Applying Spiritual Fundamentals for Professional Success
Thank you, President Kusch, for this invitation - thank you to all of the faculty and administration for your service to this hallowed college.
Thank you to each student for choosing an education here. You are why we are here today. Ensign’s Mission Statement spiritually inspires us! It points us to the Savior in our educational and professional goals. It reads: “to develop capable and trusted disciples of Jesus Christ.” What a masterpiece this mission statement is! It is truly wonderful to receive an education in such a remarkable setting. The Master Teacher, the Lord Jesus Christ, is at the helm of this school. As we place the Savior at the helm of our lives, we enter a path to lasting fulfillment in our personal and professional life experiences.
This unique college is founded and led today under the magnificent leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. As we choose to apply the ‘fullness’ of the gospel’s spiritual fundamentals in our education here, and then in our life-long professions, we will receive divine direction daily.
My professional history is business and entrepreneurship. I began in 1988 in the financial world of retail banking, and then moved to a startup company with a specific focus in: health care delivery services and commercial health care real estate. After 29 years, my partners and I sold our business in 2018. I have been a private investor since. Every good thing I have enjoyed professionally has been through the guidance, grace and love of our Heavenly Father, the Lord Jesus Christ and the gospel plan. Early in my life, while in high school, and then again in college, I observed and learned from many righteous business women and men. They taught me when we trust in the Lord, with all our hearts, (As taught in Proverbs 3:5) and lean not unto our own understanding, we can have a ‘measure of prosperity’ throughout mortality. We should remember: Every hour, of each day, all we have, and all we are; and all that we ever hope to be, is through the love, and care of our Heavenly Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord blesses our educational pursuits and our professional work, as we put all of our trust in Him.
Each of us can have great happiness, lasting joy and meaningful outcomes as we trust in the Lord in all we do.
We are instructed to ‘seek learning’ by wisdom and by faith, (D&C 88:118) all life-long so we can grow, and equally important, to perform meaningful professional work. The Doctrine and Covenants Section 93 puts it this way: The glory of God is intelligence. When we do our work with an eye single to the glory of God, our daily labor, in its own way, becomes a humble act of daily worship. We also inspire one another when we teach each another to love to work, to learn and to continually glorify God for all that He allows us to accomplish.
By divine design, work is a blessing and a command. In Genesis 3:19, we are taught the command from God: “In the sweat of thy face thou shalt eat bread.” Since all humanity has this command, we can become very enthused to enjoy work by studying the Lord’s approach to it and the scriptures about it.
Here are a few: The Savior taught in John 5:17: “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” In John 9:4 the Savior states: “I must work the works of him that sent me.” And in Exodus 20:9 we read: “Six days shalt though labour.” In the Doctrine & Covenants 68:17 we are cautioned how the Lord feels about us if we do not work: “Now, I, the Lord am not well pleased with the inhabitants of Zion, for there are idlers among them.” The Lord is not pleased if we are lazy or idle. He teaches us in D&C 75:29: “The idler shall not have place in the church, except he repent and mend his ways.” And in D&C 42:42 the Lord states: “Thou shalt not be idle; for he that is idle shall not eat the bread nor wear the garments of the laborer.”
The scriptures teach us the blessing of work and the happiness which comes from work. In Moses 1:39 we learn our Heavenly Father enjoys working: “For behold, this is my work and my glory to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”
Our professional employment provides income so we can become self-sufficient, and hopefully – even capable of doing more, hopefully much more, than solely for ourselves. Work is a commandment and a blessing! When we decide to ‘love to work’ every day of our lives, we can reach increased levels of personal accomplishment and happiness. Our professional service brings us joy because it gives us feelings of purpose and accomplishment. I have observed the happiest people I know, are people who live the restored gospel while they work; even when work is not a financial necessity. I have admired how many, very financially secure individuals, keep working to do more; be more, and most importantly – give more. The gospel emanates from their countenances as they work for themselves and equally, or more important: to serve others (Mosiah 3:7).
Each day, if we keep the restored gospel at the forefront of our minds - in all that we do and say - in our education and work – the Lord blesses us even more abundantly.
I enjoy discussions about enthusiasm in the work place.
As we pick a vocation we enjoy, our choice often leads to a natural enthusiasm. It shows forth from ourselves and it often spreads to others. Our positive attitude – and enthusiasm for our work – shines forth, and blesses all around us. The Savior teaches us in Matthew 5:16: “Let your light so shine before man that they see your good works and glorify your father which art in Heaven.” When we work with enthusiasm we hopefully bless and inspire others. We all have this same opportunity by choosing work we love and then doing it with enthusiasm and optimism. There are so many wonderful avenues for professional work! Through prayer and personal revelation, which the Lord is so ready to give to each of us, we can find and do work which brings us joy hour by hour – day by day! For a lifetime! For many of us, the vocational choices are almost countless. What matters most is choosing a vocation which enables us to live a gospel centered life in whatever we choose to do. Often, those in our work place will sense our gospel-centered life; and they will feel our focus to love and serve God, and to be self-sustaining so we can serve others. We can, through our daily work, inspire and bless those around us.
Every moment of every waking hour is filled with choices: How we spend our time on earth will be accounted by our Eternal Creator. It is our opportunity and duty to understand daily – even hourly – how to live our lives and what we can accomplish. The Lord is anxious to bless us as we follow Him in obedience and righteousness. His plan for each of us is sure.
Today, and each day of our future, will be filled with light, joy, peace and happiness as we center our entire lives on the Lord and His will for us.
His Holy Spirit is our constant guide. All of us can feel those gentle sweet feelings from God inviting us to ask -- and then receive -- answers on how we live our professional lives. The Lord is in every detail of our quest. Every hour, of every day, as we seek the Spirit of personal revelation, we can and will be granted, meaningful direction and purpose. It is our choice to then follow that direction. The Lord wants us to be happy. He has taught us the clear path. The Lord revealed it to Joseph Smith this way: “Happiness is the object and design of our existence; and will be the end thereof, if we purse the path that leads to it; and this path is virtue, uprightness, faithfulness, holiness, and keeping all the commandments of God.” (Teaching of the Prophet Joseph Smith). Additionally, our own personal patriarchal blessing is a precious personal directive. We are blessed when we study and follow it.
We are also very blessed when we study the words of our living prophets as they help us look spiritually at our professional goals.
President Nelson teaches: “God has made it plain over and over again that the world was made for mankind to exist. We are here to work out our divine destiny, according to an eternal plan presented to us in the great council of heaven.” (Russell M. Nelson - The Power Within Us – page 11).
President Eyring teaches: “Yield your heart unto God. Ask Him what He would have you do. Know that He will have prepared a way for you to do it, even under great difficulties… He lives and He loves you.” (To Draw Closer to God – cover page - Henry B Eyring).
President Oaks teaches: "When a choice will make a real difference in our lives, – obvious or not – and when we are living in tune with the Spirit and seeking God’s guidance, we can be sure we will receive the guidance we need to attain our goal. The Lord will not leave us unassisted when a choice is important to our eternal welfare.” (Dallin H. Oaks – Book: “With Full purpose of Heart” pg 163).
God knows us completely - far better than we know ourselves. We can receive daily personal instruction from God on how to work, and what to do professionally. If we prayerfully seek direction from our Heavenly Father each day, He will guide us. The road map for professional daily happiness can readily be revealed to us, as we seek it. Through the power of the Spirit it is easily understandable!
The Lord wants us to do work where we thrive. To thrive means to flourish. How wonderful! The Lord will help us find work where we can prosper and succeed. The Book of Mormon is filled with beautiful stories of prosperity as the people followed the gospel plan while working.
The Savior’s early apostles are clear examples of choosing a profession that they seem to enjoy. A couple of them chose to be fishermen, another a tax collector, another a tent maker, and so on. They worked diligently, and by doing so, prepared themselves for their ministry. The Savior said: “I will make you fishers of men.” Wow! Can you imagine? They already knew how to fish well, and now that lifetime of professional work would provide a way for them to serve even more beautifully in His kingdom. Apostles since the time of the restoration, as well as our current living apostles follow the same pattern. Some, like President Nelson, are doctors, others lawyers, some teachers, business leaders and educators. One was a butcher for a time (Joseph B Wirthlin). What matters is choosing a profession you love. This is not always easy. So, I offer a humble suggestion: If we choose a profession, and after some time, whether it be a day, a week, a month or a year, we find we do not enjoy it – we need to have the courage to make a change. We are able – even encouraged throughout our lives – to keep growing and changing. This means, when necessary, changing our line of professional work too. We may feel this need to change as we grow line upon line, precept upon precept, in our lives and in our work. That is how God teaches us. We can choose to grow and change accordingly.
Life passes quickly – we need to have confidence to, if necessary, experiment, to understand a profession we will truly enjoy. For example: if we go to school to be a chef, finish culinary school, find a position, and soon thereafter find we don’t enjoy cooking after all, we are not obligated to stay with a profession simply because we spent time, money and schooling to become a chef. We need to have the courage to change and move on. If after more analysis we discover what we really want to do – which is in another field – we should take heart, and make the change and pursue it.
We need to have courage to pray fervently about what it is we want to do. God will give us personal revelation. Happily, we can choose what profession we want to do, and more importantly, do what God wants us to do. God wants us to be happy in our work. If we do not enjoy it, we should work at finding something else, if possible, until we do. We should never give up on finding our life’s professional dream or goal for work. Each of us deserves and can find daily professional fulfillment – even excitement! The happiest person I know is my wife Stephanie. Stephanie greatly appreciated the opportunity to earn a BYU degree. While we were dating, and then when she graduated, she told me repeatedly her desire was to find a worthy priesthood holder so she could hopefully have a family and be a full-time mother and homemaker. I was elated to meet and marry such a remarkably focused young lady! Stephanie prayerfully understood and spiritually appreciated her special opportunity.
President David O. McKay was known to teach repeatedly about Stephanie’s vocational choice:
“The noblest calling in the world is motherhood. True motherhood is the most beautiful of all arts, the greatest of all professions. She who can paint a masterpiece, or who can write a book that will influence millions, deserve the plaudits and admiration of mankind; but she who rears successfully a family of healthy, beautiful sons and daughters whose immortal souls will exert influence throughout the ages long after paintings shall have faded, and books and statues shall have decayed or been destroyed, deserves the highest honor that man can give, and the choicest blessings of God.” (The Teachings of David O. McKay).
President Russell M. Nelson has taught that “the highest and noblest work in this life is that of a mother” (April General Conference 1999). He was talking to all women – past, present and future. He, along with other Church leaders, honor mothers and women all around the world. President Nelson taught in the October 2018 General Conference: “Every woman is a mother. No one can duplicate the influence of a mother. … Anytime I use the word mother, I am not talking only about women who have given birth, or adopted children in this life. I am speaking about all of our Heavenly Parents’ adult daughters. Every woman is a mother by virtue of her eternal divine destiny.”(— President Russell M. Nelson – October 2018 General Conference).
Once we have found work we enjoy, we should bring important daily pragmatics to our work. Here are some tried and true proven ways for lasting success. Whatever our assignment – do it with excellence. Sometimes we might be inclined to think during our work day, “I’m doing the best I can – isn’t that good enough?” This is a righteous thought. However, it is more important to ask ourselves, “Am I doing the job right?” It is very important we do our work according to the instruction our employer gives us. Not some other way. Can you imagine if a commercial airline pilot came on the loud speaker, and said, "Good morning everyone, it looks like it’s going to be a great day for flying, – and I’ll ‘do my best’ to get you to your destination.” And then the PA system went silent. How would this make us feel? I think a bit nervous – to say the least! We see the point. It is imperative we not only ‘do our best’ in the work we are assigned, but we do it ‘right.’ When we do our work right, we increase our confidence; we are relied on, and usually, steady, good outcomes are the result.
However, this doesn’t mean we won’t make mistakes in the work place. I’ve made plenty! Far too many to go into here. Mistakes, and failures are real; very challenging, and sometimes happen repeatedly. Difficult – even bad things – happen to good people. Mistakes and failures often result through poor decisions, inaccurate information, poor timing or human error. We can discuss how to overcome mistakes and failures another day.
Let’s focus on doing our work right. Then we are valued, trusted and sometimes offered new opportunities to do more, if we choose. As we ask ourselves each day, "What more can we offer our employer? What more can we do, or give?" –mour professional success will likely be steady, sometimes even increase.
In the work place, we often live a in ‘me’-centered professional world. When we accept employment, we often ask ourselves, “What’s in it for me?” This is normal to some extent. We are to become self-sufficient. Self-sufficiency is a righteous, good desire. However, if we want sustained, or even greater levels of professional success, we readily could ask our employer, “What more can I do to help?” As we forget about ourselves to a large extent, and find out and focus on what the needs of the company, or persons we work with are; and especially what the needs of the customers are; we become a more trusted employee. It’s amazing how when we consistently go the extra mile for a customer and/or the company we work with, we obtain the success we are personally seeking. Put a simpler way – one time as I helped one of our children cross a stream by carrying her in my arms, I remembered an old adage, “He who helps another cross the river – arrives also” (author unknown). We should do all we can to clearly understand our employers’ expectations and do all we can to meet them. If we want to be an outstanding employee – we exceed them. Ask your supervisor and other leaders within your organization, “What more can I do to help!” Don’t wait to be asked. Volunteer. If we are given work we do not want to do – we owe it to our supervisor and the company to clearly communicate we either can’t or do not prefer the work. When possible, we should do the work well if we can anyway. However, we need to have the courage to tell our employer we do not prefer the work. If the assignment is all the company has for us, we need to be honest with ourselves and our employer, and inform the company we may be seeking another position as soon as we can find one. Please understand, most companies we work with usually only have work which is applicable to the company’s needs – not just our own.
As I conclude, I offer my most important suggestion. Each of us can create and then commit to a ‘vocational mission plan.’ This means creating a formal personal professional business plan and personal mission statement. It can be private or shared. It should be simple and easy to understand. It will be the core of who we are and for the work we do. At its heart, if we are in tune, as members of the Lord’s church, we actually can all have a somewhat fundamentally similar mission statement. It is to incorporate into our daily mission the two great commandments: To love and serve God and to love and serve our fellow human beings. As we ponder how we spend our lives, our vocational mission plan will guide us to keep our hearts and minds centered on these two great commands. The Savior taught upon these two, hang all the rest of the law.
In Matthew we read: “Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:35-40).
We are greatly blessed as we follow this instruction from the Savior.
I testify I know the Lord loves us and cares so deeply about our professional happiness and vocational success. Like you, I feel His love and guidance. I know His pattern for happiness can be ours every day of our lives. To this I bear witness. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.