Human Resources Employment Specialist
Brittany Shipp has worked at Brigham Young University-Idaho (BYUI) for seven years. Her experience includes assignments in benefits administration, employment services, and recruiting for online faculty, administration, staff, and student employees.
She earned her Associate's degree in Spanish from Idaho State University, a Bachelor's degree in Communication with an emphasis in Public Relations from BYU-Idaho, and a Master's degree in Human Resources from the Jon M Huntsman School of Business at Utah State University.
Sister Shipp served as a missionary in the Ohio Cleveland Mission and at the Kirtland Historic Sites. She has also served as a sunbeam teacher, gospel doctrine teacher, relief society teacher, assistant girl's camp director, and relief society president. She is currently in the relief society presidency in her ward, and is a visiting teacher.
Brittany and her husband, Benjamin, will celebrate their 2nd wedding anniversary later this month. Brittany enjoys musical theater, cooking, outdoor recreation, and pretends to be a runner.
Have you ever thought about why we have devotional or what it really is? A devotional is typically a short religious service characterized by devotion.1 In the Topical Guide, devotion is connected with the words commitment and dedication. These words are then connected to diligence, consecrate, obedience, and steadfastness. I have a great love for words, and I appreciate how tying these words together helps to better describe the concept of devotion and possibly why these gatherings are referred to as devotionals. Devotional is a dedicated time where we exercise our agency to come and show commitment to the Lord. It is not required for your degree; no one will keep track of whether or not you attended. It is strictly your choice to come and receive what you are willing to receive from the spirit. So again, I thank you for choosing to come to devotional.
I want to focus today on our ability to choose and have titled my talk after a familiar scriptural phrase, "Choose ye this day."2 This phrase is short but powerful. "Choose ye" indicates that you are the agent of options and "this day" indicates the present nature of time. This is a significant combination. It does not say "choose ye sometime or whenever you feel like it." Nor does it say "let someone else choose for you." The phrase says you are the chooser with the power to do so today.
In Doctrine & Covenants 58, we read about the Lord's confidence in our ability to choose for ourselves. Verses 27 and 28 read:
Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves.3
"For the power is in them," this is another great phrase. We do not create an ability to make choices because this power has already been given to us. Not only are we the agents of this power, but the Lord also has confidence in our ability to bring about righteousness through our choices, such as coming to devotional. By choosing to come, we indicate to the Lord we are open to receiving of His Spirit. Our days are filled with choices that effect righteousness. These choices include but are not limited to: will I pray, read my scriptures, speak uplifting words, or observe the honor code? These are our choices to make and when we willingly choose, we are able to receive the blessings of those choices.
I want to share with you a few specific days in which I chose the Lord. On December 4, 1993, I was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. On that day, I chose to exercise my agency and made covenants with my Heavenly Father that I am now accountable to follow. On September 16, 2006, I entered the House of the Lord and received my own endowment. On that day, I chose to exercise my agency and made covenants with my Heavenly Father that I am now accountable to follow. And on February 28, 2014, I was sealed to my eternal companion in the Rexburg Idaho Temple. On that day, I chose to exercise my agency and made covenants with my Heavenly Father that I am now accountable to follow. I was not forced to make any of these choices.
In fact, on our wedding day I remember thinking, before going up to the sealing room, "I could say no." That idea quickly left as I thought of all the reasons why I would say yes, but it was my choice. Benjamin was my choice. As our courtship grew closer to marriage, I wanted to receive a powerful confirmation that he was the right choice. Now, don't get me wrong, I had had many promptings and feelings along the way, but I was 27 and had experienced the ups and downs of dating for a while. So I was hoping for a definite confirmation that Ben was who the Lord wanted for me. I fasted and attended the temple. On one particular day, I had determined not to leave the celestial room until I had my moment of confirmation. I did not receive a strong confirmation nor did I receive a stupor of thought or feeling of constraint. My hunger pains eventually got the best of me, and I left feeling a gentle peace. It was not until sometime later during my nightly prayers that the answer came to me, "Brittany, you know enough." With that, I knew the Lord was allowing me to make a choice of my own free will. I made my choice, and I am grateful for it. The Lord was a part of our entire dating process, but He was not going to take the choice away from me.
Heavenly Father is the giver of our agency, and because of this He is also the protector of it. He respects our choices, and He loves us completely. Because of this love, we have already been provided with enough knowledge to make good decisions each day.
As I have contemplated the gift of agency, I have been struck by the message Lehi shares with his son Jacob:
Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.4
This is a fundamental scripture about agency, and I have read it many times throughout my life, but studying it this time, I focused on the two choices presented: we are free to choose liberty through the Savior or captivity through the devil. Lehi is not referring to choosing liberty or captivity at the final judgment but in "all things" that "are expedient unto man."
I began to ask myself how different my day-to-day decisions would be if, for every choice I made, I first asked myself, "Is this choice bringing me closer to the Savior?" To be quite honest, my next thought was about how asking that question for every choice seemed a bit extreme. However, I then learned a powerful personal lesson that no longer made it extreme. The very act of asking "Is this choice bringing me closer to the Savior?" naturally makes me think of Him. In so doing, I am fulfilling the covenant I renew during the sacrament to "always remember him."5 If I always remember Him, I am eligible to obtain the blessing to "always have his spirit" to be with me. Consequently, if I always have his Spirit, my choices and decisions will be more in-line with our Father's will and I will be happier.
President Henry B. Eyring said:
With the companionship of the Holy Ghost, our hearts can change so that we want and welcome the love of our Heavenly Father and of the Lord Jesus Christ. The way to get the love of God into our hearts is simple, as is the way to lose the feeling of that love in our hearts. For instance, someone may choose to pray less often to Heavenly Father or not to pay a full tithing or to stop feasting on the word of God or to ignore the poor and the needy.
Any choice not to keep the Lord's commandments can cause the Spirit to withdraw from our hearts. With that loss, happiness diminishes.6
I encourage you to choose this day a way you can improve in your ability to "always remember him."
Our Savior and our Heavenly Father always remember us, and they love us completely. With that love, they will not take away our agency even when we do not choose them. In Alma 29:5, Alma teaches about the love the Lord has for us and his respect to let us choose, it reads:
Yea, and I know that good and evil have come before all men; he that knoweth not good from evil is blameless; but he that knoweth good and evil, to him it is given according to his desires, whether he desireth good or evil, life or death, joy or remorse of conscience.7
Alma's words fit the pattern taught by Lehi regarding making choices for liberty or captivity, but Alma uses the following words to describe the two choices: life or death, good or evil, joy or remorse of conscience. This scripture is dear to me because my grandma had it hanging in her home, and I used to read it every time I visited. She passed away a few years ago, but I wish I could ask her why this scripture was important enough to her to display in a visible area. Based on what I know of her life and what I have learned from reading her journals, she knew by her own experience and the experiences of loved ones how choices can lead us to captivity or to freedom.
Please remember, while Heavenly Father loves you enough to let you make choices that will lead to captivity, He also loves you enough that He prepared a way through our elder brother, Jesus Christ, to become free.
Over the years, I have come to admire the apostle Peter and his devotion to the Savior. Throughout the New Testament, we get to observe many of Peter's choices and his journey to "always remember." In John 6, we see a sudden shift in the people but not in Peter. At the beginning of the chapter, "a great multitude followed [the Savior], because they saw his miracles." The people continue to follow and ask questions and "Jesus... said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent." The Savior then taught that He was the bread of life and had come from heaven to bring salvation.
Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it? When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you?... From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.
Please take note in this passage, it says his disciples were those who left him. They saw the very Son of God but chose to be offended and not accept the Savior's proper role. Neither the Savior nor the Church made them leave. We have seen, and will continue to see, this in our day. There are individuals who have a testimony of the gospel but choose to walk away when challenges arise, and it is no longer easy to follow.
I want to return to the story in John Chapter 6, because there is much to learn from Peter:
Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.8
What a powerful response! While others are choosing to no longer walk with the Savior, Peter holds to the truth he knows and is not shaken in his determination to follow "Christ, the Son of the living God." Brothers and sisters, it is unlikely that the path of discipleship will ever be popular or carefree. It wasn't for Christ, it wasn't for Joseph Smith, and it won't be for us. All of us here today have experienced some level of mental, spiritual, emotional, or physical pain that may have tested our faith. There are more challenges ahead, but follow Peter's example and hold to what you know.
In this month's first Presidency Message, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf says:
During [times of disappointment, doubt, fear, sadness, or stress], it is easy to get caught up in everything that is going wrong and to make our troubles the center of our thoughts. The temptation is to focus on the trials we are facing instead of on the Savior and our testimony of truth....
But the more we focus on our final heavenly destination and on the joys of following the disciple's path—loving God, serving our neighbor—the more likely we are to successfully navigate through times of trouble and turbulence.9
I appreciate President Uchtdorf's words, and I know they are true. In 2009, I experienced them for myself as I had the opportunity to work at Walt Disney World as part of the Disney College Program. When the opportunity first came up, I thought it sounded fun but did not expect to go. However, I was surprised at how direct of a prompting I received about accepting a position. I traveled down to Orlando, Florida, on my own and was assigned to work as a Jungle Cruise Skipper. For those of you who do not know what a Jungle Cruise Skipper is—I wore safari attire, drove boats, and told cheesy jokes. It was awesome!
Actually, it was not quite so awesome at the beginning. My name tag said Brigham Young University-Idaho, and the first few days at the Jungle Cruise, many of my coworkers asked if I was Mormon. I had no problems confirming the question, but it seemed that many of them were uncomfortable and didn't want to talk to me afterwards. One moment in particular, I walked into the break room in time to hear a girl say, "I don't want to hear about their golden bible." With that, the room went silent, and people avoided eye contact with me. Needless to say, things were a little rocky.
A few days later, I was scheduled to work all day on a Sunday. It was a long, discouraging day, and at the end of my shift, I sat alone at the bus stop waiting to get home. I was confused as to why I had felt so strongly that I needed to come when it seemed like I would be missing church often and I felt like no one wanted me around because of my religion. What was I doing here? In my moment of despair, I felt a flood of courage come into my heart, and I thought to myself, "This will not break you." I made a choice that I would do all that I could to feed my spirit each day. I would study my scriptures more intently, attend all the meetings I could, and be an active participant in my ward even though I would only be there for a few months. I also decided that regardless of how my coworkers treated me, I would choose to love them and pray for the gift of charity every day.
I did have to work on most Sundays, but I was blessed with late-night shifts that allowed me to attend all of my church meetings, for which I am grateful. I look back on that summer with great fondness. I saw the hand of the Lord in my life, and I made wonderful friends at work. Even though our beliefs and our choices differed, we had fun being together and I knew how much the Lord loved them. I hope they felt that love through my love for them.
I was also blessed to make wonderful friends from my ward with whom I shared many adventures. That summer was a spiritually enriching and fun experience for me. I am still grateful for the opportunity, mostly because I learned so much about how my personal choices for righteousness helped me overcome challenges and increase in happiness.
I continue to learn about the power of my choices, and as part of my work here with employment in Human Resources, I have the opportunity to learn about the personal choices applicants have made. Most of the choices are good and have benefited their lives; other times, information is disclosed about poor choices that they now regret. These choices continue to affect their lives because that is the reality of consequences whether they are good or bad.
I enjoy my work and I find it a rewarding experience to be a part of the hiring process. However, with each job offer there are many more individuals who will not be hired. It is difficult to contact these candidates because they often are disappointed. At these challenging times, I learn even more about candidates based on how they choose to respond. Some have chosen to respond in anger and blame, while others have chosen to respond with gratitude and kindness. I am sure you can guess which response can hinder and which can improve future opportunities.
There are many employees on campus who were not hired for the first position for which they applied. Over a period of several years, one employee was declined 42 times before the right position, at the right time, was offered. Although it was discouraging, he chose to keep preparing and continued to follow the Spirit.
Just over a year ago, I contacted two interview candidates right before Christmas to inform them that they were not selected. These were impressive candidates, and the hiring decision had been difficult to make. Even with the length of time it took to make the decision and the upcoming holiday, these two were very gracious, albeit disappointed. They were remembered for future opportunities, and I am happy to report that they both are employed at BYU-Idaho now. Even seemingly small choices today can affect future opportunities.
I want to share with you one more personal experience about exercising agency. During my second semester of college at Idaho State University, I attended a stake conference where the speaker told us to make a plan that week. If the plan changed along the way, it was all right but we needed to start moving forward. I was a bit skeptical, but I chose to put it to the test. So even though I had no idea what I wanted to major in, I determined I would work towards an associate's degree. That way I would have a clean break in school to serve a mission when I turned 21, and if that was not right, I trusted that by the end of the associate's degree the Lord would provide me with more knowledge. Since I was interested in learning another language and about other cultures, I decided to get my Associate's degree in Spanish.
Now I will share with you a great secret—I don't speak Spanish. I went on an English-speaking mission and I still have yet to get more involved with Spanish. After my mission, I transferred to BYU-Idaho, studied communication, and now I work in Human Resources. Some of you may be tempted to think my plan was wrong or even a waste of time, but I have seen many blessings come from that decision. There may still be more to learn about it but maybe not. Either way, I know the Lord upholds our plans and efforts as we exercise our agency for righteousness.
So my dear friends, choose ye this day, for the power is in you. It is in you. You can choose to pray, you can choose to read your scriptures, you can choose to follow the honor code, you can choose to attend devotional, and you can choose to do many good things of your own free will. In so doing, you will have the Spirit to be with you and you will experience the same blessings King Benjamin shares with his people, when he said:
And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it.10
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
1. http://dictionary.reference.com/, Devotional2. Moses 6:333. Doctrine & Covenants 58: 27-284. 2 Nephi 2:275. Moroni 4:36. Henry B. Eyring, "Happiness for Those We Love," Ensign, January 2016, 47. Alma 29:58. John 6; with a focus on verses 60-61, 66-699. Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "Landing Safely in Turbulence," Ensign, February 2016, 4-510. Mosiah 2:41