Authenticity as a Son or Daughter of God
I’m very, very, happy to be able to share a message with you all. I hope you are doing great this morning. Many of you don’t know, but devotionals are assigned months ahead, and when I was asked to share a message with all of you, this topic came to me immediately in my mind. I feel that it is a great blessing to be able to share this with all of you. This is one of the blessings of working for LDS Business College. I’m also very happy to see some of my friends; in fact, one of my college roommates is sitting over there, so I am so surprised to see him. That is awesome! Friends from my previous job of Publishing Services Division and Seminaries and Institutes and CES. I’m really happy that they are here to support me, and of course, my amazing beautiful wife trying to help me feel a little less nervous. I don’t know if that is working. But we’ll go from there.
I hope that, as I share my message with you all, you are able to be uplifted and edified, that we can all learn from each other. As you can see, I’ll be talking about authenticity as a son or daughter of God.
I would like to be able to set a tone for this message. I’m going to pretend that we are all in my living room and we are talking comfortably. (showing a slide of Ricardo's wife and Ricardo sitting in their living room at their home) Isn’t she beautiful? I don’t know; that’s just me. I’m going to set that picture in my mind, as I share this, and I hope that makes us feel a little more comfortable, at least for me.
I’m going to give you a little background about myself. I was born and raised in Mexico City. I am the oldest of five children. I have one brother and three sisters, and I also am a third-generation member of the Church. My grandmother got baptized in 1937 when she was 12 years old, in Central Mexico. I am the oldest grandson and the oldest son, and I am the first grandchild and son that goes on a mission, that gets a university degree—so in a nutshell, I am very used to being the first one in my family to spearhead things for my siblings and my cousins. No pressure there—I guess I got used to the pressure.
I also grew up surrounded by art. I grew up with music and with so many artistic inspirations. That upbringing gave me a strong passion for design and for communications, for messaging and for storytelling. I remember that music was a big part of my family growing up. When my father was young, he was in the rock music scene, in the late ‘60s and ‘70s. I remember there are pictures of him with his long hair. He would be in rock bands touring the country. There were always musical instruments and musical equipment spread around the house.
My mom always complained to my dad because her poor living room décor was accented by hidden electric guitars behind the couch, or stowaway drum sets under the stairs, or amplifiers. She would always complain when she would find little pieces of speakers or microphone parts inside her china in her hutch. So, there was all this chaos of musical references and equipment all over my house growing up. And this is also because my father, besides being a musician, he was an electronic engineer with a specialty in musical equipment.
Art and music were also so much a part of my growing up, I remember with a lot of nostalgia, having jamming sessions with my siblings where we would get together and sing, play the guitar, and just enjoy the time together.
When it comes to art, I grew up admiring the work of painters like Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and Picasso and many others. And all of that color, all of that vibrancy just was embedded in my visual upbringing. I grew up in a culture that is very rich and all those visuals are intrinsic to everyday life.
I remember when I went to Ricks College, my painting class, my teacher would call me “the wild Mexican painter.” It is because I would add a lot of color to anything that I would start painting, and even if it was a barn in the middle of Idaho, I would just add all this color to it. That is just part of me, adding color to things.
After my mission, I received a full-ride scholarship to go to the BYU English Language Center, and then I went to Ricks College, and then to BYU—Provo. And by the way, that is not my wife (showing a slide of Ricardo and Ricks College friend); that is my friend Elia from Portugal. I made a lot of friends from all over the place, and unfortunately, she passed away a couple of years ago. She was an amazing woman! I enjoyed the experience of having a Church education and learning secular things but also learning about the gospel.
At BYU, I was able to meet my beautiful wife. We are opposite sides of the brain—I got a BFA in graphic design and visual arts, and she has a degree in statistics. So guess who keeps the books at home? She does. We have six children, and two of my boys experience a spectrum of autism. (Showing slide of Ricardo's wife and children) I won’t go into details on that, because that would be a conversation for another day, but needless to say, there is always an adventure, something going on, never a dull moment in the Rosas household.
Once I graduated, I worked in agencies in Salt Lake, in corporations in New York for some time, and my last job was at Church headquarters. It was a nice mix between the agency environment work and also the corporate world, and all those experiences helped me to learn and grow in my profession.
When I was working at Publishing Services Division, the visual identity office asked all the Creative Directors to help introduce the new Global Visual Style Guide. And I had the blessing to be able to be part and develop a training, a two-day training in Spanish and English, to introduce the Global Visual Style Guide in other areas of the world. In fact, I traveled to some countries to do these presentations and this training.
I’m sharing this with you to give you some context of this element that I’m going to share. This is an image of the Global Visual Style Guide. The Global Visual Style Guide has a vision statement that says: “All people can discover God’s eternal plan and feel inspired to grow.” I could spend a whole hour talking about this concept, but what I want to emphasize today as I share my message, is the concept of "Discover." There is a portion of this definition of the style guide of the Church that I really like. It says, “Our communications allow people to explore truths at their own pace and depth. We are a front door that is open and inviting; we are not a conveyor belt wheeling people inside.”
My hope is that today you will be able to discover something that resonates with you and that you will be able to apply it as you go back to class, back to the office, or in your personal life.
We live in a world that is constantly labeling us, framing and influencing who we are, based on a very vague and unrealistic idea of what it is like to be human. The world is very loud, and tells us how to act, how to dress, how to love, who to love, who not to love, and who to hate. We are told that being authentic means that you can do as you please, that you own your life, and that no one should have rules over you or limit your behavior, good or bad. We are told that we have to follow our heart no matter where the path takes us, and that our gender and life are merely circumstantial. We are all bombarded with messages about finding your inner self, about being true to who you are, to speak your truth. That’s what the world says.
We all have felt that pressure, and sometimes we might have wondered how genuine we are according to the values and standards of the world. I did a quick search on quotes about authenticity online, and I found some really, really good ones that celebrate our uniqueness and very inspiring as well. But I also found some that, as I read them, I could see the intent of the authors is a positive one, but they made me think that authenticity was all about being self-centered, digging in your heels, or making other people feel that you are pushing your own agenda onto them.
I’m going to read one of those quotes that I found. It says, “Don’t let the expectations and opinions of other people affect your decisions. It is your life, not theirs. Do what matters most to you; do what makes you feel alive and happy. Don’t let the expectations and ideas of others limit who you are. If you let others tell you who you are, you are living their reality—not yours. There is more to life than pleasing people. There is much more to life than following others’ prescribed path. There is so much more to life than what you experience now. You need to decide who you are for yourself. Become a whole being. Adventure” (see quotes from Roy T. Bennett, Goodreads).
So I took a minute to look at this quote, and I thought, what can the Spirit help me discern from this statement? It’s not that this quote is completely bad; but to me the big key is to find the influence of the Spirit. As Moroni states in Moroni 10:5, “And by the power of the Holy Ghost, ye may know the truth of all things.”
This really helps me as I am exposed to information, to be able to take and leave what is best for me according to the influence of the Spirit, and discern this as a piece of inspiration and not as an ultimate guide for my life. So just think about this. Is it bad to be true to who we are? Is it questionable to wonder if we fit the mold? Is it okay to recognize our uniqueness or our unique circumstances, and leverage them to help define us? Is it bad to speak your truth? Is it bad to claim authenticity? How can I be an authentic son or daughter of God? We might wonder that.
There is a quote that I love from Elder Quentin L. Cook. He says, “Some misuse authenticity as a celebration of the natural man and qualities that are the opposite of humility, kindness, mercy, forgiveness, and civility. We can celebrate our individual uniqueness as children of God without using authenticity as an excuse for un-Christlike behavior” (The Eternal Everyday, October 2017 General Conference).
Can you see the contrast between the previous statement and this one? What I understand from this quote from an apostle of the Lord is that being authentic is the opposite of being rebellious, popular, or attention-grabbing. Even if some of us happen to be in the spotlight, our approach should be a delicate balance between being in the arena and letting our light shine in quiet confidence. When necessary, we can express our authenticity with the intent to bless others, and not to exalt ourselves.
I remember when I graduated from BYU a long time ago, there was a filmmaker that came to speak to our graduating class. In the BFA program, there were only about 15 students that got into the program every year. He told us this: “You are about to enter a profession that is filled with many talented people that do not share your values. Make sure you are aware and be prepared to face and learn from it. Make sure you decide beforehand the kind of job that will allow you to both grow professionally and keep your testimony.”
I never thought that I would learn firsthand to keep my testimony intact in the workplace, and also in my life’s journey. I had to take a close look at my life and understand that I can be an authentic son of God, and I can let my shine to bless others in a way that is hopefully shown more with actions than with words.
For me—and I get a little emotional when I talk about the Savior, because He is my Friend—the Savior is my authenticity model. When Jesus was arrested, and He was taken before Pilate to be judged—I can only imagine this scene, seeing the Savior in that setting in quiet majesty and confidence, being interrogated about His identity as our Savior, as the Son of God, His authenticity as a Son of God was challenged.
I’m going to show you a little short video of this event.
To me, this is a very powerful example of authenticity. We might not likely face the same situations as the Savior here. We might never have an angry mob after us. We might never have to stand or defend our identity as sons or daughters of God. Our stand for authenticity might be more private, more subtle, more in between the lines. But it is still a stand that we must take and walk confidently.
As I mentioned before, authenticity does not equal popularity, nor in pushing our agenda on anyone. It is about being at peace about who we are before any circumstance. Think about that, with alignment to the gospel.
I see it as staying in the light, with true love and understanding of our relationship with God and ourselves. At the core, to me, that’s where true identity and authenticity are found through the Spirit. As I mentioned earlier, there are many voices out there that are very powerful, and their definition of truth defers based on what is convenient to their own agenda.
Elder D. Todd Christofferson referred to it as “moral relativism,” which means that whatever is true to someone should be okay with everyone, and therefore undervalues any core set of beliefs. In other words, it is like the wild, wild west of authenticity and truth, because all is relative. Elder Christofferson gave a message to all Seminaries and Institutes faculty to share this message. He said:
“We must help our students in the Savior’s term, do truth, that is, wholeheartedly embrace the light of Christ that is in them and welcome the added light and truth that comes through the Holy Ghost. Resisting, rationalizing, and pretending will not do. Only repentance and obedience to the truth can deliver the ‘authenticity’ many covet. Only repentance and obedience can preserve and enlarge our happiness and freedom” (see Elder Christofferson's addresses: "Growing Need to Defend Truth," Mormon Newsroom, Jan. 26, 2018).
To me, this statement further confirms that authenticity comes directly from the Spirit, and is linked to our actions and our relationship with God. So you see, it is not what other people say; it is what you really feel here (Ricardo pointing to his heart).
Now, does this mean that we should judge and shun away or oppress others that choose to live their authenticity in a different way than the gospel teaches? I do not see it that way. Our Savior, in His infinite wisdom and mercy, knows each one of us intimately and can see the complete picture of who we are. Unconditional love is key, and keeping things from an eternal perspective, knowing that we are a work-in-progress, will help us to help, love, and support others and ourselves through this journey of life.
We might not have everything figured out, and we might not have all the answers, but as Joseph Smith states, “When we walk up a ladder. You must begin at the bottom, and ascend step by step until you arrive at the top; and so it is with the principles of the gospel—you must begin with the first, and go on until you learn all the principles of exaltation. But it will be a great while after you have passed through the veil before you will have learned them. It is not all to be comprehended in this world; it will be a great work to learn our salvation and exaltation even beyond the grave” (see Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 2011, Chapter 22: Gaining Knowledge of Eternal Truths, 261-270).
So you can see that, because of our divine heritage, our life—at least for me, what I have been learning is that it is truly a search for authenticity and our connection with God, step by step, little by little. Once we find it, that authenticity is linked to our testimonies. It is the foundation for discovering who we are as sons and daughters of God.
Let’s look at the word discover again, in the context of this message I am sharing with you. We do that discovery as we open to the Spirit, and we allow His guidance to help us define us, and not the world, but the Spirit. Only that will help us to walk confidently in any area, and it will sustain us under any worldly pressure or scrutiny. It will give us the ability to gather the peace and confidence we need to do what we need to do in our daily lives.
I have learned that before we adhere to any label that defines our identity, it is important to see ourselves from an eternal perspective. There is a quote that I really like that I found on the Church website, “Mormon and Gay,” on mormonandgay.lds.org. It says: “We should exercise care in how we label ourselves. Labels should be used thoughtfully and with the guidance of the Holy Ghost. Labels can affect how we think about ourselves and how others treat us and may expand or limit our ability to follow God’s plan for our happiness. Labels may impact our goals, sense of identity, and the people we call friends. If labels get in the way of our eternal progress, we can choose to change them.”
That’s how important labels or identity or authenticity is for our lives.
On a personal note, I would like to share. I am a very visual person, and I participated in a video on the Church website. I created these paintings to represent the concept of closeness to God and authenticity. This is an original painting, and this is a picture that I took above for the dresser in my bedroom. Later, when I created the painting, this was blown up, built and created by five artists in a mural that is 30’ by 13’. It was humongous! I actually have portions of this mural in my office, framed, if you ever want to go by and see it.
To me, this is my constant reminder of my connection with God and my authenticity as His son. I will share with you something super personal that to me, what this painting means in regards to myself and my connection with God.
No one can define me, even if the pressure is strong, even if it takes reconciling, even if judgment comes, I am defined privately in the quiet chambers of my heart and soul, in the soft voice and impressions of the Spirit, as I take time to know the Savior intimately, as I read of Him, commune with Him, and embrace Him in my life, confirming to me that the Savior loves me for who I am. That He, my Father in Heaven, has already given me an identity before this world was created—that identity is of His child, His son or His daughter, with divine DNA.
I want to be able to close. I am hoping that all of us always remember our divine authenticity as we walk through this life. I love to think that, regardless of what happens, that we are walking tall, just as it is shown in this painting—we are walking tall, with our hands stretched up towards heaven. I know that the Lord loves us, just as who we are; that no matter what, He is always there to sustain us and help us let our light shine.
I know that this gospel is true and that we are truly of divine heritage. I know that authenticity is a divine gift, and as a gift, we must nurture it and protect it. We cannot let the world define us.
I want to thank all of you for listening, and when I walk on the campus, your smiles and interacting with the students. I want to thank my coworkers for their love and support. My friends are here, and my wife, for being such an amazing woman. And of course, my Savior Jesus Christ, for giving me the ability to understand more of the Atonement every day, and for allowing me to grow and hopefully always grow closer to Him.
I say this with a lot of love, and I hope that as we go back to our daily activities today, that perhaps we walk a little closer to heaven, thinking that we are okay just as we are, as long as we are closer to Heavenly Father. And I say this in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, amen.