Be Not Afraid, Only Believe
Commencement Address Delivered at
Brigham Young University–Hawaii
December 11, 2004
President Gordon B. Hinckley
President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
My dear friends, both young and old--you who are graduates, and you who are here to honor the graduates. I salute you on this very important day.
I am here substituting for President Faust, who has recently undergone two serious surgeries. He is not yet in a position to travel, and I told him to rest and recuperate and I would do my best to take his place.
He is making a good recovery, but he has a ways to go.
Today I wish to speak to you as an old friend. I realize that I am old, now well into my 95 th year. I have some difficulty with my feet. But I have concluded that if a man has to have something go wrong, it is better that it be with his feet than with his head.
Seventy-one years ago last June I left for a mission in the British Isles. Few missionaries were sent then because of the terrible Depression. There was very little money, and a mission was simply not the thing to do.
The day I was to leave my wise father had his secretary type out a card with these great words from the fifth chapter and 36 th verse of Mark in the New Testament: "Be not afraid, only believe" (Mark 5:36).
You are acquainted with the circumstances under which the Lord spoke these words. The twelve year-old daughter of the ruler of the synagogue was dying. The ruler pleaded with the Lord in her behalf, but while he was so doing word came that she was gone. Those about him said it was too late. But the Lord said, "Be not afraid, only believe."
He went to the home of the ruler. He dismissed those who were weeping and wailing. He entered the room where she lay, took her by the hand, and said, "Damsel, I say unto thee, arise. And straightway the damsel arose, and walked...
"And they were astonished with a great astonishment" (Mark 5:41-42).
There is great power in these simple words, "Be not afraid, only believe." There is the power of decision. There is the power of resolution. There is the power of effort. There is the power of faith. I have carried these words with me through all of these many years. They have been a guide to me in the momentous decisions that I have faced from time to time.
They have blessed me in making decisions concerning my work. They have blessed me in the most important decision of my life, the marriage to my beloved companion of 67 years. They have sustained me in the loneliness that I have experienced since her passing. They have sustained me in the very perplexing and difficult decisions I have had to make in the years of my ministry as an officer of this Church.
For instance, some years ago I felt very strongly we needed a much larger hall than the Tabernacle in which to convene our conferences and other gatherings. To do so would mean tearing down an existing building and constructing another at a cost of millions and millions of dollars. I wrestled with that decision. I prayed about it. I talked with my counselors and with the Quorum of the Twelve and the Presiding Bishopric. And I said to myself, "Be not afraid, only believe."
The wisdom of that decision is now beyond question. After 137 years, we must of necessity close the Tabernacle on Temple Square for a period and strengthen it in many ways while preserving its appearance, so that it may stand for many years yet to come. I ask myself, "What would we do without the new Conference Center? Where would we hold our meetings?"
Only last Sunday we gathered in that beautiful and magnificent hall for the First Presidency Christmas Devotional. Some 21,000 people filled it, and hopefully you were able to get the services here.
That same statement, "Be not afraid, only believe" has guided me in a hundred other decisions of great import.
If we are to move forward to accomplish that which the Lord expects of us, we must walk by faith. We can see only so far ahead, and our vision beyond this point must be a vision of faith.
I once worked for a major railroad on the mainland. I would ride the trains at night through the gorges and canyons of the Rocky Mountains. I noted that the headlight of the locomotive would make the rails visible to the engineer only for about 1,000 yards ahead. But that 1,000 yards would keep advancing as the engine moved, and thus he traveled safely through the night to his destination.
And so, to you young men and women who are leaving this institution today to move out into a larger world I say, as you do so, "Be not afraid, only believe."
1. Believe in yourself. Believe in your capacity to do great and good things. Believe that no mountain is too high that you cannot climb it. Believe that no storm is too great that you cannot weather it. You are not destined to be a scrub. You are a child of God, of infinite capacity.
Believe that you can do it, whatever it is that you set your heart on. Opportunities will unfold and open before you. The skies will clear when they have been dark with portent.
Commander William Robert Anderson, the man who took the submarine Nautilus under the North Pole, carried in his wallet a card which read: "I believe I am always divinely guided. I believe I will always take the right road. I believe God will always make a way where there is no way." (Quoted in Look , 20 April 1971, p. 48).
May the blessings of heaven rest upon you, my dear young friends, as you step into the future.
2. Believe in your companion. No one other factor will make such a difference in your life as the companion you marry. Choose wisely, and deliberately, and carefully. Eternity is a very long time, and you will wish to be married for eternity in the house of the Lord.
As I look back upon my life and think of the wonder of the companion who walked so long beside me, I cannot get over the tremendous influence that she had on me. She was the mother of my children. She gave them life. She nurtured them. She guided them through their formative years. She loved them, and dreamed of them, and prayed for them.
Long after they had left our home they would telephone regularly. If I answered the phone they would say, "Hi, Dad. Is mother there?"
They were not interested in talking with me. They wished to talk with her, and talk they did. Oh, how they talked. She was so wise and good. She just seemed to have present in her all of the good qualities of her most sterling forebears. All of these seemed to come together in that one little girl who bewitched me when I was young and in love.
Now a beautiful marker of enduring granite marks her final resting place, and engraved in that stone, beneath her name, are the words, "Beloved Eternal Companion."
And so, she will be mine and I will be hers through all of the eternities to come.
My dear young friends, choose wisely, and then do all you can, throughout your entire lives, to magnify and strengthen your companion. Never put her down. Never belittle her. Never domineer her. The greatest compliment my wife ever paid me was when she said, "You gave me wings to fly, and how I have loved it."
Never be mean or cheap or niggardly with her. Be absolutely loyal. Never let your thoughts wander and never look in the direction of any other.
If you will do so, heaven will bless your marriage. Your children will grow in righteousness, and love will mark your days and nights.
3. Believe in your associates. "No man is an island," as John Donne observed long ago (Donne, John, Devotions upon Emergent Occasions , no. 17). No man lives unto himself. We all live in a world where we must work together. Sometimes our associations are not the happiest. But we can improve the matter if we return good for evil at all times. There is so much of politicking, so much of petty meanness, so much of scheming and ruthless ambition among associates. It is difficult to learn to keep one's peace, and in the midst of all such to walk the high road. The Lord will bless you as you do so.
4. Believe in the Church of which you are a member. This is God's holy work. He has brought it to pass in this the last and final dispensation, the dispensation of the fullness of times. It is His cause and His work, and it is designed to assist Him in bringing to pass the "immortality and the eternal life of man" (Moses 1:39).
The Church is perfect, but it is made up of imperfect individuals. Never let the actions of another destroy your faith in this grand and marvelous work.
Accept every responsibility that you are given, and execute it with faith and diligence. The Lord will bless you. He will magnify you. Your life will be the richer, your experience the sweeter because of your service. This Church is not man's creation. It is man's opportunity afforded him by His maker. It is eternal in its nature, in its doctrine, in its program.
True to the faith that our parents have cherished,
True to the truth for which martyrs have perished,
To God's command, Soul, heart, and hand,
Faithful and true we will ever stand.
(True to the Faith , Hymn No. 254)
5. Believe in the Prophet Joseph Smith. Read the Book of Mormon, again and again. Each reading will bring an enlarged understanding and a stronger knowledge of its divine origin. Read the revelations received by the prophet. Ponder their meanings. Reflect on his accomplishments during the relatively short time that he lived.
As has been said many times, either this work is true or it is false. If it is false we are all engaged in a terrible fraud. If it is true, it is the most important work on earth. There is no middle ground.
You young men and women who have completed your baccalaureate work, which was preceded by elementary school and high school, know how hard it has been for you to prepare term papers. Now think of Joseph Smith, the young man, largely without benefit of formal schooling, who produced this Book of Mormon of 531 pages, this book of Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price of 352 pages, a voluminous history and other writings that have challenged some of the best minds of this and earlier generations.
I really believe that no one can objectively look at his accomplishments and deny the divinity of his calling.
6. Believe in prayer. No matter your capacity, no matter your ability, you need help beyond your own. That help will come if you will get on your knees and plead with the Lord in prayer for strength and direction and guidance. We all need the humility that leads to prayer. We all need the humility that comes of getting on our knees in silent pleading. Prayer is befitting whether in success or failure. If there is success, there should be expressions of gratitude. If there is failure, there should be pleas for help.
7. Finally, believe in God your Eternal Father and in His Beloved Son, your Redeemer. How majestic is our God. How wonderful His ways. And how reassuring, how comforting, and what a marvelous and wonderful blessing to know that we are His children, that He loves us, that He will listen to us, and that He will bless us.
The words of David's psalm remind us: "When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;
"What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?
"For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour" (Psalms 8:3-5).
Believe in His Immortal Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Under His Father's direction, He was the Creator of the earth. He was Jehovah of the Old Testament. He was Jesus Christ, the Messiah of the New Testament. It was He who gave His life on Calvary's Hill for each of us. Through His great atoning sacrifice He has made possible the resurrection for all, and eternal exaltation for those who will keep His commandments.
Approach the Father in the sacred name of Jesus Christ. There will come into your heart comfort, peace, and faith.
And so, my beloved brothers and sisters, you face the future. You leave here to step out into the world. "Be not afraid, only believe." For this I humbly pray in your behalf, in the holy name of Jesus Christ, amen.