Student Address to Graduates
Devotional or Speech given at
Brigham Young University-Hawaii
December 14, 2013
Elder and Sister Andersen, Elder Johnson, President and Sister Wheelwright, members of the President’s Council, special guests, teachers, graduates, parents and families, brother and sisters, Aloha! It is my absolute honor and privilege to speak to you today.
The class of Fall 2013 is a very diverse group: there are 247 of us, ages ranging from 19 to 51 years old, coming from 33 different countries and 22 states of America, and graduating from 25 different majors. We all have different stories of why we came to BYU–Hawaii, what we have gone through in here, and where we are going after graduation. However, regardless of our differences, we definitely still share a lot of things in common: we are deeply grateful to our teachers and those who have helped us here, we are excited about completing our studies, and we are going to miss the beaches in Hawaii!
Above all of these emotions, we are also very anxious. Commencement signifies the end of our undergraduate education and entering into a new stage of life. It requires us to be more financially independent. It means coming out of our comfort zones and entering the ever-competitive job market. In essence, it simply tells us to step up and become a real adult.
This is where anxiety comes in. Facing all these uncertainties and challenges, we begin to feel nervous, apprehensive, and uneasy about our situations. Unfortunately, our anxiety is highly resilient, and it is very likely to perpetuate due to various issues in life. At times, it can become very destructive and lead to excessive stress, low self-esteem, and even dysfunctional relationships with others.
However, God has promised us that all these negative things “shall give [us] experience, and shall be for [our] good” (D&C 122:7). How can we turn anxiety into something beneficial to us?
The answer is found in the Lord’s revelation to the Latter-day Saints when He says,
"Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward" (D&C 58:27-28).
The Lord is telling us that it is okay to be anxious, but beware of what we are anxious about. The practicalities of life (such as finding a job, paying the mortgage, or seeking promotion) may drift us away from our dreams, righteous desires, and sometimes, families and friends. However, the Lord reminds us that more important than our bank savings is our treasures in Heaven; more important than our house on earth is our place in the mansions of our Heavenly Father; more important than how your boss perceives you is your standing in the sight of God. Overly focusing our anxiety on the temporal things will only bring us excessive uneasiness and panic attacks, but focusing on the spiritual things will ultimately give us strength and power to be strong, resilient, and adaptive to various situations in life. We will not be able go through life with joy and gratitude unless we learn to shift our anxiety to the Lord’s good cause.
When we entered into this school to learn, we promised that we would come off as better sons and daughters, husbands and wives, citizens and neighbors to serve in our homes, communities, and the Church. Given our wonderful education and experiences here, God has high expectation for each one of us to be “agents unto ourselves” and use our own free will to choose things that invite and entice us to “do good, and to love God, and to serve him” as part of His “good cause” (Moroni 7:13). Anxiety is no longer an emotional threat—it has become a motivation to do good.
To our dearest teachers, families, and friends, we pledge to requite your support by unleashing all our energy, talents, and potentials to become anxiously engaged wherever we are and in whatever we do. With our deepest gratitude and reluctance, the Class of Fall 2013 bids you farewell. My dear fellow graduates, may the Lord bless us with the vision to see our purposeful lives and the anchor to remain strong and undeviating in His great cause. Congratulations and good luck! In the name of our Master and Redeemer, even Jesus Christ, amen.