Viewpoint: Reach Down, Lift Up

Contributed By the Church News

  • 20 November 2016

President Gordon B. Hinckley asked the University of Utah’s 1998 graduating class to use their blessings to prevent the falling apart of families.

Article Highlights

  • With all your getting, also give to make the world a little better.
  • Reach down to someone who may be in distress to lift him up.
  • If not now, when? If not you, who?

“Resolve to dedicate a part of your time as you map out your life’s work to those in distress and need with no consideration of recompense. Your skills are needed, whatever they may be.” —President Gordon B. Hinckley

Seventy years after he had enrolled as a freshman at the University of Utah, President Gordon B. Hinckley delivered an address at the school’s commencement exercises on June 12, 1998. He spoke of many changes that had taken place on the campus as well as in the world since he had begun his studies in 1928.

He said America was rolling along in heady prosperity when he was a college freshman. The heady atmosphere lasted for a year, and then came Black Thursday of 1929. “Suddenly the whole economy fell apart and nose-dived into the worst depression this nation and the world have ever known,” President Hinckley said.

“Men who were once rich found themselves penniless. At the time there was no unemployment insurance, no government welfare, nothing of the kind. Hunger became an ever-present reality. The unemployment rate in Utah exceeded 35 percent, almost all of whom were sole breadwinners. They sold apples at five cents each. They chopped wood to feed their furnaces to keep warm. Churches stepped into the breach magnificently, and people helped one another in a very generous and neighborly way. …

“We were graduated in 1932 into an employment vacuum, with an education but no jobs. No graduating class ever faced a more dismal future. But somehow we made it.”

To the graduating class of 1998, President Hinckley spoke of many inventions that help people in their everyday lives and the miracles of medicines and medical procedures that have saved the lives of millions. Computers and the internet, if used properly, let people pick knowledge from across the globe. “The creations of science are endless and almost too great to even dream of,” he said.

“Now here you are, as university graduates, set down in the midst of this world of miracles,” President Hinckley continued. “These tools will be your tools. This world will be your world. You will marry and rear families, and I hope that you will be strong and loving parents. The family is falling apart all across the world. Please, my dear young friends, do not add to this catastrophe, but, rather, do your part to diminish it. Nothing will be of greater importance in your lives than the role you play as parents.”

He said he hoped they would make a great and consistent contribution to society. “You have trained yourselves to earn a living. I hope that you are eminently successful. The world needs your skills, and I am confident that you will make your contributions and be compensated generously by the society you serve.

“However, with all the wonders of the age that is upon us, we have the same old social problems, and much worse, than when I was here seven decades ago. There is still so much of poverty and stark want across the world, so much of rebellion and meanness, so much of sleaze and filth, so many broken homes and destroyed families, so many lonely people living colorless lives without hope, so much of distress everywhere.

“And so I make a plea to you. I plead with you that with all your getting you also give to make the world a little better.”

He quoted from Shakespeare’s Tempest, in which Miranda, speaking of the wrecked ship and its passengers, sadly says, “O, I have suffered with those that I saw suffer” (act 1, scene 4).

President Hinckley said: “I hope each of us will suffer a little as we look about and see how so many others are suffering. … My message to you today … is that you resolve to dedicate a part of your time as you map out your life’s work to those in distress and need with no consideration of recompense. Your skills are needed, whatever they may be. Your helping hands will lift someone out of the mire of distress. Your steady voice will give encouragement to some who might otherwise simply give up. Your skills can change the lives, in a remarkable and wonderful way, of those who walk in need. If not now, when? If not you, who?

“It is not enough that you get a job, that you get married, that you feverishly work to produce the kind of income which will make possible the luxuries of the world. You may gain some recompense in all this, but you will not gain the ultimate satisfaction.”

He quoted Isaiah 35:3–4: “Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees. Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God … he will come and save you.”

President Hinckley said, “I believe that when we serve others we best serve our God.”

He told the graduating class, “I wish for you great success in your chosen fields. I can only hope for you that yours may be the rich and satisfying pleasure of going beyond your regular vocational pursuits and pausing to do that which will help in some way someone in distress to raise his or her eyes and look up to you and say, ‘Thank you. Thank you for what you did for me.’

“It will not be enough to be an able lawyer, a man of medicine, a skilled architect, a proficient engineer, or whatever. There will be the need for another dimension of your life—that of reaching down to someone who may be in distress to offer your strong hand to lift him up.”