BYU Graduation Honors Grads and President Samuelson
Contributed By By Marianne Holman Prescott, Church News staff writer
After officiating at 23 graduations during the 11 years he served as president of Brigham Young University—in addition to serving as a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy from 1994 to 2011—President Cecil O. Samuelson dubbed himself as a “quasi-member” of the spring graduating class of 2014 during commencement exercises held in the Marriott Center on April 24. As of May 1, he no longer will be president of the university.
“For Sharon and me, this is a special commencement because it marks not only a change in our ongoing personal activities but also for Brigham Young University,” President Samuelson said. “BYU faces a very bright future with the leadership of President Kevin Worthen.”
This year’s graduating class included a total of 5,800 graduates—4,928 bachelor's degrees, 690 master's degrees, and 182 doctorate degrees. Among the graduating class are men and women from 49 U.S. states, six territories, and 62 foreign countries.
Recognizing that no two graduates have had the same experience while at BYU, President Samuelson told the capacity crowd to remember that “where much is given, much is required.”
“We all want to do good—and if possible, even great—things, but the details vary so broadly,” he said. “I would submit, however, in the differences of our interests, aptitudes, talents, opportunities, and choices, there are some commonalities that we should consider and take seriously.”
He then encouraged the graduates to keep the commandments—not to put them on hold until they finish graduate school, land their dream job, and acquire a home or anything else that is so proximately important.
“What is required of each of us is that we continue to keep the commandments even with all else that we are doing. … We have all learned much at BYU, but none of us knows everything. Thus, it behooves us to listen to and trust the Spirit of the Lord, which will guide and help us in our quests to keep the commandments, do all that our great blessings require that we do, and faithfully endure to the end.”
Making a surprise visit to the commencement services was President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency. In his brief remarks he described President Samuelson and his wife, Sister Sharon Samuelson, as a wonderful team who are teachers and leaders. He mentioned that President and Sister Samuelson would be honored at the inauguration of the new president later in the year but invited all to recognize their service as he called for a round of applause.
He also shared a personal experience from more than two decades ago when he and his wife, Harriet, sat in the Marriott Center as they watched their daughter and son-in-law receive their degrees from BYU. During that commencement, they were caring for their infant twin grandsons. Now, 24 years later, he was again in the Marriott Center—this time a little closer to the podium—as one of those grandsons and his wife graduated. Their infant daughter (President Uchtdorf’s first great-grandchild) was also in the audience.
President Uchtdorf told the graduating class to build upon what they have learned and add the constant companionship of the Spirit, counseling them to “be a trumpet for goodness in the world” and to those around them. He testified of God’s great love for and confidence in them. He promised the graduates that they will never have any regrets as they stay close to God and follow His path.
During the keynote address, Elder Craig A. Cardon of the Seventy encouraged graduates to continue their education through “study and faith” and to follow wise counsel found in the Book of Mormon.
“Reading, conferring, and writing all serve to exercise the mind, quicken the intellect, and discipline our expression, eliciting our very best,” he said. “But unless reading, conferring, and writing have an essential spiritual element, they fall woefully short in pursuing the highest education available to us.”
Drawing from Jacob’s words in the Book of Mormon, Elder Cardon said, “To be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God.”
Elder Cardon spoke of the importance of gaining knowledge and ensuring that the knowledge gained is founded in truth and applied in a way consistent with the counsel of God. Using the scriptural phrase “and thus we see,” a phrase unique to the Book of Mormon, Elder Cardon spoke of how individuals must see with spiritual eyes in order to gain greater light and knowledge.
He said that spiritual elements in learning and teaching are essential to individuals developing their spiritual capacity. He also shared examples in the Book of Mormon of times spiritual enlightenment was necessary to help people recognize false doctrines and understand the direction from the Lord.
“In your continuing education, in your employment, in your families, in life, you are going to face both kinds of circumstances,” he said. “Some circumstances you encounter will be rooted in self-justifications that have been perpetuated over long periods of time. You will also face circumstances that are rooted in personal responses to immediate, direct challenges. In all of this, your education will be greatly enhanced by your ability to see the spiritual lessons and connections that evidence the true underlying principles that can lead to resolution. With that capacity you can also be ‘and thus we see’ scholars.”