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President Larry Richards

The Beauty of a Miracle

Thank you, Brother Kusch. I don’t know, what do you sing at a funeral? You just wrote my obituary. Thank you very much. I don’t know what we’re supposed to sing now. We ought to sing something. I haven’t heard you sing a cappella in this room ever. Drew? Edwin, your favorite hymn? Edwin said we should sing “How Firm a Foundation.”[1] For those of you who were here last semester, you understand the significance of that. Let’s do that. Drew, can you give us a little introduction on that—so open up your cellphones to hymn number 85. I’d like to hear you sing in this room. I’ve heard you sing in the Assembly Hall, and I’ve heard you lift the roof off the Assembly Hall. But I’d love to hear you sing here.

How many verses, Edwin? One, three, and seven. Do you have it? Are we ready? Almost. Okay, and will you lead us. We’ll just do this very efficiently. Are you there? I want to hear you sing like you mean it. Brailee has spoken about foundations, you’re going to sing about foundations, then we’re going to talk about foundations in the form of a ball, a bow, and a boat. That’s our plan.

[Singing of “How Firm a Foundation.”]

Woah. That was awesome. Thank you very much. I just can’t tell you what your singing does to me, but it’s really a good thing, and I’m grateful for the gift. I’m grateful for that. I have to—since Brailee brought up moustaches, I have to tell you my moustache story. I had one for 30 years. As soon as I came home from my mission, I started to grow a moustache because I’ve never liked my smile. Still don’t. And I hid it under a moustache. When I was on the faculty here, I had a moustache because you weren’t going to see my smile. I didn’t like it.

Then one day I was reading the scriptures—darn it—and the words of Paul about when he was a child he did childish things, and when he grew older he “put away childish things.”[2] And it struck me—my moustache. At the time, my daughter was about 13 and my son was about 7. And so, I went into the bathroom, and I shaved my moustache. My wife had never seen me without a moustache. I dated her with a moustache. We were married 30 years, I had a moustache. And I came timidly out of the bathroom after having shaved my moustache.

My wife looked at me, my 13-year-old daughter looked at me, and they went, “Oooh. Grow it back.” Which, given my basic obstinate character, was motivation not to grow it back. And I haven’t.

I used to not wear my wedding ring because when you golf a lot and you have a wedding ring it puts this terrible little callous there. And I was in a meeting once, and President Monson told a story about his wedding ring. He took it off once because it was being repaired, and he took it to the jeweler. The jeweler was repairing it, and President Monson had to speak at BYU, and he spoke without his wedding ring on. And a little confused student down in front thought that his raising his hand like this in her direction was an invitation. And so, he said to all of us in the room, “Brethren, wear your wedding ring.” So I went and found it in my golf bag, and have never taken it off.

There are really simple things, brothers and sisters, that we can do that please our Father in Heaven. We usually think of the really big things. And in the book of John, the 8th chapter, verse 29, the Savior talks about that He came to the earth to do His Father’s will, and then He uses words—and I’m paraphrasing—He says, “I only do that which pleases the Father.”

I heard a little story yesterday from Elder Cornish of the Seventy, who was talking about that verse. He said that when he grew up, in his family, everybody had chores, and they rotated the chores. Sometimes it was his chore to do the dishes after dinner. Mom would say to him, calling him by his first name—I won’t do that because he’s an elder—“It’s your turn to do the dishes.” And he would sort of lag in his interest of doing that, but he was eventually obedient to the commandment of his mother to do the dishes.

And then he noticed when his sister’s turn was to do the dishes. And as soon as dinner was over, she would jump right up and clear off all the dishes, and she’d go do the dishes, and then she’d wipe down all the counters, and then she’d sweep the floor. She just did a whole bunch of things that were outside of that commandment to do the dishes.

Elder Cornish said, “I was obedient to my mother’s commandment, but my sister pleased my mother.” Can you hear it? “What my sister did pleased my mother.” I can think, brothers and sisters, for nothing greater for us to accomplish individually or collectively this entire semester than if we woke up in the morning and said in our hearts, “What would please my Father in Heaven today?”

And we would get out of this Pharisaical deal of how many steps can I take on the Sabbath and all of that stuff, and wake up with a desire to please our Father in Heaven. Wouldn’t that be fun? I’m going to try and do that this semester. Am I going to be perfect at it? No. I’ll bring my wife; she’ll tell you I’m not going to be perfect at it.

I’ll be like the fellow that said to a group of people, “My New Year’s resolutions are to read the scriptures every day, I’m going to say my prayers more diligently, I’m going to read my priesthood manual before I go to church, and I’m going to do my home teaching before the third day of the month.” Then he said, “Today’s January 2nd, and it’s not looking too good.”[3]

But we try. And if we set goals in our lives that are really high, like “be ye therefore perfect,”[4] then in our striving and as we fall short of that, we will still achieve some excellence. It is when we set our objectives lower than our capabilities that we end up falling short and not pleasing our Father in Heaven. Are you with me? Does that make some sense?

In April of 2012, Elder Holland was here speaking at the College because we were honoring his wife as our Distinguished Alumnus. She attended here. She was a roommate of my sister-in-law. And we had a nice evening dinner, and she was here, and we asked Elder Holland if he would say something. He was very deferential to the attention being paid to his wife. But he consented that he would do that.

He reflected on his own time at BYU when they were first married and they were poor. They didn’t have much at all. But he did have a dream, he said, and it was a dream of something that someday he might be able to accomplish in his life. He held onto that dream and he worked hard, he told us. And he ended up in a place that he never thought or never imagined that he would be in.

And then he quoted for us out of the book of Joel, second chapter, verses 28 and 29 and 30. Let me read part of it for you. This is Elder Holland speaking to us. He said this scripture:

And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your old men shall dream dreams, [and] your young men shall see visions:

And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.

And I will shew wonders in the heavens.

And then he said that you students are entitled to dream dreams and to have visions about your potential and know what is possible. And like Elder Holland, right now some of you have come to the College, and all you’ve got is a dream. Good for you. You dream those dreams, and you work hard, and you catch the vision of what your potential is to move forward and accomplish what the Lord would have you accomplish—to please Him. So you dare to have visions, and you couple those dreams and those visions with hard work, and then you watch the quiet miracle in your life unfold.

And the beauty of the miracle unfolding is you only see it in hindsight. Because while you are studying and working hard and going to bed at unreasonable hours because you are cramming for a test—boo—but you’re cramming for a test, and you’re working an average of 24 hours a week, and trying to be faithful in your church duties—you will not see that miracle until you look backward. But I pray that in some journal, in some record somewhere, you are recording your life, and monthly you go back and you read and you see the quiet miracle unfolding in your life.

Now, the proximity of this College to the temple and the proximity of Temple Square to the College ought to give us all a really good feeling about the sacred nature of this institution and about the quest for learning. We’ve said it before, and you’ve heard it. There are only four places on the face of the earth where there is a temple to the most high God and an institution of higher learning belonging to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Four places, and you’re in one of them.

Here’s what J. Reuben Clark Jr. said about your education in a spiritual context—and you should know he is one speaking with authority. J. Reuben Clark was a faculty member at LDS Business College. When my grandfather went to school here, his records show that he took a class from J. Reuben Clark and James L. Talmage. Not too bad. Faculty who are here—step it up! We expect great things.

J. Reuben Clark Jr.: “The acquisition of knowledge is a lifelong, sacred activity, pleasing to our Father in Heaven and favored by His servants. . . . He who invades the domain of knowledge must approach it as Moses came to the burning bush; he stands on holy ground; he would acquire [sacred things]. . . . We must come to this quest of truth—in all regions of human knowledge whatsoever, not only in reverence, but with a spirit of worship.”[5]

So, I promise you, brothers and sisters, that if you combine your dreams with hard work and a desire to please the Lord—dreams, hard work, a desire to please the Lord—you can be assured of good things to come this semester. The College resources are available to you to help you discover your dream, or to help you move that dream forward. So, come share your dreams with us. Let us help you.

There is no reason for you to live below the privileges and promises that Father in Heaven has made to you, and made to you long before you and I came to this earth. I pray that you will open up your heart and learn about that. If you haven’t had your patriarchal blessing, you should go get it so that you begin to get a glimpse of what it might be.

So, here is what I’d like to do. I’d like to go to three concepts in the Book of Mormon. They are all found in the 16th chapter of 1 Nephi and a little bit of the 17th chapter. O this idea, now, to follow up on what Brailee had to say about foundations. Let’s talk about three foundations in the form of a ball, a bow, and a boat. Are you ready? Here we go.

You remember well that story of Nephi and Lehi, and Lehi leading his family away from Jerusalem, and they camped for a couple of times. And about on their second camp, the scripture says that the voice of the Lord came unto Lehi and told him that “on the morrow”[6] he was to head off into the wilderness. So, you remember reading that Lehi wakes up in the morning, and he goes outside. And there, to his surprise, is the Liahona—this “ball of curious workmanship”[7] that had on it pointers that would point direction. And then it also had a space somehow—we don’t know—that words and phrases and direction would appear. And the directional pointers worked based upon their faith, their diligence, and the heed that they gave to those spindles and the words as they appeared. [8] What would it do? It would give them, as the scriptures say, a better “understanding concerning the ways of the Lord.”[9]

So, there are three points that I think are worth culling out as we just look at that little piece of that ball and Lehi’s experience with it. Number one, his commandment to depart into the wilderness happened before the ball showed up. And so Lehi, with faith, gets up “on the morrow,” in the morning. And he walks out, you know, with full intention of breaking camp, and he’s going to head—some direction. And it was after he exercised the faith and moved his feet that the ball showed up to give him direction.

So, I would ask you this, you and I. How willing are we to be obedient first, before the aid of the Lord shows up? Or do we sit at home waiting for the instructions? Waiting for the Liahona to tell us, waiting for somebody else to tell us, what we ought to do? Rather than getting up, following the commandment, and moving our feet forward.

Point number two about the ball—it’s a question for you: to whom do you look for guidance? There are many voices competing for your attention and for your very soul. Some of the voices are quiet, and they whisper truth. And these are heard with trained spiritual ears. On the contrary, others rival with the sweet enticings of the Sirens of Odessa that Odysseus was confronted with on his ocean voyage.[10] And from Lehi’s record, we find that there is a better way of avoiding those enticing Sirens without having to put wax in our ears and being tied to the mast of a boat. It is in the Liahona, but it takes practice, brothers and sisters, to train your ears. How many of you here are returned missionaries? [Audience members raise their hands.] See—you trained your ears.

But the problem is that we often believe that once we’ve come home from the mission, the training of our spiritual ears and the development of a spiritually-sensitive palate is over. My suggestion to you is that it has just begun. So, I would ask you to ponder in your heart and in your mind, what are you doing to train your spiritual ear that you may hear truth and know to which source to look for it, and not Google the “great and spacious building”[11] to find out what it is you believe?

In Shakespeare, somewhere there is a suggestion made to knock on the door of your bosom, and to ask your heart what you believe.[12] That’s a good spot.

Number three: there is a key phrase that we often overlook when we read about Lehi’s journey, and that is the fact that this ball of curious workmanship, this set of scriptures to them, led them in “the more fertile parts of the wilderness.”[13] It was a wilderness, but the ball kept them in the most fertile parts.

Now, going to college and at this stage in your life, it can feel like a wilderness. Just look outside at the yuck in the air. It’s a wilderness. So how do you keep yourself in the most fertile part of the wilderness? You have three potential Liahonas in your life. You know what they are—one is the scriptures. You make them personal to you. When you finish reading the Book of Mormon every year, do you hold it close to your chest and do you claim it yours, because you’ve received personal inspiration and guidance as a result of that? If you haven’t done that, invite yourself to do that.

Prophets—how many of you are really willing to take the counsel of a prophet without having to hear “thus saith the Lord”? Part of pleasing our Father in Heaven is doing those things we are counseled without having to hear “thus saith the Lord.” Prophets help us understand the difference between good and evil; and good, better, and best[14]; people of good intention; and those who would set a snare for your feet.

What’s the third Liahona? Your patriarchal blessing. Listen to what President Monson said about your patriarchal blessing: “Your patriarchal blessing will see you through the darkest night.” Do I need to read that again? “Your patriarchal blessing will see you through the darkest night. It will guide you through life’s dangers. . . . Your patriarchal blessing is . . . a personal Liahona to chart your course and guide your way.”[15] Patience may be required as we watch, wait, and work for the promised blessings to be fulfilled.

Now, you each have access to those Liahona-like sources, and I invite you to use them to follow the counsel that you see. And if you do, here’s what I have noticed after being here for 15 years at the College. If you follow the guidance and the direction that you receive, the effectiveness of your studying and the efficiency of it will improve. Number two, your ability to retain and learn will be magnified. And number three, the Spirit will be your companion, and you will learn at rates—as President Eyring said about you—you will learn at rates that just amaze the world.[16] And number four, you will stay within the most fertile parts of your wilderness.

That is a promise. It will happen here, and it will happen for the rest of your life. I testify that that is true.

Okay, ready to move on? The bow incident.[17] You know it well. Nephi’s got this wonderful bow. It’s made out of steel. Imagine that. And he breaks it. So what does he go do? He goes and finds some wood, and he makes a bow. He said he found a straight stick for an arrow. Not exactly a steel bow. But you notice what happens? His brothers, when their bows don’t work anymore because they have lost their spring, the scriptures say, they sat around and murmured about their situation.

But what did Nephi do? He took action. He acted and did not wait to be acted upon. He did what he could do with the resources that he had. He didn’t have the steel to make a new bow, so he used what he had. And then he went to his file priesthood leader and said, “How should I use what I have built in order to feed the family?”[18]

So, you know that he goes and he hunts. Now, I don’t know about you, but after having gone through what he has gone through up to this point, in the 16th chapter of first Nephi, I’d be a little upset. I’ll just be honest. I mean, he could have—really, why did they have to go so far away in order to go back to Jerusalem and get the plates? The Lord clearly had the power to bring those plates to exactly where they were. Is there any doubt about that? And he’s traveling with Dumb and Dumber[19]. And he’s trying to do his very best.

So, if I had been Nephi going through all of that, and it’s the wilderness—the wilderness—here’s what I would be saying. And I wrote it down because I felt Nephi—and he is a better man than I—but I put myself in his shoes. Here’s what I would have said: “Why me? Why this? I’ve been doing everything you’ve asked. I’ve put up with my two older brothers who have done little else but persecute me for trying to do the right thing. I’m trying to live the best life I can out here in the wilderness. I’m grateful that the Liahona has kept us in the most fertile parts of the wilderness, but it is a wilderness. I am tired, and I am hungry. You sent manna from heaven for our forefathers; how about a few rabbits for us?”

That’s me. Did Nephi do that? No, he didn’t. He didn’t weep over his current condition, but he stepped forward and he did what he could do. Now, I am sure that that wooden bow and that straight stick for an arrow looked pretty pitiful compared to his steel bow. And I bet there were people in his family who thought, “We’re going hungry because Nephi is going to go and try to find food with that, and”—as my friends in Alabama say—“that dog don’t hunt.” But Nephi took what he had, and he applied it to a worthy cause. The Lord magnified his effort, and he brought home food, and everybody rejoiced.

Brothers and sisters, some of you have come to the College with steel bows. Some of you come with wooden bows. Some of you don’t even know what a bow looks like yet. But you have come. And if you say to your Father in Heaven, “With the talents, Heavenly Father, that I have and the gifts that you have given me, and my desire to please you and to follow the ball, will you magnify what I am trying to do?” And He will. That is a promise.

So, did you notice that Nephi, in the record, takes responsibility for breaking the bow? He says, “I broke the bow.”[20] He didn’t blame it on his parents; he didn’t blame it on his situation. He didn’t blame it on the big rock that he had to crawl over or whatever caused him to break the bow. He says, in the scriptures, “I did break my bow.”[21] Part of life, brothers and sisters, and being successful is taking accountability for the things that happen to you.

I’ll tell you a little story. When she was 7, my daughter Lauren—I loved to play soccer in the backyard with my daughter Lauren. Oh, maybe she couldn’t have been 7—4 or 5 maybe. She said to me, “Daddy, I’m thirsty.”

I said, “Well dear, go inside and get a drink.”

So, she went inside, got her little cup, got a drink, and she came out, and she’s wet all down the front of her. And she said, “Daddy, look what you made me do.”

I said, “Lauren, sweetie, I made you do that?”

“Well, you told me to go get a drink.”

I invite you to think of the times in your life when the same thing has happened to you, when it’s somebody else’s fault rather than taking accountability for it.

Well, let me move on. I will tell you this: just like Nephi’s challenge, I invite you to go read that first introduction to the Doctrine and Covenants and pause on that paragraph—it depends on which edition you have; if you bought one in the last year, it’s at the bottom of one page. If you have the other edition, it’s at the top of the second page. But it says words to this effect: that these revelations were given to real people in real circumstances, with answers to real challenges. I testify to you that with “the ball” and the application of “the bow” in your life, you will receive revelation for the needs that you have in your life. I promise you that because I have seen it work.

Okay. Now, here’s the last one. Now, we have to go to chapter 17 of 1 Nephi. It’s the boat. And you know about the boat. Finally, the family finds a little temporary rest in the land Bountiful, right? And Nephi gets instructed to build a boat. But not just any boat; it’s got to be a boat that is not built after the manner of men. Isn’t it interesting? Nephi is commanded to build something he has never built before, to cross a sea that he had never seen before, to take him to a place he’d never been before. Congratulations, Nephi, build the boat. And he has Dumb and Dumber[22] over here telling him he can’t get it done.

Well, that boat was a key to Nephi’s success in learning how to do things the Lord’s way. Do you remember when he received the commandment? He didn’t say, “A boat? How am I going to build a boat?” His only response to the Lord was, “Where do I go to get the ore?”[23]

You see, Nephi had experienced enough in his life that he knew nothing was impossible. If he would do it the Lord’s way and at the Lord’s command, the Lord would open up the way for him to do it. He knew it. And who knows what preparation he and his family had in those eight years wandering in the wilderness, and the places they may have stopped where he could have developed some of the skills to make that boat. But he thought he was building the skills perhaps, in those earlier years, for some totally different reason.

I would suggest to you, brothers and sisters, that the skills that you are building here and that you have built in your life, you are building them for one reason, but I guarantee you the Lord has a bigger plan for those skills. And the plan for Nephi was to build that boat.

So, you come to a College and you’re here, and we have lots of tools. You don’t even have to go build your own tools. Because we’ve got course content, we’ve got a learning pattern, we’ve got internships, we’ve got student activities and student mentors, a learning assistance lab, a writing lab, a job placement center, a student success team, faculty, staff, institute, others. The question is, will you pick up the tools that are offered to you, and will you use them in a way to develop your skills and your talents so that you can be self-reliant adults and recognize why Heavenly Father would have you build those tools? And that insight will come later in your life, and you will be surprised. You will say, “Oh, my goodness. That is why I did this. That’s why I sat through this class. That’s why I had this impression three years ago to do something.”

He is there. He is speaking. He wants you to hear. You may have the spiritual ears to hear it and to taste the goodness of the gospel by a spiritually refined palate. I hope, brothers and sisters, that whatever limitations you think you may have, they will be less severe in your life if you remember the ball and take guidance from the right sources, if you remember the bow and you take action to do what you can do with what you have. And if your intent is pure and your objectives are worthy, the Lord will magnify your efforts to accomplish those things that are expedient.

And finally, I hope you remember the boat. You can do really hard things. You can do things that you don’t think you can do. You’re here at LDS Business College constructing the foundation for the rest of your life and a testimony—not after the manner of men, but you’re doing it in “a more excellent way,”[24] as the scriptures say. The Lord’s way.

So, this semester, I hope you work hard. I hope you have some fun. This is a great time in your life to have fun, good fun. Do your best, and give the Lord something to work with, will you? I’m going to say it again. Just do your best, and give the Lord something to work with to move the gospel forward. You have a role to play in building the kingdom of God, and I plea that you do not waste your time or your potential by missing what William Shakespeare described as “a tide in the affairs of men, Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.”[25]

The tide is rising, brothers and sisters, for you to sail your boat. Take advantage of what the Lord would have you do. The Lord is counting on you. He needs each one of you to do your part. And for all of your collective small efforts, and the lives you are trying to lead in pleasing our Father in Heaven, what is going to happen? Spiritual Zion will rise up, and be prepared to meet the Savior and carry off the kingdom triumphantly. You are part of it! You have a role to fill in the building of the kingdom.

We don’t think now about a Church with 15 million members; we think about a Church of 50 million members and what the Lord needs from you—your heart and a willing mind—and the promise of the Lord that the obedient will eat of the good of Zion all the days of their lives.[26]

There is a God in heaven. Jesus is the Christ. There was an empty tomb; He rose again. He is as physical as you and I are physical. He speaks. He loves you. The Savior loves you so much because He sacrificed more than any human has ever sacrificed, for you. It is the basis of His love. So, He speaks to prophets, seers, and revelators. He has not left you alone. You have value to Him beyond what you could possibly measure. And you are here at His institution building the foundation of your life and reflecting on the lesson that is inside a “ball of curious workmanship,” a broken bow, and a boat.

I pray the Lord’s blessings to be upon you this semester, that you will rise up to the calling that He has for you and the mission that He commissioned you with—Doctrine and Covenants 88:80.  I leave you that blessing and my great hopes for you, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


[1] “How Firm a Foundation,” Hymns, no. 85.

[2] 1 Corinthians 13:11.

[3] See Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “The Best Time to Plant a Tree,” Ensign, Jan 2014.

[4] Matthew 5:48; see also 3 Nephi 12:48.

[5] J. Reuben Clark Jr., “Charge to President Howard S. McDonald,” Improvement Era, Jan. 1946, 15, quoted in Dallin H. Oaks and Kristen Oaks, “Learning and Latter-day Saints,” Elder Dallin H. Oaks and Sister Kristen Oaks, Ensign, Apr. 2009.

[6] 1 Nephi 16:9.

[7] 1 Nephi 16:10.

[8] See 1 Nephi 16:28.

[9] 1 Nephi 16:29.

[10] Homer, The Odyssey.

[11] 1 Nephi 8:26.

[12] See William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure, act 2, scene 2,

[13] 1 Nephi 16:16.

[14] See Dallin H. Oaks, “Good, Better, Best,” Oct. 2007 General Conference.

[15] Thomas S. Monson, “Your Patriarchal Blessing: A Liahona of Light,” Oct. 1986 General Conference.

[16] See Henry B. Eyring, “A Steady, Upward Course,” BYU-I Devotional, Sep. 18, 2001.

[17] See 1 Nephi 16:14–32.

[18] See 1 Nephi 16:23.

[19] See “Dumb and Dumber,” Warner Bros., 1994.

[20] See 1 Nephi 16:18.

[21] 1 Nephi 16:18.

[22] See “Dumb and Dumber,” Warner Bros., 1994.

[23] See 1 Nephi 17:9.

[24] 1 Corinthians 12:31.

[25] William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, act 4, scene 3,

[26] See D&C 64:34.


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