“Exceedingly Valiant For Courage”

(Alma 53:20)


Brigham Young University-Idaho Commencement

 August 22, 2003

President David A. Bednar

 

This is a day you graduates have looked forward to with anticipation and excitement for a long time. I hope each of you has a genuine sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. Sister Bednar and I extend to your our congratulations and our love.


I have been thinking about you graduates a great deal lately and, in particular, about the world into which you are entering. Whether you are going from BYU-Idaho into the world of work or continuing in the world of higher education or pursuing some other endeavor, I believe each and every one of you will need to be blessed with the gift of courage.


Courage is the quality of mind which shows itself in facing danger without fear or shrinking; courage includes elements of bravery, boldness, fearlessness, and valor (Oxford English Dictionary, online).


Why do I think the virtue of courage will be so important to you as you press forward in your lives? President Ezra Taft Benson provided a vital part of the answer to this important question.

 

I testify that as the forces of evil increase under Lucifer’s leadership and as the forces of good increase under the leadership of Jesus Christ, there will be growing battles between the two until the final confrontation. As the issues become clearer and more obvious, all mankind will eventually be required to align themselves either for the kingdom of God or for the kingdom of the devil. As these conflicts rage, either secretly or openly, the righteous will be tested. God’s wrath will soon shake the nations of the earth and will be poured out on the wicked without measure . . . But God will provide strength for the righteous and the means of escape; and eventually and finally truth will triumph (President Ezra T. Benson, I Testify, Ensign, November 1988, pg. 87).


Interestingly, President Benson used the language and imagery of warfare to describe this ongoing confrontation and conflict between good and evil.


My message to you this morning is very simple. I testify and promise that the courage you will need can be invited into your life through fervent prayer and diligent study of the Book of Mormon.


Have you ever wondered why so much is recorded in the Book of Mormon about war? There are approximately 100 recorded instances of armed conflict in the Book of Mormon. The word war

occurs 132 times in the Book of Mormon. The war chapters of Alma 43-63 alone include more than 50 pages- approximately 10 percent of the entire Book of Mormon.


Why so much about war? And how do the descriptions of wars and battles help us today in seeking the gift of courage? President Benson taught:

 

The Book of Mormon was written for us today. God is the author of the book. It is a record of a fallen people, compiled by inspired men for our blessing today. Those people never had the book- it was meant for us. Mormon, the ancient prophet after whom the book is named, abridged centuries of records. God, who knows the end from the beginning, told him what to include in his abridgment that we would need for our day (President Ezra Taft Benson, Conference Report, April 1975, p. 94).


Let me suggest that one of the primary reasons so much information is recorded about war in the Book of Mormon is to help you and me in these latter days appropriately seek the gift of courage.


What lessons do we learn about courage and war in The Book of Mormon? We learn about the strategies and tactics of those who oppose righteousness- and the defensive and protective strategies and tactics of the righteous. We learn that the righteous can be strengthened in battle by the hand of the Lord. And perhaps most importantly, we learn that small groups of the righteous can escape from the grasp of their enemies or emerge victorious against overwhelming opposing numbers and weaponry.


Please note the blessings which are bestowed upon small groups of the righteous in the following examples from the Book of Mormon. In 1 Nephi chapter 14 verses 12 and 14 we read:

 

And it came to pass that I beheld the church of the Lamb of God, and its numbers were few . . .

 

And . . . I, Nephi, beheld the power of the Lamb of God, that it descended upon the saints of the church of the Lamb, and upon the covenant people of the Lord, who were scattered upon all the face of the earth; and they were armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory (emphasis added).


Though few in number and scattered throughout the earth, Nephi learned that the righteous saints were blessed with the power of God.


In Alma chapter 58, verses 10 and 11, we read about the prayers of the stripling warriors and the blessings they received.

 

Therefore we did pour out our souls in prayer to God, that he would strengthen us and deliver us out of the hands of our enemies . . . .

 

Yea, and it came to pass that the Lord our God did visit us with assurances that he would deliver us; yea, insomuch that he did speak peace to our souls, and did grant unto us great faith, and did cause us that we should hope for our deliverance in him (emphasis added).


These valiant young men were blessed with the assurance of deliverance, with peace to their souls, with great faith, and with hope.


Now please notice in verses 12 and 13 what follows the reception of these spiritual gifts for which the sons of Helaman had so earnestly sought.

 

And we did take courage with our small force which we had received, and were fixed with a determination to conquer our enemies . . . .

 

And thus we did go forth with all our might . . . . (emphasis added)


My hope and prayer for each of you this morning is that you, like the sons of Helaman, will be blessed with assurances, with peace, with great faith, and with hope- and that you will become

“exceedingly valiant for courage” (Alma 53:20). We will live in sobering and trying times, but we need not fear. Our lights will shine ever brighter in a world that grows ever darker. I again testify that you will be fortified and blessed with courage as you pray earnestly and consistently study the Book of Mormon.


Now, I want to conclude on a personal note. Sister Bednar and I love 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 opportunities, answering your questions, and becoming better acquainted. We are going to miss you. And we would love to hear from you; please be sure to let us know about the things that are happening in your lives.


Today you graduates become official alumni of BYU-Idaho and you now have the responsibility to help the world better understand who we are and what we do at this remarkable institution. You have been called to assist in fulfilling the prophesies about this remarkable institution. 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 diligence.


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 as you now are leaving Brigham Young University-Idaho, may I add one more item to the list?

 

Remember that you represent Brigham Young University-Idaho.


I testify that the Savior lives, that He will be near you and with you, and so testify in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.