LDS Air Force Grads Encouraged to “Arise and Shine Forth”

Contributed By Peggy Kinnaird, Church News contributor

  • 31 May 2017

LDS cadets walk toward the iconic chapel on the Air Force Academy campus prior to the 2nd annual baccalaureate service. Photo by Bryan Rasmussen. 

Article Highlights

  • Let your standards be a light to those around you.
  • Don’t let the world tempt you down from your great work.
  • This generation has the potential to be the greatest there ever was.

“You are not ordinary. You have been trusted with a great responsibility. Now go forward and win.” —Elaine S. Dalton, former Young Women General President

Days before the official ceremony honoring 979 men and women graduating from the United States Air Force Academy, 12 graduating LDS cadets met in the chapel on the Colorado Springs, Colorado, campus for the second annual LDS baccalaureate service on Sunday, May 21.

Nearly 1,000 friends, family, and LDS Church members gathered at the iconic Cadet Chapel to hear Elaine S. Dalton, former Young Women General President, speak at an event honoring the graduating seniors.

Many of the seniors grew up during the time that Sister Dalton served as Young Women General President from 2008 to 2013. Last year, Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke at the service (see related story).

Arise and shine forth

Sister Dalton encouraged grads to “arise and shine forth” as they enter their next phase of life.

The history of baccalaureate services dates back as far as 1432 at the University of Oxford, where those who earned a bachelor's degree were required to deliver a sermon in Latin. The service is intended to be a spiritual component in connection to the academic achievement.

Sister Dalton began her remarks by commenting on the beauty of the historic Cadet Chapel.

“This is like a temple to me today,” she said.

She expressed her witness of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and her love and support for President Thomas S. Monson.

She also thanked the cadets for their commitment and for pushing themselves.

“Thank you for being valiant in the cause of Christ,” she said.

Sister Dalton said it was important for the graduating cadets to do three things: remember who they are, remain steadfast and immovable, and go forward in the strength of the Lord.

In her counsel that cadets remember who they are, Sister Dalton referred to a scripture in Doctrine and Covenants 115:5, which states, “Arise and shine forth, that thy light may be a standard for the nations.“

Sister Dalton said she likes to turn it around to say, “Arise and shine forth that your standards will be a light to the nations.”

Sister Elaine S. Dalton, former Young Women General President, speaks during the 2nd annual baccalaureate service on May 21. Photo by Bryan Rasmussen.

A great work from which we cannot come down

Second, she counseled listeners to “not come down” (see Nehemiah 6:3). She referred to an ancient prophet in the Old Testament named Nehemiah who rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem and refused to come down off the walls until the work was finished.

“Don’t come down, and don’t lower your standards. Arise like Air Force cadets would do,” she said.

She encouraged the cadets to remember their choices that were made in the premortal existence, where they had to demonstrate exceedingly great faith and values to choose the plan of salvation and to defend that plan with the most powerful weapons known to man—with faith and testimony of Jesus Christ.

Sister Dalton referred to Captain Moroni, a Nephite military commander from the Book of Mormon, who raised a banner or a title of liberty that was a call to arms for his people to defend their country, family, freedom, peace, and religion.

“So today I see that the banner has been raised. You are the banner—the banner that will wave to all the world,” Sister Dalton said. “You will become great leaders. I’m grateful the Lord will use you to accomplish His purposes here on the earth. … Your decisions matter right now, and they will affect generations to come.”

Third, she emphasized, “go forward.”

She reminded the cadets that they are not ordinary people, and they must “remember there is power in purity.”

She concluded her address by reminding seniors that they are never alone and they have the constant companionship of a member of the Godhead: the Holy Ghost.

“You will soar and climb higher than any generation ever has, with the strength and power that is incomprehensible to the world,” she said.

Members of the LDS Cadet Choir performed two musical numbers during the baccalaureate service. Photo by Bryan Rasmussen.

Reflections from a grateful audience

Two of the LDS graduates, McKenna Fox and Sam Burton, shared their appreciation for the advice.

In referring to Sister Dalton’s address, Fox said, “In all my time listening to Sister Dalton, one of her messages I recognize is virtue and chastity. She’s absolutely a virtuous woman.”

As the only female graduating senior this year, Fox said, “Women can do hard things.”

Fox, Cadet 1st Class, from Alpine, Utah, initially knew she wanted to play division 1 soccer, so she contacted the academy and they extended an invitation for her to come and visit the school.

“I knew this was something that not a lot of LDS women do,” she said.

After being “blue-chipped” by the soccer coach, she was accepted into the academy. “I just knew this was a good thing,” she said.

She left after her second year to serve a mission in Guayaquil, Ecuador. She then returned to finish and graduate this year.

Sam Burton, Cadet 1st Class, from Arlington, Virginia, was accepted with a full-ride scholarship to Utah State University, the Naval Academy, and the Air Force Academy. He chose the Air Force because in 2010 he visited the academy and met the student who was ranked no. 1 and who happened to be LDS. He talked to him and was impressed with the number of active cadets at the academy.

After two years at the academy, Burton was called to serve a mission in Cordoba, Argentina, but then chose to leave his mission early due to doubts and fears. He went back to the Air Force Academy, but then he returned to the same mission after hearing a talk by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles called “Lord, I Believe.”

“It really convinced me that God wanted me to go on a mission,” Burton said.

After completing his mission in 2013, he asked permission to return to the academy. Burton said they basically had to rewrite the admissions process because no one had left and come back twice before.

He was accepted back and is graduating this year. Attending the academy “has been an amazing experience, and I’ve been really blessed,” Burton said.

During Sister Dalton’s visit, what spoke to him was when she said, “Take care of His business and He’ll take care of yours.”

“You are not ordinary. You have been trusted with a great responsibility,” Sister Dalton told the cadets. “Now go forward and win.”

Friends and family of graduating seniors, along with Church members, fill the Air Force Academy Chapel for the baccalaureate service held on May 21. Photo by Bryan Rasmussen.

The LDS Cadet Choir performs “Heal Our Land” during the baccalaureate service held on May 21. Photo by Bryan Rasmussen.

Mr. Tom Kirles, choir director, plays “America the Beautiful” and various LDS Church hymns as incoming guests enter the chapel for the baccalaureate service May 21. Katharine Lee Bates wrote the historic lyrics to the patriotic song while visiting Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs in 1893. Photo by Bryan Rasmussen.

Sister Elaine S. Dalton, former Young Women General President, addresses the LDS cadets of the United States Air Force Academy during the 2nd annual baccalaureate service held on May 21 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Photo by Bryan Rasmussen.

A view of the chapel on the Air Force Academy campus after the baccalaureate service on May 21 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Photo by Bryan Rasmussen.

LDS Distinctive Religious Group leader, Elder Gordon R. Edgin, and his wife, Sister Cheryl Edgin, and Sister Elaine S. Dalton and her husband, Brother Stephen Dalton, pose for a photo with the United States Air Force Academy LDS graduating class of 2017. Photo by Bryan Rasmussen.