Elder Kearon Shares with BYU Graduates the Recipe for a Happy Life
Contributed By Jason Swensen, Church News staff writer
- Don't forget how joyful the path of discipleship on earth can be.
- See repentance as a necessary part of growing spiritually and increasing faith.
- Seek opportunities to engage in public service in communities.
Thursday marked a day of celebration, relief, anticipation, and perhaps even a bit of anxiety for more than 8,000 students graduating from Brigham Young University.
Each graduate faces a future equipped with promise, hope, and a college degree—but there’s still plenty of uncertainty and doubt.
Just don’t forget “how much you are adored in heaven and how joyful and fulfilling our path of discipleship on earth can be,” said Elder Patrick Kearon of the Presidency of the Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Thousands of graduates, relatives, and friends gathered in the Marriott Center for the morning commencement services. This year’s class again reflects the Church-owned school’s global reach. Graduates came from 66 foreign countries, 49 states (no Delaware), and two U.S. territories (Guam and American Samoa). The average age of all graduates, including graduate students, was 27.
Elder Kearon began his commencement remarks by recalling his late father’s love for him.
“I remember his loving encouragement, his joyful view of the world, and generous propensity to see and encourage the best in people,” he said. “I realize that he let me experience hard things, even leaving challenges in my path to prepare me for the life that he could see I would lead.”
Another loving father—“your Heavenly Father”—is also willing to do anything for His children.
“He wants nothing but your eternal happiness and success,” said Elder Kearon. “He is providing you with a learning experience so much richer than the one for which you are being honored today. You are being prepared for life—eternal life and exaltation.”
The Father has tailored a personalized syllabus for each of His children because no two are alike. He is eager for all to return “joyfully” to Him.
“The course He has created for you is entitled discipleship, and the path of discipleship is your life’s work,” said Elder Kearon. “This will be your training ground, where you will be proved and learn what you need to learn to make your way home.”
Graduates leave BYU with much more than a degree to aid them on the disciple’s journey home, he said. Through the Spirit, they are equipped with faith, strategies, and understanding to see the world as it really is as well as to enjoy the journey and choose to be happy.
Elder Kearon said President Russell M. Nelson reminded Latter-day Saints during general conference to become “better disciples” and more “natural ministers.”
“We are slowly getting used to having less structure and guidance, no boxes to check, and much more love, as we look after and look out for one another. We are learning over and over again the joy of simply caring for each other in the Lord’s way.”
The Church’s 17th President is also challenging disciples to turn their homes into sanctuaries of faith and centers of gospel learning—even while deepening their convictions to the Lord.
“It might surprise you that President Nelson calls all of this ‘repentance’—this spiritual growth, this strengthening of our faith, this doing better and being better than we have ever done or been before.”
It’s clear that repentance has not been properly understood. There are too many “negative responses” often associated with the principle.
“When it is described as I just did, however, we should feel differently, with no hesitation and no discomfort,” said Elder Kearon. “This fresh and much brighter understanding of repentance will be vital on our path of discipleship.”
Elder Patrick Kearon of the Presidency of the Seventy offers the principle address at the BYU commencement exercises on April 25, 2019. Photo by Jaren Wilkey, BYU.
Repentance is not steps on a checklist—but rather a condition or state of a happy, peaceful life. It is much more than merely stopping sin. “It is turning away from the natural man in us and turning back to God, returning to Him with our changed behaviors, minds, and hearts.”
Outside of the one “unpardonable” sin, repentance offers the gift of forgiveness for everything else.
Many of God’s children across the globe suffer from poverty, oppression, injustice, war, and corruption.
“As you set goals and make plans for your life, working to relieve the suffering and lift the burdens of others should be present in your endeavors,” he said. “These don’t have to be grand acts. You may not be in a position to make a global impact, though some of you will, but all of you will be able to do your part in spreading light, hope, peace, joy, and love in your circles of influence, helping to make this a more wonderful world for more of God’s children.”
Seek opportunities to engage in public service in communities. If possible, get involved in politics—but avoid “the political tribalism and contempt which has become so destructive across countries and continents.”
A flower arrangement on BYU commencement exercises on April 25, 2019. Photo by Jaren Wilkey, BYU Photo.
BYU President Kevin J. Worthen speaks at the April 25, 2019, commencement exercises at Brigham Young University. Photo by Jaren Wilkey, BYU Photo.
Graduates, family, and friends gather on campus prior to the April 25, 2019, commencement exercises at Brigham Young University. Photo by Jaren Wilkey, BYU Photo.