It's What You Can Give
Commencement Address Given at
Brigham Young University-Hawaii
December 18, 2009
Roger G. Christensen
Assistant to the Commissioner of the Church Educational System
& Secretary to the Board of Trustees for all CES universities
It is an honor for me to be attending another BYU-Hawaii Commencement. I am grateful to be assigned to participate in these graduation services with Sister Beck. She is a wonderful leader and a gifted teacher. She has given much to building the Lord's kingdom.
Inasmuch as I have been asked to give a message today, I would like to share a few brief comments this morning about giving. Generally at a graduation, someone encourages you, now as part of the vast alumni group who has been privileged to attend this wonderful university, to give back and contribute financially to the institution in order to continue educational opportunities for others like you have participated in so fully while attending here. As important and lofty as that may be, that is not the kind of giving I am referring to. President Monson has stated, relative to the importance of giving, "He who gives money gives much, he who gives time gives more, but he who gives of himself gives all" (Ensign, Dec. 2003, 2-5). Related to that kind of giving, Elder Marvin J. Ashton, a former member of the Quorum of the Twelve, once encouraged us by saying, "Be involved. Don't simply give, give of yourself" (Ensign, May 1974, 36).
There is a fundamentally spiritual purpose for giving of one's self. The Savior taught, "Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it" (Mark 8:34-35). I have been intrigued by the Savior's use of the word gospel in that verse. As Christ spoke to the Nephites, He defined what the gospel is: "And this is the gospel which I have given unto you, that I came into the world to do the will of my Father" (3 Nephi 27:13). We can live the gospel by giving up our own will and doing the will of the Father relative to our lives. By doing so, we will be following the pattern of the Savior's life. To become like Christ, we must live Christlike lives; like Him, we must lose ourselves in serving and giving to others.
To this point in your life, you likely have had a number of role models of selfless giving: perhaps parents or spouses, priesthood or Relief Society leaders, and hopefully faculty, staff, and administrators of this great university. It is one thing to see the example of others; it is another to learn to apply the principles personally. Opportunities to serve rarely come at convenient times. In the various busy seasons of life with so many things demanding time and attention, it is frequently difficult to focus on the needs of others when we have so much to manage within our own lives.
But I am fortunate enough to know something about many of you. I also know that in this corner of Zion, BYU-Hawaii, and in the community of Laie, service opportunities abound. Not only have you learned the lessons, you have found ways to inculcate them into your daily lives at a relatively young age. You have become involved in giving great service to others while also juggling work, school, church, and family duties.
We have had some experience addressing the concept of giving in our own family, trying to help our children to become as prepared when they leave our home as you have become. Over the years as each of them entered their teen years (which typically is a period of being rather self-absorbed), they became very busy with their own agenda: school, Church, work, sports, play, music lessons, and other social activities. Time was always limited. It was hard sometimes for some of them to see the value of being involved in certain things. For example, attending Mutual every week; or taking care of family responsibilities before getting involved in personal or social activities; or participating in a ward, quorum, or class service project; or continuing with piano lessons. Some of these activities were not always appealing to them. They would occasionally say, "I don't want to go because I don't think I'll get anything out of it." Their wise mother, who is the epitome of Christlike service to others, would reply, "You don't always need to go for what you will get, but you can always go for what you can give!"
You graduates have all had the privilege of going to BYU-Hawaii. This campus is such a great place to be. The environment here is conducive to living the gospel and being obedient. It is a warm, accepting, and friendly place. It is a place where you have been nurtured and strengthened by the Spirit. It is a place where you are able to serve others readily. 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 may 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 be able to give. You are now ready to go out across the world. The question before you is what will you give?
As you now leave BYU-Hawaii, wherever you go, you will have wonderful opportunities and be faced with some interesting challenges. I suggest you give of yourself and make a contribution to the world wherever in that world you are. As Alma and his son Alma encouraged, be faithful, be true; stand as witnesses of God at all times, and in all things, and in all places (see Alma 5; Mosiah 18:9). Although some of you may feel reluctant to leave this heavenly place, always remember wherever you go you will never be any farther away from heaven than you are right here.
Remember that in the world, your abilities will be challenged, your values will be challenged, even your self-worth will be challenged. However, the more you give the more you will get. Elder Ashton observed that relief from a draught or fuel crisis comes through conservation; however in a spiritual crisis, the opposite is true. The world is in a spiritual crisis. Relief comes through giving (see Ensign, May 1974, 36), and the greatest gift you have to give is yourself. Wherever you go, your influence will be widely felt. To this I testify in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.