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President Larry Richards

You Really Gotta Wanna or You Won’t Get It


Welcome to Summer term. I commend you for your desire to endure school in the summer. When I was growing up in elementary school, I had some learning challenges and “had” to go to summer school. It was a requirement. Therefore, when I got to college, there was no way that I was going to do a summer semester. I had a friend talk me into trying it. By the end of the term when I got my grades, I was right and he was wrong. I couldn’t do a summer semester. So I respect your efforts and am committed to help you succeed.

Pursuit of Excellence

Will Durant, the American philosopher, summarized a thought expressed by Aristotle. I shared a statement at New Student Orientation last week. It is powerful and so I want to share it with you. “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act but a habit.”  

To Aristotle’s thought we add President Henry B. Eyring’s declaration that “Our doctrine makes clear that [y]our potential is essentially limited only by [y]our choices.” So whatever you want, you really gotta wanna have it. And if really wanna, you can achieve excellence. It is a matter choice. Therefore, as faculty, staff, and administration we accept the challenge to create experiences whereby the spirit can “awaken in you confidence in your boundless capacities to learn whatever [your] previous personal, family, and educational experiences ha[s] been.” 

Our invitation to you is to simply open yourselves to the possibility of becoming what Father in Heaven has planned for you in this season of your life. We are here this summer to help enlighten your mind to those possibilities, elevate your hope that you can achieve them, and ennoble your souls on the way to finding and realizing that vision for yourself. But you really gotta wanna.

This College is a “beacon of educational hope, an open door to possibilities of growth, of improvement, and of learning.” If you think you have limited potential, you can come to realize there is more and you will find hope, you can dream dreams you thought were heretofore impossible. But you really gotta wanna see your potential as God sees it. 

In his book, The Last Lecture, Dr. Randy Pausch, a professor of Computer Science, Human Computer Interaction, and Design at Carnegie Mellon University, characterized the “you really gotta wanna” principle. As you may know, Dr. Pausch was suffering from terminal pancreatic cancer when he gave what has been called and published as “The Last Lecture.” Here are his words.

Some old-school types complain these days that higher education too often feels like it is all about customer service. Students and their parents believe they are paying top dollar for a product, and so they want it to be valuable in a measurable way. It's as if they've walked into a department store, and instead of buying five pairs of designer jeans, they've purchased a five-subject course-load.

I don't fully reject the customer-service model, but I think it's important to use the right industry metaphor. It's not retail. Instead, I'd compare college tuition to paying for a personal trainer at an athletic club. We professors play the roles of trainers, giving [students] access to the equipment (books, labs, our expertise) and after that, it is our job to be demanding. We need to make sure that our students are exerting themselves. We need to praise them when they deserve it and to tell them honestly when they have it in them to work harder.

Most importantly, we need to let them know how to judge for themselves how they're coming along. The great thing about working out at a gym is that if you put in effort, you get very obvious results. The same should be true of college.

So we invite you to grab a towel, get on an elliptical and work your intellectual and spiritual muscles. We cannot do it for you, we just can’t. Intellectual and spiritual growth, like physical muscle, must be created by personal effort. We will coach you, encourage you, push and love you. But we will not and cannot lower our expectations for you. That only weakens and enables. We are about ennobling. And in that process you can find an “inner moral compass which will make you ever more rare and ever more valued” to the world and the church. But you really gotta wanna pay the price and make a commitment.

I invite you to develop the habit of pursing excellence by that which you do repeatedly. Do those things this summer that will bring you honor, joy, and a sense of accomplishment. I invite you to have fun while you work and study hard.

Does it Edify?

Some of you may be thinking, “How can I have fun while bringing honor to my family, myself, and my religion?” Let me give you a simple way to judge. Read Moroni 7:12-20. You remember, it reminds us that the Spirit of Christ is given to every man to know good from evil. And that everything that invites or persuades us to do good, to believe in Christ and act consistent with that belief is of God. The opposite is also true. 

Here is the standard I use. It is a simple question I ask myself. It has served me well when I have responded correctly. The question is: “Does this edify?” It is a simple question that should bring about a simple answer when we have employed the light of Christ accompanied by the influence of the Holy Ghost. That which edifies is okay, that which does not edify is not okay.

What does it mean to edify? To edify means to build, to erect a house or a temple, to establish, to uplift, to instruct or improve morally or intellectually. Here then is what that simple question means to me today and I invite you to apply that same meaning to you. Does this activity engage the spirit in a way that, enlightens you, elevates your hopes, and ennobles your soul? I promise that as you apply that standard to your behavior, thoughts, and choices you will have a wonderful summer and an excellent life! But you really gotta wanna think and act differently.

The Transformational Experience

You who are seasoned with us know that the way we accomplish our goal to enlighten, elevate, and ennoble is different than a high school or any other previous learning experience. We are not interested in just educating your mind. We are here to help you learn in the Lord’s way which will support you for a lifetime. The principle behind our learning model is deep. Through it, you can come to understand what heaven wants you to do with your life and then gain the power to do it. In this spirit enhanced environment, you can receive clarity of vision for this season of your life and beyond. That clarity will come by personal revelation. Such clarity produces confidence that you are doing what heaven wants. That confidence increases faith. Faith in the Savior increases your power to do.  

To do what? The answer to that question is found in this statement made by President Henry B. Eyring last October at the College. “Families and units of the Church of Jesus Christ require leaders who know how to find out what God wants done, know how to do it, and are determined to accomplish it.” This is part of the transformational experience you can have at the college. It is a personal experience. It is shaped and governed by heaven. But you really gotta wanna have that experience and live for it.

Finding your Course

You are here for a variety of self-determined reasons. May I suggest that heaven’s reasons for you being here are more important than your reasons for being here. Have you pondered what heaven wants you to do, and to become while you are here? I testify that you may come to know, not with a perfect knowledge but enough so that you can exercise faith and in time you will see the evidence of that faith. You will come to know why you are here and what it means to you now and in the future. Because we are talking about your future and your obligation to become more serviceable to heaven and the church, may I suggest how you may come to know the will of heaven and how this experience at the college can both alter and change your life in that direction. 

The pattern and clues are found in the scriptures. Let’s reflect and ponder for a moment Lehi’s dream of the Tree of Life found in the first book of Nephi. You remember that Lehi told the dream to his family. They listened passively. They heard it. Who knows – some might have even taken “class notes”. The record reveals that only Nephi wanted to understand it sufficiently so as to act upon the principles contained in the dream. He wanted to know how the dream applied to his life. He knew that identifying the correct principles and having a desire to live those principles coupled with taking action brings knowledge, and understanding. He recorded it in the 10 chapter of 1 Nephi. First, the principle is recorded in verse 19. Here it is: Gaining knowledge requires diligent seeking. Diligent seeking couple with the personal revelatory power of the Holy Ghost brings not only understanding but edification. Having a correct desire is the second point and is found in verse 17. Notice how Nephi wanted to know. It was in a particular way: “I was desirous also that I might see, and hear and know of these things by the power of the Holy Ghost [emphasis added]. Then he reminds us how we access that power – faith in the Son of God. Third, he knew he needed to take action so in verse one of chapter 11, he exercised faith and pondered what his father had told him in his heart. Then the revelatory understanding came. It is interesting to note that the way his understanding came – the vision Nephi had -- is an example of the college’s learning model in action. You may learn by those very same principles.

So there is a pattern: First, identify the true principle to be understood whether it is math, geography, or economics. Second, desire to know by the power of the Holy Ghost which is a gift of faith to those who diligently seek the Savior. Finally, we must take the appropriate action to come to know – in the Lord’s way. Ponder, study, exercise faith and the knowledge will come. But you really gotta wanna act on true principles.

 Some may say, “I have prayed over my studies before, I have sought heaven’s help. It doesn’t work for me.” To you, I offer the advice of Elder Boyd K. Packer, “You may be in the right boat, you may even be on the right sea, but you might try fishing on the other side. The Lord gave that same invitation and when the apostles followed his counsel, their nets could hardly hold the blessing following their willingness to apply the Lord’s counsel. 

We invite you to bring the very best of what you know and have experienced about learning and let us add to it. Let us show you how to learn in the Lord’s was. And the blessings in your “net” will be that you will: (a) learn at rates that the “world be just be amazed”, (b) come to understand what heaven wants you to do with your life, and (c) gain the power to do it. I promise that if you lose your pride, humble yourself and through your diligence add to your faith, virtue, knowledge, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity, you will reap the rewards of faithfulness and be blessed with greater power to achieve whatever is righteous in your life. But you really gotta wanna do it.

Living with Personal Honor

Let me share with you the easiest thing you can do to prepare for that clarity of vision and its accompanying confidence and power. The easiest and most productive thing you can do is to live with personal honor. Living with personal is key to capturing the opportunities and blessing of being at the college. Living with personal honor is a spiritual matter. It is not temporal. You met with your Bishop, a common judge in Israel. A priesthood leader charged with the sacred obligation of measuring the integrity of your heart and protecting the learning environment at church sponsored institutions of higher learning. You pledged to him that you will live the Church Education System Honor Code including the dress and grooming standards. That pledge was more than just a “pinky swear”. It is a contract with this institution and a covenant with the Lord. That contract and covenant should guide your thoughts when choosing what to wear and what to do this summer.

A few of you will not see the connection between dressing and grooming and the gift of the spirit in your life. I ask you to take it on faith until you do see it. Because the connection is clear – we have seen it and bear witness of it. I invite you to experiment upon the word and counsel of the Brethren. Speaking to those who might be skeptical, I borrow the words of Elder Boyd K. Packer: "’Don't knock it till you've tried it’ .... If you haven't tried it yet, you are as yet no witness on the matter.”

Elder W. Rolfe Kerr, former Commissioner of Church Education, stated: “Don’t be critical of the Honor code. Don’t be cynical. Don’t try to compromise. Don’t push the envelope and get just as close as you can without violating it. Know that the Honor Code has been establish … by prophets, seers and revelators after much prayerful deliberation.”

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland counseled, “…choose your clothing the way you would choose your friends – in both cases choose that which improves you and would give you confidence standing in the presence of God. Good friends would never embarrass you, demean you, or exploit you. Neither should your clothing.”

Elder David A. Bednar stated, “The Honor Code is only partially concerned with hairstyles and earrings and clothing…It is about agency. It is about inviting the Holy Ghost into our lives through obedience. As the Holy Ghost comes into our lives we experience its gifts, we become living members of the living church. That is what the Code of Honor is about.”

Finally, Elder Henry B. Eyring: “Outsiders are wrong when they say. ‘I can’t understand your people on your campuses. You care about how your students dress, you care about honor codes, you care about whether your faculty are faithful to covenants that they made. What’s that got to do with education? How uneducational!’ Well, they just don’t know what we know. And that is, if we can conduct ourselves in such a way that we invite the Spirit of God and we work our hearts out, our students if they do the same will learn at rates that the world will just be amazed.”

You learn in a building dedicated by the President of the Church. You have made a contract and covenant about how you will live with personal honor. When you do, you are magnified. When you don’t, the spirit retreats by degrees and you impact those around you. That you have no right to do. You may ask why? Listen to the words of Elder Boyd K. Packer:

“Spirituality, while consummately strong, reacts to very delicate changes in its environment. To have it present at all and to keep it in some degree of purity requires commitment and a watch care…The spiritual atmosphere in which students are to learn and what they receive, will not emerge spontaneously. [It] will happen only if caused to happen and thereafter maintained with unwavering determination.”

Trust and Accountability

Some might say, “Come on we are adults, don’t you trust us to use good judgment to dress and act appropriately?” Yes, we do trust you. We trust you explicitly and so that is why we hold you accountable. The doctrine of the kingdom and the pattern of the Lord is clear on this point. Whether you ponder the principle of “return and report” or personal priesthood interviews, the principle is the same. Trust and accountability are inseparable. So we do trust you and therefore we hold you accountable to live up to your covenants. We go to the temple to learn to make convents; we come to LDS Business College to learn how to keep covenants.

More important than our “trust” in you is our “love for you”. I mean that from the bottom of my heart. So when we combine our trust in you and our love for you, we will not stand by idly if you choose not to honor the contract you have made with us and the covenant you have made with the Lord. We will say something to you, not as “honor code police” but as fellow citizens in this household of faith, in this temple of learning. We will ask you to step up to the expectations we have for you and to the commitments you have made to heaven. 

I wish you all the best. This is a great time to be young, to have fun, and to be at the college. We are excited about your future and your possibilities. It reminds me of a title to an old rock-and-roll song: “The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades.” I hope that is the way you feel about your future. You should feel that way. If you can’t see or feel the brightness of your future, let us help you.


I pray the Lord will bless and magnify you as you seek all that is noble, virtuous, lovely and of good report. I pray you will come to see and hear and know what heaven has in store for you now. I know you can. But to do so you really gotta wanna:

  • See your potential as God sees it
  • Pay the price and make the commitment
  • Think differently about yourself
  • Have a transformational experience
  • Act on true principles
  • Do it.

May you have the desire and courage to move forward in faith and confidence I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Durant, William J. (1926). The story of philosophy: The lives and opinions of the world’s greatest philosophers. Simon & Schuster, 76.
Eyring Henry B (2009).  Remarks at the inauguration of president J. Lawrence Richards, 4
Eyring Henry B (2009).  Remarks at the inauguration of president J. Lawrence Richards, 11
See  Eyring Henry B (2009).  Remarks at the inauguration of president J. Lawrence Richards, 4
Eyring Henry B (2009).  Remarks at the inauguration of president J. Lawrence Richards, 7
See D&C 50:21-23
See the book Change Your Questions Change Your Life written by Wendy Watson Nelson, wife of Elder Russell M. Nelson.
See 1 Nephi 10:17-19, 11:1
See 1 Nephi 17:49-51; D&C 43:16  as examples of faith, righteousness,  and power
Eyring Henry B (2009).  Remarks at the inauguration of president J. Lawrence Richards, 7
See Isaiah 55:8
See JST Hebrews 11:1
Elder Boyd K. Packer, The other side of the ship. Conference Report, October 1969, Afternoon Meeting 36.
John 21:1-6
Erying, Henry B. (n.d.).
2 Peter 1:5-8
Elder Boyd K. Packer, The other side of the ship. Conference Report, October 1969, Afternoon Meeting 36.
Kerr, Rolfe W. (n.d.)
Bednar, David A. (1997). Gain spiritual intelligence
Eyring, Henry B. (1995). Employee address, LDS Business College
Welch, John W. & Norton, Don E. Editors  (1996). Educating Zion, Provo: BYU Studies Monographs, 182
The 13th Article of Faith, also so Philippians 4:8


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