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President J. Lawrence Richards

How to Do Devotional

 Let’s get some house lights up a little bit because I can’t see you and I want to see you. You look good. You made a good decision to be here. By March it won’t be cold, I promise, and Tuesdays will be a nice pleasant walk. Now, you’ll get spoiled a little bit because you attend class in a building where you don’t even have to go outside to get from the parking lot to the campus, and you never even have to leave the building. You just go up and down ten floors, and in about three weeks you’ll think that going two floors up is a trek. And so you’ll worry about whether you can really make it two blocks up the street for Devotionals But you can and if you will, you’ll be blessed for it.

Now, Brother Juchau gave you an invitation to study the Atonement that we may become more at one with each other and with the Savior—I want to make it clear that that extends beyond the students. It’s an invitation for all in the LDS Business College community. That’s faculty, and staff, and student employees and everybody else. If we do this with one heart, exploring a greater understanding and application of the Atonement, things will happen this semester for all of us that will be a blessing.  I believe, brothers and sisters, Father in Heaven is willing to grant to us blessings upon our asking for them. But as the Bible Dictionary tells us about prayer, the blessings are contingent upon 1) work, and 2) aligning our work and our wills with heaven. 

Now, I think we’re probably on pretty safe ground to assume Father in Heaven is willing to grant to us a blessing of a greater understanding and application of the Atonement in our life if we ask with real intent. How many are returned missionaries? [Audience members raise their hands.]  You know from your work with investigators what asking with real intent means. It is the intention to take action upon that which you pray for. And so we prepare ourselves by learning more about the Atonement and its application in our own lives, and then we ask with real intent for that blessing. I think that’s how it works. That is the invitation.

So let me share an idea or two about how to use the devotionals as part of your personal process and progress towards learning more about the Atonement. So this is “How to Do Devotional” to gain a deeper understanding of the Atonement and receive the blessings Father in Heaven is prepared to give you if you will but ask with real intent to take action

Number one: you come to devotional. You’ll be tempted not to because you will have a test to study for. I will make you a promise: if you come to devotional and do the rest of what I’m going to share, your effectiveness to study for a test will not be diminished as long as you have not crammed for it. Cramming is how many grapes you can fit in your mouth, or how much ice cream will fit on a cone. Cramming is not consistent with learning in the Lord’s way.

So number one, you come.

Number two: you come prepared. How do you come prepared to a devotional? I’ll give you an idea or two. You come with a prayerful heart. You come ready with something to write upon—and we’ll talk about that in a moment. You come with an attitude of “What does Father in Heaven want me to get out of this meeting today, that I may better understand the Atonement and apply it more fully?”

So you come. You come prepared. Now number three: You come with ears to hear—spiritual ears. I guarantee the greatest things you will learn from devotionals this semester may have nothing to do with what is said by the speaker, if you have spiritual ears, because the Holy Ghost will teach you and show you what to do.

Now, let’s open up the scriptures to 2 Nephi 32:3, 5. It says that angels speak the words of Christ, and therefore, feast upon them, and that the words of Christ will tell you what to do. That’s verse 3. Verse 5 says the Holy Ghost will show you what to do. So we call upon speakers for devotional who will teach you out of the scriptures and out of the words of the Brethren, and therefore you may be assured they are the words of Christ. They will tell you what to do. The Holy Ghost will show you what to do with the words of Christ that are spoken.

Elder Scott said this: When we write down the impressions of the Spirit, we show the Holy Ghost we can be trusted with spiritual things. So, devotional speakers will do their best to speak the words of Christ—the principles, the doctrine. When you come prepared with listening ears, the Spirit will show you how to apply the words of Christ.

Here is number four: you are invited to take action. You come, you come prepared to write, you come prepared with listening ears to hear, and you come with real intent to act. Now I want to take this idea of the intent to act to make the fourth point.  Leaving devotional can be like leaving Sacrament Meeting.  Sometimes we leave on Sunday and say, “Well, that was nice. Now I’m going home to sit in the basement and play games.”  We have to apply what we hear and feel by doing something today.

So let’s tie this to the idea of receiving. Adrian Juchau talked about receiving—remember the theme at Christmas, “He is the Gift?” Adrian has invited us, as a whole campus community, to receive the Gift. Have you ever pondered that concept of receiving in the scriptures? I point you to Doctrine and Covenants 88:32. Section 88 is the great section in the Doctrine and Covenants on teaching and learning, and in the verses that just precede verse 32 the Savior is speaking about those who will inherit different kingdoms, and who will come forth in the morning of the first Resurrection and the timing that follows. And then in verse 32 He says something interesting.

Listen to this: “And they who remain” after different periods of resurrection “shall also be quickened; nevertheless, they shall return again to their own place, to enjoy that which they are willing to receive, because they were not willing to enjoy that which they might have received.”

The scriptures say, what good is it for someone to give a gift, if it is not received? (See D&C 88:33.)  Can you get a gift from someone else? Yes. Can the Spirit help you understand the difference between getting a gift from someone else and receiving a gift?

Now I turn your attention to Moroni 10:3–5. You know that scripture. In fact, I need a missionary who knows it really well to just stand up. Has somebody got it? Come say it, and we’re going to stop him along the way. Listen to the concept of receiving.

Introduce yourself, by the way.

Anderson: I’m Anderson. I work on the ninth floor. I take care of devotionals and also work with accounting, with Adrian.

President Richards: Where are you from?

Anderson: Brazil.  Porto Allegre.

President Richards:I have a member in my ward who is from Brazil.  He is a counselor in the Bishopric. And he speaks with a pronounced accent. He often asks us to forgive him when he’s doing announcements because he may structure the sentence a little bit differently. He teases those who speak Spanish in our ward. How many people here, natively or from your mission, speak Spanish? Raise your hand. [Audience members raise their hands.] He said, “When you pray, you may speak in Spanish. But the Lord will answer you in Portuguese.”

Now listen carefully. Start with verse 3 and read it slowly.

Anderson: “Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.

“And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, . . . ”

President Richards: Real intent to do something about what you have read, but the invitation was to receive it and then ask with real intent to take action.

Anderson: “ . . . having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

“And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.”

President Richards: Wonderful. Thank you. Do you get it? You can read it, but that’s different from receiving it and pondering it in your heart.  When you follow this pattern, the Holy Ghost will testify to you. Brothers and sisters, that’s the way to do a devotional. That is the way to receive the gift of the Atonement and to receive the Savior.

When I was in Primary, just after they invented the wheel, there was this wonderful picture of the Savior approaching a closed the door. Remember the door? There was something unique about the door. How many of you remember that picture. What is unique about the door? There is no handle on the outside. Why? What did they teach us in Primary? You have to open it from the inside. You have to receive the Savior and invite Him in. And when you do, He says, “I will sup with you” (see Revelation 3:20).

Now, let me talk about supping with the Savior for a minute. One of the things I worry about is that when you’re home from your mission and you’re away from school, you’ll have a great Saturday night doing righteous things, but stay up too late, and you won’t go to church. And you say, “For one week, it won’t hurt me.” And it won’t. And then the next weekend comes, and then you feel like you don’t really know anybody in the Relief Society or the Elder’s Quorum, and so you don’t come. Let me talk about supping with the Lord, and His sacrament.

The problem you and I have with the sacrament is we do it every week, and so it becomes a routine to us. And yet, there is no sacred ordinance outside the temple more important in our lives than the sacrament. Now what’s the promise of the sacrament? Third Nephi, chapters18 through 20 are the chapters where the Savior is here upon the American continent, this hemisphere somewhere. He is administering the sacrament. And three different times as Mormon is abridging, he says they took the sacrament, and they were filled. They were filled. That’s what it says in chapter 18 (see verse 5). And then in chapter 19, it says what they are filled with. They are filled with the Holy Ghost (see verse 13). And chapter 20 then says they are filled with the Spirit (see verse 9).

Brothers and sisters, when you go to sacrament meeting, and you sup upon the emblems of the Sacrament, are you filled? If you’re not, get some soap and repent. Because you are entitled to be filled, to be nourished, to be washed clean. Why? That you may be prepared for the mission that God has now commissioned you to do.

Okay. Have we accomplished anything? That’s not the talk I was going to give you, but I think it was the talk you needed to hear—with one more little idea. When I was growing up—there are some of us in here that grew up together--there was a rock and roll group called The Byrds.

In my early teenage years, I was not a good reader, so reading the Old Testament was not on the to-do list. I skipped the Isaiah chapters in 2nd Nephi the Book of Mormon until I was in the mission field because there was no chance for me. There was no way.

So I loved this song by The Byrds called, “Turn! Turn! Turn!” Do you remember it? It starts out with this phrase: “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.” It was wonderful. I was in a rock and roll band in high school. I played the keyboard. Back then in rock and roll, there were just three chords. Everything could be done with three chords—a chord for C, a chord for F, and a chord for G. I can’t read music. But you could play any rock and roll number of the ‘60s with those three chords. In the mission field, I read the book of Ecclesiastes, that begins with “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1) My first thought was, “How did The Byrds’ lyrics get into the Old Testament by the time I got to the mission field?”

I had a very wise senior companion who explained it to me. Brothers and sisters, there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven in your life.  One of the keys to successful living is to act in ways appropriate for the season that you are in. Life is wonderful when we are obedient to the principles of successful living associated with the season we are in. So we don’t let ten-year-olds drive cars because it’s not their season. We don’t let fifteen-year-olds go on missions because it’s not their season. There are other things they should be doing. We don’t let unmarried people do things that they can do when they are married because they are not in that season.

Now you are in a season—a very specific one. The more consistent you are doing those things consistent with this season of your life, the happier you will be. I promise you that. You will be magnified. Joseph Smith said he did some things that he wasn’t so happy about. Right? And then he acted in his season.

The Apostle Paul said, “I was a child,” and then at some point he put away “childish things” (1 Corinthians 13:11). It was little Tommy Monson who crawled under the benches in church, and set fire to a field playing with matches. He’s now in a different season.

You’re not in high school—it’s not that season. The majority of you are not married, so don’t act like it. You’ve been given a Word of Wisdom; live it—including the counsel about when you go to bed. I teach every winter semester, and every winter semester I get emails from students, or assignments turned in, at 2 o’clock in the morning.  The Holy Ghost goes to bed. In the mission field, when did the Holy Ghost go to bed? 10:30. Do you think he stays up for you now? No. He’s not going to do that, so don’t ask or expect him to.

Now let me end with this. What have we done? How to do the Atonement, how to do devotional and apply the Atonement. How to receive the Gift. How to act in the season you are in. Let me leave you with one statement in closing from President Monson. I love this one. He says, “You have a heritage; honor it. You will meet temptation; withstand it. You know the truth; live it. You possess a testimony; share it.” (“Be Thou an Example,” Apr. 2005 General Conference).

Brothers and sisters, my testimony I share with you is you have been blessed to be here. Father in Heaven has great things in store for you. He is willing to grant you blessings if you will but ask with real intent to do your part to receive that blessing. Jesus is the Christ. He lives. There was a cross. There was a Garden of Gethsemane. There was an empty tomb. There was an Atonement, which started the day He was born and ended when He was resurrected. His entire life was the Atonement, and He did it for you personally. I invite you to believe it, to receive that gift, to lay hold upon it and let it bless your life more fully. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


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