Prepare for Final “Final” to Come, BYU-I Graduates Told
By Marianne Holman, Church News staff writer
- We are accountable for decisions we make about our bodies.
- We are accountable for decisions we make about our spiritual attributes.
- We are accountable for how we honor God’s pattern for marriage and family.
“As you consider what matters most from this day forward, may you determine to accept full accountability for your bodies, your spiritual gifts, and how you honor God’s pattern for marriage and family.” —Linda K. Burton, Relief Society general president
On a cold winter day in Rexburg, Idaho, graduates, faculty, and supporters gathered in the BYU-Idaho Center for commencement exercises on December 20. The class included 1,711 graduates—462 associate degrees and 1,268 bachelor’s degrees.
BYU-Idaho President Kim B. Clark conducted and spoke at the meeting—this year marking the school’s 125th year—and among the speakers were Sister Linda K. Burton, Relief Society general president, and Roger G. Christensen, assistant to the Commissioner of the Church Educational System.
“The education you received here on this inspired campus is not an end, but a beginning,” Sister Burton said. “Others of you, however, may have felt that with your cap and gown on and a diploma nearly in your hands, you are finished once and for all with finals. But I assure you, this has only been a preparatory final for the final ‘final’ that lies ahead.”
Warning students that it is easy to spend a great deal of time, energy, and effort in things of little value, Sister Burton spoke of the importance of giving highest priority to things of eternal significance. She focused her thoughts on three areas of accountability.
1. We are accountable for decisions we make about our bodies.
“Of all God’s creations, one of the greatest is the physical body created to house the spirit of the sons and daughters of God,” Sister Burton said. “Our bodies are a gift from God. How we regard and care for these splendid gifts, the temples of our spirits, matters.”
Drawing from the words of Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Sister Burton shared his significant observation and warning given about the use of one’s body.
Quoting the Apostle, she said, “ ‘Because a physical body is so central to the Father’s plan of happiness and our spiritual development, Lucifer seeks to frustrate our progression by tempting us to use our bodies improperly. One of the ultimate ironies of eternity is that the adversary, who is miserable precisely because he has no physical body, entices us to share in his misery through the improper use of our bodies. The very tool he does not have is thus the primary target of his attempts to lure us to spiritual destruction.’ ”
Both the law of chastity and the Word of Wisdom are designed to protect bodies and spirits, she taught. “I plead with you to pay attention to Elder Bednar’s words of warning. If you do so, you will bless not only your life, but the lives of those who you love on this side of the veil and those whose spirits are waiting to come to earth as your future mortal sons and daughters.”
2. We are accountable for decisions we make about our spiritual attributes.
“Kindness is one of the essential spiritual attributes we each need to acquire in this life,” she said. “In our efforts to obtain spiritual attributes, we should expect that significant sacrifices will be required of us.”
Just as students have made great sacrifices and have been required to pay tuition to obtain their intellectual education, their quest to become like the Savior in acquiring the spiritual attributes that He has, also has a cost, she taught.
Sharing a story about a man who, while passing through Salt Lake City, was shown compassion by a couple of Latter-day Saints, Sister Burton spoke of the “good Samaritans” who helped a man in need.
“May we, like this couple of modern-day good Samaritans, be willing to make the needed sacrifices in order to become more like the Savior—filled with spiritual attributes such as kindness and selflessness,” Sister Burton said.
3. We are accountable for how we honor God’s pattern for marriage and family.
Sister Burton said that God’s pattern for marriage and the family is in the inspired document “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.”
“When this proclamation was read by President Gordon B. Hinckley in a General Relief Society Meeting in 1995, the world was different than it is today. Because the Lord sees all things as they were, are, and will be, He revealed this sacred document to define His pattern for marriage.”
The Lord’s pattern serves as a guide as individuals make their way along the covenant path amidst those who ridicule, mock, and seek to distract, she said.
“I invite you to memorize this sacred document, ‘The Family: A Proclamation to the World.’ As you do, I promise that God’s pattern for marriage and family will be planted deep in your hearts. We have been told by a prophet, seer, and revelator that we will be asked to account for how we honored God’s pattern for marriage and family. First we need to know the pattern in order to honor it!”
Couples have a solemn responsibility to “love and care for each other,” which oftentimes requires sacrifice, kindness, and selflessness. For those who are not married or who are without families, preparing to become worthy spouses is important.
“In some cases these blessings will not be fulfilled until the next life, but the ultimate goal and promised blessings are the same for all, providing covenants have been faithfully kept.”
“Brothers and sisters, as you consider what matters most from this day forward, may you determine to accept full accountability for your bodies, your spiritual gifts, and how you honor God’s pattern for marriage and family,” she said. “May the use of the gift of your agency to guard these be among your best gifts of love to your Father in Heaven and our Savior Jesus Christ this season and always.”