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President David E. Poulsen

Christ Leads this Church

I don’t believe there’s a day that goes by on Temple Square that the sisters don’t move me to tears in one way or another. It is a choice experience to serve on Temple Square. It is a holy place.

I’m humbled at the opportunity to come and speak to you today. It’s true that I’ve known President Richards for quite a few years now. I hold him in very high regard. I don’t think he has ever heard me speak before, so he’s taking a bit of a chance. I hope that what I say will bring value up to the standard of the great chain of speakers who have come to these devotionals. But if not, I’d like you to remember the story of a young Quaker brother who was called upon to come and speak to his congregation. He did so timidly, and he did so poorly. He grated; his voice was bad. He just did a terrible job. When he slinked back to his seat, another Quaker brother leaned up behind him and whispered in his ear, “Dear brother, thou shouldn’t feel so badly that thou spoke so poorly, that thou grated on our ears and made us all embarrassed. ‘Twas not thy fault; ‘tis he who asked thee should be shot.”

So it is great to be with you today. I know some of you students. Just before the meeting, Elder Brown came up and said hello to me. He served with us in South Africa, an honorable and wonderful mission. He came home and served his country in the United States Marine Corps honorably and well. Now he is on LDS Business College campus improving his lot in life, studying and improving himself.

Being here on this campus says something about you students that impresses me. You are taking charge of your lives. You are doing those things that will build a good future for yourselves.

There was a playwright—his name was Samuel Beckett. He was an Irishman. He wrote a play back in the 1950s which was voted the most significant English-language play of the century. The playwright was Samuel Beckett; the play was Waiting for Godot. The play opens on a scene with two hapless vagabonds, people whose lot in life is not very good. It is Vladimir and Estragon, and they’re in the rain and the cold. They have insufficient clothing, their shoes don’t fit, and they have no gloves. They’re hungry, and it’s just a terrible circumstance. The whole play is a masterpiece in that nothing happens. And for these two men, in unfortunate circumstances as they are, nothing changes in their lives.  They are waiting for Godot. They think a Mr. Godot is going to come along, and when he does, all things will be made well. But throughout the play nothing changes because they simply spend their time waiting for Godot, who in fact doesn’t exist—it’s just something in their minds that is going to come and make them better.

You, as students here pursuing these wonderful degrees and certifications available through this school, are not “waiting for Godot.” You are taking the bull by the horns and stepping forward and improving your lot. You’re improving your skills and your knowledge, your employability, and I suspect some of you are working on your marriageability as well. What a great place to do it.

You are also distinctive among the world’s youth because of the Honor Code that you have chosen, have volunteered to agree to. You must know that only a small percentage of youth in the world your age would even contemplate signing their name, agreeing to keep the honor code that you have signed. It’s really rather remarkable. It has to do with you continuing to be active in your church, maintaining academic honesty, a dress standard that is wholesome and moral, and obeying and keeping the Word of Wisdom. In so doing, I hope that your life doesn’t become terribly austere, as maybe defined in a short poem I’d like to read you. A young man says:

My parents taught me not to smoke; I don’t.

Or listen to a naughty joke; I don’t.

They make it plain I mustn’t wink; I don’t.

Or even think about intoxicating drink; I don’t.

To chase the women, wine, and song; I don’t.

To dance and flirt is very wrong; I don’t.

I kiss no girls, not even one.

Some folks think I have no fun.

I don’t.

Well, I hope that your life in this great Church school is actually full of fun and that you find great enjoyment.

You also have, supporting you a man who has vouched for you, who has signed his name in the form of an ecclesiastical endorsement, someone who believes in you—a bishop, stake president, or mission president, who steps forward and says, “I believe that this person is worthy to attend this school, and I believe he or she will adhere to this great Honor Code.” It’s nice to have someone in your life who believes in you that much. That should give you something to strive and live for.

As I think about this school, I am also so impressed—so impressed—with the faculty and the administration. I have never seen a school anywhere where the leadership demonstrates so much love and concern for the whole you—your spiritual well-being, your intellectual well-being, your emotional well-being, your temporal well-being—as this group of administration and faculty does. If you haven’t made friends with them personally, you are missing out. They are a remarkable group, and it just—once again, it fosters in me a love for the school and a complete love for you students who are here, doing what you are doing.

I think on the Savior’s Sermon on the Mount. I can imagine Him speaking to you when He said, “Ye are the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13). You’ve all had recipes, or have you ever experimented by leaving out that pinch of salt? You know what a great difference it is in the outcome. You are the salt of the earth, and He admonishes you to never lose your savor.

He goes on to say that you are also the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). He says your light should be put on a candlestick (see Matthew 5:15), and “let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). I find it interesting that He doesn’t say, “Let the world see your great works.” He said let the world “see your good works, and glorify your Father in Heaven.”

Every day you go about doing good things—picking up a book that someone has dropped, doing your home teaching or visiting teaching, visiting a friend, cheering someone who is sad. Your works do not need to be great in order to be good and bring glory to our Heavenly Father.

Well, as President Richards mentioned, I am a mission president now two times over—presently serving on Temple Square. And what an honor that is! I could tell you just a little bit about this mission. By the way, at Temple Square you are always welcome, and I hope when you come on Temple Square, you feel a spirit. What President Richards described, I feel it every day when I walk on those grounds, where every prophet and apostle since Brigham Young has walked. Think of the amount of revelation and inspiration for the Lord’s chosen people that have come to this area. What a remarkable place to be, just to come and meditate, to bring a friend, or to come and talk with the sister missionaries. It’s a choice experience, a great place.

So what about this mission? There are—as you might have guessed, Temple Square is kind of the Church’s window to the world. People come from all walks of life, as many countries as you can imagine, and they get a glimpse of this very unique Church. It’s the most international mission in the world. We have sisters who come, now, from 50 countries. And they’re teaching the gospel around the world in 50 different languages. There are 220 of sister missionaries on Temple Square. You might say to yourself, “Well, when I go on Temple Square, I don’t see 220 sisters.” And no you don’t. At any one time, somewhere between 30 and 60 of them are serving what we call “outbound.” They go to another mission somewhere in the United States where they have some further training and experience dealing with wards and stakes and experience working with local missionaries. And when they come back on Temple Square, they are even more effective than before.

It’s a high baptizing mission as well. They participate in so many baptisms, along with the local missionaries they work with, around the world. One young man here came up this morning—Brother Devorjak, who brought a recent convert or an investigator to Temple Square. The sisters participated in teaching, and that person is doing well in the gospel today.

Well, so where are the rest of these sisters? President Richards mentioned our teaching center. You will see many companionships on Temple Square greeting everyone, lifting their spirits, cheering their souls, sharing with them basic beliefs of the gospel. But on any one day we have 70 teaching stations in our call center. When you have friends in Peru or India or Brazil or the Czech Republic, and they go on and they have a question about our Church, there’s a little button they can press, and that rings at our call center here on Temple Square. So at one of those 70 teaching stations, any time of the day, you can walk in and see the scene that President Richards saw, feet sticking out from the side of a cubicle—sisters praying with their investigator. Walk down a few more cubicles and you’ll hear a beautiful hymn being sung with their investigator somewhere far away. Or they teach via chat, via email, over the telephone, and occasionally even in sign language on Skype. So they’re very busy following Christ’s injunction to “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations” (Matthew 28:19). And this is a mission whose geography covers the globe, and they truly do teach all nations.

I want you to know that I love missionaries. I have brought my assistants—and I could bring any number, any companionship, and I would be so proud to have them bear a short testimony to you. I would like, just now, to invite Sister Brock from Salem, Oregon, to come and bear a short testimony, and then her companion, Sister Jihn, from Beijing, China, to do the same. Would you come and do that?

Sister Brock:Good morning.  I wanted to start off by sharing an experience I had on Temple Square. Earlier in my mission, I was with one of my companions from Honduras, and we were hustling around trying to hand out tickets to a Spanish concert that was going on at Temple Square. We found this family that we really wanted to give these tickets to, but one of the children stepped forward and immediately grabbed my hand and said, “I want to show you something.”

So he brought me up to the statue of Christ that we have in one of the visitors’ centers, and he said, “It’s not about the concert; it’s about Jesus Christ.” And that moment changed my . . . changed my life. So often we get caught up in things that are not important, but as we take that pause and remember our Savior, Jesus Christ, that’s when we remember what is most important. And that, for me, is what my mission has done for me. It has allowed me to take that pause from the rest of the things in the world and to take this time to focus on what’s the most important—my Savior, Jesus Christ.

And through my mission, I’ve been able to gain such a strong testimony of the power of the Atonement and be able to see it work in countless lives—be able to see people change and their hearts soften. And I have such a strong testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I know that my Savior lives and that He truly loves each and every one of us. And as we take that time to pause and remember our Savior, Jesus Christ, it will bring us so much joy and happiness and peace in our lives. And I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Sister Jihn:I am very humbled in being able to share with so many of you. I was looking at you, and I just feel so much love toward each one of you. And I don’t feel that I am looking at you as students of a business school. I went to a business school for four years, and it was very stressful. You have a lot to worry about. And each one of you stands before me as a temple of God, and you are bought with a great price of our Savior, Jesus Christ. And that shows me how much our Heavenly Father loves you. And I just want to tell you that I love you, all of you, even though I don’t know you yet.

Nine years ago, I did not know God. I’m from China, and there is no freedom of religion. I came here as an exchange student, and a loving LDS family took me and taught me, and I was able to know God. And I testify to you that my mission has taught me that the most important piece of knowledge that I want is to know my Heavenly Father. I testify to you that He is a God of love and infinite power. And He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, and the Atonement of Jesus Christ can heal you, can clean you, and can enable you to do all things, if you rely on Him.

And I testify to you that the Holy Ghost is something that we must spend every day to be worthy of. When I was very stressed as a business student, I know that when I started to forget about my worries and fears and started to do missionary work and help missionaries teach lessons, that’s when I was renewed. And I encourage you to study the doctrine of Jesus Christ, and to preach faith and repentance unto yourselves and unto others. I know that for all the challenges that you have, there are only two constant solutions—they are faith in Jesus Christ and repentance. There are no other solutions that will always work.

And I want you to know that your Heavenly Father loves you, and I would encourage you to spend your life focusing on your eternal purpose, which is written in Doctrine and Covenants 132:24: “This is eternal lives—to know the only wise and true God, and Jesus Christ, whom he hath sent. I am he. Receive ye, therefore, my law.”

My invitation for you is to ponder your eternal purpose and ally everything that you do in LDS Business College and beyond with that eternal purpose—to know God. And I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

President Poulsen: How do we get missionaries from China? We have a number of them serving on Temple Square. How the Lord finds them and how they find the gospel in that difficult country is a miracle. It’s wonderful.

So I not only love missionaries, but I also love young people who are considering serving a mission or who are preparing to serve a mission. I wonder if there is anyone here today in that category. Anyone thinking about it? [Audience members raise their hands.] I see a number of hands. I certainly encourage you to seek your Heavenly Father’s will and know that that’s what He would love to have you do.

I also love returned missionaries, and I know that there are a lot of returned missionaries. If you are a returned missionary, would you mind standing where you are? [Audience members stand.] Isn’t that great. I want to give you an opportunity right now, those of you who proselyted during the era of Preach My Gospel. I’d like you to recite with me, in a voice loud enough that I can hear you, our purpose as missionaries. Do you remember? Okay, are we ready?

[Our purpose] is to invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end (Preach My Gospel: A Guide to Missionary Service, [2004]).

Thank you. I’m impressed. I don’t know how often you get to say that. As you know, that is an encapsulation of what is known as the doctrine of Christ, found or expounded upon in 2 Nephi 31 and 3 Nephi 11, where it talks about the importance of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His Atonement. When we have that faith, then we’re inclined to repent of our sins. When we repent of our sins, we qualify to be baptized. We earn the right to have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost and to happily endure to the very end.

Well, I’d like to share with you a couple of thoughts about why we do this missionary work. Some churches don’t. Some religions don’t proselyte. Why do we?

There are two foundational pillars, I think. The first really sets forth God’s purpose. You can recite with me also Moses 1:39. Would you please, with me? “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” Thank you. His great two-fold mission—to bring to pass immortality and his victory over physical death. He suffered on the cross, became the first fruits of them that slept, and was resurrected. And this resurrection is a free gift to all mankind, that they need not languish without their bodies, that they will live again, never to fear, never again to worry about the prospect of death. What a marvelous gift.

And the other part is to bring to pass eternal life. This however, becomes a conditional gift, as you know. If people do not come unto Christ, give up their sinful ways, stop doing what they are doing wrong, start doing right things, receive the appropriate ordinances—if they don’t do that, they won’t be able to avail themselves of this great gift, the conditional gift of eternal life.

So this is where we come in. The second pillar is we are commanded to take this message and this gospel to all the world. So as we teach people, we invite them to come to Christ so that He may work His miracle in their life, in both senses—both the immortality as well as eternal life. So you think about it: if they are not brought to Christ, how can He work His miracle, this gift of eternal life?  He can’t. At least, that’s the way it is designed.

So that’s why we go into all the world, to invite people to come to Him, that His mission might be fulfilled. It’s built on a foundation of love for each of us. He wants us to all have those two great gifts. Well, that’s our role, to bring people to Christ, and it’s a great role, a great work, to be involved in.

When was the last time you invited someone? When was the last time you helped them receive the restored gospel? I think that purpose speaks to the intent of all of our hearts. We’d all like to. We’d all like to do it more often than we do. I have a guilt complex about one of my former bosses—a brilliant man, and an avowed atheist. We had hours of conversation about the Church, about God. But you know, as I think back on those, I don’t recall a time when I testified. I don’t recall a time when I invited him to pray or to read the Book of Mormon. And I stand guilty before you in that regard. It’s something I hope to remedy, because that’s what we do—we invite; we testify.

I will share with you six points of doctrine that we’ve come to understand about missionary work and that would have helped me back in those days. The first is, you will never meet anyone in this world who doesn’t already know the gospel is true, who doesn’t already have an understanding of the fulness of the gospel. They knew it before they were born. They were taught it by God. They knew the true nature of God. They knew the true nature of their relationship with us. Brothers and sisters, we lived together. They knew it.

As evidence of that, I had many experiences when I was serving in Africa to meet with wards and stakes. Before conferences, we would invite the recent converts to come in, and we would have a meeting with them. I would always ask them this question: “How did it feel when you first went to Church and felt the Spirit?”

Do you know the most common response is a four-letter word? Maybe some of you can relate to it, if you are a recent convert. “It felt like I was home.  It felt like I belonged.” It’s because there was a little bit of an awakening.

The second point that I would mention has to do with memory. Now, you students, you know how important your memory is. You sit in tests and examinations. Have you ever forgotten anything? I see a few heads nodding yes. As you get to be my age, the forgetful nature happens a little more often. My favorite story about memory has to do with two senior couples who were having a pleasant social evening in one of their homes.

The wives are out in the kitchen chatting away. The men are in the living room having a great conversation. One says to the other, “You know, my wife and I went to the greatest restaurant the other night. The food and service were out of this world!”

The other one says, “Oh, what’s the name of that restaurant?”

“Oh, the name, the name. Wait, what’s the name of that flower, you know the red one that you give someone when you love them?”

“You mean ‘rose’?”

He said, “Rose, that’s it.” He leaned his head back and yelled into the kitchen to his wife, “Rose, what’s the name of that restaurant we went to the other night?”

When we were born into this world, we had a veil of forgetfulness that was drawn across all of that spiritual knowledge that we had. Spiritual amnesia set upon us, and we have forgotten all that we knew.

The first point, we knew; second point, we forgot. The third point is that the day will come when we know again, when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is the Christ (see Mosiah 27:31, Philippians 2:10–11). So everyone is somewhere on this continuum, from having forgotten everything to full knowledge once again. So in this life that you and I are living, we are all somewhere on that continuum. And so it is also with every person you encounter on the street, somewhere on that continuum.

The fourth point is that every person who walks this planet has been blessed with the Light of Christ. In the Doctrine and Covenants, it tells us, “And the Spirit giveth light to every man that cometh into the world; and the Spirit enlighteneth every man through the world, that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit. And every one that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit cometh unto God the Father” (D&C 84:46–47). So that light of Christ is our moral compass, which points us to our polar star, the Savior.

The fifth point is we can’t tell by looking at someone whether they are ready to receive the gospel or not. A quick story, written to me by one of our African missionaries about a convert:

“President, as you know, we live in a rather dangerous part of Johannesburg. Every day when we walk out of our apartment, there is sitting near the alley, the dark alley, a rather menacing-looking individual. We’ve always studiously avoided him, avoided eye contact, because he always looks scary and menacing.

“One morning as I walked out, your words that we should speak to everyone came thundering into my mind. My heart began beating fast. I nudged my companion, and I turned and started walking towards that man. My companion grabbed me by the shirt and said, ‘Elder, where are you going? What are you doing?’

“President, I’ll never be able to explain the joy I felt when I saw that man climbing out of the baptismal font. We can never tell by looking at someone whether they are ready to receive the gospel or not.”

The sixth point, which naturally follows, is that we should speak to everyone, that no teaching encounter is wasted. There was a survey of recent converts that indicated most people, on average, require six or seven positive encounters with the Church before they are ready to receive the gospel. So we are all at different points on this path.

So, young people, as you think about your own missionary efforts and labors, let us not be found waiting for the perfect time to bring up the gospel to one of our friends or one of our acquaintances. Let us not be found “waiting for Godot.” There may not be a perfect situation arranged for us. Let us boldly move forward, share our faith joyously and happily with those whom we love and those whom we would love to see benefit from the gospel.

I testify this is the gospel of Jesus Christ and that He is the head of this Church today. We have marvelous tools, marvelous evidences to bear witness of this, and I share these thoughts with you today in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Introduction: President J. Lawrence Richards

I had the privilege of watching the sisters on Temple Square in action in the call center, and President Poulsen was kind enough to give us a tour. I don’t know if you know that in the bottom of the South Visitors’ Center and in the back of the North Visitors’ Center, a sizable call center is there. The sister missionaries are on the phone—they are teaching; they are prospecting and teaching on those phones. The day we went thereto the South Visitors’ Center, President Poulsen opened up the door. As we walked in, brothers and sisters, there was a spirit in that room that was palpable. To my astonishment, I saw three sets of sisters with their headsets on and a computer in front of them, and they were turned around kneeling against their chairs, praying with investigators on the phone. You just can’t imagine what that looked like and felt like.

Now, one very quick story that I’m familiar with: A good sister missionary prospected a fellow—I guess he had left a referral card at some point—and arranged through the local missionaries to get him a Book of Mormon. He lived back East. Then she lost contact with him and didn’t do any follow-up. And this good person, who happened to be a member of another faith, ended up reading the Book of Mormon, and he knew he needed to come to Utah to join the Church.

So he sells everything he has, and he gets on a bus, and he comes to Salt Lake. He has a cell phone, and he immediately goes to Temple Square. And as he is on Temple Square, he gets a phone call. Who do you think is calling him? This sister missionary on Temple Square, who months before had arranged for him to get a Book of Mormon. And she says, “I’m just following up. How are you?”

He says, “Well, I’m fine.

And she says, “Where are you?”

He says, “I’m on Temple Square.”

And she says, “So am I.” And how many weeks later did we baptize him? I think it was three weeks later. Three weeks later he joined the Church. Brothers and sisters, miracles happen on Temple Square, and these good sisters and President Poulsen are nodding their heads.

Let me quickly tell you about President Poulsen. He was born and raised in Springville, Utah. He graduated from Brigham Young University with a bachelor’s degree in Chinese language. He went on to get an MBA, and he began his career in international banking with an organization known today as Citi Group. He worked for 18 years for Citi Group in New York, the Philippine islands, Thailand, Hong Kong, Boston, and then back in Salt Lake City. He later joined American Express in Salt Lake, and he spent 18 years at American Express as well, where he led the company’s nationwide banking activities. And that’s where I first got to know this good man. He retired from American Express in 2008.

In the Church, he has served in many capacities, including as a young missionary in what is now Taiwan. He’s been a seminary and gospel doctrine teacher, high priest’s group leader, bishop, high councilor, counselor in a stake presidency, a stake patriarch, a regional representative of the Church, a mission president in South Africa Johannesburg Mission, and he presently serves as president of the Utah Salt Lake City Temple Square Mission.

He met his eternal sweetheart on the tennis courts at BYU and was fortunate to take her to the Salt Lake Temple to be sealed for time and eternity. She would be here today, but she’s suffering from the flu and is waiting for the birth of their 23rd grandchild. We’re so grateful to have President Poulsen here with us, and his missionaries.


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