"Quick to Observe"
Brigham Young University-Idaho Commencement 2004
August 20, 2004
President David A. Bednar
All of us have learned important lessons from the central characters in the Book of Mormon. As we read about and study the lives of Nephi and Laman and Alma and King Noah and Moroni and many others, we discover things we should and should not do—and we realize more completely the kinds of people we should and should not become.
Recently I was studying the life of Mormon, one of the principal compilers of the Nephite record. I was especially impressed with a description of this noble prophet contained in the first five verses of the first chapter of Mormon. Please listen carefully.
And now I, Mormon, make a record of the things which I have both seen and heard, and call it the Book of Mormon.
And about the time that Ammaron hid up the records unto the Lord, he came unto me, (I being about ten years of age, . . .) and Ammaron said unto me: I perceive that thou art a sober child, and art quick to observe;
Therefore, when ye are about twenty and four years old I would that ye should remember the things that ye have observed concerning this people; . . . .
And behold, ye shall . . . . engrave on the plates of Nephi all the things that ye have observed concerning this people.
And I, Mormon, . . . remembered the things which Ammaron commanded me (emphasis added).
As you celebrate your graduation today and leave BYU-Idaho, I hope you also have become "quick to observe." Your future success and happiness will, in large measure, be determined by the spiritual capacity to be quick to observe. Let us together for just a few minutes consider the significance of this important spiritual gift.
As used in the scriptures, the word observe has two primary uses. One use denotes to obey or to keep—as is evident in verse 6 of section 54 in the Doctrine and Covenants: But blessed are they who have kept the covenant and observed the commandment, for they shall obtain mercy (emphasis added).
The second use of the word observe suggests to look or to see or to notice—as we learn in Isaiah 42:20: Seeing many things, but thou observest not; opening the ears, but he heareth not (emphasis added).
Thus, when you and I are "quick to observe," we promptly obey or look or notice. Let me now share three examples of the lessons that can be learned when you and I are blessed to be quick to observe.
I have a very dear friend who served as a stake president. The patriarch in the stake over which this friend presided had experienced some health challenges and was unable to perform in his calling. The ailing patriarch had difficulty walking and moving about, and his strength was limited. One Sabbath afternoon this good stake president visited the home of the patriarch to encourage him and check on his well-being. As the stake president entered the home, he found the patriarch dressed in his suit and white shirt and tie—sitting in a recliner in the front room. The stake president greeted the patriarch and, knowing how hard it must have been to dress himself, graciously suggested to the patriarch that it was not necessary to get dressed up on Sunday or to meet visitors. In a kind but firm voice, the patriarch rebuked the stake president and said, "Don’t you know that this is the only way I have left to show the Lord how much I love Him?" My friend, the stake president, was quick to observe. He both heard and felt the lesson, and he never forgot it. The spiritual ability to see and to hear and to remember that lesson about reverence and worship was a great blessing in his life—and subsequently in the lives of many others.
Before attending her sacrament meetings, Sister Bednar frequently prays for the spiritual eyes to see those who have a particular need. Often as she looks and observes the brothers and sisters and children in the congregation, she will receive a spiritual nudge to visit with or make a phone call to a particular person. And when Sister Bednar receives such an impression, she is quick to observe and to respond and to obey. It often is the case that as soon as the "amen" is spoken in the benediction, she will talk with a teenager or hug a sister or, upon returning home, immediately pick up the phone and make a call. As long as I have known Sister Bednar, people have marveled at her capacity to discern and respond to their needs. So often they will ask her, "Sister Bednar, how did you know?" The spiritual gift whereby she has been enabled to see and to act promptly has been a great blessing in the lives of many people.
At the conclusion of our June Board of Trustees meeting in Salt Lake City, President Hinckley invited Elder David B. Haight to offer the benediction. At the age of 97, Elder Haight had some difficulty as he tried to stand and offer the prayer. After Elder Haight had made several attempts to rise to his feet, President Hinckley courteously said, "David, it is all right"—suggesting, I believe, that it was permissible for Elder Haight to remain in his chair and offer the prayer. Elder Haight responded in a voice that was both firm and appropriate and said, "President, I must stand!" There was simply no way that mighty Apostle was going to sit and pray in the presence of the First Presidency and his colleagues of the Quorum of the Twelve. And, more importantly, he was not going to sit as he communicated with his Heavenly Father. So once again Elder Haight struggled to stand—and finally was successful. I shall never forget the spirit I felt as I listened to Elder Haight pray. I hope on that occasion I was quick to observe a powerful lesson about the dignity and the reverence and the spirit that should attend our prayers.
Quick to observe. Prompt to watch and to obey. Such a simple gift that can bless us individually and in our families and extend blessings to so many other people. Each of us can and should strive to be worthy of this significant spiritual gift. I pray that as you now depart BYU-Idaho that you, indeed, are and will continue to be "quick to observe."
I would now like to conclude on a personal note and express the love that Sister Bednar and I have for each of you. We have so much enjoyed visiting with you on campus and in your apartments, participating with you in home evenings, talking about your challenges and your opportunities, attempting to answer your questions, and becoming better acquainted. We will miss you. And we would love to hear from you. Please be sure to keep in contact and let us know about the things that are happening in your lives.
Today you graduates become official alumni of Brigham Young University-Idaho, and you now have the responsibility to help the world better understand who we are and what we do at this remarkable institution. Indeed, you have been called to assist in fulfilling the prophesies about this school. How you live, what you do, and what you become will ultimately define this university. May the Lord bless you as you always remember Him and serve Him with faith and with diligence and with devotion.
As each of our sons has left our home for college or to serve a mission, Sister Bednar and I have shared with them the following counsel:
• Remember that you represent the Savior.
• Remember that you represent your family.
• Remember that you represent The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
And now as you are leaving Brigham Young University-Idaho, may I add one more item to the list?
• Remember that you represent Brigham Young University-Idaho.
My dear young brothers and sisters, I again share with you that which is most precious to me—my testimony and witness that the gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored to the earth in its fullness in these latter days. I know God lives. I testify and witness that Jesus is the Christ. In an ever-darkening world, you will provide a light. You will be strengthened, and Christ will assist you as you allow and invite Him to do so. In the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.