Chair, BYU–Idaho Department of Business Management
I came here 10 years ago and immediately experienced something I never remember hearing before. Elder Henry B. Eyring spoke in one of the first devotionals of BYU–Idaho and in the course of his talk he said these words, “I make a prophecy. Now listen carefully” and “…this is a prophecy that I am prepared to make and make solemnly” and “I’ll make you a prophecy.”1
These were words from an apostle of Jesus Christ who said he had the prophet read over and approve. My thoughts were two-fold: first, “Wow, what a great place this is,” and second, I thought I should listen. I did listen and am still quite taken with what he and other leaders have given us at BYU–Idaho. I would like to discuss some of the prophecies President Eyring––then Elder Eyring––made and how you can make those prophecies come true for you individually and collectively.
As was mentioned in the introduction, I currently serve as the chair of the Department of Business Management, where we have been working hard to do our part to help fulfill the prophecies. Recently we have been discussing more changes to our program to help our graduates learn and experience the things necessary to help them be what President Erying says they will be. We feel compelled to make these changes. So, when I thought about what might be most helpful to talk to you about, I decided I would talk about what you can do to help ensure that these prophecies are fulfilled in your lives so you can make the most of your education.
To help you determine a course of action that will help you make the most out of your education, I am going to introduce you to a tool we use often use in business called a “SWOT analysis.” “SWOT” stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. The basic idea is to match strengths with opportunities so you can choose a course of action that will have the best chance to succeed. If you don’t have any strengths that match well with available opportunities, you make the effort to transform one or more of your weaknesses into strengths.
To illustrate how to use this tool, I am going to tell you about a situation where I used it in a non-business setting. When my son was in third grade, I believe, I was asked to coach his community league basketball team because they had a few more boys than they expected and needed one more coach for these boys. These were not the boys who were fought over by the other coaches. They were the ones who for one reason or another signed up late and needed a coach. I called a practice and had the boys just shoot around for the first five or 10 minutes so I could see what I had to work with.
As I watched, I became a little concerned. They made almost no shots, they weren’t even being guarded, and I could see that they weren’t very tall. They couldn’t dribble the ball very well either. All I could see was weaknesses. I thought, “This is going to be a long season.” I wondered why I ever agreed to coach this team. But I had agreed to coach them, so I tried hard to look for strengths. Eventually I noticed a few of the boys were quite quick, which was about the only strength I could find.
At this point, I had a long list of weaknesses and only one strength, so mentally I turned to the opportunities and threats part of the tool. I had to go on my knowledge of and assumptions about the other teams. I was sure many of the other boys could shoot much better (a threat) and had to be taller (another threat), but I was also sure that at that age, they couldn’t dribble the ball too well. There was my opportunity. We could capitalize on their inability to handle the ball. I decided to match our quickness strength with the lack of ball handling ability of the other teams to come up with a strategy. In practice, we focused almost entirely on stealing the ball, dribbling it down the court, and making layups. The zone defense we used was one designed to steal the ball, but it wasn’t very good if the other team got the ball into the middle to the “big” players.
We worked on other areas of the game minimally but mostly focused those three things––stealing the ball, dribbling, and making layups. As it turned out, our boys did quite well. When the other team passed half court, our boys went into “attack mode.” More often than not, they stole the ball, dribbled down court, and missed their layup. But sometimes they made it. This little team of vertically challenged boys who couldn’t shoot too well won all their games but one. They took what they had, matched it with attractive opportunities, and made the best of their basketball season.
Let’s see if we can do the same for you and your education at BYU–Idaho. I will reverse the order this time because I don’t have the ability to evaluate your individual strengths and weaknesses and more importantly because we have been given help in identifying the opportunities. This help comes from the Lord through his servants because of the Lord’s concern for you and for what you can do to help his other children.
In the talk entitled “A Steady, Upward Course,” President Eyring discussed a number of characteristics of BYU–Idaho graduates. When talking about these characteristics, he used the words I mentioned at the beginning of this talk: “I prophecy.” He also implied that people with these characteristics will be in great demand by employers and wards and stakes throughout the world.
These opportunities are sure. I would encourage you to read the talk, because you will find things I didn’t mention and the Holy Ghost will teach you things that are specific to you. The talk can be found on the BYU–Idaho website under the devotional archive, dated September 18, 2011. For now, let me point out a few items that I feel apply directly to you. He says the world is hungry for people who are the following:
Learners and teachers
Because of the shortness of time, I will briefly mention a few of the traits and go more in depth on one as a pattern of what you should or could do on the others.
Innovative and Frugal
With the speed of change in technology and business and the state of the economy, employers will seek out those who can do more with less. Graduates of BYU–Idaho will fill those needs for many organizations throughout the world. They will become legendary in their ability to think of new and better ways of doing things without requiring an increased budget. President Erying said, “…they will bless others wherever they go by what they have learned about innovating with scarce resources and treating all they have as if it were the Lord’s.”2
Learners and Teachers
Once again, the speed of change in technology and business will cause organizations to hire those who can continue learning and teach others what they have learned. “They will be natural leaders who know how to teach and how to learn.” They “will become life-long teachers in their families, in the Church, and in their work….”3
This is one I will go into more depth on. What is a natural leader? Here are some statements I pulled out of President Eyring’s talk about being natural leaders. He said,
“those graduates of BYU–Idaho will become legendary for their capacity to build the people around them and to add value wherever they serve.” … “the day will come that that capacity to influence people around you for good will have you singled out as one of the great leaders in whatever place you’re in.” … “I hope I live long enough to meet some employer who employed one of you and says, ‘Where did that come from? I’ve never had such a person. Why people just flock around that person. And they want to follow. They don't have to be led; they're seeking to go where that person wants to go….’”4
President Clark elaborated on this type of leadership in a graduation talk entitled “Leadership with a Small ‘L’.” He explained how this type of leadership is the type of leadership that Christ leads with:
“The call to be a disciple-leader is a call to minister and to serve. It is a call to lead as Christ leads. It is leadership with a small ‘L’—the kind of leadership that builds and lifts and inspires through kindness and love and unselfish devotion to the Lord and His work. It is the kind of leadership that we need at every level of every kind of organization in the world and in every ward and stake in the Church. It is the kind of leadership you will need to build an eternal family.”5
Natural or small “L” leaders often are not in formal positions of authority. The world has a great need of natural leaders. The opportunity is there and it was stated by an disciple of Jesus Christ.
Let’s turn to you and your strengths and weaknesses. Do you have the strength of natural leadership to match with opportunities the world provides for those who do? By the way, in my 10 years of teaching here, I have known enough students and kept track of their lives after graduation to know the prophecies are being fulfilled and will continued to be fulfilled to even a greater degree. Many of our graduates have become wonderful natural leaders. However, the degree to which the prophecy will be fulfilled in your life depends on you and the course of action you decide on.
When you heard me describe what a natural leader is, did you think that describes you? Did you look back at your mission or Laurels or your high school experience and say, “that’s me!” If you did, in all humility, then you have a strength or at least the potential of a strength. You are in a good position to build on that strength, and in a minute, I will give you a few ideas on how to do that.
If, when you heard the descriptions of a natural leader, you thought “That is not me,” then you have got a mismatch––a weakness aligned with an opportunity. You will need to change. BYU–Idaho is all about change. The gospel is all about change. You can change. You may never be the best natural leader in the world, but I testify to you that you can and, in almost all cases, should change. In the Book of Ether, Moroni talked about weakness. He said,
“And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”6
I will give you a few ideas on how to make that change. Ammon, one of the sons of Mosiah, was a natural leader. Lamoni, many of his people, Lamoni’s father and many of his people followed Ammon even when it was very difficult to follow him. I know you might be thinking that his situation was quite a bit different, and in some ways I am sure you are right. For instance, you probably won’t have to disarm you enemies the way he did, but I will refer back to Ammon as an example of someone who did what he needed so he could be a great natural leader. Incidentally, he wasn’t in a formal position of leadership, in fact, he first met Lamoni as a bound prisoner. To become the type of leader President Eyring prophesied you can be, you need to do the following:
Be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ
Have a desire to lift others
Be a Faithful Disciple of Jesus Christ
To become a natural leader or an innovator or a chemist or a businessperson you need to live worthy and have faith so you can take advantage of a Church university. You learn so much faster and so much better if you learn by study and by faith. President Eyring said,
“The students—you and those who follow you—must play a major part. It is their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and in His restored gospel and their obedience to His commandments that will put Him at the center of the school. Their faith will largely determine whether we learn here by study and also by faith. As we do, we will attain academic excellence. We will not attain academic excellence without that faith of yours as students and those that follow to learn by study and by faith.”7
Furthermore, instructors like me can only do what we are supposed to with your faithful help. President Eyring continued to say, “Your teachers will teach better than their natural capacities would ever allow them to do because the powers of heaven will come down. They will come down because of your faith.”8
Ammon exhibited great faith in Jesus Christ. In fact, he and his brothers worked tirelessly to bring the people in the land of Zarahemla to a knowledge of Jesus Christ:
“And they traveled throughout all the land of Zarahemla, and among all the people who were under the reign of king Mosiah, zealously striving to repair all the injuries which they had done to the church, confessing all their sins, and publishing all the things which they had seen, and explaining the prophecies and the scriptures to all who desired to hear them. And thus they were instruments in the hands of God in bringing many to the knowledge of the truth, yea, to the knowledge of their Redeemer.”9
We need the Lord’s help. We need to be faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. Not only is our learning made better, people want to follow those who have the light of Christ about them. When I was a freshman at BYU, many of the young men in my dorm were athletic, stylish, and apparently attractive to the girls––the things that I desired to be, but they seemed think to be cool, they needed to be a bit rowdy and rebellious.
I had not been around members of the Church very much. I had hoped I wouldn’t have to still fight that battle between being accepted and being righteous. But I came to know one who was different. His name was Corey Brink, I believe. He was athletic. He dated a lot. But he also fulfilled his calling and obeyed the rules and was genuinely interested in others. I wanted to be like him. He helped me raise my sights and expectations even though he didn’t know me very well. I wanted to follow him because he was a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ. I needed to see an example like that.
Desire to Lift Others
I have found people are much more inclined to want to go where you are going if they believe that you care about them. President Eyring said, “We will see the greatest work of our lives as nurturing others as the Savior did. We will see the potential in others as He sees it.”10 He further talked about an attitude change that might be required when he said,
“You will know that the reason you are being singled out is not because of your innate gifts as a leader but because you have done what the Savior would do—learned how to, and did, reach out to those around you to try to lift them, to help them to be better even when it might be a little bit difficult and you might not have been received very well.”11
Ammon wanted to help Lamoni and his people even as they threatened to put him to death. In Alma 17: 23 when he was brought bound before King Lamoni and asked why he was in their land, he answered by saying “…yea, I desire to dwell among this people for a time; yea, and perhaps until the day I die.”12 What a great answer—a highly likely outcome of his meeting with the king was death. Even better, was that he was willing to risk his life to share the gospel with Lamoni and his people. He cared. So can you. Many of you did on your missions or do now in your callings.
President Kimball would have said, “do it.” Elder Bednar would say, “act rather than being acted upon.” In his October 2005 General Conference address entitled “Becoming a Missionary,” Elder Bednar said the best way to prepare for a mission is to start becoming a missionary now. To become a missionary “…you can increase in your desire to serve God (see D&C 4:3), and you can begin to think as missionaries think, to read what missionaries read, to pray as missionaries pray, and to feel what missionaries feel.”13 The same is true of natural leaders.
You need to start now to do what a natural leader does. You could dress up for and bring your scriptures to devotional and encourage others to do the same. When working in teams in your classes, you could do your part and help the team member who isn’t doing his or her fair share to increase his contribution because of the extra concern you show him. When participating in a class discussion, you could build on previous comments by sincerely praising the person’s point of view even if it is different than your point of view. You can start now to become a natural leader rather than hoping that it will all kick in immediately after graduation.
You can also choose a major, elective courses, and activities that will help you personally develop your natural leadership abilities. You can choose to prepare for a job where they need natural leaders and where you can further develop your leadership abilities. Ammon and his brothers chose a course of action based on the words of a prophet where they could use their abilities, including natural leadership, to have a great influence.
They did this based on the promise of the Lord delivered to them by His servant King Mosiah after requesting permission to teach the gospel to the Lamanites. “And the Lord said unto Mosiah: Let them go up, for many shall believe on their words, and they shall have eternal life; and I will deliver thy sons out of the hands of the Lamanites.”14 You can exercise your agency to choose an education and career path that will enhance your natural leadership skills.
Like the youth basketball team I coached, success is more likely if you match strengths with opportunities, and in your case, the opportunities were identified by a prophet, seer, and revelator. You just need to do your part to fulfill the prophecy. I testify the Lord cares about you and rest of His children, and that He needs you to help them. I also testify that He is very concerned about the work here at BYU–Idaho. I know the Savior lives and that His atonement is the way to positive change. I know the Church is true. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
1 Henry B. Eyring, “A Steady Upward Course,” BYU–Idaho Devotional, Sept. 18, 2001
5 Kim B. Clark, “Leadership With a Small “L,” BYU–Idaho Commencement, Dec. 2007
6 Ether 12:27
7 Henry B. Eyring, “A Steady Upward Course,” BYU–Idaho Devotional, Sept. 18, 2001
9 Mosiah 27:35-36
10 Henry B. Eyring, “A Steady Upward Course,” BYU–Idaho Devotional, Sept. 18, 2001
12 Alma 17:23
13 David A. Bednar, “Becoming a Missionary,” Ensign, Nov. 2007