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Pres. J. Lawrence Richards

Just for Today


You just have no idea how good you are, nor do you know how much the Lord loves you. Nor do you know the depth of the meaning of the hymn we just sang. It’s one that can be plumbed and mined deeply, and in a little bit, you’ll know why we chose that hymn today.

Brother Nelson likes to set very high standards, and so he said you look good, but we’ll work on “great.” Tuesday is devotional day and a great day to look your best. It’s a day to show your Father in Heaven, by the way you dress, that you appreciate the blessings He has given you here at the College. That’s why I dress up for Him every day, and for you.

For the next thirty minutes, will you forget that I am the College president? I want to talk to you in a different way. I don’t want to talk to you like a bishop, and I don’t want to talk to you like your dad. I don’t even want to talk to you like I’m your friend, though I am. I want to talk to you today like your big brother, part of your family, but maybe one who has had just a little more experience than you’ve had. And because I want to be your big brother today, will you allow me to look backwards in my life and share with you some things that I’ve learned that I think would be helpful to you? The only reason I want to talk to you as your big brother is because of my love for you, for what you stand for, for who you are, and not necessarily what you do.

I want to talk to you this way because I see great potential in you, and I see the world in front of you. I wish in some ways I could trade places with you. I’d do some things a little differently.

I also see great snares that are in the road ahead designed to block your progression. And though you think you are really quite wise, in some ways you are really still very naïve. Life is going to teach you some lessons. It’s going to do it one of two ways—you can either learn those lessons by heeding what some of us who are just a little bit farther down the path have learned; or you can learn it by the things that you suffer. It’s really your choice. I pray with all my heart that the Lord will not have you suffer beyond that which is necessary for you to be purified, and that you will heed the counsel given by others—in scriptures, in prophetic statements from the prophets, Church manuals and magazines, and what the Spirit says to you every week in these devotionals.

Because I want to talk to you as a family member, you will forgive me if I don’t carefully pick my words or soft-pedal what I have to say. You will forgive me because, as family members, we trust each other, and you know that I would never say a thing that would hurt you or mislead you. You know, as the scriptures say, that my love for you and my “faithfulness [to you] is stronger than the cords of death,” (D&C 121:44) and as the scriptures say, every day that I walk through this door, I receive you in a covenant that is “fixed, immovable, and unchangeable, to be your friend and [your] brother.” (D&C 88:133)

Now as a little preface before we get to what I want to talk about, we lost a family member. Those of you who don’t know, Tatsu Ito passed away on Friday. He was one of us. He taught us much in the relatively short time that he was here at the College. His association along, with his brother Dan, brings out the best in us. Tatsu increased our gratitude and decreased the severity of the minor complaints that we have when we think about the hand we were dealt to play. He taught us about trying and achieving and how to face every day successfully. He created for some of us the opportunity to lift in charitable service to him, and for those of you who did so on a consistent basis, bless you. Greater blessings await you, including the day when you and Tatsu will embrace and you will walk together. You who have helped and continue to help his brother Dan, know, as President Adam Fisher said not too long ago, “I thought they needed my help; I never knew how much I needed them.”

A few of the students were with Tatsu on Friday up at the hospital before he passed away. They sang to him his favorite hymn, “The Spirit of God.” And they said their goodbyes. So we shed a few tears today over the temporary loss of a family member, that we may take what Tatsu helped us learn and move forward, with faith and effort, as better people because of having known him and having been blessed to see his example of faithfulness and courage.

But be assured of this: Tatsu lives as much today as he did Friday morning. The difference is that he has laid down a body temporarily which he will take up again. And he will do it in the morning of the First Resurrection, and it will be perfected. And so today, Tatsu’s spirit is free. He speaks clearly, he walks, he has leapt for joy at the assurance of things he only once hoped for but now have become the evidence of the things he had not seen before. (See Hebrews 11:1)

There is no bodily discomfort, there is no pain. Tatsu has now felt the loving embrace of other family members who preceded him through the veil. And surely of all people, Tatsu has been embraced by another Brother, who paid the price that Tatsu might live again and be reunited with his body, perfected, and achieve with his family glories that are celestial.

There will be a funeral service for Tatsu on Saturday at the Salt Lake Stake Center. It’s the white church northwest of the Conference Center. It will be at 12:00noon. There will be a viewing preceding, at 11:00 on Saturday. On Friday night at Larkin Mortuary, which is 260 South Temple, a viewing will be held from 6:00-8:00 p.m., to which you are invited. And so, Brother and Sister Ito, we extend our love. We extend our appreciation for having known Tatsu, and our continuing appreciation for the privilege of knowing Dan. They bless us. So thank you.

And Dan, we honor you. We honor you, Dan, for your courage and your faith and for your example. You just make us feel doggone happy every time we’re around you. So I thank you for blessing my life as well. Okay, now we can all pull out a Kleenex and we’ll be done here, okay? And we’ll move on from this tender subject.

Now, as your brother, I want to share five strategies for you I think will make for a great year. Some of these strategies I’ve learned from my own experience, and some of these strategies I’ve learned by watching other students who have come through the College and been very successful. Some of the strategies are the result of watching other students come through the College, and they graduated but they never really “got” us. You know what I mean? They never really got us. And some strategies I’ve learned because of a few students we have sent home before they completed their education.

Here  is strategy #1: Just for today, quit thinking, and acting, and looking like something or someone you are not and embrace who you really are.Now, that sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Pretty simple. Just for today, quit thinking, and acting, and looking like what you are not, and embrace what you think you really are. I’m going to show you a little video about fleas, and I’ll let you determine associated principles.  In case you don’t get it, I’ll help you.

[Video:] “This requires a glass jar with a lid. The fleas are placed inside the jar, and the lid is then sealed. Now they are undisturbed for three days. When the jar is opened, the fleas will not jump out. In fact, the fleas will never jump higher than the level set by the lid. Their behavior is now set for the rest of their lives, and when these fleas reproduce, their offspring will automatically follow their example.”

 If that was a little hard for you, we’ll do another one. Do you know how they get really large elephants not to move? When they’re very young, they tie a very large rope around their leg, and they put a stake in the ground. The elephant tries to move it a few times, but can’t. And so, when the elephant gets older, they don’t have to put a large rope around its leg; they put a little tiny one. But that elephant believes, because of some life experience, that they can’t, and so they don’t try.

Here is the point. We have self-limiting behavior that teaches us we are less than what we are and blocks us from moving forward. It comes out this way: “Oh, that’s just the way I am.” Or it comes out this way: “Well, I can’t. I’ve never been able to.” Or this one: “I’m just not very good at prayer, or at speaking, or having charity.” Brothers and sisters, stop acting like something you’re not. Whatever your past experiences have been or your self-imposed limitations or what you think you are not capable of, reject it.  You are far more capable than you think. And then you couple that with the Spirit in your life and oh, my goodness, get out of your way, because you will accomplish great things.

Whatever junk has happened, whatever lid was on your jar, it’s gone. Whatever you think has tethered you mightily as a baby elephant, you have the strength to overcome it. But let’s not kid ourselves—how do we overcome those things? It will not be by simply praying to Father in Heaven, saying, “Will you please relieve me of the burden?” When Nephi prayed to have his bonds loosened, read carefully what he prayed for. . He prayed for the strength to do it. I don’t think the bonds fell off his arms. I’m sure he got a rash.  There was probably some blood. . So I encourage you to quit thinking and acting and looking like something that you’re not, and embrace who you are. And you know it. You’ve sung it forever in Primary. I pray the day will come when you actually believe you are a child of God and therefore endowed with all the capabilities of Godhood, yes, even in this life.

So what’s the second application of this strategy? You can misinterpret some of life’s tough experiences, the tailored tutorials that Heaven gives you. You can misinterpret them by letting them define you or become you or overpower your confidence. Let it go. Whether it’s shyness, whether it’s an experience that happened to you in the mission field, let it go.

Under this strategy, this is the place to discover what your gifts and talents are. It really is. If you couple that with developed skills, on top of those gifts and those talents, and you learn how to tell your story to other people and prospective employers, you are armed! You are ready to go. I’ll give you an example about that.

We had a student here in accounting. Her name is Jennifer Davidson.  She grew up on a farm in Washington.  At the time, she was a two-year student in accounting, with one year’s worth of experience. She sees in the newspaper an ad for an accountant, a four-year degree required and two years’ experience. Remember now, she had a two-year degree and one year experience, so she applies for the job. Right? And she gets it. She’s done a marvelous job and exceeded well and helped that company. If she had believed she wasn’t capable of stretching and going after that job, she wouldn’t have it. So please do not misinterpret life’s experiences. Relish the fact that this is a place to discover your skills and your talents, then learn how to tell your story. We can help you learn how to do all of that.

Now the last piece under this particular principle, this strategy is that this is a place to learn to look the part. I’ll tell you a little story. Back in the day when I was in the mission field, the Church was still very young. It was a long time ago. You weren’t born yet. You weren’t even a twinkle in your parents’ eyes. On one preparation day, then called “diversion day”—which, in itself, should tell you something – we were driving a little Toyota, on our way to play basketball. So we were in Levis and T-shirts and our sneakers. The car had a little problem. The steering wheel was tight—it was hard to turn. So my companion, Elder Rowley, said, “Let’s pull off the side of the road and say a prayer, because I’m concerned about the car.” We were going down the road at a fairly good clip. 

So we stopped and we prayed.  When we were finished, the driver turned the steering wheel to get us back on the road and it snapped. I mean, you could just spin it. So we called the mission president, because we were in trouble. The mission president called a tow company, and the tow truck and the mission president showed up about the same time. The mission president said, “These young men here, they are missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They have a wonderful message they’d like to share with you.”

The driver of the tow truck looks at us and he turns around to the mission president and said, “No, they’re not. I’ve seen Mormon missionaries. They don’t look like Mormon missionaries.”

Brothers and sisters, you go to LDS Business College. Many of you are returned missionaries. I invite you to continue to look the part. You can walk the halls and see ancient pictures of old people in funny dresses at this college. They came here with character; they built what we stand upon. We have no right to diminish it. We have no right to look like what we don’t believe.

George McDonald: “We are bound to say all that we [believe], but we are not bound to even look [like] what we don’t [believe].” I got that quote from Elder Holland. [From Elder Holland’s talk of Sept. 7, 1982, while serving as president of Brigham Young University. President Holland cited p. 142 of Creation in Christ, by Harold Shaw, 1976, as his source.]

Apostle Paul: “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” (1 Corinthians 13:11) Brethren, man up. If you need a shaver, I have one. The ninth floor has one. Don’t make me ask you, as your older brother, to honor the commitment you already made to a priesthood holder, okay? And sisters, it’s cold, so I’m not worried about you. But when it gets warm, I don’t want to see too much. As we used to say to some of the young ladies when I was a bishop, I know it’s hard to find dresses that are appropriate and the right length at both ends. Do you know what I mean? I would just tell them, “Don’t embarrass the deacons who are passing the sacrament to you.” Okay, enough said.

Now look, I don’t want you to walk around this place in sackcloth and ashes. This is a fun place. I want you to have fun. This is a great time in your life. You only do it once. Just do it right.

Here’s strategy #2: Just for today, qualify to go forth in the strength of the Lord. If there is something in your life that stands in the way of going forth in the strength of the Lord, I invite you to just stop it or get rid of it. If you can’t help it, get help. When you continue to do something you know is not right or good for you, but you continue to do it anyway—brothers and sisters, I will tell you that is a clinical definition of addiction. Do you hear me clearly? When you continue to do something you know you shouldn’t do, but you do it anyway, it can be called an addiction.  So if you’ve got it, get rid of it! You can couple the strength of who you are with your talents and your gifts and the skills that you are going to learn here, and go forth in the strength of the Lord. Then, look out! You can meet the challenges life is going to present to you. You really can. It will be wonderful for you. Life will be good. And will you get some junk that comes your way? Yes, because that’s what you signed up for. But you’ll be empowered to deal with it.

So here’s another piece with that strategy. Do not take counsel with your fears. Every fear you have hides an important vision of an opportunity that is here for you. Whether it’s freedom for the elephant, or getting out of the jar for the fleas, it doesn’t matter. Every fear hides a vision of an important opportunity for you. Someone said once, “Fear stands for this: False Evidence Appearing Real.” Fear—False Evidence Appearing Real. 

You cannot have faith and fear in your mind at the same time. Do you know that? And if you are here to learn by study and by faith, what does that say about fear? Discard it! If there was ever an opportunity in your life to take a risk in a classroom—inside the kingdom of God, inside a building that’s been dedicated, in a classroom that opens and ends with prayer, where we call each other brothers and sisters—if there was ever a time to take a risk with a thought or an idea to explore something, and fail, this is it! Because we’ll grab you, we’ll dust you off, we’ll pat you on the back, and we’ll send you on your way, and say, “Try again, until you get it.” That’s what we’ll do, because we love you and we want you to succeed and we want you to master what Heaven has for you to learn at this part of your life. Are you ready? Do you know that?

Here’s another part of this strategy. The power of the Atonement is far more reaching than you think. You see, we grow up thinking that the Atonement is just for the remission of our sins. Listen to Elder Bednar: “I’m not so sure, however, that we know and understand that the Atonement is…for saints—for good men and women who are obedient and worthy and conscientious and who are striving to become better and [to] serve more faithfully. I frankly do not think many of us ‘get it’ concerning this enabling and strengthening aspect of the Atonement, and I wonder if we mistakenly believe we must make the journey from good to better and become [saints] all by ourselves through sheer grit, willpower…discipline, and…our obviously limited [capabilities].” (Bednar, David A. BYU Devotional Oct. 23, 2001.

Brothers and sisters, the Atonement is there to make bad men good and good men better, and you are good men and women. The enabling power of the Atonement makes you brighter and increases all your capabilities to learn.  So use it.  You are entitled to call upon the powers of heaven to come down, and for angels to support you when you have done all that you can do. You who hold the priesthood especially have that opportunity and responsibility when you home teach, and when you’re in an elevator, and when you see somebody that needs help. If God is going to lift them, who do you think is going to do it? We are!

Strategy number 3Just for today, will you take the Lord at His word?Just for today, will you take the Lord at His word and trust Him? Listen to His voice: “I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit…in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.” (D&C 84:88)

“Behold, I say unto you, go forth as I have commanded you; repent of all your sins; ask and ye shall receive; knock and it shall be opened unto you. 

“Behold, I will go before you and be your rearward; and I will be in your midst, and you shall not be confounded.” (D&C 49:26-27)

Oftentimes, we will believe in Jesus Christ. But oftentimes we won’t believe Him. Now when He makes a promise to you like the ones I just read, and you couple that with the Atonement, and you couple that with embracing who you really are, then we’re going to get out of your way. But too many of us do not claim the blessings that Father in Heaven has for us, because we don’t believe they apply to us. Listen to His promises for you:

“I delight to bless [you] with the greatest of all blessings.” (D&C 41:1) I delight to bless you with the greatest of blessings. And He has made it very clear how we do it and how He does it. 

“There is a law irrevocably decreed…before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.” (D&C 121:20-21; also see D&C 132:3, 5; 111:11; 121:33; 88:64)  He delights to bless you; He has told you how to do it.

And then, just to make sure you can trust Him, He says, “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.” (D&C 82:10) I invite you, brothers and sisters, to trust Him, to bind the Lord to His promises to you—the promises in the Scriptures, and the promises in your patriarchal blessings—you go bind Him, because He delights to bless you, and He has told you the conditions under which He will do it.

Strategy number 4: Just for today, will you be “All in”?I want to tell you a story about a pig and a chicken. They were walking down the street one day and there was a billboard, and on the billboard, was an advertisement for breakfast from the Dairy Association. On the billboard was a plate of eggs and bacon. The chicken says to the pig, “Don’t we look wonderful? Think of how many people we empower every morning. Think of how many people wake up every morning to us.” 

The pig is conspicuously silent. So the chicken tries again. “This is wonderful. Look at the contribution we’ve made to strengthen the people of the world.”

Finally, the pig says, “Look. For you, my friend chicken, it’s a contribution. For me, it’s a total commitment.”

I’m inviting you, brothers and sisters, to be “all in” this semester.  Be committed. “No [man] can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” (Luke 16:13)

“And Elijah came unto…the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow him.” (1 Kings 18:21)

Elder Holland gives us a modern version of those two scriptures.  “The future of [the] world has long been declared; the final outcome between good and evil is already known. There is absolutely no question…because the victory has already been posted on the scoreboard. The only really strange thing in all of this is that we are still down here on the [playing] field” deciding whose jersey we’re going to put on. (Holland, Jeffrey R.  Email correspondence from Elder Holland to John Bytheway, 1 June 2004)

Are you with me? I invite you, brothers and sisters, to “put on the jersey.” Wear the jersey as a reminder to be “all in.”

Strategy number 5: Just for today, deny yourself of all ungodliness.Moroni’s last statements to us are found in the 32nd verse of Moroni 10.  “Come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness.” What a wonderful goal. Just do it today. Okay? Just today. I invite you to deny yourself of everything that does not bring you the faith, hope, and charity that Moroni talked about. If something doesn’t lead to faith, hope, and charity in your life, don’t say it, don’t do it, don’t look like it, or don’t look at it. For just one day, deny yourself of all ungodliness.

So there are five strategies. Now why do I say do it just for today? Because improvement really is one day at a time. Part of what we are talking about is what Elder Maxwell described as “educating our desires.” (Maxwell, Neal A., “Free to Choose,” BYU Devotional, March 16, 2004)   Isn’t that a good way of expressing it? Educating our desires—that takes time. So you start today, one day. . Just do those five strategies—today. And then tomorrow, just do it today. And then the next day, just do it today. And pretty soon, you’ll be astounded. No, you won’t, because you won’t see the change. We’ll see it in you. We’ll see it in your face. We’ll see it, brethren, in your face. We’ll see it in your eyes. We will feel it in your spirit when we are in your presence.

That’s why I wanted to talk to you as your big brother, because I want to see it in you. It will come onto you so slowly, like the 121st section of the Doctrine and Covenants says,  as the dews distilling from heaven. It will be that slow. You can’t see dew, can you? You only come out in the morning, and there it is. If you stayed up all night watching for it you couldn’t see it as it started. It just is there. And that’s what will happen to you. I want to see it. And when we do that, we will have created a Zion people. Zion, Elder Holland said to some of us a couple of weeks ago, is not so much a place, but how we choose to live.

I invite you to employ those five strategies to help build Zion within these four walls—a little place of safety, a little place where the Spirit commands, a little place where you can be the real you without the pressures of the day, without the pressures of society.

Brothers and sisters, I love you. The Lord loves you. He lives. He is involved in the details of your life, if you will allow Him to be. God is our Father. Joseph was His prophet. We are led today by a prophet. I so testify, and leave his love, which he has asked us to do on several occasions—to leave the prophet’s love—with you as a blessing, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


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