be mine if I would simply learn the lesson of following Him. All that He has, all that He has created, and all that can be yours if you too will learn this simple lesson by following Him throughout mortality.

So I invite you to carry a prayer in your heart that this song will become a prayer of the righteous unto Him as you try to understand His will for you and pray for strength to better accomplish it. God bless you and me, each of us, worlds without end, to better strengthen our resolve to follow Him, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

[Piano arrangement of “Lord, I Would Follow Thee.”]

President J. Lawrence Richards:

Thank you, Adrian. I think I’ll talk about Nancy and Neal and Adrian for a minute; that may be the best use of our time. And we’ll do it within the context of maybe what Neal said earlier, and it caught my attention. Neal . . . The last verse of the chorus of our opening hymn—and this phrase is actually in the last line of the third verse, and then it’s repeated in the chorus every time. It is simply, “I’ll be what you want me to be.”[8] So within that context, let’s talk about Nancy for a minute.

Let me just ask you very quickly because we don’t have very much time, but I need you to respond. Somebody tell me what you heard or felt from what Nancy had to say. Somebody be brave; what did you hear or feel from what Nancy had to say?


I will stand where the Lord wants me to be. Nancy wants to be a tree. Did you hear it? And she said that she wanted to stand in sacred places, that she didn’t want to leave the Sacred Grove. Now, let’s hold that for a second. Let me make a little jump here.

What I like to do at the end of every semester is go back through every one of the devotionals, and the notes and impressions that I have taken, and I like to create a theme for me that I think heaven was trying to tell me—not in each individual devotional, but what was the whole? And for me, this semester, it had to do with Dan Masterson and where he left us in his talk about being humble seekers of happiness. And then I went to Joseph Smith, who said that the object and design of our whole existence is to be happy and then gave us the process of being happy.[9]

And then when Nancy was speaking, I thought about Brother Garner, who talked about sacred places. The Sacred Grove was not a sacred place until Joseph went in there and what happened, happened. And after that, Nancy—like all of us—wanted to be the trees who are able to withstand all the vicissitudes of life and stand in holy places. I had the great pleasure of being one of Nancy’s teachers. She and I were in an interior design class together, and I got to watch her. I got to see her talent. And I got to hear her expression, and it is just a delight, Nancy, to hear what you had to say today.

So in this whole process of being happy—it means we have an obligation to put ourselves in sacred places—to be trees.

Now, we also learned this semester from Sister Singley that if you don’t want to be a tree, when in doubt, be a tomato plant. Now, I don’t know about you, but oh boy, did I find wonderful principles that were said by Gail and not said by Gail about being a tomato plant. And I hope you wrote down some of the things the Spirit told you about being a tomato plant and the soil and the care and the watering and the cage. Why? That you may bring forth the greatest fruit in the season thereof. And tomato plants can’t do it on their own. So that’s why you’re at the College. And you heard from Nancy what the College has done for her, this community. You heard from Neil what the College has done for him to get the fruit on his tomato plants. And so it is with you and with me, and we only want to bear fruit.

So what are the fruits? Adrian Juchau, this very unusual character with wonderful gifts, has paid the price in his life to turn that gift to a talent, which is fruit for which we have been blessed. Are you with me? And so, Neil—I’ll tell you honestly about Neil. I knew Neil when he was a student and kind of romping around campus doing crazy things—a good boy, but Neil is Neil. And one day, Adrian Juchau comes into my office and he says, “Do you remember this Neil Hooper?”

I said, “Yes. Didn’t he start a club or something?” Yes, he did.

And Adrian said, “I want to hire Neil Hooper full time.” And I remember the conversation, Neil and Adrian; I can tell you now. I said to Adrian versions of “What have you been drinking? This is a student, and we’re hiring him for a very important position at this institution? And putting into Neil Hooper’s trust many of the non-classroom curricula of this institution?”

And Adrian was wise enough to look back at me without flinching, as Adrian does, and said, “Yes. I want to hire him.”

So, I’ll tell you what I’ve learned from Neil Hooper. And I heard it during this semester from Sister Warnas, who was quoting Mufasa and Simba. And you know what that quote is: “You are more than you have become.”[10] So, Neil showed you some slides about a young man who comes here—empty pockets, perhaps not much hope because the adversary put that into his heart—and he buys a ticket ready to go home. And the adversary and his little imps, if you are to read The Screwtape Letters,[11] are just happy as can be. They want Neil on that train going home, to give up. But he sticks it through, and you get New Student Orientation. So, Neil for me is kind of like a poster child for LDS Business College.

So, what do I learn from Neil? What I learn from Neil is that Father in Heaven will take righteous individuals—no matter how afraid they are, no matter what little hope they have, no matter how they did or did not do in high school—and He, the Lord, will make of you what He will if you will but let Him, by holding onto the Iron Rod “with a white-knuckled grip,” Neil said.

So, let’s connect the dots. Here is Nancy, who is gifted and turns it into a talent; she finds her way here because of the recommendation of someone else. I’m sure it wasn’t all just peaches and cream for Nancy while she was here. If it was, then Nancy didn’t work hard enough, didn’t push herself hard enough. But Nancy wants to be a tree, to stand the vicissitudes of life, and to stand in holy places that there may be, as Brother Garner taught us, sacred experiences in sacred places.

And Neil, with his hopes and his fears—and no matter what his past was in high school or before, he comes. And somebody here at the institution sees potential. Somebody here—for me, Adrian Juchau’s nickname from now on is Mufasa. And brothers and sisters, so it is for every faculty member and every staff member who has had the privilege and the honor of rubbing shoulders with you. And every once in a while, the Lord gives us a vision of you. And you are more than you have become, and Father in Heaven will help you get there.

May you have in your life the kind of willingness to pay the price, to take a gift and to make it a talent—as we heard at the piano today—that becomes part of the tomatoes that bless and lift and inspire other people. So my parting invitation to you, because we are out of time, is for you to spend a little time—I promise you this: it will not detract from your ability to be effective with your final projects or your finals. I make you this promise—that if you will go pick up your little black book and go through it and see what the Lord has for you in the totality of all the devotionals that you have attended, I promise you there is a message there for you about your life in the totality. And in that totality, you will find steps—as I have found for me—steps that people have said (and they weren’t all the same speakers who said them, but the steps are there) for what I need to do to accomplish now about what the Lord wants me to do. And it is a blessing and a gift to you and to me because we’ve been here together nearly every week.

I pray that you will take advantage of that opportunity to have the Lord speak to you in that kind of highly personal way. And then get on your knees and thank Him for it. And then get off your knees and move your feet, because I don’t think the Lord takes very kindly the idea of giving you personal inspiration and revelation and guidance, and then to watch us be flippant with it.

When the Hoopers have their little girl and she becomes about nine or eight, Mom will say something in wise counsel, and Mom won’t be very happy when that little girl doesn’t take it because Mom knows it will bless her life. Well, your Father in Heaven, brothers and sisters, is no different than Sister Hooper or your parents in that regard.

Now, I pray the Lord’s blessings to be upon you. I pray that you will be a light. It’s interesting to me to stand at the door—now you can tell the visitors who are your age when they come because they don’t dress like you, but they also don’t look in their faces like you. Because you have a light, and you’ve paid the price for that light in your face. It was that light that made the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem concerned when the lease was signed for the Jerusalem Center for BYU, because the lease said that we would not proselyte. But one of the good leaders came up to one of the Brethren who was there—and I can’t remember whether it was Elder Oaks who was the president of BYU or if it was Elder Holland, but the story was told by Elder Faust—that after the lease was signed that we would not proselyte, one of those good Jewish leaders came up and said, “Oh, we know that you are not going to proselyte, but what are you going to do about the light that is in their eyes?”[12]

My testimony is strengthened because of the look in your eyes, and I am grateful for the blessing of being associated with you and pray Father in Heaven’s blessings to be upon you in their richness. And I leave you that in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

[1] Attributed to Leonardo da Vinci.

[2] Abraham 3:22.

[3] Dale G. Renlund. “Latter-day Saints Keep on Trying,” Apr. 2015 General Conference.

[4] “I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go,” Hymns, no. 270.

[5] D&C 25:12.

[6] “Lord, I Would Follow Thee,” Hymns, no. 220.

[7] “Lord, I Would Follow Thee,” Hymns, no. 220.

[8] “I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go,” Hymns, no. 270.

[9] See Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith (1976), p. 255–56.

[10] See The Lion King, Walt Disney Pictures, (1995).

[11] C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, (1942).

[12] James E. Faust, “The Light in Their Eyes,” Oct. 2005 General Conference.


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