On this day, April 6, the anniversary of the founding of the Church and, as revealed in scripture, of the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ, and on this day, the day of your graduation, it is a privilege to be with you.
I am honored to be invited to speak to you. I understand from a friend of mine that the longest commencement speech ever given was six hours at Harvard in the early 19th century. It was delivered in Latin, then Greek, and finally in English. The shortest was delivered by the late Nels Smith, former governor of Wyoming. When it came his turn to speak, he arose slowly from his chair, approached the podium, surveyed the rows and rows of gowned graduating students, and speaking slowly simply said, “You done real good.” Then he turned and sat back down.
Well, I can promise you I will not deliver my speech in Latin or Greek, but it will be a little longer than Governor Smith’s. As I look at you, my heart is overflowing with love for each of you graduates and for you moms and dads who have sacrificed so much to make this day possible. You are all to be congratulated.
I bring the love of our prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, the First Presidency, and the members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. We pray for you often asking Heavenly Father to bless you in your preparation for your future.
We have also felt your love and the sustaining power of your prayers. I can tell you, with a heart full of gratitude, it is because of the prayers of the Saints we are able to fulfill the demands of our callings, especially as some of us are not so young any more. Hopefully, in my 83 years of living I have learned a few things that will help you on your way.
This activity this evening is aptly called “Commencement” because you will now be moving on to the next phase of your life, a beginning or commencement, if you will. The conditions in the world you are about to encounter are filled with uncertainty and danger. The economies of the world and of the United States are unstable and unpredictable. The cherished values of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are under attack by those who want to restrict agency and make you dependent rather than encouraging your skills and talents to create new and exciting ways of doing things.
Standards of morality are failing. The family is under attack and is crumbling. Love in the hearts of men has waxed cold and is unnatural. There is a continuing breakdown in the integrity, honesty, and righteousness of political, business, and other leaders. Wars and rumors of wars between nations and creeds abound. And even more destructive than any armed conflict is the war raging between good and evil—a war for the very souls of men—between the Savior and His army of light against Satan and his evil minions of darkness.
President Gordon B. Hinckley described the world you are about to enter when he said, “We live in a season when fierce men do terrible and despicable things. We live in a season of war. We live in a season of arrogance. We live in a season of wickedness, pornography, and immorality. All of the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah haunt our society. Our young people have never faced a greater challenge. We have never seen more clearly the lecherous face of evil.”
You should not be surprised at all of these circumstances of our time because the scriptures and prophecies of our day testify of what will happen in the world if the people turn their backs toward God. And you know that we will yet experience some unpleasant things for the devil continues his attempts to accomplish his evil designs. At the same time, the prophets of old who saw our day, who saw your generation, knew this time—your time—would be an age of light and wonderment such as the world has never before experienced.
As I prepared for this talk today, I asked for guidance to know what message our Heavenly Father would want me to share with you. The calming and assuring words spoken by the Lord to Joseph Smith came to my mind: “Be of good cheer, for I will lead you along. The kingdom is yours…and the riches of eternity” (D&C 78:18).
What I believe the Lord wants me to tell you is that you should replace fear with faith—faith in God and the power of the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ. I can remember as a young 13-year-old boy coming home from priesthood meeting on Sunday, December 7, 1941, to learn from my parents that Japan had just bombed Pearl Harbor. This propelled the United States into a world war that had already been raging in Europe for two years. It seemed like life as we knew it was going to come to an end. There was much uncertainty as many young men were swept up into military service. However, now just as then, amidst all of the conflicts, struggles, and evil influences in the world, there is still much of good.
As you think about your future, you should be filled with faith and hope. Always remember that Jesus Christ, the creator of the universe, the architect of our salvation, and the head of this Church is in control. He will not permit His work to fail. He will be victorious over all darkness and evil. And He invites us all, members of His Church and others who are the honest in heart, to join in the battle for the souls of men. Along with all else we will do in life, we must also dedicate and consecrate our heart, might, mind, and strength to His cause, walking in faith and working with conviction.
Face the future with optimism. I believe we are standing on the threshold of a new era of growth, prosperity, and abundance. Barring a calamity or unexpected international crisis, I think the next few years will bring a resurgence in the economy as new discoveries are made in communication, medicine, energy, transportation, physics, computer technology, and other fields of endeavor.
Many of these discoveries, as in the past, will be the result of the Spirit whispering insights into and enlightening the minds of truth-seeking individuals. Many of these discoveries will be made for the purpose of helping to bring to pass the purposes and work of God and the quickening of the building of His kingdom on earth today. With these discoveries and advances will come new employment opportunities and prosperity for those who work hard and especially to those who strive to keep the commandments of God. This has been the case in other significant periods of national and international economic growth.
Before the Savior’s second coming—and based on His divine timetable—the gospel must be taken to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people until it fills the whole earth. And as the Prophet Joseph declared, “no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the great Jehovah shall say the work is done” (Documentary History of the Church, Vol. 4, 540).
As the gospel is carried to the billions of spiritually hungry souls, miracles will be performed by the hand of the Lord. Missionaries of many nationalities will serve the Lord throughout the earth. New chapels and many more temples will be built to bless the Saints as pre-millennial growth has been prophesied.
You may ask, “Where will the financial resources come from to fund this growth?” The resources will come from faithful members like you through your tithes and offerings. As you graduates do your part, the Lord will bless you with prosperity and the wisdom to keep your mind focused on what matters most in your life: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:13).
So, for yet a season, possibly a short season, it will seem as though the windows of heaven will have truly opened so that “there shall not be room enough to receive it” (Malachi 3:10). I believe you graduates sitting here today will be active participants in temporal blessings if you keep the commandments of the Lord. With prosperity will come a unique challenge—a test that will try many of you to your spiritual core. As you step into this new world of prosperity and engage in converting your education into financial success, you will always have to control wants vs. needs.
You will have two choices. Will your motivation to build and acquire the blessings of the Lord be for personal gratification, the recognition of men, for power, influence and self-aggrandizement? Or will your motive be to glorify God, working to help usher in the growth and expansion of His Church?
Those who seek riches to build up their own egos will find their treasure to be slippery and easily lost in unwise ways. The welfare of their souls will be in great jeopardy. Jacob, the obedient younger brother of Nephi warned us concerning this wealth:
“And the hand of providence hath smiled upon you most pleasingly, that you have obtained many riches…yet you are lifted up in the pride of your hearts, and wear stiff necks and high heads because of the costliness of your apparel…do ye suppose that God justifieth you in this thing? Behold I say unto you, Nay. But he condemneth you, and if ye persist in these things his judgments must speedily come unto you…let not this pride of your hearts destroy your souls! (Jacob 2:13-14,16).
Jacob then put our motivation to acquire wealth in the proper perspective with a promise:
“But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God.
“And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good—to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted” (Jacob 2: 18-19).
The Lord is not telling us that we should not be prosperous or that prosperity is a sin or is evil. On the contrary, He has always blessed the obedience of His people with prosperity. He is telling us that we should seek prosperity only after we seek, find, and serve Him. Then, because our hearts are right, because we love Him first and foremost, we will choose to invest the riches we obtain in building His kingdom.
If you choose to seek riches for the sake of riches, you will fall short. You will never be satisfied. You will be empty, never finding true happiness and lasting joy. The trial of your faith, my dear brothers and sisters, in the next few years to come will likely not be that you lack the material things of this world. Rather it will be in choosing what to do with the temporal blessings you may receive.
Of you and your generation, President Ezra Taft Benson said: “For nearly six thousand years, God has held you in reserve to make your appearance in the final days before the Second Coming…God has saved for the final inning some of His strongest children, who will help bear off the kingdom triumphantly…You are the generation that must be prepared to meet your God” (“Stalwart and Brave We Stand,” quoted by Marvin J. Ashton, Ensign, November 1989, 36).
Brothers and sisters, to be a vital part of the marvelous work and wonder in these last days, you must submit your will to God, letting it be swallowed up in His will. As you press forward “with a steadfastness in Christ,” with a “brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men...feasting upon the word of Christ,” (2 Nephi 31:20) searching diligently, praying always, and believing, then, as the Lord promises, “all things will work together for your good” (see D&C 90:24).
So, I urge you to make a commitment to yourself and to Heavenly Father to dedicate your life and consecrate your time and talents to the building up of the Church of Jesus Christ in anticipation of the Savior’s second coming. Let the motive of your thoughts and actions be to glorify God and to bless your fellowman. Let this desire inspire you to greet each new morning with enthusiasm, let it fuel your thoughts and actions throughout each day. If you do this, you will be blessed in the midst of a world that is fast losing its way, and you and your loved ones will be secure and happy. This does not mean that you will not face trials and tests, but it does mean you will have the spiritual power to handle them with faith and trust in the Lord.
My dear graduates, the purpose of my message is to help you envision your future. Have faith and hope for the bright future you face as you leave BYU-Idaho and move on to your next great adventure. You young men are the future fathers, “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). You young women are the future mothers and nurturers of God’s own spirit sons and daughters.
For both men and women, one of your top priorities is to find your eternal companion, if you have not already done so. Marriage in the temple will provide you with a companion to help you stay on the right path that leads back to the presence of our Heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. You are the generation that will continue the preparation for the Second Coming.