A Lifetime of Learning and Service

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Pres WheelwrightJune 2008 Commencement Address at
Brigham Young University–Hawaii

June 21, 2008
Steven C. Wheelwright
President of Brigham Young University–Hawaii

Family, friends, guests and graduates, Aloha!

At this long awaited and wonderful time of "commencement" in your life, Sister Wheelwright and I extend to you our congratulations and our love. We are grateful to have with us today Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve, and other honored and special guests.

I want to talk today for a few moments about some of the things we hope you will take from your experiences here at BYU Hawaii. Because we live in the dispensation of the fullness of times, each of you who are graduating and those of you in this room will have many wonderful, and many very challenging experiences. With that future in mind, we have sought to prepare you to become a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ and a leader in your home, your community, your profession, and in building the Church. Being a disciple and being a leader is all about exercising your agency to act according to the principles of the Gospel.

I would like to highlight two of those principles that will help you realize the great promises a loving Father in Heaven has in store for each of you. These are principles that I hope you have developed and committed to during your time here on this very special campus.

The first principle is that of continuous learning. During your time here at the University, you have learned many new things about many subjects. You also have had the experience of pursuing in depth what we refer to as a Major area of focus. For some this may have been in art or music, and for others it might have been in science or math. And for still others it might have been in accounting or computer science or in education. Whatever that chosen field, you have developed frameworks for further study and how to learn and organize and integrate additional knowledge.

The ability to continue to learn, adapt and progress is vital for each of you. But it is also a mandate from a loving Father in Heaven. As revealed to the prophet Joseph Smith and recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants, "the glory of God is intelligence" (D&C 93:36) and,
"Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection.
"And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come." (D&C 130:18-19)

Thus we are committed to a lifetime of learning - both spiritually and secularly. You have laid a foundation for that lifetime of learning, but it will take continued energy and effort on your part to make that opportunity for learning an ongoing reality. You will need to develop a set of skills, habits and attitudes that will make it happen on a daily basis.

Let me offer four simple suggestions for how you might make such learning on a daily basis part of your life. First is to commit to yourself and your loving Father in Heaven on this day of "commencement" that you will read and study and learn on a daily basis. That is, you need to decide that such ongoing, continuing learning is important to you, and then make it a part of who you are and how you live your life.

Second is to develop your personal plan for such study and learning by setting aside some time each week to do that. This can be done by providing a few minutes each week when you can reflect on what you have learned, identify where there are gaps in your learning, and then plan how you will fill those gaps. When you are candid and honest in your assessment and specific in your plans this process can be very helpful.

Third is to continue to make the Lord a part of your daily learning. You do this in part by continuing to live the commandments of God so that like the young people described in Daniel, "God [will give you] knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom." (Dan. 1:17) But you also do it by following the Lord's admonition to "seek learning by study and by faith" (D&C 88:118), that is, by "studying it out in your mind and then asking if is right" (D&C 9:8).

Don't be reluctant to ask God's help in such learning. He will expand your ability to comprehend and understand, as well as guiding you in learning that which will be of most value to you. And with his help you will be able to discern between principles of truth and the philosophies of men.

Let me now mention a second principle, that of service. The Lord expects and commands that we apply what we learn through service. Each of us needs to "be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of [our] own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness." (D&C 58:27) Learning is not for its own sake, nor is its purpose to engender personal pride or aggrandizement through receiving the honors of men. Rather the purpose of learning is to enhance our ability and capacity to serve.

Thus the fourth step in our ongoing learning is to apply what we learn by looking for opportunities to bless the lives of others, thereby receiving the Lord's blessings in our own life.

It's remarkable how these four simple steps:

1)Pursuing learning on a daily basis,

2)developing personal plans to focus and guide that learning,

3)involving the Lord in all of our learning, and

4)applying what we learn for the benefit of all

affect all aspects of our ongoing development - from personal spiritual development through daily scripture study to our professional advancement and development, and from strengthening our families to contributing to building the Kingdom of God in our community. Following these four steps will enable you to build on the foundation provided by your studies at BYU Hawaii.

I testify that as you continue to learn and serve by putting the Savior and His teachings at the center of your life and all you do, He will bestow great blessings - blessings of knowledge, wisdom and power beyond measure - on both you and your posterity. May you feel of His love and divine guidance as you go forth in this next chapter in your life, is my prayer. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.