Progressing on Life's Journey
Devotional or Speech given at
Brigham Young University-Hawaii
April 13, 2013
President Steven C. Wheelwright
It is indeed an honor to be a part of this special day and to stand in the presence of such a concentration of devoted and righteous graduates, parents, and loved ones. Sister Wheelwright and I are so grateful as we contemplate what can occur in the coming years as each of you apply the knowledge and experience you’ve gained at one of the Lord’s universities. You have the potential to make an incredible difference in your homes, your communities, your professions, and in the Kingdom of God.
On this day of commencement, I would like to share with you three pieces of advice that have had a tremendous impact on my own life’s journey.
To introduce the first piece of advice, let me relate briefly an exchange my wife had with one of our neighbors, a wonderful husband, loving father, and successful businessman. When we were first getting to know him, my wife learned that he was a returned missionary and that he and his wife had been married in the temple. When she invited them to join us at our local ward the coming Sunday, he explained that he was “taking a sabbatical from Church,” to which my wife responded, “That’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard.”
The first piece of advice I would have for you as you move forward in life’s journey is don’t take a sabbatical from learning, especially from spiritual learning. We hope you feel that you have learned a great deal here on this campus – not only about academic subjects but about the Gospel of Jesus Christ and about eternal truths. We hope that you have developed a solid foundation for a lifetime of learning.
However, I can assure you that the pace of your learning, as you go forward, will need to continue unabated. You will need to learn about a new job or graduate program, about building a home and family, and about the Savior and the opportunities He has for you to serve in His Kingdom.
Please do not plan to take a sabbatical from learning in any of these dimensions of life. The Lord expects, invites, and will provide you with opportunities to be anxiously engaged in learning in this next part of your journey, with no time-outs.
Let me introduce the second piece of advice by sharing an experience I had during my second year of full-time employment. I had been working with a wonderful, smart colleague as a researcher and had joined with him as a partner on a small consulting project. At the time, I knew my partner had a character weakness when it came to money. Simply put, he was greedy and prone to over-promise. However, I felt as long as I was honest and appropriate in what I did and the commitments I made, working with him as a consultant would not be a problem.
During the week following that initial project, one of my more senior colleagues came to see me and shared a complaint he had received from the consulting client concerning a promise made but not kept. I decided then and there that life was too short to work with a partner who would not maintain the same standards of honesty and integrity that I had adopted. So my second piece of advice, as you leave the wonderful environment found on this campus and enter a working world that is too often dominated by the standards of Babylon, is maintain your standards of honesty and integrity. Do not compromise those standards - ever. As Elder Nelson summarized in our April 2011 Commencement exercises,
“You enter a world caught in a steep slippery slide of diminishing moral values. Against that backdrop, your character and integrity will let you stand out and shine like a lighthouse. If you are true and faithful, you will stand out in stark contrast to the surrounding masses mired in mediocrity. You will be anchored in eternal truth. You, your families, and your homes will become beacons of hope in a darkened world. You will be seen as citadels of stability wherever you live. Your faith and optimism will make you leaders in your communities, in your countries, and in the kingdom of God on earth.”
The Lord expects you to be the type of lighthouse and beacon described by Elder Nelson. Doing so will make you the type of leader that President McKay prophesied would come from this campus. However, to do so, you must adhere to the standards of character and integrity that are so fundamental to the Gospel and to the BYU-Hawaii Honor Code.
Now let me introduce the third piece of advice by sharing an experience that occurred during a family dinner this past week. Our oldest granddaughter, who just graduated from the University of Washington, was at the dinner with her fiancé who is graduating from BYU–Provo in two weeks. As I watched this couple who will be married in the Provo Temple the day after his graduation, I was impressed by the nature of the relationship they are already creating.
While they are clearly “smitten” with each other, it was gratifying to observe that they are building their relationship on a solid foundation of “faith, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.” They are investing the time, attention, and energy that will be needed to build an eternal relationship as they face the future together.
My third piece of advice as you undertake the next stage of life’s journey is invest in building eternal family relationships. For some, that may mean focusing on finding that special someone you can take to the temple. For others further along, it may involve spending the time and attention needed to build a stronger relationship with your spouse. And for still others, it may be investing the time to build an even stronger bond with your spouse and your children.
Don’t let the demands of other activities undermine your commitment to build the kind of family the Lord would have you build. Whatever stage you are at in developing your eternal family – make sure you are engaged in the thoughts, acts, and habits that prophets have told us are essential to building eternal relationships.
Hopefully, most of you will recognize these three pieces of advice – no sabbaticals from learning (especially spiritual learning), maintaining the standards of integrity to become trusted leaders, and building eternal family relationships - as a continuation of the prophetic mission of BYU-Hawaii. Our hope for each of you is that the foundation you have developed here on this campus as learners, leaders, and builders will be an ongoing source of strength, inspiration, and guidance as you progress on life’s journey. And I share those thoughts in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
 Elder Russell M. Nelson, BYU-Hawaii Commencement, April 9, 2011.