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Pres. J. Lawrence Richards

Choose Not to Hold Back

How many are here to a devotional for the first time because you are a brand new student to the College?  The rest of you old timers know the drill, so you know what I’m going to say here for a second. For those who are here for the very first time, I want to tell you how this all works, no matter which week or who the devotional speaker is. The speaker may say something that is interesting, and may have bullet points and may say, “I have five of these and three of these things to remember”—that’s all well and good. But I’ll tell you what you should write down in your book: the things that the Spirit teaches you, the promptings of the still, small voice. What a wonderful opportunity we have every week to come and practice hearing the still, small voice for us, our individual needs, our wants, and our righteous desires. So I invite you today to start. Learn to listen with your heart and record what the Spirit would have you know. And then it won’t matter what the speaker says. You’ll have a great meeting.

Now I was going to sing in that choir of faculty, staff and administrators, but then I realized it’s customary for the speaker to thank the choir for a wonderful job. If I sang in the choir and then came down and thanked the choir, it would sound a little self-serving. So I decided not to do that. But I do want to thank the choir. They sounded pretty good, didn’t they? They are here because of their hearts and their skills.  Everyone who works at this College carries a temple recommend and, if our hearts are right, can help you develop the skills right for you. I testify to you that every person in that choir has a heart directed to you.

I want to introduce the thought that has been pressing upon my mind and heart. Then I’m goingto call on some people to come and express their thoughts. They’ve had about a half an hour’s warning. Those are the best thoughts, aren’t they? You don’t have time to be nervous. And when you’re not thinking about being nervous or focusing on yourself, the Spirit can do wonderful things through you to lift other people up and bless their lives.

So today’s theme is “holding back.” Here’s my wish for you—here’s the conclusion: that you choose to not hold back while at the College. You’re in a temple of learning at LDS Business College, in a building dedicated by a prophet of God, for the purpose of discovering your talents, layering a skill on top of those talents, and learning to tell your story to the world. Now that’s a pretty good deal, isn’t it? But some of you because of fear, because of a whole bunch of other reasons, will hold back. You will miss the opportunities Father in Heaven has already designed for you here, and for the purposes that He brought you here. So my prayer is you will not hold back.

Now, Randy was brave enough to talk about an experience he had the first time he blessed the sacrament. I bet somewhere in the world there is more than one young man who did it four times and refused to do a fifth and never came back. I’ll bet there’s more than one young man at the priest table who held back for the rest of his life.

I know a family who took a trip to Europe, to France. One of the daughters in that family took French in junior high and all through high school and for a couple of years in college. To the amazement of the family, when they got to France, she wouldn’t speak French. She held back.

I also know of a young woman who will not try to do something new, to take a risk, because for her, she has to be perfect at it the first time. So she holds back.

I also know of a young man who, because of events and teasing received in his life early in elementary school, continues as an adult to think of himself as less than his peers. He devalues himself and withholds a greater contribution because he holds back.

Now brothers and sisters, what’s the consequence? When we hold back, we deny ourselves opportunities for growth, and to strengthen the talents God has given us. Consequently, we miss out on those attendant blessings, and we may even fall short of fulfilling the specific mission God has for us.

Let me tell you a little story about my grandfather. He was an apostle, and he wrote this. His father was a patriarch, by the way, and when he was made a patriarch he practiced on his children. It seems a little odd, but he practiced on his children. So Grandpa wrote this. He said, “I received a patriarchal blessing when I was only eight years old, and among other things it said, ‘Thou hast not come here upon the earth by chance, but in fulfillment of the decrees of the Almighty to accomplish a great work.’”

Grandpa says, “Then it went on to detail about what I could do, and all my life as a boy I prayed that if I did not come here by chance, that the Lord would help me to live up, so that I would not be deprived of the privileges of doing the work that He sent me here to do.”

I cannot imagine anything that would be more disappointing than to return after this life and have the Lord say, ‘Well, LeGrand, we sent you to do such and such, but you wouldn’t do it. You got off on a detour, and we had to raise someone else up to do your work for you.’”

Then Grandpa continued: “If the veil could be parted and you could see who you were then, and then have a recollection and a vision of what awaits you, what the Lord had in mind for you, the noble and great ones who have come forth in this day and time, I do not think that any of you would while away your time. You want to make sure that you are using those gifts and talents that God has endowed you with for the honor and glory of His name and the blessings of His children.”

Now, many of you have traveled a very great distance to be at this College, and there has been a very great sacrifice on your part, of time and effort and money, possibly from friends and relatives and family as well. I invite you, brothers and sisters, to not hold back.

Now I’m going to ask a few people that are hereto come to the podium. I’m impressed to have them come and do this. Spend no more than two minutes and share with us an experience in your life of either holding back or not holding back, and what the consequences have been and what you’ve learned from it. I invite Miles Hunsaker, who is the program director of our interior design program. And then we’ll hear from Barbara Thompson. Barbara has worked here at the College for a while, and she’s about to depart to take a new job down at BYU. Then we’re going to hear from Tracy Williams. He’s the director of the Institute program here at the College. And then from Brent Cherrington, who is the chief information officer at the College. Then we’re going to hear from Mitch Pendleton, one of our brand-new, full-time faculty members. And then finally, I’m going to call upon my own daughter, Lauren Richards Wall. And then we’re just going to see how this talk develops. I pray for them. I pray for you, that you may hear what’s important to be heard. Brother Hunsaker.

Brother Miles Hunsaker:

It’s good to be with you, even standing right here. So the story I want to share with you is about one of my students. Her name is Haley—a great student, very committed to her schooling. She had an internship toward the end of her program here at the College. It was in Orem, and ended up being a full-time job for her after she graduated. So after about three months of working there, she called me one day and said, “Brother Hunsaker, can I come and talk to you?” Absolutely.

She came to talk to me and said, “You know, I know this is a good place for me to be, but I just feel like there’s a different place I should go. But I’m scared.” She grew up in Orem, she was working there, she hadn’t really moved anywhere from that point. We had a discussion about what possibilities she had or maybe thoughts or ideas she had. I encouraged her to pray about it, to spend some time and pray about it, get some impressions from the Spirit. So she spent the weekend considering the options, and then she came back to my office and we had a discussion.

She said, “You know, I’m impressed that I should look at St. George, but I’m nervous about moving. I don’t know what this means.”

I said, “Well, let’s look at that. Let’s look at what the options might be.” I said, “When do you want to go?”

She said, “Well, I don’t know that I want to go.”

I said, “Well, let’s just plan. You plan a trip to go down. Here’s a lead; here’s a company that I know down there. Go down and visit with them.”

She came back and she was full of life. She said, “I know that I belong there.” They offered her a job—they created a position for her as senior designer which was amazing for her as a new graduate. So she moved down. A lot of faith—she was scared. She was very nervous, but she did it.

She moved down to work for that company. They were one of the largest construction  and development companies in St. George. She was published several times in magazines, had clients in California that she flew out to meet with—this just exploded her career. [She] met her husband and started a family, and she was able to have her career to the point where she could taper back, work part-time, and raise her family.

I had a chance to run into her a couple of years ago, and it was incredible to hear her story. She bore witness to how important it is to follow the Spirit, to also take a chance, to step out of our comfort zone and to do what we know we should do but to consider what the Spirit has for us in store. That’s my story about Haley.

Sister Barbara Thompson:

I will do my best to express myself in a way that will send the intended message I have. I had a really easy story I could have shared about Sheri Dew and the BYU basketball team. It’s really good. Look it up—you’ll find great strength from it. But I feel prompted to share a story that’s obviously very personal. So again, I hope I express myself in a way that’s a blessing.

This experience was right after I graduated with my master’s degree from BYU. It was a few months after September 11th, 2001. The economy was terrible and I had a lot of options on where I could live. If I moved to Arizona, my sister’s father-in-law could hook me up with a job at Mesa Community College. And I had other options. But I felt I needed to move to the Vancouver, Washington/Portland, Oregon area, so I did. It was kind of blind faith, and I went. When I got there, I finally had time to look for a job and saw that I was living in the highest unemployment area in the nation. So it was a lot of fun. You couldn’t even find temp work there because the thousands of engineers and IT people that had been laid off were taking all the temp jobs. So this was quite a challenge for me. I had just worked so hard in school for seven years and had student loans to pay off and really wanted to breathe a little bit, because I felt I’d already been stretched so thin in school.

So in this situation I did a lot of praying and fasting and receiving blessings. And the Lord said, “Be still and know that I am God,” that “this is where I want you.” My agenda was, “I need a good job. I need to move forward in my career.” Heavenly Father’s agenda was, “I need to teach you something more important than getting a job and starting off in the career you want.”

So this actually went on for a really, really long time. My first year there I spent going to temp job to unemployment to temp job to unemployment. I don’t know how much you make a year now as college students, but I had made $12,000 as a graduate student the year before, working 10-20 hours a week. The year after that I made $8,000. So that lets you know how tough that was. This went on for a really long time. My family was concerned and my friends were concerned, and I was holding back some of my faith because of the opinions of others telling me that I was really stupid to stay there, that I had given up and I was living beneath my privileges. I was holding back because of my fear and uncertainty. I had worked hard and felt I had earned that security of having a job.

So I pressed forward. I did everything I could to learn about finding a job and learned about resumes and interviewing and cover letters and networking, and did everything I could. And still I wasn’t finding what I felt I needed. And Heavenly Father kept saying, “Be still and know that I am God.” So I wasn’t holding back in effort or time, because I’m one of those people that want to plan every detail of my life. But Heavenly Father was asking me to hold back my agenda and embrace His. And through that process I came to know Him more than I had ever known Him before, because He was there with me every step of the way and He suffered the things I suffered with me.

One thing He promised me through this was that one day I would have an abundance of opportunities, and also that when I was in situations where I needed the answers I would have them, as if I had read them from a book.

Several years later I was working at BYU-Idaho career services, where I worked for four years. I was taking these exams to certify as a resume writer nationally and an employment interview professional. I didn’t feel ready for them. I hadn’t been at my job very long, and I really didn’t feel ready. One of the exams was three days long, and I just did it because my department was paying for it and my boss expected me to do it. So I did it, but I was worried it was going to be a waste of their money.

When I was taking that exam, the answers came to me because the previous 5 ½ years of craziness I’d been through had taught me how to think and how to be a good career counselor. When I passed the exams, they didn’t give me any feedback, so I called them and said, “Do you have any corrective feedback? I know about four or five people reviewed this.” They said, “No. No one had any feedback for you.” I remembered that blessing that said the answers would come to you as though you read from a book.

And then I started experiencing all this abundance of opportunities where I had BYU-Provo calling and saying, “Hey, would you consider working down here? We could really use your skills down here.” And I had BYU-Hawaii saying, “Hey, we love what you’re doing there; could you come and work here?” And luckily the Lord let me come to LDS Business College for two years. I just want to testify that Heavenly Father keeps every single promise when we don’t hold back. When we hold back, all we’re doing is suffering in vain. When we let go and open our hearts and say, “Whatever you want, Heavenly Father; this is about you and your work, not me and mine,” that’s when we come to know Him and that’s when He can take us much higher than we ever thought possible. I’m grateful to have had some small experiences of that in my life. I’m grateful to know that Heavenly Father’s plan is perfect and that He knows a lot more than me. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Brother Tracy Williams:

It’s nice to be with you this morning, and it’s fun to barely see your faces. I’m grateful for the spirit you brought with you as you’ve come today. I’ve thought of the following phrase that kind of fits with what holding back, often why it happens. And it goes like this: Don’t allow fear to rob you of the action and power of faith.

We all face experiences that are frightening and new. You may be here going to school in a foreign land, trying to speak a language that’s not your native tongue, a strange city, new roommates—lots of different things you’re facing. I’m reminded of a group of young men that were put in a situation they had never been in before. They were asked by their leader the following question: “Therefore what say ye, my sons, will ye go against them to battle?” (Alma 56:44).

And these 2,000 young men said, “We will,” never having fought before. Many of you are going to face things that you’ve never faced before. You can and you must decide if you will face the challenges. All challenges are opportunities to grow and to progress and fly.

I’d like to share two short experiences. One took place 17 years ago in the Uintah Mountains. They’re the mountain range that’s east of the Wasatch Front that you see here. My daughter, who at the time was 14, wanted to hike King’s Peak with me and a group of other youth, and so I was taking them on a trip. As we got to the summit, she was starting to get sick from the altitude.

I said, “Do you want to stay here?”

She said, “No!”

I said, “Can you make it?”

She said, “If you’ll hold my hand, I can make it.” And so we hiked the final couple of miles to the very top. And as we got to the top, I almost had to carry her because she was so sick.

And as we were coming down it got worse, and at one point I turned to her and said, “Sweetheart, there will come times in your life when you will learn and lean back on this experience to face other hard things that will come in the future.” Today she is a mother of three children, living in Victor, New York which is about 20 minutes from Palmyra. She’s had many opportunities to fall back on that experience.

The last experience has to do with flying. Sailing often occurs by facing the wind. Sometimes we think it’s the wind that catches from behind and catches the sail. It’s from the wind that faces and hits us face on. And often times to maneuver, we do a term or maneuver called “tacking.”

When I was a little boy in 1959—I was 5 years old—my father took me to the elementary school and we flew a kite. We had it on this ball of string and it was going up and up, until it got to the end of the string. And being a little child I said, “Dad, cut the string. It will fly higher.”

He smiled and said, “Son, it will not. It will come crashing to the ground.”

I said, “It won’t. It will fly.”

He said, “Okay,” and he took out his pocket knife and cut the string. The kite began to wobble crazily and then nose-dived to the ground, some 200 feet and shattered into pieces. I looked at it and I looked at him, and he smiled. He said, “I told you.” And then he said this line, and this is my final thought for you. He said, “Son, if you want to fly, you’ve got to face the wind, and you’ve got to take it.”

Don’t be afraid to fly in the wind, face the challenges, exercise your faith, and to grow. I say that in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Brother Brent Cherrington:

For me, holding back has a synonym. The synonym is procrastination. A number of years ago as I was living in Ogden, north of here, I had the distinct impression, because my children were going to school there, that I should run for the Board of Education. The time was coming up and there was an opening on the board in my particular precinct. I procrastinated and didn’t file for the office, and another individual won.

A short time later, the company I was working for, which was interestingly enough the Church at that time, invited me to go to a meeting with a Christian minister whose name was Zig Ziglar. I don’t know if any of you have heard of him; he died just a short time ago. I listened to Zig Ziglar and he mentioned how we all have this potential within us to do what we want to do. He wrote a book called Just Do It. So I went to the seminar and I was all fired up, but the time had passed for the precinct that I was living in to file. It just so happened that the individual who won the election was called on a mission and had to vacate the seat on the school board. So I went down and applied and was selected, and it has made—as Robert Frost said—it has made “all the difference.”

The effect that it had on my life since that time—I was a computer programmer before, nothing wrong with that, in fact it’s something I enjoy doing—but it got me interested in education and led to a master’s degree in education and then led me here to the Business College. It has made all the difference in my life.

I encourage you to not procrastinate your feelings and the impressions that our Father in Heaven leaves with you, because He is directing your lives. I believe it. I leave that with you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Brother Mitch Pendleton:

I’ve been prompted to share a couple of things. The first one is about my wife. I want to share with you that she is amazing, and she is my rock. I married way up. We were both older when we got married, and I’ll share more about that in a couple of weeks from now and you’ll get to meet her and feel of her spirit. But before we were married, she did not hold back. She went on a mission. She was not going to do that but she was prompted so she did not hold back. She served very faithfully, amazing experiences happened to her, and then she came home and finished her degree. Then, prompted again, she went to law school. During that time is when we met, and our story goes from there. She did not sit around, she did not hold back but realized she was a daughter of God that needed to go forth and live up to the potential that was within her.

Let me share another quick story from the scriptures. Genesis 22 provides an interesting setting for, I think, one of the most powerful stories in scripture. Abraham is commanded to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice. I don’t think we can understand what that man went through, but he did not hold back but gathered wood and, being beckoned, was told, “Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering.” (v. 2)

What that man must have gone through, but he followed that. He was directed by the Lord to show himself, to prove himself, and he did not hold back. May I offer you my testimony of going for it? You are here for a reason and a purpose. You might not know that now, but you will. The Lord will bless you and you will gain insights here that you have not yet received in your life. It will be important that you follow the Spirit, that you follow those promptings, that you keep yourself worthy for following those promptings. And as you do so, you will be blessed. Don’t hold back. Go for it. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Sister Lauren Wall:

I think I need a Primary stool. So I am sure I’m not the only one of the last 30 minutes who hasn’t thought of all the times in their lives that they may have held back and missed an opportunity. I thought about the time I was a senior in high school and tried out for the boys’ golf team. I made it! Well, I missed the first three years because I didn’t have the guts to do it.

Or, I had a pretty good impression when I was a junior, going to school up at the U, that I should change my major. But that’s kind of intense, so I didn’t do that. So I’m a political science major and I dislike politics.

But it started me thinking. There is this really cool story that my father showed me when I was deciding whether or not to go on a mission. It’s when Joshua has taken over for Moses in leading the children of Israel. And he needs to sort of prove he is the new prophet, so they get to the waters of Jordan and they need to cross it.

The Lord says, “Well, here’s what you’re going to do. You’re going to send the priests down; they’re going to hold the Ark of the Covenant, and they need to step into the water. And then I’ll let you know what to do after that.”

So the priests go down, they take the Ark of the Covenant, which is super important. They step into the water, which, can you imagine the faith? It says in the scriptures that it’s flood season, so it’s not a little trickle they’re trying to cross. There’s a bit of a flood going on, and they take a step into the river and it parts. (See Joshua 3:1-17) And then they have to stand there while the children of Israel try to get through this river. Can you imagine looking up, you’re holding the Ark of the Covenant, you’re looking up the river, there’s maybe a wall of water, I don’t know, and thinking, “You know, it could come at any moment. I’m just going to stand here in this riverbed.”

But that to me is the essence of how our Heavenly Father works. It says He took them to the brink of the water, and then He made them get their feet wet. But I think that’s how our Heavenly Father works. And that is one of the biggest reasons we hold back -- we don’t want to get our feet wet.

So then I thought of a time when I didn’t hold back. When I was 21, I prayed to go on a mission. On the day that I fasted and prayed, I got a call from the stake president and I got a new church calling. When I was 23, I decided to pray again, and this time I was living in Illinois for just a short time. I prayed, I fasted, and on that day I got a call from the stake president in Utah, giving me a church calling. So I was thinking apparently this whole mission thing wasn’t supposed to happen.

Then I got to be 25, and I got a new car, and I got new golf clubs, and I graduated and got a new job that actually was in my major, and I went to a fireside.  The speaker was Elder [Dallin H.] Oaks. I sat there for a few minutes, and I had this impression that it was time for me to go on a mission. Honestly, I was like, “Are you kidding me? Really? That’s what your plan is?” And I fought it, and fought it for a little while until I knew that I couldn’t. But that in itself has been one of the biggest blessings in my life. The things that I learned, just for me, on my mission I have been able to apply at work, in my home, in my new marriage—the Lord knows what is best for us.

There’s a scripture in the Doctrine and Covenants that says, “Wherefore, be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you, and ye shall bear record of me, even Jesus Christ, that I am the Son of the living God, that I was, that I am, and that I am to come.” (D&C 68:6)

I know that for all of the different reasons we could hold back—whether it’s making a new friend, whether it’s putting our all into classes—if we trust in our Savior, He will give us the guts to do the things that we need to do in order to be the best that we can be. I know this to be true, and I say these things in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, amen.

President Richards:

Well, how do you like my talk so far? I think it’s been a pretty good one. Let me sum up a couple of things, because they gave my talk. Let me just amplify a couple of things. From Miles, I want to amplify following the Spirit and reaching out.

One of the ways we hold back is a reluctance to stretch just a little bit more. Brothers and sisters, the Lord expects us to stretch just a little bit more. I heard a colleague express it this way once. He said the Savior works on the frontiers, finding new ground, new avenues for our lives, pushing at the frontiers. And then he said, “The problem is that most of us want to spend our lives in the settlements, because it’s convenient and it’s stable and it’s consistent.” Life is like trying to go up a down escalator. When we pause we fall back. When we pause we hold back.

From Barbara, I learned that one of the remedies for holding back is to trust God and His plan for you. There was a plan for Barbara; she didn’t get to see it. There is a plan for you. Most of the time Heavenly Father just tells us to move our feet in a direction. And it’s when we look backwards we see how it all fits together. So brothers and sisters, we cannot hold back because it interrupts the plan that Heavenly Father has for you.

From Brother Williams—every fear hides a vision of your God-given potential and the plan for you. The Saturday after graduation here on Temple Square, Sister Richards and I came back to look at the flowers. It was Saturday morning, it was a little cool. Lots of marriages were going on in the temple. There was a father with about a 4-year-old little girl, pretty pink dress, very tiny little legs. They had walked out of the east side of the temple and were going to come down the sidewalk on the south side of the temple inside of Temple Square. You could see the look on that little girl’s face as she held her big daddy’s hand. She saw how far they had to go to the end of the sidewalk. Just as we were passing her, she turned with great faith in her father, doubting nothing, and lifting up her arms she said, “Daddy, will you lift me up now?”

She had gone as far as those little legs would carry her, but she could see the journey still in front of her. And for a season, she needed to be lifted.

Now can I share with you some a few quick points?  Let me give you some ideas about what holding back looks like at the College. To be here and not to take advantage of the full environment of what LDS Business College has for you is holding back. To come to class not prepared to engage in the discussions, or an unwillingness to contribute to the learning process—that’s holding back. To see another whose hands hang down, who temporarily has feeble knees, and withhold your succoring is holding back. In the parable of the Good Samaritan you know that there were those who held back and those who lifted.

Not doing your very best every day here is holding back, because you are living beneath your potential and your privileges. Taking the sacrament without an honest commitment to just be a little bit better this week than last week is holding back.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell said this: “Frankly, it is our prospective selves we betray by holding back…. [There is no need for us] to ask ‘Lord, is it I?’ (Matt. 26:22).  Rather, let us inquire about our individual stumbling blocks, ‘Lord, is it this?’ [And] we may have known the answer for a long time and may [simply] need resolve more than [we need a] response.” (“Consecrate Thy Performance,” April 2002 General Conference,

Finally, not seeking to identify and strengthen your God-given talents here is holding back.

So what are the remedies?

Number one: Trust in your divine potential.

Number two: Trust God’s plan for you. He is in charge.

Number three: Trust in the power of your college experience to help you hear and respond to the still, small voice. The easiest way to become familiar with that voice is to immerse yourself in the scriptures. A great place to hear it is in the temple. The best action you can take to hear that voice is to be in service to someone else. And the best practice you can do to hear that voice is to pray more deeply, with a greater intent to take action.

In short, brothers and sisters, the best remedy for holding back is to be in the right place, doing the right things, at the right time, with the right intent of heart. If you do this, you’ll have a great summer. Give the Lord a willing mind, and your faithful heart, and watch what He will do with you.

I bear you my testimony that God lives, that He, through His Son and His appointed servants who hold priesthood keys, is involved in the details of your life if you will let it happen. You are not the driver of your plan; He is. At best you have a seat in the back, and the ride will be bumpy. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. And when you go through those bumps, you will become like Joseph [Smith] who, as he talked about all that he faced said he was like a rough stone cut out of the mountain. Every time he bumped up against a trial, it knocked off a sharp edge, until he became a   smooth shaft “in the quiver of the Almighty.” (See History of the Church, 5:401.)

Brothers and sisters, may this summer be a summer of shaping. It can be if you will let it. It is my testimony. I leave you with my great love for you, my great excitement for this semester. I express Father in Heaven’s love to you now if you cannot hear it from Him now, in the name of His sacred and Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, amen.


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