Elder Bradley D. Foster
Second Quorum of the Seventy
Elder Bradley D. Foster was sustained a member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on April 4, 2009. He served as second counselor in the South America South Area Presidency from 2010-2012. He currently assists Elder Lynn G. Robbins in supervising the North America Southwest Area; and, he serves as an Assistant Executive Director in the Family History Department.
Elder Foster attended Ricks College focusing on pre-veterinary studies. In 1971 he started his own company, Foster Agri Business. He has served as a member of the Idaho Potato Commission, on the Board of Directors for Farm Credit Bank and on the President's Advancement Council at BYU-Idaho.
Elder Foster has served a full-time mission in Texas, and as elders' quorum president, stake mission president, bishop, high councilor, stake president, and president of the California Arcadia Mission.
Elder Foster was born in Rigby, Idaho. He married Sharol Anderson in 1972 in the Idaho Falls Temple. They are the parents of four daughters and have 13 grandchildren.
Sister Foster and I are so happy to be back at BYU-Idaho today. Thank you for your warm hospitality. I need to establish my credibility. I was born and raised in Rigby, Idaho, and I attended school on this campus. So when you take me on a tour of this place, it is like taking a mother on tour of her own kitchen. Now, you should understand that you are the tourists. So don't laugh at the natives! It is a pleasure to visit this beautiful facility and be on campus again with you and the professors here.
Every place I go I hear about the Pathway Program of which 12,000 people are now engaged. I know that this university is an environment of spiritual learning through leadership throughout the world. I see the growth of this campus, and amongst all of that, I'm proud that the spirit of BYU-Idaho, or as we used to call it, the spirit of Ricks College, is still alive and well here.
We, as Church leaders, have learned more about you young adults in a recent survey. This is what it told us:
- A large majority of you browse Facebook at least once a day!
- Most of you attend church regularly, although many of you struggle with disengagement and self-doubt.
- You socialize through texting.1
So, I've decided to text you my talk: "U cannot program ppl back 2 heaven!"
The title of my talk today is, "So, Where did You Put the Tigers?" You will understand why in a few minutes. I want to speak to you today about leadership and about building people- not products. Edwin Markham, an American poet, has said, "We are all blind until we see that in the human plan nothing is worth the [building] that does not build the man [or woman]."
Let's talk about how our Heavenly Father's plan is designed to do that. We may not know everything about you, but this we are sure of:
- You are the future parents of the children of the Church.
- You are also the future leaders of the Church and of the world.
With that comes a great responsibility to make sure that it is done the Lord's way. Leadership in the home, the Church, and the world is a sacred trust. As a matter of fact, the word leader comes from the latin word educur which is where we get the word educate, which means to lead forth or to draw forth a person's best potential.
What is the test of a great leader? "The test is simple: Has a man or woman the talent and the power to evoke from those, who are assigned to follow him, the maximum wholesome realization of their best capacities?"2
Think of this in your relationship with your children or your callings in the Church. A great leader takes us places we've never been before, helps us see things we've never seen before, helps us feel things we've never felt before, and helps us to become the people we've only dreamed of becoming.
I don't think there's a greater story of leadership than the story of President Harold B. Lee before he was called as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve. In his professional life he was a banker and served on the board of directors for an international banking company. When the board wanted to hire a new president of the banking company, this is what they did. They looked at their best managers over the divisions and they decided on the top three managers. They invited these three managers to take their wives to Hawaii for the next six months to work on a special project. While they were away, the board of directors watched their divisions. If a division did as well or struggled a little bit, those managers came back and resumed their responsibilities. However, the manager whose division did better while he was away was chosen to be the president of the company. Why?
This story reminds me of what the prophet Joseph said when someone asked him "how do you govern these people?" He said, "I teach them correct prinicples and let them govern themselves." So let's talk about some of those principles. In the pre-existence, our Heavenly Father's plan was to create this earth for us to dwell on. Then, He stated, He would "...Prove us herewith..."3 not to program us, but to give us opportunities to grow.
In the scriptures and in the temples those creative periods are represented. After the Lord had formed the earth on the fifth day, the Father sent Christ down to create plants and animals. When Christ returned to the Father, the Father said that it was good. He didn't ask, "So, where did you put the Tigers?" God had given the Savior the responsibility. He wasn't going to micro-manage Him because He trusted Him. He designed this earth experience around His trusting us because He wanted us to grow and return as exalted beings to be with Him and to be like Him.
This is the plan. In the councils in the pre-mortal life the pros and cons of Heavenly Father's plan was debated. Some rejected the risk, which would go with that trust, was too risky. Do you think we really understood how hard this experience was going to be? Well, the Lord knew that the Father's plan of agency provided eternal growth, even knowing that more would be called than chosen.4 So He organized this earth, and put us in this environment that we could grow and "become as the Gods knowing good and evil."5
In the Garden of Eden Adam and Eve chose to partake of the forbidden fruit, thus receiving their agency. And because of the fall it enabled us to come to this earth. Our loving Heavenly Father provided a Savior for us. The blessings of the Atonement of Jesus Christ free us from our bad choices and actions, which allow us to grow. Therefore, repentance needs to be part of your plan A in life and not plan B.
How grateful we must be that Heavenly Father trusts us and has provided us with an environment where trust can operate, because trust leads to growth and growth leads to becoming like Heavenly Father.
"The gr8er the agency, the gr8r the growth."
Let me show you an example of the Lord's plan of trust and growth from the scriptures. It's always interesting to me to know that from 1829 - 1831, the Church was organized in 1830, almost all of the sections in the Doctrine & Covenants that were given at that time were given as "thus saith the Lord." These are exact instructions as to how the Church would be administered. When any church member wanted to know anything about where they should go on a mission or what they should do, they asked the prophet Joseph Smith. Joseph asked the Lord and the Lord gave instructions.
These sections are full of His direction. By 1832 to 1835 the Lord instructed Joseph to begin organizing quorums and councils, because the Church is growing and we as individuals needed to as well. So an interesting thing takes place. One of the perfect examples is in the 58th Section of the Doctrine & Covenants. Here the Lord has called Edward Partridge and his counselors to be the first presiding bishopric. The Church is in Kirtland and also in Missouri. Zion was going to be built in Missouri, so the Lord instructs the bishopric that they should move their families to Missouri. The newly called leaders realize that Missouri is 900 miles away. How were they going to accomplish this?
They requested that Joseph ask the Lord how they were supposed to fulfill this taxing assignment. Here is the Lord's response to them in verse 25, "Wherefore, let them bring their families to this land, as they shall counsel between themselves and me."6
What is the Lord saying here? "Go figure it out," "I trust you," and counsel together and counsel with me, Jesus Christ, through the Holy Ghost, to accomplish this task." This same counsel should be used as a threesome in your marriage or serving as missionary companions. The Lord is beginning to let them grow and develop. The reason I know this is because of what comes next in verse 26. This is still the Savior speaking, "For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward."7
What is the reward He is talking about? It is our ability to receive personal revelation, understanding, and direction as we grow and become like Him. Because He trusted us, we need to be able to learn and trust Him, about that source of true light and knowledge the Holy Ghost, as we make decisions.
Now the next two verses come as a charge from God:
"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. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward."8
Remember again, that our reward is the ability to receive personal revelation, understanding, and direction as we grow and become like Him. The Lord promises us that as we "do good" we will receive this powerful reward.
I believe, Brothers and Sisters, one of the hardest things you will ever do in life is to learn to identify and receive direction from the Holy Ghost. You have very difficult decisions to make and unanswered questions in your life right now. Who should you marry? What career should you choose? How can you increase your self-worth? Does the Lord love you? You need to understand that He has placed you here on earth for a purpose.
As you struggle through those things, you are experiencing growth and it will be for your good. So don't be impatient with yourself or with this wonderful plan. In your effort to receive revelation as you counsel together as husbands and wives, as families, or as friends, don't exclude Him. Don't take a side door and say that He doesn't answer your prayers. Because He will answer your prayers. Maybe not immediately, but He will answer them-line upon line, precept upon precept, and prayer upon prayer.9 He's trying to help you grow and to become what you need to become.
A good example of that is the story of the prophet Joseph Smith. He was in Liberty Jail during four long wintery months. By this time, he's very depressed and discouraged. He pleads with the Lord for help, and the Lord comes back with this response found in Section 121, "My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes."10
How could that be? The Lord looks at Joseph in this situation, blesses him with peace, and promises him exaltation if he endures his trials well. Joseph Smith's experience in Liberty Jail made him a better Joseph. We have a wise Heavenly Father who knows what is best for each of us.
As a parent, please don't micro-manage your children. Allow them to grow even when you see them struggle. As a church leader, allow those you have stewardship over to grow as well. The Lord watches over you and knows where you are, and He knows your circumstances just as He knew what Joseph Smith was going through. When the time is right, He will empower you with understanding as you counsel together and follow His directions.
An example of that is a story in Section 53 of the Doctrine & Covenants. Sidney Gilbert has just joined the Church. He's a very wealthy and powerful man. He came to the prophet Joseph Smith and asked, "Would you ask the Lord what I should do in this Church about my calling and election?" And the Lord answered him with this reply, I'm paraphrasing. Now Sidney, I want you to do all the basic things-go on a mission, follow and do what the bishop asks you to do, honor your covenants, and in verse 6 He gives this counsel to Sidney, "Behold, these are the first ordinances which you shall receive; and the residue shall be made known in a time to come, according to your labor in my vineyard."11 We see that it's not what you say but what you do that defines who you are.
The Lord watches us, He knows us, and He'll give us things that will help us grow. So don't ever think that you can beat the system. You may know people who might say "but he got away with it." Does anybody ever really get away with it?
The Savior who knows the thoughts and intents of your heart, watches you, and gives you what you need in His timing. A good example of that is in the Book of Helaman. Nephi, the son of Helaman, was a great prophet and man who worked hard to do what was right. We read that the Lord acknowledged that in the scriptures saying:
"Blessed art thou, Nephi, for those things which thou hast done; for I have beheld how thou hast with unwearyingness declared the word, which I have given unto thee, unto this people. And thou hast not feared them, and hast not sought thine own life, but hast sought my will, and to keep my commandments."12
What does "for I have beheld" mean? It means that he watches us. What does unwearyingness mean? It means steadfastness. Are you folks tired of home teaching some days? Are you tired of saying your prayers and in trying to do good continually and to grow? Of course, but from the Lord He says I have watched your unwearyingness, you haven't sought your own life, and you've put me first. Therefore, because you've overcome those things, in verse 5 the Lord says, "I will bless thee forever."13
What are those things that the natural man has to struggle with? We know we're spirits and born into an earthly body. A natural man is what we have to overcome. Let me make mention of three things that might be practical and personal to you.
The first one we are all familiar with is that intense desire to mate. The Lord has asked us to manage that desire in a way that is appropriate, proper, and virtuous. As we do that, we are entitled to receive counsel from Him.
Another one of those is this natural and intense desire is for power and dominion. That desire comes from that natural man who wants to control his environment. It's called the pecking order in the animal world out there. This is what the pecking order says: In a group of animals the mightiest pecks the less-mightier one and the less-mightier one pecks the next one down the line until the least mighty is pecked. And that pecking order is reinforced every day as they establish that dominance.
We hear about bullying in schools and we hear about power struggles in politics. It's that natural man and the pecking order-the power to be stronger and to control. In the Doctrine & Covenants it states, "We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature of disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion."14 Compulsion, control, or dominion when anyone does that to the least degree, in your marriage or in your Church responsibilities, you are out of bounds. It is wrong. So we have to learn to control that. Seeking for power or dominion is seeking your own life.
The third of those natural and intense desires is our right to survive and that we want more than our neighbor. We want you to be successful. It's not one or the other. It's a balancing act. When this desire controls us, covetousness and greed, this is bad. If you want to see an example of this, take a handful of jelly beans and hold them out to a child that is about three or four years old. Then ask, "Would you like one of these?" Notice how many jelly beans the child takes. Why would the child take more than one? It's that natural right of survival that they need to take more when they can.
We have to overcome those natural things or we lose the Spirit of the Holy Ghost to direct us and to become who Heavenly Father wants us to become. So when the Lord said to Nephi, "Thou has not sought thine own life," Nephi had overcome those natural tendancies. The Lord watched Nephi over time making good decisions, seeking to do the Father's will, and keeping the commandments. He knew Nephi wouldn't make any decisions that would be contrary to His will."
So my question to you is: How many decisions do you suppose the Lord watched Nephi make before? This is what happens next. The Lord says to Nephi, "...Behold, I declare it unto thee in the presences of mine angels, that ye shall have power over this people, and shall smite the earth with famine, and with pestilence, and destruction, according to the wickedness of this people."15
He basically gives Nephi power to cause a famine on the land to humble the people to repent. He trusts Nephi to do that with God's power. The Lord tells Nephi, "And if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou cast down and become smooth, it shall be done." Why did God give this power to Nephi? In verse 5 it reads, "Yea, even that all things shall be done unto thee according to thy word, for thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will."16
How many decisions did God watch Nephi make of his own free will and choice? See the Lord trusted Nephi, and as he grew throughout his life, he became one with God and he became like God. And the Father empowered Nephi with His power.17
So, in conclusion, let's summarize my message with one more text message.
"When U tell some 1 what to do Ur telling them 2 become like U"
If you trust someone to make the correct decisions, then don't ask, "So, where did you put the tigers?" Remember this: Trust leads to growth and growth leads to becoming. May we all allow each other to grow, to become like our Heavenly Father, and to be exalted.
When I attended college here it was in the first quarter of my life. Now I'm in the last quarter at best. What I've said today is what I believe, and I believe it is important for you.
1 Survey dated January 2014, from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Facebook page, of 1,600 young single adult Facebook users aged 18-31; data provided by Communication Services Committee2 Edward Hanify, Leadership An Exalted Trust3 See Abraham 3:254 See Doctrine & Covenants 121:405 See Genesis 3:56 Doctrine & Covenants 58:257 Doctrine & Covenants 58:268 Doctrine & Covenants 58:27-289 See 2 Nephi 28:3010 Doctrine & Covenants 121:7-811 See Doctrine & Covenants 53:1-712 Helaman 10:413 See Helaman 10:514 Doctrine & Covenants 121:3915 Helaman 10:616 Helaman 10:517 See Helaman 10:7