Matthew Richardson shares personal BYU mementos

Ryan Turner
Richardson holds up a personal memento, or “an object with the purpose of helping one to remember.” This memento is his master’s degree split in half. (Ryan Turner)

Matthew O. Richardson, BYU vice president of advancement, delivered the devotional address on Tuesday, Oct. 25. He spoke about how BYU is a visionary house filled with individuals contributing to the dream.

Richardson shared four BYU mementos that taught him important principles and personalized his experience at BYU. He said these mementoes remind him to “stand up straight and remember who (he is).”

“Failure is not fatal”

The first memento was a chemistry 105 exam. When Richardson was an undergrad student at BYU, he was devastated because he thought he scored 76 percent on his exam.  As he looked over it again, he noticed a minus sign in front of the 76.

“I didn’t get a 76 on this exam, I missed 76!” Richardson said. “And sure enough right here in the corner is the number 24.”

Richardson said he occasionally looks at this exam and remembers that “failure is not fatal,” and “it’s the courage to continue that counts.” Learning is a process and not an event, Richardson said, and life is not determined by a singular performance.

Everything worthwhile comes with others’ help

The second memento was Richardson’s master’s degree. When he received it, he went to his workbench and cut the degree in two. Richardson’s wife looked stunned when he handed one of the halves to her. He said she worked just as hard as he did and deserved at least half the credit.

“Life is a collaborative endeavor, and success — genuine success — is always attributable to a lot more people than just you,” Richardson said.

“We are a visionary house”

His third memento was a set of BYU foundational documents, a compilation of talks about BYU.

One talk highlights a BYU student named Alfred Kelly. Kelly gave a commencement address in 1915, when BYU was struggling financially and considering selling land. Kelly had a vision about the university’s bright future and then told others about his vision in his address. This motivated others to invest in BYU and ensure its future.

Richardson said Hyrum Smith once used a descriptor to describe his household that also fits BYU. Smith said, “We are a visionary house.”

“Every time I read BYU’s foundational documents, I am reminded that this place is a place of revelation and vision,” Richardson said.

Richardson then quoted John Tanner who said, “Every year new students and faculty add their particular hopes and dreams to our collective vision.”

Ryan Turner
Richardson is holding up his third memento, a copy of BYU’s foundational documents. (Ryan Turner)

“You gotta believe”

The last memento was Richardson’s computer screen saver that reads, “You gotta believe.” Richardson said he questioned his future when he was a senior at BYU. His wife suggested that he talk to Jeffrey R. Holland, then-BYU president, but Richardson thought the idea was crazy.

Seven months later, Richardson was caught in a rainstorm when a car pulled over, and President Holland offered him a ride home. Richardson said he asked President Holland if he had ever worried about the future or felt discouraged. President Holland told him yes but said Richardson needed to believe.

“‘You just believe that God will work his mighty miracles for everyone but you,'” Richardson quoted President Holland. “‘You gotta believe, Matt, you gotta believe.'”

He was grateful that President and Sister Holland reminded him that God is aware of each of us, Richardson said, and he wants students to understand that BYU should be a personal experience.

“I testify that BYU is a place for visions — your visions — and that God will answer your prayers,” Richardson said. “It may take months, years, or however long is required for you to openly receive His answers, but the vision will surely come.”

Sunday School general president Tad R. Callister will speak at BYU’s next devotional on Tuesday, Nov. 1, at 11:05 a.m.



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