Start This Semester Strong
Craig read that just the way I wrote it for him. Not really. You do look good. You look very good. I appreciate that music. There’s something about music. I think Father in Heaven really likes music, because it has the power to elicit the Spirit, and to invite it in very special ways. And I appreciated Claudia’s sensitivity to that hymn, “I Feel My Savior’s Love.” Couldn’t you tell, the way that she played it, that it came from her heart? It made me think carefully about you, and the love that the Savior has for you because you are here. And if you don’t feel anything today, or don’t remember anything today, I pray with all sincerity that you will feel your Savior’s love.
In those books that we’ve given to you for this year, you could write down a couple of things that people say that will be kind of important. Let me tell you a little trick that I use. I use bullets, squares and little “I”s in a circle. The squares are little tasks that I need to do, because I heard something today that’s triggered a thought that prompts me to take an action. The little dots are because somebody said something that I thought, “That’s worth remembering.” But it’s the little “I” inside the circle that makes the difference for me, because the “I” stands for “an impression.” And in these devotionals, brothers and sisters, you will be taught by the Spirit if you are willing to change and have ears to hear. So I commend to you to do a couple of things: 1) write down impressions; 2) I invite you to turn off your cell phones. You are entitled to 50 minutes of just you—no Mom texting, no friend texting. Afterward, you’re more than welcome to go out on Facebook and say what a wonderful institution this is and that you were at a wonderful devotional and give your favorite quote from it or something, your favorite bullet. But for right now, unplug so that you may not be distracted from the Spirit in your life. Give yourself that blessing. Open yourself to that opportunity for the Holy Ghost to speak in ways that are tailored for you.
So we’ll just give you a second. We know that lots of you will turn off your phones and they’ll make little weird noises, and those chimes that we know, we’ll hum along with you. But just turn them off.
Eric, I appreciated your prayer. Eric prayed for a miracle. I hope we get one, right here, right now. But I hope, brothers and sisters, that you know that you are the miracle, because you are who you are, you have the faith to do what Father in Heaven has asked you to do, in a world that says you are nuts for doing it. You are the miracle. Joseph said that you are a peculiar people. You are. You are weird. And your friends not of this faith will tell you that you are weird. They will say to you, “What has the way you dress and the length of your hair have anything to do with education?” And you can just smile, and tell them who you are and what you’re trying to become. And in that moment of so telling, whether it’s verbally or whether it’s just in your heart, you will come to know in greater ways than you have ever known the Savior’s love for you—in the sweetness, just as Claudia played it.
Satan would have you believe you are no miracle. He tried it with Moses—you know those scriptures well. After Moses had that great vision and saw the Lord, and the Lord called him the son of God—three times, I believe, in the book of Moses. And then you know what happened. Satan showed up. And how did Satan refer to Moses? He called him a son of man. Brothers and sisters, you are not children of mere men. You are the spirit children of a loving Father in Heaven who has sent you here. And because He loves you, He has sent the rest of us to help you become whatever Heaven has planned for you in this season of your life. Our job is to help you find it. Your job is to have the faith to seize the day, to grasp the brass ring and become what Father wants you to become, so that you may—as section 88 of the Doctrine and Covenants says, verse 80—that you may be prepared for the mission for which He has called you.
There is no mistake that you have been held back for eons of time in order to come now. You are, in fact, part—part—of the noble and great ones who were seen by the prophets. The book of Revelation tells us that you fought on the side of the Savior against the forces of the adversary, and you fought with your testimony of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. You knew it then, and part of your season of being here with us is to come to know again what you already knew, and when those morsels of truth show up, it will be familiar to you. It will have a familiar spirit, and your heart will say, along with your mind, “Yes, these are true principles. This is the way I will choose to act, because I know who I am and I know whose I am. And I know that what I am holding out for is not some piece of celestial pie.” What you are holding out for is the whole doggone bakery, and I promise you that it is yours if you live for that blessing.
Now, I’ll change subjects and I’ll quit sniffing. I just get emotional when I talk to you, because I love you. How many of you in this room have been a bishop? Raise your hands. You know this, don’t you? You just love people who you have some stewardship over. I don’t even know you who are brand new. I don’t have to. I love you, because Father has planted that in my heart for you. That’s what brings me—and I’ll bet every other faculty member, and every other member of the administration or staff—to work here every day. Believe me, it’s not for the money. Okay.
In junior high school and in high school I was involved in some sports. You can guess by my size, I was not on the basketball team. Nor did I play football after my sophomore year. It became very obvious that my mother did not raise a fool. At my size, playing anything other than sophomore football would be a really bad mistake. So I got involved in soccer. Back then, it was a non-contact sport. I also used to race, and I used to swim. And I learned some things about that. Whether it was running long distances to build up our stamina or swimming tedious laps to get in shape and to perfect our strokes, we learned about a good start and how important it was. And we learned that the shorter the race, or the shorter the swim, the more important the start was. In fact, I remember on cold mornings outside, sitting around the pool shivering, the coach would have us close our eyes and try to clear our minds—which was hard, given the cold and given my lack of ballast. He would say, “Close your eyes and just visualize a great start.” He would hold up the starter’s gun, and with our eyes closed, he would pull the trigger. In that moment, we were supposed to visualize in our mind that burst of energy that got us out of the starting blocks if we were running a 440 race, or off the blocks and into the pool. And we visualized how to do a perfect start. I was not a stamina guy—I could run 440 and die. I could swim 200 meters freestyle, and then you would pull me from the pool. So for me, the start was really important.
Now, let me suggest something here about this institution. This College is like a good 440 race, or a good 200 meters. It’s just long enough that you need stamina, but in two years, it’s short enough that you need a really good start. So today I want to share some ideas around the principles of having a really good start at LDS Business College—things like showing up on time, dressed in the uniform of the day, ready to go. So I hope that you will find something in what I say today that is important.
One thing about all analogies—they break down. So let me make a comment. The only race you’re involved in here is a race against yourself. You don’t have to beat anybody else; you just need to turn in the best time you’ve ever had. That’s all Father wants. We all come here with different skills and different attributes, different capabilities. All Father wants is your best time—your personal best. And if we do that, as Eric prayed, there will be miracles in your life. I promise you that. Your education is important to your Father in Heaven. That’s why He’s willing to pay out of the tithing of the Church more than 50 percent of the cost of your being here. So I hope you recognize that—that somewhere in Ghana or Mexico or Peru there is a widow without an education, who may live in a room with a dirt floor, who with her widow’s mite has paid for more than half of your education here. So brothers and sisters, please. You need a good start and you need stamina. It’s a good race. Father wants you to run it.
If you haven’t noticed by now, you will. We have three phrases that we use around here a lot. They came from a moment in a chapel in Malad, Idaho. It was a moment. And how many years ago was it, Craig, that we went to Malad, Idaho, and these three phrases came to us? Ten years ago? No, I’ve only been here eight. You see, it feels like ten. There are times, brothers and sisters, you make us feel like it’s been ten years here. Maybe it’s six or seven, though. We are still trying to discover what these three phrases mean. That’s a wonderful thing about revelation from your Father in Heaven. He will tell you what you need to know now. How many of you have had a patriarchal blessing? How many think you fully understand your patriarchal blessing? No, you don’t. I’ll save you from raising your hands. You don’t! Why? Because Father in Heaven will give you revelation based on what you need now. And I will promise you that, as you experience life faithfully, the power of your patriarchal blessing will unravel in front of you. You will come to know what Father in Heaven wants you to know.
I’ll tell you a quick story. I’ve had that in my life. I had my patriarchal blessing at 16. It told me I was going to go on a mission. I did. It told me I was going to marry a wonderful woman. I did. It told me I would have great children. We’re working on it. We’re not having children anymore, but the greatness thereof, of those children. And then, one day, I got a call unexpectedly from a stake president—one of those calls that say, “I’d like to meet you tomorrow morning. Bring your wife.” Well, I knew she was ready for a call from the stake, so we went to meet with the stake president, and he said to my dear bride, “Julie, I’d like to interview your husband for a moment alone.”
I knew it wasn’t going to be for my wife. And he called me to be the bishop. And then I wept. They brought my wife in, and she did one of those moments, if you’ve ever seen that movie “A Really Good Man,” she said, “Him? Him? Really?” And then we walked out of that meeting. It was a tender moment. We held hands walking down the sidewalk, got in my car, wept some more. We went home, we prayed. We wept some more. She looked at me. She really wept. And then I went and opened my patriarchal blessing. And you know what? My patriarchal blessing has everything to do with being the bishop. But Father in Heaven was not going to tell that to a 16-year-old, because He knew me and He loved me. And He knew that if I got that insight from my patriarchal blessing at 16, I would spend the rest of my life until 50-whatever it was when I got called, sitting on the back row looking at the bishop, saying in my prideful little heart, “Well, when I’m the bishop I think I’ll do it a little differently.”
So just as your patriarchal blessing will be a continuing source of revelation for you, these three phrases are a continuing source of discovery for us. And here they are—it’s in our mission statement: The mission of this institution is to enlighten minds, to elevate hope, and to ennoble souls. So for the rest of the time here today, short—I feel like Thomas Jefferson; if I had more time I’d write shorter talks. He said, “If I had more time, I’d write shorter letters.” But let me share a couple of things with you about those three phrases, about enlightening minds. The thing I want to share with you is your ability to hear and respond, if you would please, to the voice of the Spirit. There are in your life many competing voices. You need to learn how to sift them, to know which ones speak truth, which ones speak error, which ones are for your good, and which ones are there to deceive you.
I’ve invited President Faust here to give you his thoughts on this very same subject.
[Tape of President James E. Faust appears on video screen.]
“How are you going to select the voices you will listen to? You will not be able to travel through life on borrowed light. The voice you must learn to heed is the voice of the Spirit. The Spirit’s voice is ever-present, but it is calm.
“The adversary tries to smother this voice with a multitude of loud, persistent, persuasive, appealing voices:
- Murmuring voices that conjure up perceived injustices.
- Whining voices that abhor challenge and work.
- Seductive voices offering sensual enticements.
- Flattering voices that puff us up with pride.
- Commercial voices that tempt us to ‘spend money for that which is of no worth, [and our] labor for that which cannot satisfy’ (2 Nephi 9:51).
“In your generation, you will be barraged by a multitude of voices telling you how to live, how to gratify your passions, how to have it all. There will be all sorts of software, satellite receivers and communication networks that will suffocate you with information. You will be bombarded with evil and wickedness like no other generation. As I contemplate this prospect, I am reminded of T.S. Eliot’s words: ‘Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?’(“Choruses from ‘The Rock,’” The Complete Poems and Plays (1930), 96)
“I have suggested a simple solution for selecting the channel which you will attune yourselves to: listen to and follow the voice of the Spirit. This is an ancient solution, even eternal, and may not be popular in a society that is always looking for something new. This solution requires patience in a world that demands instant gratification. This solution is quiet, peaceful and subtle. This solution requires you to walk by faith in a world governed by sight.
“Learn to ponder the things of the Spirit, and respond to its promptings. Filter out the static generated by Satan. As you become attuned to the Spirit, ‘thine ears shall hear the word behind thee saying, This is the way. Walk ye in it’ (Isaiah 30:21). Hearkening to the voice of the living God will give you ‘peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come’ (D&C 59: 23). These are the greatest of all the gifts of God” (President James E. Faust video, “Voice of the Spirit,” 30 Aug 2010, lds.org: [similar text found in “Voice of the Spirit,” First Presidency Message, Liahona, June 2006]).
Brothers and sisters, an enlightened mind has learned how to counsel with the Lord. Now let me give you a little clue I heard from Elder Bednar a couple of weeks ago. He came to our ward to speak to a small group of ward members on the topic of the temple. He said an interesting thing about going to the temple that has changed the way I’m going to go. You see, I’ve always thought that I go to the temple to find an answer to a question that I’ve got. How many have been there, done that? You go to the temple to find an answer to a question that you’ve got? He made this suggestion. He said, “Go to the temple and search for the right question.” Then he went on to convey this thought—that the answers come later, through the scriptures and personal prayer, and through experience. I am coming to know, brothers and sisters, that that is true. Without finding the right question, the answers can become quite irrelevant. Does that make sense to you? Yes.
We know in the scriptures that that’s the way they work, if we’re prepared to listen and we’re prepared to change. I heard an apostle say that unless you are willing to change, the Holy Ghost will not speak to you. Now, that’s a staggering statement. Unless you are willing to change, the Holy Ghost will not speak to you. It didn’t make sense to me until I went into the book of Jacob and I went into the book of Jarom, and I read about stiff-necked people who had hard hearts, who would not listen to the prophets (See, for example, Jarom 1:3). A hard heart and a stiff neck is evidence of unwillingness to change, and hence the Holy Ghost does not speak. I’ll leave that for you to ponder.
Elder Christopherson said the scriptures are revelation, and they will bring added revelation. You know that. You should write down 2 Nephi 32:3-5. In verse 3, it’s very clear. It says the scriptures will tell you what to do. In verse 5, it says that the Holy Ghost will show you what to do. What a wonderful combination. To you youth of Zion, who have the Gift of the Holy Ghost, to be able to read the scriptures and know what to do because they will tell you, and then have the Holy Ghost apply it, show you in your life what to do. My goodness—that’s part of a great start.
Now, you’ve got a conference coming up, and you know you have a couple of ways of doing conference. One, you can do it in your jammies, or one you can dress like you’re going to the Conference Center. I think that helps to demonstrate to the Spirit that you’re ready to be taught. You can do it lying down on the couch, drifting in and out, or you can do it sitting up in a chair, with this new little black notebook in your hand—remembering about squares to tell you you need to do something, dots remembering something that somebody said, but it’s those little “I”s inside of a circle that will mean the most to you.
The next part of our three phrases—let me jump to our third one next—ennobling souls. You don’t know everything, brothers and sisters, about the doctrine, about the ordinances. But you know enough. And you know enough to be obedient, to put yourselves in a position to gain further light and knowledge. Listen to Elder Andersen:
“Our spiritual journey is the process of a lifetime. We do not know everything in the beginning or even along the way. We first build a foundation of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We treasure the principles and ordinances of repentance, baptism, and receiving the Holy Ghost. We include a continuing commitment to prayer, a willingness to be obedient, and an ongoing witness of the Book of Mormon.
“We then remain steady and patient as we progress through mortality. At times, the Lord’s answer will be, ‘You don’t know everything, but you know enough—enough to keep the commandments and to do what is right.’
“Challenges, difficulties, questions, doubts—these are part of our mortality. But we are not alone. We have enormous reservoirs or light and truth available to us. Our questions and doubts are resolved or become less concerning to us. Our faith becomes simple and pure. We come to know what we already knew. You don’t know everything, but you know enough.
“Jesus said, ‘Except ye become as little children, ye shall not enter the kingdom of heaven. Jesus is the Christ. He is resurrected. He is our Savior and Redeemer. Through the Prophet Joseph Smith, His priesthood was restored on the earth. You don’t know everything, but you know enough. I so testify, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen” (Elder Neil L. Andersen, Video: “You Know Enough,” lds.org [text found in “You Know Enough, Liahona, Nov. 2008, 13-14]).
Brothers and sisters, let me give you a little warning about obedience, and it plagues you and it plagues me. It plagues especially those of us who are second, third, or fourth or fifth or sixth generation Mormons. I’m just going to give it to you in a little phrase. When we give more reverence to our culture than we do to our covenants, our casualness will bring unintended consequences. You see, for most of you, Satan knows he cannot confront you with the big sins. He will get you, just as he said in the book of Nephi, with his “flaxen cord” (2 Nephi 26:22) He will desensitize you. He will make lots of black and white seem gray. Part of a great start, part of having an ennobled soul is to learn to obey the simple things—including the dress and grooming standards of this college. I ask you, if you don’t have a testimony of it, to accept in on faith. It will make a difference. I don’t have time, but if I did, I would read you President Kimball and I would read you President Bednar, when he was president of BYU-Idaho, about the Honor Code.
I will speak plainly so as not to be misunderstood but also not to disrupt the Spirit that I hope is here. President Bednar says, for those who, in your heart, feel like willfully rebelling against the Honor Code, he said, you should go somewhere else to school. He said you will not be happy here. And he said, “You have no claim on the resources of the Church.” Okay, I’ll get off that now, but I hope you feel the importance of it and will accept it on faith and receive the miracle in your life from living it.
All right, now we need to end, but let me say this—the last piece. Hope is elevated, brothers and sisters, in your life, by being here, by striving to do the best that you can, and by seizing every day the best you can. There will be days you wake up and you don’t want to seize the day. There will be days when it is “Hakuna Matata,” right? I accept that. And so, have one of those days, carefully, and then repent. Then repent, and just strive to be a little bit better. I know that some of you come here with great hopes about the future because you know what it is. I know that some of you arrived in Salt Lake City with the last nickel in your pocket. I know that some of you have come here in great faith without support of parents. But I promise you, you may have hope in good things to come.
Now I’d like to have you listen to that same theme from Elder Holland, and then we’ll close with a testimony.
“Every one of us has times when we need to know that things will get better. My declaration is that that is precisely what the gospel of Jesus Christ offers us, especially in times of need. Thirty years ago last month, a little family set out to cross the United States, every earthly possession they owned packed into the smallest trailer available, no money, an old car. They drove exactly 34 miles down the highway, at which point their beleaguered car erupted. The young father surveyed the steam, matched it with his own, then left his trusting wife and two innocent children—the youngest just three months old—to wait in the car, while he walked the three miles or so to the southern Utah metropolis of Kannarraville, population then, I suppose, 65. Some water was secured at the edge of town, and a very kind citizen offered to drive back to the stranded family.
“The car was attended to, and slowly—very slowly—driven back to St. George for inspection. After more than two hours of checking and re-checking, no immediate problem could be detected, so once again, the journey was begun.
“In exactly the same amount of elapsed time, at exactly the same location on that highway, with exactly the same pyrotechnics from under that hood, the car exploded again. Now feeling more foolish than angry, the chagrined young father once more left his trusting loved ones and started the long walk for help once again. This time, the man providing the water said, ‘Either you or that fellow who looks just like you ought to get a new radiator for that car.’
“He didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry at the plight of this young family. ‘How far have you come?’ he said.
“’Thirty-four miles,’ I answered.
“’How much farther do you have to go?’
“’Twenty-six hundred miles,’ I said.
“’Well, you might make that trip, and your wife and those two little kiddies might make that trip, but none of you are going to make that trip in that car.’ He proved to be prophetic on all counts. Just two weeks ago, I drove by that exact spot. For just an instant, I thought perhaps I saw, on that side road, an old car, with a devoted young wife and two little children. Just ahead of them, I imagined I saw a young fellow walking toward Kannarraville, the weight of a young father’s fear evident on his face. In that imaginary instant, I couldn’t help calling out to him, ‘Don’t you quit! You keep walking. You keep trying. There is help and happiness ahead. Some blessings come soon, some come late. Some don’t come until heaven. But for those who embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ, they come. It will be all right in the end. Trust God, and believe in good things to come.’” (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, video, “Good Things to Come,” 15 June 2010, lds.org)
Now, brothers and sisters, you are in a protected environment here, a temple of learning, a building dedicated by our Father in Heaven through His prophet. And so, there is hope in your season here. No matter what your past has been, no matter what your circumstances may be, there is hope. So do not take counsel from your fears. Be of good courage. Have faith. Start this semester strong. The Lord will be with you.
I know that He lives. I know that Jesus is the Christ. I know that in sacred ways, He leads this institution. And I invite you to have faith in the hope and promises associated with that reality, that He leads this institution, because it is part of the kingdom of God. He wants to be active in your life in this season, more than He has ever been. I invite you to let Him in. Feel of His sweet love. Know the peace that comes from your striving to be diligent.
I pray the Lord’s choicest blessings to be upon you this semester. I pray that he will magnify your efforts. I pray that He will keep you safe as you exercise good judgment outside of these walls, and I do so in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.