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The Importance of Faith and Setting an Example:

The Harvard Business School Latter-day Saints Student Association (LDSSA) welcomed Jane Clayson Johnson and her husband Mark to a club “fireside” on Sunday, April 9th for an hour-long discussion on faith, the importance of giving service to others, and being an example to one’s peers. This fireside was the latest in a monthly speaker series that the LDSSA holds during the academic year. Club co-president Scott Hardy introduced the Johnsons to a crowd of approximately 30 MBA students, spouses, and HBS staff in Hawes 203.

Mark Johnson, who co-founded consulting firm Innosight in 2000 with HBS Professor Clayton Christensen, focused his remarks on a spiritual topic: his conversion to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Introducing the theme of being an example to others, Johnson, a graduate of the MBA Class of 1996, credited Professor Christensen with exemplifying hard work, conviction, and concern for the educational as well as spiritual growth of others both inside and outside of the classroom. Through his collaboration with Christensen, Johnson became acquainted with the Church of Jesus Christ, which he joined in 2000, shortly before a Mormon temple opened in Belmont.

Johnson stated his belief that the key to living one’s faith is to “keep it simple, plain, and precious.” For Johnson, this means focusing on Jesus Christ, his death, and resurrection-appropriate themes, given the approach of Easter season.

In support of his “examples” theme, Johnson cited a passage from the Book of Mormon, which Latter-day Saints believe to be, like the Bible, the revealed word of God. He said that “as we come unto Christ, the perfect example, we should offer everything to God.” By focusing on simple matters and by cultivating an attitude of faith-based obedience, Johnson stated, one can get to know the will of the Lord in meeting the challenges that come at school, in society at-large, and throughout life.

Johnson professed his belief that “all of our actions are always seen by the Lord. We must act so that He has faith that He can trust us. When He trusts us, He will bless us to know what we should do.”

Speaking directly to the experiences of Latter-day Saints students at HBS, he sought to persuade them to “help uplift others. Our calling as HBS Saints should not be viewed casually.” One way to uplift others, he suggested, was to give “true service,” such as seeking out “the quiet, the lonely, the downtrodden,” wherever one encounters them in daily life. Concluding his remarks, Johnson encouraged students to “become something in life, not just know something.”

Following his remarks, Jane Clayson Johnson, who for several years co-hosted CBS’ “Early Show,” spoke at length about having an obedient spiritual focus. She began her remarks by briefly describing her professional career path, and how, early on, she felt judged by peers for “moving forward on opportunities to work that I never anticipated, while other [friends] were getting married.”

However, she said she found solace and motivation in the words of Mother Teresa, who considered herself “like a little pencil” in the hand of God. “This simple and eloquent way to describe doing God’s work,” Johnson added, motivated her as her professional career took off. It also provided balance, she said, by showing the importance of obedience to higher principles. Johnson affirmed her belief that, “in the secular sense, ‘obedience’ means lack of will. Spiritually, our submission is the only possession that is truly ours to give. Everything else that we enjoy in life comes from God, on loan.”

She also emphasized the character-building that comes from standing up for one’s convictions, and used several examples from her professional career to illustrate her points, such as a magazine photo shoot that initially left her uncomfortable with the selection of attire. Through this experience and others, she has come to know that “though it is sometimes hard to stand up for what you believe in, it builds strength, in ways that no other circumstance can.”

In late 2003, Johnson concluded her 15-year broadcasting career to focus on her marriage to Mark and family life. Recalling the reaction of people in network news, Johnson said that “some people could not believe I would prefer to focus on my family, or that doing so wasn’t ‘enough’ in life.” She focused her subsequent remarks on the challenging personal-professional balance with which many women in today’s society struggle.

“Women today,” she stated, “are encouraged to do everything at once, and to find fulfillment, often immediately, in everything they do.” However, through the experience of becoming a mother of two children after her professional career, Johnson said she believes that “doing things sequentially in life enables women to do each thing well, and be more fulfilled.” And although her rewards “come in very different ways now,” Johnson said that she is committed to fulfilling an adage she heard from a fellow Mormon: “The most important thing a mother can do is show her kids that she is a woman of faith.”

In their remarks, Jane Clayson Johnson and Mark Johnson both spoke about the joy and dedication to others that their faith has given them. They rely on their spiritual beliefs to try to do the Lord’s will for them. Their convictions as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints help seek balance in their lives, in their homes, and for their family.

May 1, 2006
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