June 2008 Commencement
June 2008 Commencement Address at
Brigham Young University-Hawaii
June 21, 2008
Roger G. Christensen
Assistant to the Commissioner of the Church Educational System
Secretary to the Board of Trustees, BYU-Hawaii
Brothers and Sisters, Aloha!
I have to confess, I love music, and I too would like to express my appreciation to the choir for that stirring anthem. It was inspirational and helped calm my heart. I am honored to be invited to speak at this year's Commencement.I bring love and greetings from Elder Kerr, the Commissioner of the Church Educational System, and from the Board of Trustees.
As I considered what I could share with you on this occasion, I thought of an experience that occurred several years ago. I was on an international business trip travelling with a friend and colleague.During one of our flights, he asked what I thought were the most important keys to being successful. As you know, success can be defined in a myriad of ways from different points of view. However, as we discussed his question, we arrived at four points which contribute to success, regardless of the course your future may take. I suggest these four items for your consideration: (1) make service and learning a life-long process, (2) be honest in all you do, (3) do the very best you can whatever you do, and (4) anchor your life in the Savior. These items are interrelated and synergistic. Volumes can be shared about each of these four keys to success; I will mention only some aspects about them briefly and let you contemplate how they apply to your individual situation.
First, make service and learning a life-long process. For many of you, this BYU-Hawaii experience represents the pinnacle of your formal academic pursuits. Upon graduation, you will be off to begin a career in your chosen profession. Some may choose to continue education in a graduate program at another institution.Others may have different plans, goals, and objectives. Whatever you do, don't stop building on the foundation you have started while studying here.
I believe the purpose of a college education is to stimulate an interest in learning and to help you learn how to learn. Much of what you learn in college, many of the facts and details, will either be forgotten or outdated over time. However, knowing how to think and how to learn allows us to keep updated or to expand our knowledge by learning new things or to think about things in new ways. If you value learning and make it an integral part of who you are, you will keep growing. Also, the more you learn "of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, [and] things which are abroad" (D&C 88:79), you will continually marvel at the knowledge and majesty of God and His creations, and in the process, you will be better prepared to serve and be of greater service to Him in His kingdom.
Elder Maxwell stated, "For the disciple of Jesus Christ, academic scholarship is... actually another dimension of consecration.Hence one who seeks to be a disciple-scholar will take both scholarship and discipleship seriously." Discipleship means following Christ. And if we want to become like Christ, we must live a Christ-like life, one filled with service to others. President Kimball taught, "The Lord does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs. Therefore, it is vital that we serve each other." Real success and happiness comes only by using our gifts, talents, and knowledge in serving others.
Second, always be honest in all you do so those around you will have confidence in you and be able to trust what you say.We live in a world that tolerates situational ethics as socially acceptable behavior.James pointed out that, "A double minded man is unstable in all his ways." (James 1:8) In contrast, Mormon, while abridging the Book of Mormon record, makes an editorial comment about the people of Ammon by stating, "they were perfectly honest and upright in all things; and they were firm in the faith of Christ, even unto the end." (Alma 27:27) I encourage you to make a personal goal to distinguish yourself by being honest at all times and in all things and in all places.
Third, do the very best you can wherever you are and opportunities will present themselves to you. When Rex Lee, a former president of BYU, was serving as the Solicitor General of the United States, he was interviewed for an article in the BYU magazine. The student reporter asked him what kind of career goals he had set after he had graduated from law school to rise to his current prestigious assignment. His response, I'm certain calculated to get the student's attention, indicated that setting specific career goals was frequently a waste of time. He then noted that if you always did your best in whatever assignment you had, opportunities would come. With opportunities come choices. When you have a choice you can decide whether you will continue on the course you are presently on, or will change to a new direction.
Today most people change careers, not just jobs, from four to seven times in their life.What you think you want to achieve now may be different than where you will be five, ten, or twenty years from now. But cream always rises to the top. If you put in the effort, your efforts will be rewarded.
I am sure you realize, however, that not all paths lead to the top of the mountain, not everyone will serve in a visible position, and not all choices lead to being rich and famous. But you don't need to be famous to be good. Elder Robert L. Simpson (1915-2003), a former General Authority spoke of the importance of what he referred to as the "spear carriers." He said that like in a stage play, there are always a few who have the leading roles and are in the spotlight; those who make the scene complete, however, are the rest of us who fill the stage by standing in the background holding the spears. He stated, "Every great Church leader of today was a 'spear carrier' yesterday...[but most importantly,] thousands [who perhaps at one point spent time in the spotlight] have stepped back from the front ranks to pick up a spear."
Fourth, and most importantly, anchor your life in the Savior. You may have goals and a direction for your life now; however, He who sees the end from the beginning may cause you to make course corrections. Elder Oaks has previously spoken on the subject of how the Lord's hand will move us in directions perhaps different than what we may have planned in order to use our gifts and talents to accomplish His work and His plan for each one of us.Change, if required, is not always comfortable, but if you are firmly anchored in Christ, you will always be on safe ground. President Howard W. Hunter noted, "If our lives and our faith are centered upon Jesus Christ and his restored gospel, nothing can ever go permanently wrong. On the other hand, if our lives are not centered on the Savior and his teaching, no other success can ever be permanently right. "Quoting Elder Maxwell again, he said, "If we don't choose Christ and the kingdom of God first, in the end it doesn't really matter what we choose." Each of us must learn to "trust in the Lord with all [our] heart; and lean not unto [our] own understanding" (Proverbs 3:5). As we do, the Lord will lead us by the hand (D&C 112:10).
Success, like beauty, is probably in the eye of the beholder. However, "the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart."(1 Samuel 16:7) If you continue to learn and make service to others and learning a life-long endeavor, if you are honest, if you do the best you can, if you are anchored in the Savior, and "if you keep [His] commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God."(D&C 14:7) That is the true measure of success.
You have great prospects ahead of you. Your influence will be felt widely. As you leave BYU-Hawaii, wherever you go, you will have wonderful opportunities and be faced with some interesting challenges. As a student here you have been given a great deal. You have received new knowledge, skills, and experiences to prepare you for your future. You have gained friends and developed relationships that will benefit you throughout your life. Some of you have even gained an eternal companion while you have been here. The real value of your education, however, is not what you have been able to get, but what you will now be able to go forth and give.
May the Lord bless you as you leave this place and take the course that will eventually lead you back to Him. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.