A Future Greater Than You Can Imagine
Thank you. That was powerful. And it was powerful to be a part of it. I’m grateful to be here today, speaking to you today under the direction of President J. Lawrence Richards, and grateful to be here with President and Sister Richards, who share this podium.
Since our daughter Elizabeth taught here at one time, at LDS Business College, the LDS Business College is legendary in our home. She once taught Interior Design and our family has felt an allegiance to your school ever since. I’m also grateful that next week you get to hear from Sister Sharon Eubank. I want you to know I was her third grade teacher. Now she was incredible in third grade, but wait till you see her now. You’ll want to be here next Tuesday morning.
I have looked forward to this opportunity and I want to share with you today truly what is in my heart. However, as I speak, my words are secondary to what you will feel. The Holy Ghost, we know, is the real teacher. And we have all come here today to receive revelation.
I also want you to know that every work day for the past six years, I have driven by the LDS Business College in the early mornings and in the late afternoons, and I have observed you coming to and from your classes, and I’ve gained a sense of the students that attend this college and I’m impressed. But I also want you to know that with an effort to maintain your current enrollment and not lose even one student, I have loyally observed the new flashing pedestrian signal on the crosswalk on 3rd West. If you want to know the truth, I admire your courage for crossing that street. And I have turned carefully onto and from North Temple each day.
Brothers and sisters, you have a remarkable administration and faculty. I know some of them personally, and I have great respect for each one, and for his and her example. You are being led and taught by the finest in the field of education. I visited your website, and I was impressed with your curriculum here at the College, and with the student testimonials. On the website I read the phrase: “Find Your Direction,” and a question: “What do I want to be when I grow up?” That phrase and that question, combined with President Thomas S. Monson’s promise, your “future is as bright as your faith”[i] capture the feelings I feel today. Yes, your future is as bright as your faith, and the Lord needs your faith, because He has a work for you to do.
The story of a Primary teacher in Moscow, Russia, trying to get the attention of the children in her Primary class taught me that lesson. The children were all talking, and not one was ready to listen. Sound familiar? One child in the group seemed to be the ring leader. He poked others and yelled loudly. The teacher thought, If I could somehow get his attention, maybe the others would listen.
She was inspired to go over to this little boy, bend down so she could look right into his eyes, cup her hands around his little cheeks and in a soft voice say to him, “Jesus Christ died for everyone. And if you were the only one on this earth, He would have done it just for you.”
The room fell silent. What she said is true. Her message is for each one of us. The Savior died for you and He died for me and because He knows and loves each one of us personally. Our desire to follow Him while here on the earth will help us find our personal direction.
Our Heavenly Father has known each one of us for a very long time, even in the premortal existence. Brigham Young said, “There is not a soul of you but what has lived in His house and dwelt with Him year after year; and yet you are [now] seeking to become acquainted with Him, when the fact is, you have merely forgotten what you did know.”[ii]
You have come here to earth seeking to know your Father through earthly experiences, and you are having those earthly experiences every day. President Russell M. Nelson taught us this: “You, as His son or daughter, were chosen by Him to come to earth at this precise time, to be a leader in His great work on earth. You were chosen not for your bodily characteristics but for your spiritual attributes, such as bravery, courage, integrity of heart, a thirst for truth, a hunger for wisdom, and a desire to serve others.”[iii]
And if that is not enough to build your confidence, listen to what the prophet Joel prophesied: “And it shall come to pass … that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, [and] your young men [and I would also add, your young women] shall see visions.”[iv]
Now you may be sitting here today in this Assembly Hall in Salt Lake City and think, “Chosen by Him, leader in His great work, bravery, courage, thirst for truth, prophesy, visions?” Yes, that it you. The Lord needs you to be a leader in His great work, and you cannot do it without Him. You were chosen for this day because of the great potential that lies within you. You know our Father and His Son Jesus Christ from the premortal existence, and you made covenants with them there, to do the Lord’s work here on this earth, specifically to help to “bring to pass the immortality and eternal life” of all of his children.[v]
And Job tells us that when the foundations of the earth were laid, when we understood the plan, then we “shouted for joy.” No wonder President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said recently: “God sent you here to prepare for a future greater than anything you can imagine.”[vi]
For a moment let’s think of the painting of René Magritte[vii], a famous Belgian artist, while I repeat President Uchtdorf’s quote: “God sent you here to prepare for a future greater than anything you can imagine.” The painter in this painting sees more in the egg than meets the eye. He sees a great future and great potential. He sees a beautiful bird.
God also sees in us a great potential—much, much more than we can ever imagine. Someone once said, “Point your life in the right direction and prepare to be astonished.” We would be astonished if we knew what was behind us, what was really inside of us, and what is ahead of us. So what will your future look like? What is your vision?
Let’s talk about defining direction. Your priorities, and what you consider to really matter most will define your life. With that in mind, what can we learn from the three following individuals?
The first is Abby Morgan. It was six years ago that I was sitting next to Abby in a Young Women’s class. She was barely 12 years old. Now Abby just happens to be Brother Tyler Morgan’s daughter. Brother Morgan is the Dean of Instructional Support here at LDS Business College, and Abby is now 18 years old, about ready to graduate from high school. Way back when Abby was 12, her Young Women advisor asked her class to write the ten priorities in life.
Now what would you write if you were asked that question? I was sitting next to Abby and I have to admit, my thoughts began with 1) Clean the pencil drawer in the kitchen. No, no, no. Abby went way beyond that, and when our lists were complete, the Young Women leader asked us to share what we wrote, and this was Abby’s list, at twelve years old:
Go to college at the University of Utah,”—woops, that’s changed, right? Now she’s planning to go to college here at LDS Business College—
Become an interior designer.
Go on a mission to India.
Get married in the temple to a returned missionary.
Have five kids and a home.
Send my kids on a mission and to college.
Become a cooking, giving grandma.
Spoil the grandkids.
Learn more about the gospel and enjoy life.
Return and live with Father in Heaven.
Abby was young, with her whole life ahead of her, when she wrote that list. Now what does someone say on the other end of life, when she looks back at her priorities? Let me share with you the thoughts of someone who knew she was about to leave this earth. The second individual is Joanie Bailey, who passed away from cancer on January 27th of this year, just 33 days ago, at age 57. She was a beautiful, vibrant woman, a devoted wife, faithful mother of four handsome boys, and a grandmother to three precious grandchildren.
Joanie deeply loved life. Today if you approach Skyline High School just south of Salt Lake, you would see the reminders of pink ribbons tied to signposts and trees in tribute to her. She influenced thousands of students with her Community of Caring program at Skyline High School. Her life was about serving others in her family, church, and community.
Just days before she passed away, Joanie reflected on her life. She experienced what President Monson has said when he said, “Moments of clarity come to all of us at one time or another… We see clearly what it is that really matters in our lives.”[viii]
Joanie wrote this: “I’ve come to realize a few qualities and activities that have enriched my life and that matter most to me, and I would like to share them with you.” Here are the ten things she wrote:
Spend time with family. Nothing is more important.
Testimony of the gospel. Don’t let the philosophies of men influence you. Embrace the spiritual
Prayer is sacred.
Scripture study. Make time to read and study these sacred works.
Never forget you are a daughter of God. Reach up. He will always take your hand.
Temple attendance and temple work for our ancestors. This has blessed my life immensely.
Be honest with each other. I have trifled with silly things at times, and have been grateful for a friend’s advice.
Continue serving, individually and collectively. Service blesses both the giver and the receiver. I love to serve.
Keep getting outside in nature and enjoying the beauty of creation.
Continue to be respectful and non-judging. Be kind.
Now the third individual is Clayton M. Christensen, a professor at Harvard Business School, who wrote the book entitled How Will You Measure Your Life. He wrote: “I have used what I have learned from my family and from scriptures and prayer to understand the kind of person I want to become.” Note that he used what he learned from his family, scriptures, and prayer.
At the end of his book he writes, after much soul searching, what he wants to become, and he shares these three things:
A man who is dedicated to helping improve the lives of other people.
A kind, honest, forgiving and selfless husband, father, and friend.
A man who doesn’t just believe in God, but who believes God.
I can testify that Brother Christensen not only talks about but also really lives these principles. One seldom has a conversation with him that he doesn’t genuinely inquire, “What can I do for you?”
Now what can we learn from Abby, Joanie, and Brother Christensen? The priorities they all have in common are belief in God, family, covenants, kindness, service, and living—really living the gospel of Jesus Christ to its fullest.
We as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints do not have a corner on setting priorities. Listen to what Erma Bombeck, an American humorist, wrote when she contemplated what she wished she had done differently in her life: “If I had my life to live over… I would have talked less and listened more. I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained and the sofa faded… I would have taken time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth… I would have cried and laughed less while watching television… and more while watching life... There would have been more I love yous…more I’m sorrys… but mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute…look at it and really see it… live it and never give [it] back.”[ix]
So what matters most in your life? How does that priority influence the vision you have for your future? What is your vision for yourself, five, ten, twenty years from now? Whether or not you make a list, the days, the weeks, and the years will still go by while you become the person your daily priorities define.
A recent article in the Deseret News entitled “How Writing Down Life’s Goals Helps Students Boost Their Semester Grades”[x] tells about an approach of not just setting goals but also elaborating and reflecting on them. Students were asked to do three things. One was to write freely about their future self’s life, extracting goals from this narrative. Then, rank the goals. Then, consider implications for themselves and lay out strategies to overcome obstacles. Research shows that telling a detailed story about the kind of life you expect and the hurdles you expect to cross and setting goals to do so can have concrete payoffs along the way. The results of this study showed that students who participated were more motivated and felt better about themselves. Their grades did improve and they were less anxious.
Similarly, you may try this experiment: Sit down and write yourself a letter dated one year from now, congratulating yourself on all the specific things you have achieved during the past year. Then seal the envelope, and open it a year from now. Visualizing a positive future, including how to deal with life’s challenges, gives one confidence to move forward.
What if you were to add an eternal perspective to this concept? Add the truth that you have within you divine potential and the Lord has placed you here on earth to accomplish His purposes. Then, writing freely about yourself takes on an even greater light.
President Monson gave us wise prophetic counsel when he taught: “This is our one and only chance at mortal life—here and now. The longer we live, the greater is our realization that it is brief. Opportunities come, and then they are gone. I believe that among the greatest lessons we are to learn in this short sojourn upon earth are lessons that help us distinguish between what is important and what is not. I plead with you to not let those most important things pass you by as you plan for that elusive and nonexistent future when you will have all the time to do all that you want to do. Instead, find joy in the journey—now.”[xi]
My hope for you today is that you will find joy in your journey and define for yourself, if you have not already, those things that do matter most in your life. We cannot be casual about creating a personal vision for our future, regardless of our age. Even my mother, at almost 97 years old, insists on buying green bananas. She anticipates them ripening in the future, and looks forward to being there to eat them.
Like green fruit becoming sweeter, to her each day is a gift to learn from life’s experiences, and she never quits planning for what is ahead. She has taught me to dream dreams and to have visions for the futures. She has also taught me to never give up, and to look defeat in the eye. I think that’s what President Monson meant when he said, “If you do something that doesn’t turn out quite as you… planned, you can almost always put it right, get over it, learn from it.”[xii]
Let’s encapsulate all that I’ve talked about into three principles, and you can act on them today. I promise that these three principles will help you point your life in the right direction, with a guarantee that you will experience joy in that journey. These three principles are:
Be loyal to your covenants with the Lord.
Follow His prophet.
Forget yourself and find someone to serve.
Be loyal to your covenants with the Lord. The covenants that we make at baptism and in the temple are solemn promises to God about how we will conduct our life. I testify that being loyal to these promises no matter what brings joy and aligns our direction with Him. When we are baptized we take upon ourselves the sacred name of Jesus Christ. We see ourselves as His, and we put Him and His work first in our lives. We seek what He wants rather than what we want and what the world teaches us to want.
We also covenant at baptism to always remember Him and to keep His commandments. When we live by the covenants that we make at baptism and in the temple—and each Sunday as we partake of the sacrament—we focus on and remember the Savior and His church. We become closer to Him, and we realize that the promise—that great promise—is true: we may always have His Spirit to be with us.
Now this is important: we cannot separate our loyalty to Christ from our loyalty to His church. Our covenants make that possible. In Doctrine and Covenants 10:69 it explains: “And now, behold, whosoever is of my church, and endureth of my church to the end, him will I establish upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them.”
There will be opportunities in this life to give our effort to many causes. Those causes may demand much of our time and attention. There may be some causes that will even pull us away from our core beliefs, the very foundation upon which our covenants rest. When that happens, we must ask ourselves, “Where is my priority? Where is my loyalty to the covenants that I have made?”
In the premortal life we faced a similar choice. We chose to reject Satan’s enticings and to follow the Lord’s plan. Here in mortality, we must choose again. When tempting us to follow alternate voices, the adversary would have us give those voices a higher priority than the covenants we have made. He does not want us to see a gradual shifting of loyalties as unfaithfulness. Certainly he would have us reason, “We’re not rejecting Christ, even if we reject His Church and its standards and values.” But brothers and sisters, I testify that we cannot separate our loyalty to Christ from our loyalty to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And living our covenants confirms our allegiance to Him.
Follow His prophet. Forty-six years ago—think about that—I don’t know if there is anyone in this room who was even born forty-six years ago—in 1970, President Harold B. Lee said, “We have some tight places to go before the Lord is through with this church and the world in this dispensation, which is the last dispensation, which shall usher in the coming of the Lord. The gospel was restored to prepare people ready to receive Him. The power of Satan will increase... There will be inroads within the Church... We will see those who profess membership but secretly are plotting and trying to lead people not to follow the leadership that the Lord has set up to preside in this Church.”
Now I want to stop here and ask, does this sound like today? It was 45 years ago. President Lee continued: “Now the only safety we have as members of this Church is to do exactly what the Lord said to the Church in that day when the Church was organized. We must learn to give heed to the words and commandments that the Lord shall give through His prophet.”
President Lee went on to say, “There are some things that will take patience and faith. You may not like what comes from the authority of the Church. It may contradict your political views. It may contradict your social views. It may interfere with some of your social life. But if you listen to these things, as if from the mouth of the Lord himself, with patience and faith, the promise is that ‘the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disburse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name’s glory.’ (D&C 21:6)”[xiii]
The Lord said, “Though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.”[xiv]
An illustration of this truth was shared by President Lee. A “traveler was leaving by boat from Stockholm, Sweden, traveling out into the Baltic Sea. To do so, the boat had to pass through a thousand or more islands. Standing on the forward deck, the traveler found himself becoming impatient with what seemed to him to be a careless course. Why not a course near to this island or another and more interesting than the one the pilot had chosen? Almost in exasperation he was saying to himself, ‘What’s wrong with the old pilot? Has he lost his sense of direction?’ Suddenly, he was aware of the markers along the chartered course which appeared as mere broom handles sticking up in the water. Someone had carefully explored these channels and had charted the safest course for the ship to take.”
President Lee continued: “So it is in life’s course on the way to immortality and eternal life: ‘God’s engineers,’ by following a blueprint made in heaven, have charted the course for safest and happiest passage and have forewarned us of the danger areas.”[xv] When we follow the prophet, our course will lead us safely back home.
Forget yourself and find someone to serve. We all know someone who lived the following description of C.S. Lewis when he calls them “new men.” He writes: “Every now and then one meets them. Their voices and faces are different from ours: stronger, quieter, happier, more radiant. They begin where most of us leave off… They do not draw attention to themselves. You tend to think you are being kind to them when they are really being kind to you. They love you more than other men do, but they need you less…. They will usually seem to have a lot of time: you will wonder where it comes from.”[xvi] “To become ‘new men’ means losing what we now call ‘ourselves.’ Out of ourselves, into Christ, we must go. His will is to become ours and we are to think His thoughts.”[xvii]
Mormon describes this same individual. These are just some of the words he used: “suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked.”[xviii]
These attributes describe many people I know. One in particular makes me smile just to say his name. Let me tell you what he has done with his life. He lives to serve. He looks for ways to creatively lift and bless others. It’s amazing to witness. His dear wife, who is just like him, is chronically ill, but when you ask him how he is doing, his response is, “I am fantastic. How are you?” And he means it.
Every Sunday he bakes cookies and takes them around to people in his neighborhood. The woman at the Rec Center where he plays tennis was a recent recipient of a dozen of his homemade cookies, and that was in addition to recently spending time with her son who right now doesn’t know what he wants in life.
Two weeks ago my husband and I received a valentine in the mail. It was a card with our picture on it. It read: “Dear Rosemary and Jack, Happy Valentine’s to our dear wonderful friends. You are so very loved. Wynn and Linda.” To know Wynn and Linda Egan is to feel Heavenly Father’s love, the love we read about in Moroni 7:48, “which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ.”
To forget yourself and to find someone to serve is a recipe for joy in this journey.
Brothers and sisters, in my heart I know it is essential that we live the covenants we have made with the Lord. It is essential that we willingly follow President Thomas S. Monson and the apostles and prophets that stand at his side. And it is essential that we forget ourselves and look for ways to serve and bless others.
But what if, in all of this, we do not do it perfectly? That’s the beauty of it. This is Father’s plan—not that we would come and be perfect people on this earth, but that we would become perfect someday, only through Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice. It is when we simply have the desire and turn to Him each day and submit our will to His that our life points in a right direction.
President Henry B. Eyring has asked us to please find out what it is that the Lord would have you do, believe that He has prepared a way for you to do it, and share what He has given you with others. As you do that, He promises, you will feel His love, and you will become more like Him.[xix]
I believe that if Jesus Christ were to sit down with us and ask us for an accounting of our life on this earth, I’m not sure He would ask our GPA or our college major. I’m not sure He would even ask what Church callings we have had, or that he would care about our athletic ability or how we dressed. I believe the Savior would want to know our hearts, how we care about each other, and how we’ve lightened each other’s load, how we have forgiven, accepted, and included—and how we did it while no one was looking.
I believe the Savior would want to know how you and I have grown closer to Him and our Heavenly Father, and in the process I believe we would be astonished at the love we would feel in their presence.
Perhaps in our quest to point our lives in the right direction, each of us will come to know the real secret to achieving that most important goal. We will learn that it is on the shoulders of others that we will rise to meet our Heavenly Father’s desire for us. The more we love, serve, and bless the individual people in our daily path, the more we become like the Savior, whose only goal is to do the Father’s will, and “bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”[xx]
Our Father in Heaven and His Son Jesus Christ live, and they are ready to listen and give us direction if we will allow them. This is the Church of Jesus Christ, and we are being led by the Lord’s prophet, Thomas S. Monson. We are entitled to personal revelation for a confirmation of all of these truths, and we have a duty to live with full purpose of heart the principles defined in this Church, and then be prepared to be astonished as to where it will take us.
With all my heart I testify He lives. He loves us. His Spirit is here today. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
[i] “Be of Good Cheer,” April 2009 General Conference, https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2009/04/be-of-good-cheer?lang=eng .
[ii] “To Know God is Eternal Life,” a discourse delivered in the Tabernacle Feb. 8, 1857, reported by G.D. Watt, http://scriptures.byu.edu/jod/jodhtml.php?vol=04&disc=42 .
[iii] “Decisions for Eternity, October 2013 General Conference, https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2013/10/decisions-for-eternity?lang=eng .
[iv] Joel 2:28.
[v] Moses 1:39.
[vi] “Living the Gospel Joyful,” October 2014 General Conference, https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2014/10/living-the-gospel-joyful?lang=eng .
[vii] “La Clairvoyance,” found at http://www.renemagritte.org/la-clairvoyance.jsp .
[viii] “The Race of Life,” April 2012 General Conference, https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2012/04/the-race-of-life?lang=eng .
[ix] “If I Had My Life to Live Over,” 2 December 1979 column, reprinted in Eat Less Cottage Cheese and More Ice Cream, Kansas City, MO, 2003, ISBN 0-7407-2127-5.
[x] By Eric Schulzke, Deseret News, Published Feb 4, 2016. http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865646734/How-writing-down-life-goals-helps-students-boost-their-semester-grades.html?pg=all .
[xi] “Finding Joy in the Journey,” October 2008 General Conference, https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2008/10/finding-joy-in-the-journey?lang=eng .
[xii] “Joy in the Journey,” in Awake, Arise, and Come unto Christ: Talks from the 2008 BYU Women’s Conference (2009), 3.
[xiii] “Uphold the Hands of the President of the Church, Conference Report, October 1970, pp. 152-153, http://scriptures.byu.edu/gettalk.php?ID=1822 .
[xiv] Doctrine and Covenants 1:38.
[xv] The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, 545, from “Heeding the True Messenger of Jesus Christ,” Chapter 9, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee (2000), 78-87.
[xvi] Mere Christianity, Book 4, chapter 11, https://cslewis.wikispaces.com/Mere+Christianity_The+New+Men .
[xvii] “New Men in Christ,” C.S. Lewis: Readings for Meditation and Reflection, (1992), https://books.google.com/books?id=BESxv_T1kqsC&pg=PT170&dq=c+s+lewis+to+become+new+men .
[xviii] Moroni 7:45.
[xix] See “Trust in God, Then Go and Do,” October 2010 General Conference, https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2010/10/trust-in-god-then-go-and-do?lang=eng .
[xx] Moses 1:39.