I resonate with the following quotes:
“Though I am not what I ought to be, nor what I wish to be, nor what I hope to be, I can truly say, I am not what I once was.” ― John Newton (the man who wrote the hymn “Amazing Grace” [see photo]
“It’s remarkable how much long-term advantage people like us have gotten by trying to be consistently not stupid, instead of trying to be very intelligent.” Charlie Munger (billionaire investor and vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, the conglomerate controlled by Warren Buffett)
Activity and Accomplishment. I often focused too much on activity and accomplishment. With my background in project management, it felt natural to me to follow up, check things off, and get things done. The world is interested in results. But in the gospel, sometimes the process is more important than the end results. What really matters is what we learn along the way and what we become as a result. An important reason to read the scriptures is to gain knowledge. But another key reason to read the scriptures is to invite the Holy Ghost into our lives. In Elder Dallin H. Oaks’ general conference talk “The Challenge to Become“ (October 2000) he says, “In contrast to the institutions of the world, which teach us to know something, the gospel of Jesus Christ challenges us to become something.” Elder Oaks said that to follow Christ, the “process requires far more than acquiring knowledge. It is not even enough for us to be convinced of the gospel; we must act and think so that we are converted by it.” He explained, “Many Bible and modern scriptures speak of a final judgment at which all persons will be rewarded according to their deeds or works or the desires of their hearts. But other scriptures enlarge upon this by referring to our being judged by the condition we have achieved.” He concluded, “I hope the importance of conversion and becoming will cause our local leaders to reduce their concentration on statistical measures of actions and to focus more on what our brothers and sisters are and what they are striving to become.”
I used to think that what I did was important. But I’ve come to realize that who you are is more important than what you do.
President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “You are good. But it is not enough just to be good. You must be good for something” (“Stand Up for Truth,” BYU Devotional Sept 1996). If exaltation is our goal, we must follow the path that leads to exaltation. The quality of goodness is an essential step along that path, but it is not the only one.
Becoming. This life is not about accomplishing something, it’s about becoming something. It takes time—it takes a whole life. Although the people who heard King Benjamin’s preaching (see Mosiah 5:2) experienced “a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually,” most people change little by little. For most people, being born again is more a process than an event. And engaging in that process is the central purpose of mortality.
Callings. Coming to know the Savior and seeing His face has nothing to do with your calling—whether you are an Apostle or have no calling in the Church—and everything to do with being His child and seeking to be close to Him. The experience at the veil in the temple is not just about what will happen at the end of your life. It is about what we should be constantly doing during our life in approaching and connecting with our Heavenly Father.
Charitable Giving. On July 22, 2019, I posted the following on my light-hearted blog, Richman Ramblings (the blog is now unpublished, but you can see the Internet Archive of the blog):
Larry Richman and his wife Teri have committed to giving away their entire fortune.
More than 175 high net worth individuals have signed the Giving Pledge to donate a majority of their fortunes to charity. The Giving Pledge, created by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett, has set a new standard of generosity among the ultra-wealthy. A report from financial research company Wealth-X predicts the pledge may be worth as much as $600 billion by 2022.
However, unlike many billionaires and billionaire couples, the Richmans have committed not just to give away half of their wealth—they have committed to donating their entire fortune to charitable causes and to their heirs before and after their death.
According to Richman Wealth Management, the private office that manages family investments, Larry and his wife have already contributed a good portion of their wealth to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, including its extensive humanitarian efforts and to other causes worldwide.”
Choices. Everything you do today affects your eternal future. You can destroy your future or build your future by the choices you make today. Christian discipleship emerges from a consciously chosen way of life—consistent, conscious choices for good. Character is forged at ethical moments when we choose between right and wrong, and at defining moments when we choose between better and best. Every choice we make defines, in a small way, our character and either builds celestial attributes or chips away at those attributes. The gospel helps us see more clearly to help us through our experiences on earth.
Consumerism. After the earthquake in Guatemala in 1976, we had to draw water from a well to drink, cook, and wash clothes. We learned to not waste a drop. Even today, I cannot let the water faucet run. I learned to not throw away anything that I could fix or that someone else could use.
Diets. The following is an entry from my journal on June 12, 2000: “I am about 30 pounds overweight, and I’ve been working hard to lose the extra weight. My diet is going very well. For example, this morning I woke up and thought I would pass up the carbohydrates in my usual bowl of cereal (about 220 calories). So instead, I ate a container of yogurt. Upon finishing it, I checked the label and found it also had 220 calories. On my way to work, I realized I did not have my water bottle. I was thirsty, so I stopped at a convenience store and rewarded myself for being so good in passing up the bowl of cereal by purchasing a 44-ounce Diet Cherry Coke and a chocolate donut. For lunch, I chose a reasonable tuna sandwich and for being so good, I promptly rewarded myself by buying a large pudding-filled donut. They also had their double chocolate donuts on sale, so I bought one and took it back to the office, so I’d have it on hand tomorrow when I need to reward myself for being so good about eating something else low in calories.”
Fairness and Equality. The concept of “fairness” is not helpful. The word “fair” appears in the scriptures 85 times, and in all cases, it is an adjective, such as “fair daughters” or “fair skinned people,” but not as the concept of fairness. I feel that God is equal, and in the eternal perspective, God will be just with all His children. Everything will work out and people will have equal opportunities. When parents try to be equal with their children, they may give them all the same number of candies. However, there are also extenuating circumstances. They may give one child more affection if that child has greater emotional needs than another. They may give more attention to a child who is sick. The children not receiving the attention may feel it is “not fair.” Parents may try to explain that the sibling is sick or that he is younger and therefore needs more attention. These examples are based on the concept of equality and justice, and not “fairness.” In his book, Harold Kushner states that people faced with adversity often say that it is not fair. “God shouldn’t do this to me. It’s not fair.” Things in this life do not always have a direct cause and effect that we understand. In the short term, things are not “fair.” Therefore, I think that it is invalid to look at situations in the light of whether they are “fair” or not. I think that the concepts of equality and justice are more gospel-based than the concept of fairness.
“Going to Church.” In a general conference talk, Elder Donald L. Hallstrom said, “Some have come to think of activity in the Church as the ultimate goal. Therein lies a danger,” he said. “It is possible to be active in the Church and less active in the gospel.” (“Converted to His Gospel through His Church,” May 2012) The purpose of the Church is to help us live the gospel. It is a means to an end, and not the end in itself. We should be converted to Christ and to His gospel, not to the Church. Elder Packer taught a parable: “A merchant man seeking precious jewels found at last the perfect pearl. He had the finest craftsman carve a superb jewel box and line it with blue velvet. He put his pearl of great price on display so others could share his treasure. He watched as people came to see it. Soon he turned away in sorrow. It was the box they admired, not the pearl” (“The Cloven Tongues of Fire, April 2000). Some people focus too much on the box (the Church) and not on the pearl (the gospel of Jesus Christ).
It’s Not Always About You. My friend Seth Adam Smith wrote an article, “Marriage Isn’t For You“ and a book titled Your Life Isn’t For You. In these, he explained that you do not marry to make yourself happy, you marry to make someone else happy. And the only way you can find your life is to give it away to others.
Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson explained it this way:
Occasionally our children would ask us the question, “Why do I have to go to Mutual? I just don’t get very much out of it.”
If I was having a good parenting moment, I would reply, “What makes you think you go to Mutual because of what you get out of it?”
My young friends, I can guarantee that there will always be someone at every Church meeting you attend who is lonely, who is going through challenges and needs a friend, or who feels like he or she doesn’t belong. You have something important to contribute to every meeting or activity, and the Lord desires for you to look around at your peers and then minister as He would.
Elder D. Todd Christofferson has taught, “A major reason the Lord has a church is to create a community of Saints that will sustain one another in the ‘strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life.’” He goes on to say, “This religion is not concerned only with self; rather, we are all called to serve. We are the eyes, hands, head, feet, and other members of the body of Christ.”
It is true that we attend our weekly Church meetings to participate in ordinances, learn doctrine, and be inspired, but another very important reason for attending is that, as a ward family and as disciples of the Savior Jesus Christ, we watch out for one another, encourage one another, and find ways to serve and strengthen each other. We are not just receivers and takers of what is offered at church; we are needed to be givers and suppliers. (“The Needs before Us,” Bonnie L. Oscarson, October 2017)
Judgement. In a leadership session at work on February 24, 2010, Elder David A. Bednar said “The Book of Mormon teaches that the judgement is a self-judgement. We’re not going to have to have the Savior tell us where we go. We’re going to know.” (Elder David A. Bednar, “A Conversation on Leadership,” February 24, 2010) I’ve always felt that was the case, but I had never heard a Church leader say it that clearly.
Judging Others. Far too often, people concern themselves about how well others are living the commandments. It’s none of our business. Judgment is God’s and God’s alone. We are commanded to free ourselves of judgment and to love all people. I need to concern myself with how well I live the commandments and leave the rest to God. I trust God to do His work with each of His children in His own way.
Loving and accepting others, regardless of how they live their lives, does not mean that we condone their behavior. We can use our beliefs as a metric of judging our own life and allow others to exercise their agency to live as they feel is best for them. We can only worry about heavenly judgment for ourselves—not others.
Elder Henry B. Eyring said, “Parents, children, brothers, and sisters may have made choices that seem to disqualify them from eternal life. You may even wonder whether you have yet been qualified through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. A prophet of God once offered me counsel that gives me peace. I was worried that the choices of others might make it impossible for our family to be together forever. He said, “You are worrying about the wrong problem. You just live worthy of the celestial kingdom, and the family arrangements will be more wonderful than you can imagine.” (“The Hope of Eternal Family Love,” Ensign, August 2016)
Learning. I relate to this quote from Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf: “Brothers and sisters, as good as our previous experience may be, if we stop asking questions, stop thinking, stop pondering, we can thwart the revelations of the Spirit. Remember, it was the questions young Joseph asked that opened the door for the restoration of all things. We can block the growth and knowledge our Heavenly Father intends for us. How often has the Holy Spirit tried to tell us something we needed to know but couldn’t get past the massive iron gate of what we thought we already knew?” (“Acting on the Truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” Worldwide Leadership Training, January 2012.)
Life. On July 10, 2000, I wrote the following in my journal: “Today I turned 45. Since I fully expect to live to be 90, that means that today I’m half dead.”
Litigation. Awards in civil matters are becoming outrageous and foster more and more frivolous lawsuits. It is a system that feeds on itself, breeding more lawyers than are necessary, who in turn invent lawsuits that are not needed. It also degrades society’s sense of responsibility as people begin suing others for any reason for the chance of a monetary award. People smoke themselves to death, then sue the tobacco company to pay for the cancer they developed. The entire system of civil suits needs to be streamlined and less important matters sent to arbitration.
Love of God. This was related by Rick Partridge in a department devotional on October 22, 2015: Rick said that his sister died of cystic fibrosis. He had a dream where he saw her in heaven, that she was healthy, vibrant, and had a glow in her eyes. In the dream, she said to Rick, “He hugged me for like 30 minutes.” (Referring to her meeting Jesus in heaven.) The dream was very vivid and real to him. What I learned about the rest of the story talking with Rick the next day: A few months earlier, when it was becoming evident that she would die, Rick had joked with his sister, “when you get to the other side, find a way to come back and tell me what it’s like.” She did so, in a dream.
Political Parties. The political parties should decide what their party stands for (values, positions on issues, etc.) then write their platforms stating what they believe and how they intend to accomplish their goals. Instead, they write platforms that are vague and watered down so that they will not alienate anyone. They write what they think will get them the most votes. The result is that the parties do not stand for much anymore and consequently do not accomplish much.
Progress in Life. I resonate with this quote from Booker T. Washington who wisely stated, “Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed.” (The International Dictionary of Thoughts, comp. by John P. Bradley and others, Chicago: J. G. Ferguson Publishing Company, 1969, p. 698.) I always liked to assume that people I met were struggling with significant challenges—because many of them were. I liked to give people the benefit of the doubt that they are doing their very best. (Also see my booklet, Learning Through Life’s Trails.)
Prioritizing. How do you get it all done? You cannot. When I do not get important things done at work, I will stuff them in my briefcase and take them home thinking I will get to them at night. When I do not, I stuff things back into my briefcase and haul them to work again. Every day the briefcase gets fuller. I’ve bought a new briefcase, but it still is not big enough.
Unity. In the explanation of the plan of salvation presented in the temple, note that the only person who acts alone is Satan. Everyone else counsels with others and acts in unity. The only time Satan is successful is when he isolates people.
Values. Society is moving from a sense of family values to one of individual rights. It is coming to the point that minorities insist on rights that restrict the rights of the majority. If one individual does not like prayer at a graduation exercise, then it is prohibited to the hundreds of others who may want it. We end up overprotecting the one and ignoring the other 99.
Welfare. In our country, we now have people who have known no other life than welfare for several generations. Too large a percentage of the population is on welfare, imposing a tremendous tax burden on those who work. Some people on welfare have no incentive to work because they can live on welfare as well as they can live by working, given the education and skills they possess. Without jobs, and with little hope for the future, they often turn to crime and gang violence.
Child of God. I have always known I was a child of God. As I grew into maturity, I recognized more and more that I had a loving Father and Mother in Heaven who loved me and always wanted the best for me.
Husband. Although I am certainly not perfect, I’ve always tried hard to be a good husband. I love Teri and have always wanted to be the best husband I could be. Even at the times I struggled most with issues in life, my love and respect for her never waned and my desire to be with her never faltered.
Father. I love my children and have always wanted to be a good role model for them and teach them the right things by words and deed. At the same time, I respected them as individuals and tried to give them the appropriate freedom to grow and learn.