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President J. Lawrence Richards

Be All In

Brothers and sisters, I brought Sister Richards to the podium with me. Do you know what a helpmeet is? I’ve got one. I married one. I don’t know why I have her standing here; I pray the Spirit will tell me why she’s standing here. I think it may go something like this: There are, in our lives, opportunities to associate with people who know how to lift us, who know how to strengthen us. And when you find those people in your life, I suggest you hold onto them and if they’re the right person, make them your eternal companion.

Earlier, our student speaker talked about turkeys flying. If there is any wind beneath my wings so I can fly, it’s because I have an eternal companion with whom I have made sacred covenants in the temple. As we sang in the fourth verse of our College anthem, when the Savior comes, we may be pure as He is pure, and see Him face to face. My only chance of being pure is living up to the covenants I have made with this good woman in the temple of the Almighty. I want you to know that I love her, and I commend you brethren go find one like this one. You will be blessed. I’m not going to let her have the podium or the microphone now because she’ll get even. And we’re not here for that. But I just wanted you to know about my feelings regarding Sister Richards.

Well, brothers and sisters, it’s a joy to be here with you today. That’s an obligatory statement that needs to be said by every speaker, right? You’ve heard that. It’s a mental pause while the speaker tries to figure out how to start what they want to say. But I really mean it. I really mean it. And I mean it so much that I want to invite you today to try an experiment for one day, and then I invite you to repeat it for 98 more days. And then we’ll be at the end of the semester. So here’s the experiment: for one day in your life, I invite you to surrender to all things that are of the Spirit, with a promise that if you do so and repeat it, you will be able to stand by and watch the hand of the Lord bless your life this semester more than He is doing now.

 So what am I asking you to do? For one day, will you be all in? Just be all in.

Now you’ll need some strength to do that. Such strength, brothers and sisters, will come by your study and the application of the Atonement this semester. Next week, we will present  a devotional where members of the Institute faculty speak to us about the application of the Atonement in our daily lives. My invitation to you today is to prepare for this semester by surrendering for one day to all things spiritual.

How many of you in this room today are returned missionaries? Raise your hand. See, you know about invitations; you know about challenges. You know about living worthy of the covenants that you have made. So there it is: I invite you to surrender.

Now why this experience? Why this invitation? Quite simply, brothers and sisters, I have a firm testimony that we have unclaimed blessings Heavenly Father is willing to grant to us. He really is willing, but the blessings are conditional upon two things: number one, we need to ask for them. And number two, we need to live for those blessings. So the connection: if you surrender to all things spiritual for one day—one day where you are really all in (then you repeat it the next day and the next day)—and then you ask for the blessings you need, Father in Heaven will give them to you, in His time and in His way. So there is the opportunity.

I will also say the reason I am giving this invitation is  it is truly the only path to safety as we go through our mortal existence.

So let me give you some encouragement about how to do it. Number one is you need to be committed. Our student speaker told you a story about turkeys. I want to tell you a story about pigs and chickens. A pig and a chicken were very good friends. They lived in about the same area on the farm. Outside the farm was a highway, and a brand new billboard went up along the highway, just on the other side of the fence. The billboard was done by the dairy association, and it featured a large glass of milk. But to empower the milk on the billboard, they showed a plate with two fried eggs on it and three strips of bacon. See, you who are laughing know where this is going, don’t you? How many have heard this? Well, okay.

So the chicken says to his friend, the pig, “Don’t we look marvelous up there on that plate together?” And the pig is conspicuously silent; he does not answer. So the chicken does it again just to get a response. He says, “Don’t we look terrific? I wonder how many people in the world wake up to us every morning and start their day with us. We energize them, and get them ready for the wonderful things that get accomplished in the world. You and I, we do it.”

Again, the pig is conspicuously silent. And finally his friend the chicken says to him, “What’s wrong?”

And the pig says, “Well, for you it’s only a contribution. For me, it’s total commitment.”

Now, brothers and sisters, I’m asking you to be a pig and be all in. How many of you remember the movie Star Wars and Yoda? Do you remember Yoda’s famous statement when Luke Skywalker’s spaceship is in the swamp, and Luke has moved rocks but he can’t get the spaceship out of the swamp? Do you remember what Yoda says to him? He says, “Do or do not. There is no try.” My invitation to you about being all in and surrendering to things of the Spirit, for one day is there is only do or do not; there is no try. Don’t try it.

Trying, brothers and sisters, is very difficult. The first time we took our little daughter to the beach—she was covered up because she’s got red hair and fair skin—she tried to wade in. There’s only one way to get in the ocean, and it’s not wading in slowly. She took a few little steps. It was cold! She put her hand in to test the temperature. It was cold!  It took her nearly all afternoon to get in and enjoy the swim. There’s only one way to try this experiment, brothers and sisters. Just do it. Just jump in. Walk out the door today and say for the rest of this day, “I will surrender to all things of the Spirit, and I will be all in.”

Now, there is this concept of herds. Do you know why herds stay in herds and crowd themselves together? Because there is great protection in the herd. Those that are on the outside of the herd are at risk. This is closely associated with the principle of being all in and jumping into the water and not wading. Just get it over with! Get in! Brothers and sisters, those that graze at the edge of the herd are in danger of being picked off by the enemy to the herd. Do you understand me? Don’t graze at the edge of the herd.

A good friend told me a story one day in Sunday School. He said, “My little boy came in our bedroom in the middle of the night, and he was crying.”

My friend said, “Joey, what’s wrong?”

Joey said, “I fell out of bed.”

His dad said, “Well, how did you do that?”

Joey said, “Well, I must not have been in far enough.”

Brothers and sisters, be in far enough that you do not fall out.

I had another good friend. I’ll call him Bob. A good man, has a great family. He tried something once. It was not good for him. It was not good for his family.  And my friend, who happens to be an avid basketball fan, said, “You never want to go one-on-one with Satan. Don’t play a game one-on-one with Satan because he will win. And he will win because he’s been playing the game far longer than you have, and he knows how to play it. He knows how to exploit your weaknesses.”

That’s one of my first ideas here—that you must be committed in order to make this invitation, this experiment, work. Now, do you know what might be the most dangerous word in the English language? The word almost. Let me tell you what Elder Faust had to say about almost:

 There are those who are bystanders. They come to a certain persuasion in their hearts and in their minds, but for social, family, economic, or political and fears [they] cannot hold to the ring of truth. Festus accused Paul of having so much learning that “much learning doth make thee mad.” (Acts 26:24.)  Paul’s response was [this, for the king, Agrippa, in front of whom Paul was testifying]:

“For the king [Agrippa] knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner [speaking of Christ].

“King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest.

“Then Agrippa said unto Paul” some of the saddest words in all recorded . . . history. “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.” (Acts 26:26–28.) (James E. Faust, “Stand Up and Be Counted,” Ensign, Feb. 1982.)

“Almost,” Elder Faust said. “What a heartbreaking sound is the word “almost”! Almost some of our good members keep the Word of Wisdom, or just about go to priesthood meeting and sacrament meeting, or almost hold family home evening. Some of us almost but not quite—pay our tithing” (“Stand Up and Be Counted”).

Brothers and sisters, it was King Noah in the Book of Mormon who almost let Abinadi go (see Mosiah 17:11–12). But because of the pressure of those who surrounded King Noah, he gave in to their pressure and made a serious mistake that affected the rest of his life.  Number one—you’ve got to be committed.

Here’s the second one: Draw strength from the covenants, not your culture Let me repeat it: Draw strength from your covenants, not your culture. As we diligently focus on the real purpose of what we do in the Church, and not the practice of doing it, we will live for our covenants and not for our traditions or cultures. Here in the center stake of Zion, we sometimes have cultures that cause us to do things that those of you who are from outside the state will come here and say, “Really? Do members of the Church here really do that?”

Now, brothers and sisters, that applies to what you wear. Brethren that includes what you “wear” on your face. I’m asking you to live the covenant you have made to a priesthood authority to live the Honor Code, including the dress and grooming standard. It was a covenant. And the Lord does not take kindly to those who take His covenants lightly. So again, draw strength from your covenants, not from the culture you happen to live in.

Well, you’re going to need some encouragement from the Brethren. Listen to President Eyring: “Duties are sometimes  . . . difficult because their purpose is to move us along the path to live forever with Heavenly Father” (Henry B. Eyring, “A Priceless Heritage of Hope,” Ensign, May 2014).

Now listen to Nephi in 2 Nephi 31:20. “Wherefore, . . . press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end,”—I’m not asking you to endure to the end; just one day and repeat it for 98. If you do it, the rest of those days of your life will take care of themselves—“and endure to the end, . . . thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.”

Now, Elder Neal A. Maxwell. Do you know what a hovel is? It’s not much of a home, but a home nonetheless. “This surrender”—the surrender that I’ve talked about today—“this surrender is giving up our hovel, which we have cobbled together in the earthly slums, in exchange for a celestial mansion on the hill” ( A Wonderful Flood of Light, Deseret Book Company:1990,  p. 96).

Now, C.S. Lewis. I believe he knows our doctrine but he just didn’t get the saving ordinances while alive.   Listen to C.S. Lewis’ echo to Elder Maxwell’s statement:

Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. [And] at first, perhaps, you can understand what he is doing. [Oh,] He’s getting the drains right and [he’s] stopping the drains in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently he starts knocking the house about [and he does it] in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one that you thought of—[He’s] throwing out a new wing here, [and] putting on an extra floor there, [and] running up towers, [and He’s] making courtyards. [And] you thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself (Mere Christianity, Macmillan Pub: 1960, p.174).

So have you got it? You have the invitation. You’ve have two keys for living the invitation: one, be committed, and two, make your covenants stronger than your culture.

All right, so here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to bring up the house lights, and we’ve got some microphones. I’m going to ask you to think for a moment of how being all in—surrendering for one day—would affect the following (and you can choose one of these). How would it affect the following, what you do or how you do it?

·         The way you partake of the sacrament?

·         How you read the scriptures?

·         How you pray?

·         How you attend church meetings?

Now, let the Spirit talk to you for a minute, so we’re going to be quiet, and you write something. And then we’re going to ask some of you to share, so that we may all be edified by all (see D&C 88:122). Okay? It will be a long one minute, but it will be one minute.

Now who wants to be brave and stand up, and tell us something you either wrote down for yourself, or what you think might be an application of the principle of being all in? There you go, give the microphone to Stella. Thank you, Stella, for starting this.

Stella: Well, I think that if I put everything into it, sometimes when I pray at night I wait until it’s time to go to bed, and I’m really tired. So I think that by putting all in that I might pray a little earlier before I’m so tired. And I think when I take the sacrament that I might think more of Jesus’ sacrifice. Sometimes, during the sacrament, my mind kind of wanders. So I think that if I put all in, I might think more about what He did for us.

President J. Lawrence Richards: Wonderful. Let’s take that one. Do we love each other? If so, let’s be honest. How many of you have ever fallen asleep saying a prayer at night? [Audience members raise their hands.] How many of you have been in the middle of a prayer late at night and your mind wandered onto something totally different? [Audience members raise their hands.] Thank you very much for your honesty. So Stella has taught us an important point. Where in the Doctrine and Covenants does it say that you are supposed to pray right before you go to bed? Where is that written? It could be in the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon, but I don’t think it is.

Brothers and sisters, pray when you’re not tired. I have a prayer stool in my house. I can’t pray at my bed because my bed’s too high and my forehead hits the side of the bed. So in our dressing room, there’s a little stool that is also my prayer stool. I know that if I lean and put my elbows flat on that prayer stool while I’m kneeling, I’m a goner. So I have to straighten my back, and it helps me stay focused. And it helps me, too, if I whisper my prayer out loud. I whisper because I tell Heavenly Father how great Sister Richards is, but I don’t want her to hear that every night or she may think she’s saddled up to a very inferior product. Wonderful. Stella, thank you.

Who else? Somebody else.

Response (male):  I prayed about what you said, President Richards, and Heavenly Father reminded me of being in the celestial room, and three things came to mind: clarity of thought, purpose, and direction—and applying those to our walk and our observance of covenants. It makes all the difference, those three things.

President J. Lawrence Richards: Wonderful. Say them again—what are they? Clarity of thought, purpose, direction. Question, brothers and sisters—do you have to go to the temple to get that? No. Here’s a great substitute if you can’t go to the temple at 5 o’clock in the morning every day—get up and read the scriptures. Will the scriptures give you clarity of thought? Yes. Will the scriptures enhance your ability to study secular things? All who in this room have experienced that, will you manifest by the uplifted hand? [Audience members raise their hands.] Thank you very much.  It’s a true principle. If you study the scriptures before you study temporal things, your study of temporal things will be enhanced. I invite you to be “all in” in the study of the scriptures and put the Lord to the test.

Now in 2 Nephi 32:3, we learn angels speak the words of Christ, and that the words of Christ will tell you what to do. Angels speak the words of Christ, and the words of Christ tell you what to do. Hugh Nibley said you don’t need an angel to come and visit you, so don’t pray for one. Because if he comes, he’s only going to quote you scripture, and the Lord’s already given it to you (Approaching Zion, 87).

Now if you go to that same chapter in the 5th verse, it says the Holy Ghost will show you what to do. So the scriptures speak the words of Christ and give us—what are the three?—clarity, purpose, and direction. The Holy Ghost will apply it. If you are all in, it will happen with a greater degree of effectiveness. Somebody else please

Response (male):  I think that going all in will help me in partaking of the sacrament to, and throughout the rest of the week, to remember the Savior Jesus Christ and His sacrifice and to develop a personal relationship with Him and with Heavenly Father, and I think that also doing that, that every day I will be able to have at least one spiritual experience and be able to feel of the love of Jesus Christ in my life.

President J. Lawrence Richards: Thank you. Brothers and sisters, the most sacred covenant we make outside the temple—you make every week. It is the sacrament. And sometimes the challenge with taking the sacrament is that we do it every week, If we are not careful, it become routine, and we forget its deep, sacred, and personal meaning.. But the promise of taking the sacrament, as I told all those at new student orientation last week, is clear. In 3 Nephi chapters 18, 19, and 20, the Lord gives the sacrament twice. And when they took it the first time,  they were filled (see 3 Nephi 18:4). In chapter 19, it says they were filled with what? The Holy Ghost (see 3 Nephi 19:13). In chapter 20, when they did it again, it says they were filled with the Spirit (see 3 Nephi 20:9). When was the last time you walked out of sacrament meeting filled? Filled with everlasting life and the water thereof?

I invite you to go home today and read in John chapter 4 about the woman at the well, and about living water, and about sacrament as a source of living water. Brothers and sisters, the invitation today for you is simply to draw closer to your Father in Heaven by being all in. He wants you to be . . . He yearns for you to be. Jesus stands at the door waiting for you to open it. He lives. He is our elder Brother. He loves you more than you can possibly imagine. He and His Father have your best interest in life. The road—the strait and narrow path—has enough challenges and enough vicissitudes. You do not need to take a detour off of it. You will have enough challenges and to spare. Why? Because those experiences in our life that challenge us, that knock us about, that force us to step up, that make us stretch, all have the same impact as they did on the Prophet Joseph, when he talked about the vicissitudes of life that he came in contact with. He said he was like this huge rock rolling down the mountain, and every time he bumped up against religious persecution or other challenges in his life, other setbacks, it chipped off the rough edges until, as he said, “I [became] a smooth . . . shaft in the quiver of the Almighty” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 304).

My prayer for you, brothers and sisters, this semester is to be all in. Certainly you will have challenges and tough times, but those times are part of the process of becoming a smooth shaft in the quiver of the Almighty, so that you, as is said in D&C 88:80, will go forth again to accomplish the mission that the Lord has sent you here on earth to do. We at the College are here to help you do that. We pray for you. We love you.

I pray the Lord’s choicest blessings to be upon what you are ready and willing to receive from Him, and I do so in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


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