Toward our Destiny
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M. Russell Ballard
Foundational Speech
April 07, 2008
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M. Russell Ballard was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints when this address was given. At the time he was a member of the Brigham Young University Hawaii Board of Trustees. This is an adaptation of his remarks at the Presidents’ Leadership Council Hawaii meeting on 7 April 2008.

 

 

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I pray that in the few minutes I will take, the Lord will bless me that I will say something helpful and perhaps give you a broader vision than you have had before.

We just had a wonderful general conference. For me, one of the great parts of the conference was watching the mantle shift from President Gordon B. Hinckley to President Thomas S. Monson and watching President Monson take the reins of the responsibility for the whole world, the Church, and the kingdom of God.

 

Elder Chia: A Latter-Day Pioneer

Before I came to participate with you, I went into the administration building this morning and saw two missionaries along with a mission president in the waiting room. I went over and shook hands with them. The missionaries were both from the People’s Republic of China, where they had joined the Church and had accepted their mission calls. They have been assigned to serve in this part of the world to learn more about the Church, and they will return to their homes when their missions are over to carry on the great work that is very quietly going forth in the People’s Republic with the acceptance, direction, and approval from the Chinese government.

We now have some 20 small branches of Chinese members that are authorized to meet; they hold their meetings on Sundays. We have a remarkable leader over there, Elder Chia Chu-Jen, whom I met 20 or 25 years ago in Toronto. I want to tell you the story of how we met to show you how the Lord has His hands in this work. Then I’d like to bring it down to what I think the Lord wants BYU–Hawaii and the Polynesian Cultural Center to accomplish.

When I was sent to Toronto to reorganize the Toronto Ontario Stake, I interviewed, as we always do, about 30 priesthood leaders. Among those was Brother Chia. Sam Baker was called to be the stake president, and for the only time in 33 years of being a General Authority did I tell a stake president who his first counselor would be. You don’t do that in the Church, but we did on this occasion. I said to President Baker: “The Lord wants you to call Brother Chia to be your first counselor in the stake presidency because there are some things he needs to learn. I don’t know what they are—I just know that this is a prompting that has come to me and that this is very important.”

When we set apart a stake presidency, normally the General Authority will set apart the president, and whoever is there to assist the General Authority will set apart the counselors. But in this instance I felt impressed to set apart both the president and Brother Chia. In the process of giving Brother Chia a blessing, I was stunned as I listened to what the Lord was saying to him: He was told by the power of God that the Lord would open the way and that within a short season he would be transferred to his native country, the People’s Republic of China, where he would take on the great work of establishing the Church. At the time, Brother Chia was working for Imperial Chemical Industries as the company’s representative in Canada. About two and a half years later, his company transferred him to Beijing.

Through his efforts and the efforts of a lot of other people, this work is just now very gently and very carefully unfolding among the people in the People’s Republic of China. Elder Chia has been at the very core of the work to gain the approval of the government and to establish and set up small groups of Church members. He’s the father, so to speak—the pioneer leader of what’s going on there.

 

Expectations and Destinies

Now, I don’t know totally what the Lord has in mind for China or for countries like India and areas like the Pacific Rim, but I think that as we watch and are sensitive and attentive, we will see the hand of the Lord reach in now and start raising up people and putting them in a position to do what needs to be done in the work according to the laws of the land and according to the purposes that our Heavenly Father has for that part of the world. I believe that BYU–Hawaii is going to have an even greater role in this process of preparing the leadership of the Church in the future for that part of the world. Ever since I have been closely associated with the BYU–Hawaii campus, I have felt that those who have had a vision for this university— President Joseph F. Smith, President David O. McKay, and others—must have seen way beyond the Polynesian parts of the Church. They must have seen that there was a destiny for the university and the Polynesian Cultural Center that would move far beyond their original purposes.

I think we’re going to need all the support, help, and resources we can muster to prepare BYU–Hawaii and the Polynesian Cultural Center to carry the gospel to the four corners of the earth, into parts of the world where over 60 percent of our Heavenly Father’s children live. I think we have a tremendous opportunity and obligation to love and appreciate what is occurring and what can occur in Hawaii. You must understand your role in preparing, raising up, training, and teaching a corps that will go out and do the work. This vision is far beyond what perhaps any of you will be able to see when you see them as struggling students—walking from class to class, doing the things you have them doing. You need to start looking at these students who come from these far-off parts of the world not as students but as Relief Society presidents, elders quorum presidents, high councilors, bishops, and stake presidents. I think developing these leaders is one of the great destinies and responsibilities that BYU–Hawaii has, and I’m so grateful for all that has been done to that end in the past.

 

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Times of Change

It is a great thing that you’ve all accomplished, and I can only say good things about what has occurred in the past. But it’s time, President Wheelwright, for there to be some changes—we have to move with a little more efficiency, a little more focus, a little more direction, and a little more courage than perhaps we have done in the past. One of the great leaders of industry was Peter Drucker. I know you’ve all heard this example before, but I want to use a statement of his today because I think it shows the kind of direction that these two entities will require in the future. He said:

In turbulent times the enterprise has to be kept lean and muscular, capable of taking strain but capable also of moving fast and availing itself of opportunity. This is particularly important if such times follow long years of comparative calm, ease, and predictability. Unless challenged, every organization tends to become slack, easygoing, diffuse. It tends to allocate resources by inertia and tradition rather than by results. Above all, every organization tends to avoid unpleasantness. And nothing is less pleasant and less popular than to concentrate resources on results, because it always means saying “No.”

After many years of relative calm—and I think that’s in some ways what we’ve been through in our economic cycle—we are now going into what I think are some very turbulent times. I think this caution of Peter Drucker is very appropriate for our time:

After long years of relative calm and predictability, every enterprise—business or non-business public service institution—is likely to be loaded down with yesterday’s promises. . . . A ship that spends long periods of time at sea needs to be cleansed of its barnacles or their drag will deprive it of speed and maneuverability. An enterprise that has sailed in calm waters for a long time similarly needs to cleanse itself of the products, services, ventures, that only absorb resources; the products, services, ventures that have become “yesterday.”

. . . Every product, every service—external and internal—every process, every activity needs to be put on trial every few years, with this question: “If we weren’t in this already, would we go into it knowing what we now know?” And if the answer is “No,” one does not say: “Let’s make another study.” One says: “How can we get out; or at least, how can we stop putting additional resources in?” . . .

Sloughing off yesterday is particularly important these days for the non-business public service institution. . . . It is all but impossible for most of them to accept that success always means organizing for the abandonment of what has already been achieved. . . .

. . . In turbulent times, a business needs to be able to both outride sudden hard blows and to avail itself of sudden unexpected opportunities. [Peter F. Drucker, Managing in Turbulent Times (New York: Harper and Row, 1980), 41, 43–45; emphasis in original]

Now that, to me, is visionary as it relates to the circumstances in which we find ourselves, particularly in the United States of America. You don’t have to look in many different directions to know that we are in turbulent times and that they can become much more turbulent.

 

Trajectories of BYU–Hawaii and PCC

Therefore, President Wheelwright, you need to have the courage to renew and to put forward every resource, everything you’ve learned, and everything that you bring to this new charge as president of Brigham Young University Hawaii so that all of us here can have great confidence in contributing and making the necessary sacrifices—to put the resources in your hands so that the good ship of BYU–Hawaii sails smoothly through these turbulent times that lie ahead. I think that is a great charge, and we are abundantly blessed to have you at the wheel of the helm here. We know that you can do this.

Likewise you have great present concerns with the Polynesian Cultural Center. You have the constant problem with maintenance and the task of deciding which buildings are going to fall down and which ones you’re going to fix. These things take a lot of good thought and a lot of great planning, and I pray that the Lord will bless you, President Orgill, that you will be able to do whatever is necessary to have that kind of leadership. Because when people see an organization that is vital, moving, and exciting and that is going forward at great dispatch and power, they will desire to make the maximum possible contribution to its success.

 

From Here to Eternity

We would ask those of you who have been such wonderful supporters for so many, many years to continue to support this great effort. God bless you that you’ll capture the vision of where this Church is going and the tremendous role that you will play and that the university will play in developing the kingdom of God in the Pacific Rim. These roles are not going to get smaller; they will just get larger. With the help of the Lord, great progress can be made. Of course, area presidencies have been helpful, and Brother Don Staheli has been helpful, and so forth, but we can see that when someone has the vision, the mantle, and the proper direction, miracles can be performed. And I pray that the Lord will bless us to capture this vision, see M. Russell Ballard 5 this miracle, and do all that we can to help move it forward.

I want to bear my testimony to you that we have now a new prophet and that the transition of the leadership of this Church is remarkable. We have the very orderly preparation by the Lord to use His senior Apostle, who has undergone years of training and preparation to guide the Church.

I like to tell the youth when I talk to them that even though many of the General Authorities are old, we’re pretty cool. We know what’s going on; we recognize their talents and their challenges.

We know and understand the challenges and problems at BYU–Hawaii, at the Polynesian Cultural Center, at Brigham Young University in Provo, and at BYU–Idaho.

It’s going to take a united effort—the united strength, faith, testimonies, and courage of the membership of the Church—to fulfill our destiny and preparation for that day and time when the Savior will say, “It is enough,” and will come to rule as King of Kings and Lord of Lords and Head of the Church. God bless us to that end. I humbly pray in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

 

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Presidents’ Leadership Council Hawaii Members:

We would ask those of you

     who have been such wonderful supporters

          for so many, many years

               to continue to support this great effort.

 

God bless you that you’ll capture

     the vision of where this Church is going

          and the tremendous role that you will play

               and that the university will play

     in developing the kingdom of God in the Pacific Rim.

 

                                              —M. RUSSELL BALLARD

 

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