Elder Russell M. Nelson
of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles 

Saturday April 28, 2001 - 9:00 a.m.

Elder Russell M. Nelson, President David A. Bednar and his wife Susan
 lead the recessional at graduation 2001


On this historic occasion, I salute you graduates on your achievement. Some finished with high honors and deserve special praise. And I suppose there are some who just barely made it. No matter! We all rejoice together. To each of you and your families, I extend sincere congratulations.

May I take this opportunity to express thanks for the beautiful music rendered at general conference by the combined choir from Ricks College. It was wonderful.

This is likely to be the last year for students to graduate from Ricks College. The institution itself will soon be graduating--to become Brigham Young University - Idaho. Kudos to Ricks College, President Bednar, faculty, and staff for that significant prospect and promotion.

Normally at commencement exercises, the invited speaker is expected to encourage graduates to pursue proud dreams and high hopes. Sorry, but I won't do that. It is too easy. It doesn't take much determination to dream or to hope. It is much more difficult, especially in our day and age, to achieve in those areas that really matter most.


I refer to the need to measure up to one's personal potential and to succeed in one's family responsibilities. Today I would like to chat with you about these matters. Your greatest challenges and rewards will be found in mastering yourself and in strengthening your family. Above all else, you should strive to become a good husband or wife, a responsible father or mother, and a respected citizen in the kingdom and family of God. Many, if not most of you, have not yet selected a spouse. I can't think of a more important decision for you to make. My counsel to you on this topic is simple: "O be wise" (1) and good luck! Remember, at the side of each successful man is a wonderful wife and a surprised mother-in-law.

Seriously, in this world smitten and saturated with spiritual decay, we often hear slogans that appeal to appetites and temptations of the flesh, such as "obey your thirst," "buy now, pay later," "everyone is doing it," and so on. It takes a resolute character to resist enticements that would take one on a downward path.

Regarding such, James counsels, "Blessed is the man that [withstands] temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him." (2)

Society's spiritual slide has developed during a time of unparalleled progress in communication, technology, and transportation. Meanwhile, despite this progress, human nature hasn't changed. We still eat bread by the sweat of our brow. (3) And we still have physical appetites that need to be disciplined.

Reports in the media describe newsworthy events. But the truly good deeds--the small, everyday actions of ordinary life--generally go unreported. Noteworthy examples are the employee who gives an honest day's work, the employer who rewards loyalty and service, and the Samaritan who stops to help someone in need. They include the hiker who carries out his own trash and the craftsman who works with a sense of enduring creation. Especially praiseworthy are the man who accepts responsibility for the children he has fathered, the father who wants the respect of his children more than worldly acclaim, and the mother who nurtures an infant as a sacred trust and not as a second-class chore.

You graduates have gained a degree designed to give you opportunity in the global marketplace. In most cases you will be compensated according to the value society places upon your service. But remember--there is another side to your diploma from Ricks College. It bears an unwritten code that prompts you to heed teachings of prophets such as President David O. McKay, who said,

"True education does not consist merely in the acquiring of a few facts of science, history, literature or art, but in the development of character. True education awakens a desire to conserve health by keeping the body clean and undefiled. True education trains in self-denial and self-mastery. True education regulates the temper, subdues passion and makes obedience to social laws and moral order a guiding principle of life. It develops reason and inculcates faith in the living God as the eternal loving Father of all." (4)


I urge you to live your lives in accord with the Lord's teachings and let your language reflect that refinement. Your manner of speech will then stand in stark contrast to the lazy language of our day, so liberally laced with casual slang and sleazy, filthy, and profane expressions. Sloppy language portends sloppy ways.

In your language, strive for a more excellent way. (5) Pattern your manner after that of President Gordon B. Hinckley. Even in his informal conversation, his language is elegant and eloquent. Carry from this institution--sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints--a language that lifts and a personal patina that radiates purity and refinement.


Your investment here at Ricks will bring joy to you if you live as a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. Acquire His qualities of civility and concern for others. Learn to reach out, to lift and encourage people. As you cultivate qualities of kindness, courtesy, and respect for others, your life's work will be more fulfilling than if you were to pursue goals strictly with an eye single to your own glory.

Enduring joy comes neither from amassing material wealth nor in doing reportable deeds. True joy comes from becoming all that you may become. Your potential for personal greatness will be enhanced as you come unto Christ and become one with Him.

I commend the youth who set worthy goals. Some of you know exactly what you want to do and where you want to go. Some of you don't. But whoever you are and wherever you go, I invite you to come to the outstretched arms of Jesus. (6) Wherever else you think you may be going, come unto Him first. You will find your greatest success and happiness when yoked with Him. In His love, your precious families can be linked together forever, according to the eternal ordinances and covenants that He has established. I invite you to learn of Him, to follow Him, and love Him as I do.

I know of no other way for you to find true happiness. (7) Sometimes we try to come unto Him too tangentially, with a focus on meetings, activities, or procedures. Important as they may be, we should strive to emulate His example and develop a deep understanding of and gratitude for His Atonement. Only as we know the divine attributes of the Father and of the Son can we gain enduring faith in them.

In this world, nothing is more burdensome than sin. It is the heaviest cross that men and women ever bear. I believe you young women and men to be part of the greatest generation ever to live upon the earth. Nevertheless, the world around us is an increasingly hostile and sinful place. Occasionally, that can splash onto us and put us in very deep water.

To anyone so struggling, know that you can be redeemed. You can be made whole. All that He asks is that you walk, with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, away from darkness into His light. He has "borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows," Isaiah declared, "and with his stripes we are healed" (8)--if we truly seek Him.

Follow the Good Shepherd, brothers and sisters, and be a positive part of His fold. Remember that His Church is not intended to be a sanctuary for the sinless; it to be a hospital of hope for those who want to get well. Do whatever you have to do to be fully in the fold. For some that means to live with greater faith, to believe more. For others it means to repent. For all of us it means to live more by the promptings of the Holy Ghost and to "press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men." (9)

One of the peculiar ironies of life is that the very source of help being offered is the very thing from which we, with our mortal myopia, tend to flee. I have seen good people balk at baptism. I have seen wonderful young men turn their backs on mission calls. I have seen sweethearts run from marriage and married couples flee from the privilege of parenthood. Why should we run from the very opportunity that would bless us and bring us joy? Gospel commitments are never to be feared, but to be pursued with purpose and hope.

We have a covenant relationship with the Lord. We have been bought with a price--through His atoning blood. We are His disciples, dependent upon Him for light, life, and all blessings.

As you leave Ricks to advance your education or career, you can make a difference in this world. You are the "hope of Israel, Zion's army, children of the promised day." (10) As disciples of the Lord engaged in His holy work, each of you can lend a hand. As you remain true to your covenants, your power will be enriched by His power.

Together we go forward as His Saints, "the covenant people of the Lord, . . . armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory." (11) May you ever love the Lord and manifest that love by your language and your living.

I love you, dear brethren and sisters, and leave my blessing with you, with thanks for your faith and all that you can become. God lives! Jesus is the Christ! His church has been restored in these latter days! President Gordon B. Hinckley is God's prophet to all the world, I testify in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


1. Jacob 6:12.

2. James 1:12.

3. See Gen. 3:19; Moses 4:25; 5:1.

4. Conference Report, April 1928, 102.

5. See 1 Cor. 12:31; Ether 12:11.

6. See John 14:6; 2 Ne. 1:15; Alma 5:33.

7. See 2 Ne. 9:43.

8. Isa. 53:4-5; Mosiah 14:4-5.

9. 2 Ne. 31:20.

10. Hymns, "Hope of Israel," [1985] 259.

11. 1 Ne. 14:14.