God Did Not Put Us Here to Fail | Jon M. Huntsman Sr.

God Did Not Put Us Here to Fail | Jon M. Huntsman Sr.


I am truly honored to be here today. May I
begin with this simple sentence: God did not put us here to fail. I would say to you, have
faith in yourself—believe in what you are doing, and, most important, be a person of
integrity. It is totally up to you, and no one else, how your life evolves. Many would
like to think that our parents, our professors, or even our bishops are responsible for our
future. What we become, who we are, and the footprint we will leave in life is based entirely
on our own determination, hard work, education, and sacrifice. Our Heavenly Father expects
the best from each of us. We must believe in ourselves. Don’t give in when the going
gets rough. You are laying the foundation of a great work, and that great work is your
life. Never cut corners, demean other people, or waste time “hanging out.” Decide who
you are and what your goals entail—then go for the roses. Life has little regard for
those who waste time. My father and grandfather were rural schoolteachers
in southern Idaho and Utah, and it was my hope to someday follow their example. But
I refused to forsake my dreams, and each day my mind was filled with new ideas and hopes
and aspirations. I would never listen to anyone who spoke negatively nor acknowledge that
there were shortcomings that could not be overcome. I always thought that the key to
life is finding happiness in any given place or time while remembering the great scriptural
axiom “Men are, that they might have joy.” People around us cheer when we are happy and
positive. Self-pity is the most negative quality of the human spirit. Thus when one is happy
and positive and truly believes in himself or herself, great achievements lie ahead. Throughout my life, in my heart and soul,
I wanted to explore the world—to reach into the unknown—to travel beyond my childhood
boundaries. It is so important that we each live our own dream—not someone else’s
dream. If what you are doing in your life is not your own dream, then whose is it? Perhaps I can best explain this through a
personal experience. When I was the age of many of you and was
attending college at the very challenging Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania,
things weren’t going great, at least not academically. It was a struggle for me simply
because I didn’t apply myself to the rigorous studies. After my sophomore year I went home
and visited with my father. He encouraged me to change my major and to attend a college
that was not so difficult. I thought about taking an easier route and remembered the
wise statement a radio commentator had recently made. He stated, “Difficulty is one excuse
history has never accepted.” I returned to college my junior year a reinvigorated,
new person. I applied myself. I studied diligently. My grades skyrocketed, and upon graduation
two years later I was awarded the university’s highest honors. Thus I realized between my
sophomore and junior years that it was my dream I must live and not my father’s, and
that I must achieve it through adversity and hard work. Making dreams become reality requires great
sacrifice and determination. Most people are content to just coast along. Many don’t
like to apply their talents and abilities or to put in long hours of work. But to achieve
any dream and to make something truly remarkable happen in our lives, we must face adversity
head-on, and we must overcome all of the obstacles in our pathway. Today, obstacles are significant. They are
everywhere. It is easy to become a prisoner to abusive behavior when we think there is
no possible way out. Just think of the complex issues of attempted suicide, pornography,
drug abuse, eating disorders, sexual identity, and addictions that come in various forms
and disguises. These are very real challenges to many people. Every family feels at some
point the heartache and pain of watching a loved one or friend falling prey to one of
these life-altering demons. Once ensnared, most individuals believe they have little
chance of escaping. But I say unto you: Your life’s dream can be achieved. These demons
are momentary setbacks. Do not succumb to desperation. Don’t get down on yourself.
You can create a pathway to success. There is a road to recovery, and many of us have
traveled that road. With regained balance and confidence in life
we can make it. Our dreams can be fulfilled. We should never, never give up hope. We must
follow the example of the Little Train That Could, trying to pull its load over the mountain:
“I think I can, I think I can, I think I can!” Today the economy represents a challenge that
we have never witnessed before. Some of our families have lost their homes. Some of us,
or perhaps our relatives or friends, have lost their jobs. Almost everyone has lost
something or has been diminished in some capacity. May I suggest to you that, contrary to public
opinion, there is much to be learned from the lessons of our times. Benjamin Disraeli, a former prime minister
of England, stated, “There is no education like adversity.” And it was Sir Winston
Churchill, another great British prime minister, who led that nation through the unrelenting
struggles of World War II, who stated, “We receive our inspiration from the mountaintops
but receive our maturity from the valleys of life.” Many of us here today are either going through
one of the valleys of life or will someday experience one of these challenges or moments
of adversity. Remember that adversity determines our character. During times of trial and tribulation,
I often think of the Prophet Joseph Smith and the many adversities that afflicted his
life. The Lord brought peace unto his heart during one of these times when He stated,
“My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small
moment.” It is always interesting to observe how people
react during times of crisis. Indeed, our very own character is formed by the lessons
of trial and challenge. Character, in turn, emerges within each of us in our hearts and
minds to establish our own personal set of standards—or, as the outside world would
refer to it, our personal integrity. Integrity is critical to our lives—and to our dreams
of achievement. We must remember that without integrity nothing else matters and that with
integrity nothing else matters. Thus personal integrity, shaped and fashioned and molded
to a great extent by adversity and personal trials, determines the person or individual
we represent to others. Again, we must each remember that God did
not put us on this earth to fail. We are His children. We are here to succeed. The obstacles
placed before us will be many, and in certain cases we may falter or even fail. I love the
scripture that states, “He who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I,
the Lord, remember them no more.” I often recall the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
The Atonement, of course, is the entire purpose for the restoration of The Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints. It provides a means for eternal life. But there is another
purpose as well. The Savior’s suffering and struggles in the Garden of Gethsemane
and His ultimate Atonement allows each of us to heal from the sins or afflictions of
which I spoke earlier. Through the Lord Jesus Christ we don’t have to carry guilt over
our shoulders as if it were a 50-pound bag of rocks. We can and should repent and move
on. The Lord has provided the way for us to heal and then use our adversities to great
advantage in the future. Shakespeare said it best when he simply stated, “Sweet are
the uses of adversity.” As we overcome many imposed limitations or challenges, the door
is open for us to do anything in life that is honorable and good. We can follow our dreams
and reach the stars and make a big difference in the lives of many. When I started our company 40 years ago, I
had no money. I had worked diligently as a young man to help my family make it through
life financially. Although a scholarship had been awarded to me to attend one of America’s
most prestigious universities, I worked through college to pay for those extra costs that
scholarships don’t cover. Then for several years after graduation I worked for a small
company to gain experience and wisdom. I went to graduate school at night and received a
master of business administration while having young children at home and serving in a bishopric.
Thus, after much preparation, when I decided to form my own company and asked the banks
for a loan but was rejected, I said to myself, “No is only the beginning of the conversation.”
Filled with confidence, I returned many times to the banker and finally wore him down. He
granted me a meager loan, and I began a small business. Step-by-step and acquisition-by-acquisition
we grew and expanded. On many occasions, as we built the business, various bankers, attorneys,
and accountants would tell me it was impossible to proceed, but I forged ahead because I genuinely
believed in myself and was adamant that no one else was going to determine my own personal
destiny. And no one else but you will determine your personal destiny. I thought often of my great-great-grandfather,
apostle Parley P. Pratt, and his tribulations as a missionary in England, as the first missionary
in South America, and as one of the first missionaries in the Pacific Isles. He was
turned down repeatedly. He was mocked. He was jailed with the Prophet Joseph Smith,
but he was never discouraged. So how could one of his grandsons possibly give up a great
opportunity to open doors for others without trying repeatedly to accomplish the objective?
Throughout these early years of my business, the thought came to me repeatedly that difficulties
in life are intended to make us better—not bitter! Roadblocks always seemed to surface,
but slowly, over the years, with determination and prayer, a great business evolved. Has it been a challenge? Of course it has.
Almost every day is a struggle for many of us. But we must remain positive. Nothing comes
easy. Next year our company celebrates 40 years as a reputable, global enterprise with
a respected name. We have fought every day honorably and with fairness to forge ahead.
Challenges will affect us every day. We refuse to fall for pyramid schemes or get-rich-quick
gimmicks. They are all guaranteed to backfire. We have never been sidetracked by the lure
of easy money. That doesn’t exist either. People of integrity balance their lives. Successful
people follow President Hinckley’s prioritization schedule. He listed our priorities in this
order: 1. Our Eternal Spouse 2. Our Eternal Children 3. Loyalty to Our Employer/Profession 4. Commitment to Our Church Calling 5. Attention to One’s Personal Fitness and
Health5 One might ask, why is it is so important to
strive for excellence as a son or daughter of God? Or, if we succeed, will it really
make a difference in the lives of others? We need only look to Jesus Christ, the Savior
of mankind. He often spoke about our need to be our brother’s keeper and to watch
over those less fortunate and those who are underserved: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat:
I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and
ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. . . . And the King shall answer and say unto them,
Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my
brethren, ye have done it unto me. On the wall behind my desk, as a daily reminder,
hangs the great industrialist Andrew Carnegie’s declaration of the law of accumulation of
wealth. He stated: The duty of the man of wealth [is] to consider
all surplus revenues which come to him simply as trust funds, which he is called upon to
administer . . . in the manner which, in his judgment, is best calculated to produce
the most beneficial results for the community—the man of wealth thus becoming the mere agent
and trustee for his poorer brethren. My heart is deeply touched every time I embrace
patients at the Huntsman Cancer Institute or greet one of the thousands of students
who have received our scholarships or embrace the homeless in many countries who have given
up on themselves. Wealth, if utilized wisely as the Savior advocated, is indeed a blessing
to all involved. On the other hand, an unwise servant can create chaos, misery, and unhappiness
if wealth is misdirected or not used for the upliftment and betterment of mankind. Thus
our charity will become our legacy. In your studies you have been taught correct
principles with which you must now govern yourselves. Have the courage to be true to
what you know is right. Have faith in yourself. You have great power within your human soul—each
and every one of you—to accomplish something great. The accumulation and use of wealth
for the betterment of others is only one form of greatness. A righteous mother and father
stand above all others. Obedient children are a blessing to a family, and a humble soul
who loves the Lord can achieve great goodness. Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and
lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall
direct thy paths. Our paths will be as plentiful as there are
separate individuals in this great Marriott Center today. Never deny yourself the right
to reach your individual dreams. You and the Lord, working together, can accomplish anything.
Never forget—God did not put us here to fail. I shall always remember how the precepts of
the gospel of Jesus Christ dramatically changed my life. Although my parents were not active
in the Church, I always was inspired by the law of tithing. It was a great honor as a
young boy to make an appointment with my bishop to pay 50 cents or $1 or $2 tithing—earnings
from delivering newspapers, mowing lawns, or cleaning out grocery stores. Little did
I know that this simple habit would affect my life’s work. In 1970, at the age of 32, I was appointed
by the president of the United States to oversee the Welfare, Social Services, and Medicaid
Program for the entire United States. It was an enormous task for a young man, but I thrived
on my new appointment in Washington, D.C., as part of the presidential administration.
Several months into that appointment, I received a call from the White House chief of staff,
who asked me if I would immediately come to a meeting in his West Wing office. Nervously,
I was interviewed for the next two days to determine if I was the proper candidate to
become special assistant to the president of the United States and also serve as White
House staff secretary. I had to pinch myself several times to realize that here I was,
a young man born and raised in southern Idaho, now one of 14 candidates to possibly become
one of the president’s right-hand men. Near the end of the second day, the White
House chief of staff looked me squarely in the eyes and asked a most improbable and unexpected
question. He asked, “Are you a full-tithe payer in your church?” Yes, he injected
the word full. Without hesitation I said, “Yes, sir, I
am. I always have been. It is an honor for me to pay a full tithing to my church.” He said, “No one here in the White House
is a member of your faith, but I know enough about your religion to know if you are a full-tithe
payer, you are a person of integrity. Thus I am recommending you to the president to
become his next assistant.” The very next day I moved my offices into
the White House. It was a humbling but joyful experience to know that the result of honoring
the priesthood and paying a full tithing not only brings the joys of heaven but also, at
times like this, can bring the honors of men. I have always remembered the wise counsel
of President Harold B. Lee. He, like the prophets of the Lord before and after him, helps guide
and direct our lives during this mortal journey. I loved President Lee. He quoted a profound
statement on one occasion that I have always remembered and that applies to many situations.
Quoting Dr. Alfred C. Lane of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he said, “Faith
keeps one true in the dark and humble in the spotlight.” President Lee was simply telling
us what we have been discussing today: that if we are men and women of integrity, we don’t
need to wonder what happens when the lights go out. We have predetermined our course of
action of becoming a person of honor and integrity. One might question the survival of integrity
in today’s marketplace of deceit and dishonesty. Let me share this personal story with you,
which I hope will show that this is possible. Some 24 years ago my young business was struggling.
I needed a partner. A recent economic recession had been devastating to our earnings. I decided
to sell 40 percent of our company; we would retain the other 60 percent. We found a willing
and able buyer. After much discussion we arrived at a price for the 40 percent valuation. We
shook hands on the deal. Then it painfully took more than six months for the buyer to
write the contracts that provided a legally binding agreement between us. During that six-month period our earnings
had increased dramatically, and the business was in a rapid growth mode. Sales were the
highest ever. Financial consultants on Wall Street told me that the value of the 40 percent
of our company the buyer and I had agreed to six months prior was now worth five times
the original amount. Things had changed! Moreover, the first oral agreement, our lawyers told
me, was not binding because no legal papers had been signed. Since nothing had been signed
in the beginning and since our agreement was based on only a handshake, the buyers felt
an obligation to pay a higher price. I admired them for that, and our business desperately
needed capital. We were expanding aggressively throughout the United States and some foreign
countries, and I had many bills to pay. But I informed the buyers that we must stay with
the original agreement. I would not increase their cost! My behavior shocked the entire
industry. They could not understand why I would not take hundreds of millions of dollars
more. But I was confident that this was the honorable thing to do and explained to them,
“A deal is a deal, and a handshake is your bond, and I will not vary therefrom.” When the president of this large, international
company that had purchased the 40 percent passed away, though I didn’t know him well,
his family asked me to speak at his funeral. It was truly a great honor. I mention this story to you, brothers and
sisters, with gratitude for the power and spirit of the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost acts
within each of us as a moral compass. It tells us what is right and what is wrong. We always
know when we are not doing the right thing. Patterns of integrity for life should be formed
in our youth; then we never have to struggle with the answers. The Holy Ghost is there
to prompt us, and we never have to reason through those promptings. Acting on them can
have a positive and powerful and remarkable impact on our lives. Remember, God did not
put us here to fail. Always keep in mind that nothing meaningful
can come your way without integrity, and integrity is often challenged by adversity. Never let
the accumulation of wealth in itself be a goal. Be creative, work hard, and surround
yourself with bright, honest people. Be a straight shooter and follow your dreams. But, above
all else, believe in yourself, and between you and the Lord your dreams can and will
come true, and in your pursuit of your dream, never, never forget others. It is a privilege
to serve others, and I thus close with these lyrics paraphrasing the poem by John Donne: No man is an island, No man stands alone, Each man’s joy is joy to me, Each man’s grief is my own. We need one another, So I will defend Each man as my brother, Each man as my friend. I love the Lord. It is a great honor to bear
the holy priesthood. I revere and sustain our beloved prophet, Thomas S. Monson, and
I leave with you my testimony that God lives. He is my Savior and Redeemer. The Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is restored upon the earth as a blessing to each one of
us. I also testify that God will not place adversity in our path without giving us the
strength to rise above it. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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