Elder Bragg majored in marketing and Spanish at the University of Utah. He also completed executive education programs at UCLA, University of Michigan, and other universities. He began his career as vice president of Great Western Bank in Los Angeles in commercial and residential real estate operations. Most recently, he worked as a senior vice president of Bank of America in complaint resolution and legal/government relations.
Elder Bragg has served in a number of Church callings, including full-time missionary in the México Monterrey Mission, ward mission leader, high councilor, bishop, stake president, and Area Seventy.
Mark Allyn Bragg was born in Los Angeles, California, on April 16, 1962. He married Yvonne King in 1984 in the Los Angeles California Temple. They are the parents of four children.
Faith, Hope, and Charity in the Workplace
Upon receiving this sweet assignment, I had an immediate impression as to the topic of my remarks. I want to suggest three key components of success as you prepare for your careers, no matter which field you choose. These three attributes will make you not only a better disciple of Christ but also a better associate, coworker, manager, and leader. I have seen these attributes work miracles in the most challenging of industries in the most difficult of times. They are faith, hope, and charity. Specifically, I want to discuss faith, hope, and charity in the workplace.
Let me lay out two main doctrinal points and then share some examples. First, all things are spiritual to the Lord. He Himself declared, “All things unto me are spiritual, and not at any time have I given unto you a law which was temporal.”[i] Your studies, your job, your relationships at work—all things are spiritual. Everything that you do can increase your spirituality and draw you closer to the Lord. This eternal truth is not paused just because you are at work.
President Spencer W. Kimball once said, “We deal with many things which are thought to be not so spiritual; but all things are spiritual with the Lord.”[ii]
Second, developing the Christlike attributes of faith, hope, and charity leads us to Christ and helps us bless others as He would. The power of faith, hope, and charity comes from the fact that they are all centered in Christ—faith in Christ, hope through the Atonement of Christ, and the pure love of Christ. These gifts should be central to our own spirituality and form the basis of how we can lift those around us, including our coworkers. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf has taught, “While it is important to have our thoughts inclined toward heaven, we miss the essence of our religion if our hands are not also inclined toward our fellowman.”[iii]
We tend to over-compartmentalize our lives. We sometimes have a personal life, a church life, a school life, and a work life and think that they can never mix. This is a mistake and causes us to miss out on blessings and opportunities to bless others. There is no doubt that we can freely share who we are in every aspect of our lives. There is a misconception that you cannot talk about religion at work, and I completely disagree.
For example, at Bank of America while our daughter served her mission in Lyon, France, I always kept a map on the wall to show where she had served and various photos. I cannot tell you how many conversations about religion were launched from that simple map. If people are interested in you, they will ask about those things that are precious to you. And if you are interested in them, you will do the same.
You can have faith, exhibit hope, and show love at all times—even in the workplace. We shouldn’t deprive ourselves and others the blessings of living and sharing Christlike attributes at work, where we spend almost half of our waking hours (maybe more depending on your career choice—believe me, I have been there)! To compartmentalize our faith, hope, and charity to only apply in our personal life or our church life is, as President Nelson would say, myopic.
So, why am I speaking on faith, hope, and charity in the workplace? Because all things are spiritual to the Lord, and those three Christlike attributes will draw us closer to Him and will help us bless others.
Let me give you an overall example and then speak of each attribute. I have a dear friend named Greg Whiteley. He is now an acclaimed filmmaker, but it was not always that way. I met Greg 20 years ago in the Westwood First Ward in Los Angeles. He was driving a limousine at the time. It was fascinating to see him show up for basketball games in a limo, change out of his shiny black suit, play the game, then get back in his uniform and go back to work. To get a feel for who Greg is, when he applied for the limo driving job, there was a question on the application asking what his goals were for himself in the company. He wrote, “To ride in the back of one of these.”
Greg had graduated from a prestigious film school. He had won national awards for his work while still in school. Upon graduation, he was offered a lucrative contract to film commercials that ran contrary to his values. Finally, he decided against it because he couldn’t make peace with it. Greg showed faith in the covenants that he had made and knew that if he lived his life in accordance with his beliefs, the Lord would bless him in the future. Greg also shared his faith by living his faith.
One day while driving the limo, he had a lively conversation with a customer. The man noticed Greg’s passion and enthusiasm and offered him a job on the spot! Greg agreed and started managing a frozen-fish warehouse in east L.A. Can you imagine the shift from limo driver to frozen-fish warehouse manager?
After a few months, Greg started making music videos about the guys working in the freezer. The owner took notice and asked him to create some promotional videos for the company, which gave him access to high-quality equipment—namely a camera he kept on the back seat of his Honda Accord. One day a member of our ward, Arthur Kane, who used to be in a very popular punk rock band in the ’70s, the New York Dolls, asked Greg for a ride. Even though Arthur lived an unassuming life, Greg had always been interested in Arthur and his stories about ’70s rock. When Arthur was invited to reunite the band for a special concert in London, Greg grabbed the fish warehouse camera and started filming Arthur’s journey. He documented the entire reunion in his award-winning film New York Doll. Greg trusted the Lord that if he lived true to his covenants, doors would open.
Now Greg is in high demand as a filmmaker. He has made award-winning documentaries like Mitt, Last Chance U, and Cheer. Now if you ask anyone about Greg’s success, they will tell you it is because he genuinely loves people. He tries to always show people in their best light, even in difficult situations. He cares about the people in his films, and that has brought him even more opportunities. As Greg’s example shows, “charity never faileth.”[iv]
Greg freely and openly exercised faith, was driven by hope, and showed charity (the pure love of Christ) toward everyone, and the Lord has blessed him, his family, and all who have come in contact with him. Oh, and by the way, when a car service was hired to drive Greg around on a press junket for his movie Mitt, he finally found himself riding in the back of a limo owned by the same company he once drove for.
So, let’s talk about the three Christlike attributes of faith, hope, and charity and how they can bless you—and others—in the workplace.
Faith has been defined as a confidence in something, in someone, or in a course of action. When it is centered in Jesus Christ, the blessings include a confidence that the course of your life is acceptable to the Lord and that His blessings are available to you in this life. It is a principle of true power when coupled with action. In the workplace, as we act in faith (faith in the Lord, our covenants, His promises, and the gospel), the Savior will lead us to be in a position to bless others and to be blessed by them.
I remember an encounter that changed my work life. A colleague from a different Christian church came into my office one day and was very serious. He said, “Mark, we have worked together for a few years, and I just heard that you’re a Mormon. I need to witness to you about Jesus Christ. He is our Savior, and you cannot be saved without confessing His name. I like you and am very worried for your soul.”
Can you imagine how much love I felt for him at that time? Here was a colleague that I didn’t know very well, but he felt so compelled to save me that he came into my office to testify of Christ! We spoke for an hour about Christ, and I assured him that I believed in Christ and that while we had differences in our views, Jesus Christ was central to both of our lives.
After that meeting, I was determined that anyone who knew me or came into my office would know of my faith in Jesus Christ. From that day forward I always had a photo of the Los Angeles temple, where Yvonne and I were sealed, on the wall of my office and always had the scriptures on my desk. I cannot tell you how many times these small efforts led to wonderful discussions of faith in the Lord. There were many who saw those things and felt comfortable approaching me to seek my counsel on personal matters because of my faith.
Faith in the Savior can have a great impact on the success of a business. If you have spent time in Utah, you may have seen the home furnishings store RC Willey. They have been in business for over 80 years. Bill Child took over the company in the 1950s when his father-in-law, RC Willey, passed away unexpectedly. At one point the store controlled over 50 percent of the Utah home furnishings market. They had one very strict rule: they were never open on Sundays. Now, keep in mind that most furniture businesses do about a third of their sales on Sundays, meaning that RC Willey voluntarily gave up 52 of the most successful days of the year because of Bill Child’s faith in the Lord and in His promises to those who honor Him. Bill believed in keeping the Sabbath day holy and was not shy about talking about the blessings and benefits of such a policy.
He once said, “The Sunday closing issue is quite important to us because of religious reasons, but also we feel like the almighty dollar is becoming too important, and families are being pushed aside. Associates and employees need to spend a day with their family. We have been able to attract better people to work for us because of this rule. Closing on Sunday pushes you to be better than your competition. It is an incentive to do a better job, have better pricing, better products, and better service. We have to be innovative.”
In 1995, the most famous investor of the world, Warren Buffett, purchased RC Willey. When Bill Child approached him with a plan to expand RC Willey outside of Utah, Buffett thought it was a good idea but that Bill had to agree to open on Sundays. Bill would not agree to it and assured him that it wasn’t necessary.
Finally, they agreed to open a new store in Boise, Idaho. Bill insisted on using his personal funds (about $9 million) to buy the land, build the store, and run it for a year without opening on Sundays and promised that it would be successful. Buffett went along with the plan but felt that the store had to do $30 million in sales to be deemed successful. The store did over $50 million that year, and Buffett happily reimbursed Bill for all of his investment in the store. In his annual letter to shareholders, Warren Buffett wrote the following:
“Bill and most of his managers are Mormons, and for this reason RC Willey’s stores have never operated on Sunday. This is a difficult way to do business: Sunday is the favorite shopping day for many customers. Bill, nonetheless, stuck to his principles. . . . I was highly skeptical about taking a no-Sunday policy into a new territory where we would be up against entrenched rivals open seven days a week. Nevertheless, this was Bill’s business to run. So despite my reservations, I told him to follow both his business judgment and his religious convictions. . . . You can understand why the opportunity to partner with people like Bill Child causes me to tap dance to work every morning.”[v]
Faith to do the right things, to stand firm in your convictions, is a principle of power to bless others and to be blessed as we act on that faith.
Hope has been described as a happy anticipation and a confident expectation of a bright future (temporally and eternally). A person with hope is viewed as having a strong bias to see the positive. It is future-oriented. It is strongest when it is based on the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the hope of eternal life. And when applied in the workplace, it is an effective and proven strategy.
Peter counseled the Romans, “Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you.”[vi] Hope is strong, powerful, and positive and should be shared. You can always be a light of hope in challenging times.
Elder Uchtdorf taught in the past general conference, “Brothers and sisters, with Christ at the helm, things will not only be all right; they will be unimaginable.”[vii] That is hope!
One of our genealogy partners, MyHeritage, created the largest COVID-19 testing lab in Israel. The founder and chairman, Gilad Japhet, wanted to help his country of Israel during the pandemic. His board warned him that it was not their responsibility and that they had to focus on their core business. Even the government was not sure that they needed the help. But Gilad had hope and the confidence to do the right thing. Drawing on the company’s resources and expertise, and out of humanitarian concern, MyHeritage rapidly set up one of the world’s largest COVID-19 laboratories (it currently processes about 20,000 tests daily). And, although hope was the motivating factor (to help others with a view toward a more positive future), the company has experienced revenue growth even in these difficult times.
While working at Bank of America, I was asked to take over a struggling department that was being targeted by politicians and judges, particularly in the Northeast. They felt that the department was not acting properly and were seeking to sanction the bank for its performance. It had to do with something called foreclosure mediation, which means that the bank will work honestly and fairly with the borrower before foreclosure to see if something can be negotiated to avoid the foreclosure sale of the property. At the time, with the tough economy and with so many foreclosures, rarely were any of the mediations successful, and the foreclosures just proceeded. In my very first meeting with a state attorney general back east, neither he nor any of his staff would look me in the eye. I could feel the frustration and even their distrust of me, my position, and the bank. They mostly yelled at me for about an hour straight.
Finally, after a brutal hour, I was able to speak. I told them that they were right. (I could feel the bank attorney who was with me start to squirm). I told them that we had lost the vision, and we were going to make a small change that I promised would make a big difference. Effective immediately, we were going to change the way that we measured success in the department. We were no longer going to gauge our success on how quickly the files were processed but on how many homeowners we could keep in their homes. We flipped the field. We were going to go into each negotiation with hope of a positive outcome for our customers. They didn’t believe me, and I didn’t blame them. But helping people stay in their homes was what my team wanted, it’s what the politicians and judges wanted, and it was certainly what our customers wanted.
One year later I was invited to a reception in our honor with that same attorney general and the same staff. Gone were the animosity and distrust. Instead, there was hope for a better future working together and for our common consumers. They even asked us to work with the other banks to implement our plan. All it took was a change in vision, one infused with the hope of helping others.
Hope is a powerful strategy and will set you apart from the crowd very quickly.
Paul, who spoke of charity often, mentioning it 75 times, said in 1 Corinthians 13:13, “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.”[viii]
President M. Russell Ballard has taught, “[Charity] is the perfect manifestation of our faith and hope. . . . Real faith fosters hope for the future; it allows us to look beyond ourselves and our present cares. Fortified by hope, we are moved to demonstrate the pure love of Christ through daily acts of obedience and Christian service.”[ix]
Charity in the workplace simply means truly caring about the happiness and success of those around you. It means feeling compassion for your coworkers and a desire to help them feel needed and important. It means following the simple example of the Savior in going “about doing good.”[x] This requires love, and the Lord expects us to follow His example at all times, including in the workplace.
Charity is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as “a disposition to judge leniently and hopefully of the character, aims, and destinies of others; [it is] large-heartedness.”[xi] I love that!
In business you will often hear that “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” That is not to diminish the importance of strategy but to elevate the importance of culture. If you have a great strategy but do not have the culture to execute, it won’t succeed.
Kim Cameron, a world-renowned professor of management and organizations at the University of Michigan, has studied business culture extensively, and here is what he has found after studying organizations across 16 industry groups (including firms such as General Electric, National City Bank, and OfficeMax).
“Three particularly important activities for promoting a positive climate include fostering compassion, forgiveness, and gratitude. . . . When leaders fostered compassionate behavior among employees, enabled forgiveness for missteps and mistakes, and encouraged frequent expressions of gratitude, organizations’ profitability, productivity, quality, innovation, customer satisfaction, and employee retention were significantly higher than in other organizations. . . . [They] were more successful in producing bottom-line results.”[xii]
Compassion, forgiveness, and gratitude are also Christlike attributes that have charity at their core. A great example of infusing love into the culture of a company is Southwest Airlines. Here is how the CEO, Gary Kelly, describes his company:
“Love is part of the fabric at Southwest Airlines. Love Field is our headquarters in Dallas. LUV is our three-letter symbol on the New York Stock Exchange. It’s a word that we’re not embarrassed to use about how we feel about the company, our employees, and our customers.”[xiii]
They even paint a heart on the bottom of every jet! The airline business is a tough, competitive, and volatile business—but the airline with a heart has flown through it all so successfully in large part due to the culture of love that flows throughout the company. It is no coincidence that they had 47 years of consecutive profitability until the pandemic in 2020!
Make no mistake about it—if you can develop charity in the workplace and truly love and care for those around you, success and joy will surely follow.
My dear brothers and sisters, eternal truths do not change, Christlike attributes do not grow old or go out of style, nor are they meant to be limited or compartmentalized, only to be shared with certain people or at certain times. To be a disciple of Christ means to grab hold of these truths and the attributes of faith, hope, and charity and to share them “at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in,”[xiv] including, and maybe especially, in the workplace. Do not deny others or yourselves the blessings that flow from living in faith, having hope, and showing forth charity to all.
As we develop the Christlike attributes of faith, hope, and charity in our lives and seek to share them with everyone in our lives—family, friends, coworkers—remember that you do not have to do this alone. The Lord will bless you with the Holy Ghost to lead you and guide you as you develop these divine gifts. President Nelson recently taught:
“If we continue to walk in truth the Holy Ghost—‘the Spirit of truth’—will be our companion. The truth will be in us, in our hearts and minds, in our character and being, and it will abound in us, growing ‘brighter and brighter until the perfect day.’”[xv]
I bear my witness of these divine attributes. I bear my witness of Jesus Christ. That He lives. That He stands ready to bless us with all that we need as we seek to bless the lives of others. This is His work. He will bless you in every aspect of your life. All things are spiritual to Him. I testify of Him. I testify that He lives. That this is His Church. That as you go about the world, as you keep faith, hope, and charity alive in your life, you will be an instrument in the Lord's hands to bless millions. I know these things to be true and I bear that witness to you, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
[i] Doctrine and Covenants 29:34.
[ii] Spencer W. Kimball, “The Lord Expects His Saints to Follow the Commandments,” Ensign, May 1977, 7.
[iii] Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Providing in the Lord’s Way,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2011, 53.
[iv] Moroni 7:46.
[v] Warren Buffett, quoted in Douglas D. Anderson, “Laying Up Treasure: Mormons in the Marketplace,” BYU Studies Quarterly, vol. 53, no. 2 (2014), 35; emphasis added.
[vi] 1 Peter 3:15.
[vii] Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “God Will Do Something Unimaginable,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2020, 53.
[viii] 1 Corinthians 13:13; emphasis added.
[ix] M. Russell Ballard, “The Joy of Hope Fulfilled,” Ensign, Nov. 1992, 33.
[x] Acts 10:38.
[xi] Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. “charity.”
[xii] Kim S. Cameron, Positive Leadership: Strategies for Extraordinary Performance (2012), 32–33.
[xiii] Gary Kelly, in Al Lewis, “Southwest CEO Says All You Need Is LUV,” MarketWatch, May 15, 2013, marketwatch.com.
[xiv] Mosiah 18:9.
[xv] General conference leadership meeting, Sept. 2017.