“Write Your Story,” Elder Snow Tells BYU Graduates
Contributed By Marianne Holman Prescott, Church News staff writer
- We document our history for two reasons:
- 1. It is a commandment.
- 2. To help remember our spiritual experiences.
“If you don’t write your story, it may not get written.” —Elder Steven E. Snow of the Seventy
On what would be considered a “journal entry day” for many, Elder Steven E. Snow of the Seventy encouraged more than 5,000 graduates of Brigham Young University to keep a record of their lives—something that would be a blessing for their posterity.
“Truth of the matter is if you don’t write your story, it may not get written,” the Church Historian and Recorder said. “Worse still, it may be told by someone else in a way you do not desire. The one who has the last word is the one who writes it down. Remember to keep a journal.”
Thousands of students and their supporters gathered in the Marriott Center for BYU’s spring commencement exercises on April 23. Among the 5,648 graduates were students from 50 states, six territories, and 63 foreign countries.
Just one year after Elder Cecil O. Samuelson—an emeritus member of the Seventy and current president of the Salt Lake Temple—finished his responsibilities as president of Brigham Young University, he again stood at the podium during commencement exercises and addressed graduates. Although the scene was similar to many he had been in before, this time he stood not as the school’s president but as the recipient of an honorary degree.
“For his extraordinary service to BYU, for his furthering of the profession of ‘the Healer’s art,’ and for his service as a faithful Church leader,” BYU President Kevin J Worthen conferred a degree of doctor of education and Christian service.
Also awarded an honorary degree was Robert P. George, a professor at Princeton University known for his persuasive writings and support of religion and morality remaining an important topic in public conversation.
In his keynote address, Elder Snow, who serves as Church Historian and Recorder, encouraged graduates to record the journey and adventures of their life by keeping a journal—something that will be treasured by their posterity for generations to come.
“Some of the most inspiring history comes from the diaries and journals of everyday people like you and me,” he said. “You need not be a prominent Church leader and a copious journal keeper, … but your story is important. Contribute to our body of history by keeping your own story.”
Elder Snow explained many of the preservation tactics historians in the Church are using to preserve Church history.
“When the Church has so many priorities in its mission to bring the gospel to the world, some might ask why it is so important to preserve Church history,” the leader said. “I would submit there are two fundamental reasons why we document our history.”
First, it is a commandment.
The commandment found in the Doctrine and Covenants that “there should be a record kept among you” has been a guide for Church members since Joseph Smith received the revelation. Early Church historians carefully packed records and carried them with them as they trekked out west—even when room was scarce.
Second, history is kept to help people remember.
“We all must figuratively pull our own handcart through life,” Elder Snow said. “We learn from past generations how to be strong and what brings happiness and joy in our lives. We also learn God’s children are not and never have been perfect, that He can accomplish His work through people just like you and me, even if we have obvious or hidden shortcomings.”
These opportunities to “remember” those who have gone before and the lessons learned from their experiences can help individuals as they face challenges in their own lives. Many moments from Church history are memorialized through monuments or physical structures dedicated to the past.
“But it is not just monuments we erect,” he said. “As members of the Church we are encouraged to do certain things to help us remember.”
Through actions such as keeping a journal, attending the temple, offering prayers of gratitude, studying the scriptures, attending classes to study the gospel, or partaking the sacrament, members are able to “remember” those things that will strengthen their testimonies of the gospel.
“It reinforces our faith to remember spiritual experiences that touched our lives,” he said. “It also helps us to learn of the spiritual strengths and sacrifices of others. Spiritual accounts, stories of ancestors and faithful pioneers, as well as the testimonies of faithful peers reinforce and strengthen our own testimonies of the gospel.”
As important as remembering history is, Elder Snow said it is important to stay strong and close to the Spirit so future spiritual experiences will strengthen and enrich one’s life.
“When it comes to faith, remembering is not enough,” he said. “It is essential you live so you are entitled to receive new spiritual experiences.”
In his remarks, Professor George spoke of the blessing BYU students have to study at a university that incorporates faith in its coursework.
“Faith and reason do not work separately or independently of one another, but rather they work together in harmony,” he said.
“Today, more than ever, we need universities … in which faith and reason work in harmony, accomplishing what could never be accomplished by faith or reason apart from one another.”
Drawing from the words of Pope John Paul II, Professor George said that “faith and reason are the two wings on which the human spirit ascends to contemplation of truth.”
“The ‘two wings’ are not two separate but equal ways or paths to truth,” he said. “Just as both wings are necessary and must be in working order for the dove or eagle to fly, both faith and reason are necessary for the intellectual and spiritual quest and for the intellectual and spiritual life.”
Other Church leaders in attendance included Elder Wilford W. Andersen, Elder Carlos A. Godoy, Elder Allen D. Haynie, and Elder Paul V. Johnson, all of the Seventy.
Speakers included BYU President Kevin J Worthen; Terry Seamons, president of the BYU Alumni Association; and Ryan Timothy Barrett, a graduate. The BYU Women’s Chorus performed “Psalm 100” by Rene Clausen.