I am grateful to be in attendance today to add my congratulations to the graduates for this important accomplishment. I also express my gratitude and admiration to family members and friends of the graduates who have made this achievement possible. Thanks also go to faculty, staff, and administration at this wonderful university who do so much to bless the lives of these students. I am very grateful for those who support this institution financially, including members of the Church throughout the world who are faithful tithe payers.
The excitement and adventure of launching on a new part of life is in the air at graduation time. You have been here long enough that life as a student is normal for you, but you are now leaving that behind and are facing significant change. Some of you are beginning careers, others are still looking for work, some are headed for further education, some of you will be home as a spouse continues school or begins a career, and many of you will be moving. It is exciting. It is exciting in part because you don’t know exactly what the future will bring. In fact, if you think your life will roll out exactly as you have it planned, get ready for some surprises.
I have been thinking about our own experience as I graduated many years ago. My wife had already graduated by the time I finished. We were excited about that next step in our lives. It was early August of 1978. We borrowed my father’s very old pickup truck and an open top cattle trailer to move all our belongings from Provo, Utah to Chandler, Arizona to begin our career. We had never been there before, and we were excited, and also a little nervous. We left our one-year-old daughter with my parents, packed up the truck, and trailer and headed for Arizona. We had only traveled about 60 miles when the truck started handling strangely and was making some bad noises. We pulled over and discovered one of the wheels was in the process of falling off. The lug bolts had stripped and the rim of the wheel was also ruined. It was getting late so we just slept by the side of the road that night and in the morning hitchhiked into town to get a new rim and have the lug bolts replaced.
As we continued our journey we eventually made it into Arizona, and began hearing frequent reports on the radio about a massive manhunt for Gary Tison and Randy Greenawalt, two convicted murderers, and three of Tison’s sons who had helped the two escape from prison. The officials were saying that the members of the Tison gang were armed and extremely dangerous and cautioned drivers not to stop and help anyone nor stop for any reason by the side of the road. After the escape, the gang’s car had gotten two flat tires, and a young family had stopped to help them. The young man, 24 years old, his wife, 23 years old, their one-year-old son and a teenage niece were all killed and their car was taken. At the time I was 24 and my wife was 23. It was a little too creepy. As we drove, we kept hearing updates and news flashes and as we started up the steeper freeway sections on the way to Flagstaff the truck began to overheat. Several times we had to do what the police were saying not to do––pull off the side of the road and wait for the engine to cool down. Thankfully, we never ran into the Tison gang, but this drama added to the sense that our lives were entering a very different chapter.
We did eventually make it to our destination, unloaded our belongings and then headed back to retrieve our daughter and return to that new phase of life. Many years have passed since then and those years have been an exciting adventure for our family. We have had years of raising children and graduate school. We have had changes in job assignments and Church callings. We have had great friends and neighbors in the places we have lived. We have faced the normal challenges tied to this mortal existence. Our perspective is so different looking back from our current stage in life. Our life did not turn out like we planned, but now it is easy to see the Lord’s blessings through all those years.
I don’t know exactly what is ahead for each of you. No two people walk the same path. But I do know that the Lord will help guide you as you take both the academic and the spiritual learning you have obtained here and move forward with faith, no matter how your life unfolds. When Nephi was commanded to build the ship for their journey to the promised land the Lord explained how he would help them on this journey. He said, “…I will…be your light in the wilderness; and I will prepare the way before you, if it so be that ye shall keep my commandments; wherefore, inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall be led towards the promised land; and ye shall know that it is by me that ye are led” (1 Nephi 17:13).
Like Nephi, the Lord will guide you on your journey through life if you keep the commandments, and later you will be able to look back and see how the Lord has guided and blessed you through the years. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.