Bishop Stevenson Encourages Graduates to Seek True Understanding
By Marianne Holman, Church News staff writer
“With all your getting, get understanding—real understanding,” Bishop Gary E. Stevenson, Presiding Bishop of the Church, said during Brigham Young University–Idaho’s commencement exercises held on April 12 in the BYU–Idaho Center. This semester’s graduating class earned 1,881 degrees—668 associate degrees and 1,231 bachelor’s degrees.
Drawing from the words he saw as a young man while entering the Utah State University library, Bishop Stevenson repeated, “And with all thy getting, get understanding.”
“Initially, as I reflected on the meaning of ‘with all thy getting, get understanding,’ I thought of understanding more in terms of comprehension, or what I might hear with my ears and understand in my mind. … However, as I have studied and observed the use of the word understanding in the scriptures or from the words of living prophets, I have come to realize a deeper meaning.”
Bishop Stevenson spoke of when he was a young missionary in Japan struggling to learn a difficult language. He told of the process he went through as he learned new vocabulary and expressions to communicate. He realized that it is more than just a higher level of comprehension that creates deeper understanding; it is a process involving many elements.
“Understanding … follows intelligence, knowledge, experience, wisdom, and promptings from the Holy Ghost, all of which lead us to understanding to know and do what is right,” he said.
Speaking of graduates he said, “Each of you are at a critical intersection, or crossroads in your life. For most of you, your formal schooling is now complete. You are moving deeper into the ‘with all thy getting’ phase. What is it that you are going to be getting? You’ll be getting a husband or a wife if you don’t already, a car, a house and a mortgage, hopefully a job, a salary, to name a few. Children.
“In order to manage these very important things that we ‘get,’ one must have the balance of an understanding heart and an interdependence of study and prayer. One must have trust, or reliance upon the Lord.”
As individuals trust and rely on the Lord, a greater measure of understanding comes from Him into their hearts, rather than their own understanding that usually comes into their heads, he said.
Bishop Stevenson shared the examples of two women—Lucy Mack Smith and Mary Elizabeth Rawlins—who played key roles in the Restoration as they trusted in the Lord and leaned not upon their own understanding. Their hard work and total reliance on the Lord made it possible for them to see miracles in their own lives and bless the lives of others.
Bishop Gary E. Stevenson shakes hands with a BYU–Idaho graduate. Photo by Michael Lewis, BYU–Idaho.
Lucy Mack Smith, mother of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and others from the Fayette Branch in New York were en route to Kirtland, Ohio, when they were faced with what seemed to be a dead end to their travels as their boat was unable to leave port because Lake Erie was frozen. She encouraged her fellow Saints to call upon the Lord for help, and the ice was parted for the time they needed to travel.
Mary Elizabeth Rawlins was part of a later and smaller group in Missouri. Her journal shares the experience of fleeing for their lives from their homes and how they needed money for a ferry passage. She recorded that the group didn’t have enough money for all, so they tried to fish for their fare, but the ferryman found the trade unacceptable. Not knowing what to do from there, one of the men decided to clean the fish and, upon opening it, found three shining half-silver dollars, just enough to pay for the group to cross.
“This was considered a miracle and caused rejoicing as that was enough to pay the ferryman,” Bishop Stevenson read from Mary’s record.
During difficulty, these Saints decided to trust in the Lord with all of their heart, leaning not unto their own understanding, Bishop Stevenson taught.
“I have personally observed the heartbreak and personal havoc wrought upon those whose focus is on the worldly ‘getting’ and not the Lord’s ‘understanding,’” he said. “It seems that those who lean unto their own understanding or rely on the arm of the flesh are more likely to develop a disproportionate focus or obsession for material gain, prestige, power, and position.”
BYU–Idaho graduates listen to commencement exercises held on April 12 in the BYU–Idaho Center. Photo by Michael Lewis, BYU–Idaho.
Drawing from the words of President Gordon B. Hinckley, Bishop Stevenson spoke of the fourfold responsibility everyone has to balance in life—first to family, second to employers, third to the Lord’s work, and forth to themselves.
Individuals can fulfill that responsibility through family prayer, family home evening, scripture study, honesty and loyalty to employers, fulfilling Church responsibilities, personal scripture study, rest, recreation, and exercise, he said.
“Fortunately, Latter-day Saints never have to look very far to know what to do,” he said. “Now, this is your time, your commencement. With a knowledge of a loving Heavenly Father and the great plan of happiness, you all have rudders that are very deep in the water. Now, put your oars in deeply as well and pull hard and even.”