Though we live in difficult times, graduates should look forward to a future filled with hope, members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles counseled in commencement messages delivered at three different Church schools.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks spoke at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, on April 19, 2012; Elder M. Russell Ballard spoke at Brigham Young University-Idaho in Rexburg, Idaho, on April 6; and Elder D. Todd Christofferson gave the spring commencement address at LDS Business College in Salt Lake City, Utah on April 14.
Elder Oaks at BYU
Speaking of the challenges faced by the world—wars, natural and financial disasters, and the regression of moral standards, Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles told graduates to look to the future with faith.
“Though men’s hearts are failing them, you should take heart. There have always been challenging times,” Elder Oaks said. “We, the generations of your predecessors, have survived daunting challenges and so will you. The answer to all of these challenges is the same is it has always been. We have a Savior, and He has taught us what we should do.”
Quoting the second President of the Church, Brigham Young (1801-1877), Elder Oaks focused on principles of self-reliance. “Instead of searching after what the Lord is going to do for us, let us inquire what we can do for ourselves. While we can help ourselves, it is our duty to do so.”
He continued the quote: “Have I any good reason to say to my Father in Heaven, ‘Fight my battles,’ when he has given me the sword to wield, the arm and the brain that I can fight for myself? Can I ask him to fight my battles and sit quietly down waiting for him to do so? I cannot. … To ask God to do for me that which I can do for myself is preposterous to my mind.”
Elder Oaks also noted that it is our responsibility to search out the things of God. He said Brigham Young also taught that “we have a duty to know these eternal truths for ourselves.”
Elder Oaks said that when the Saints suffer the criticisms and persecutions of the world they would do well to remember another declaration from Brigham Young:
“Every time they persecute and try to overcome this people, they elevate us, weaken their own hands, and strengthen the hands and arms of this people. And every time they undertake to lessen our number, they increase it. And when they try to destroy the faith and virtue of this people, the Lord strengthens the feeble knees, and confirms the wavering in faith and power in God, in light, and in intelligence.”
Elder Ballard at BYU-Idaho
“I urge you to make a commitment to yourself and to Heavenly Father to dedicate your life and consecrate your time and talents to the building up of the Church of Jesus Christ in anticipation of the Savior’s Second Coming,” Elder Ballard said.
“Let the motive of your thoughts and actions be to glorify God and to bless your fellowman. Let this desire inspire you to greet each new morning with enthusiasm. Let it fuel your thoughts and actions throughout each day. If you do this, you will be blessed in the midst of a world that is fast losing its way, and you and your loved ones will be secure and happy.”
Season of Wickedness
Elder Ballard spoke to graduates and their families about the uncertainty and danger that they would encounter in the world today. He spoke of failing standards of morality; the continued breakdown of integrity, honesty, and righteousness in leaders; wars between nations; and the war between good and evil.
Quoting the fifteenth President of the Church, Gordon B. Hinckley (1910-2008), Elder Ballard said, “We live in a season when fierce men do terrible and despicable things. We live in a season of war. We live in a season of arrogance. We live in a season of wickedness, pornography, and immorality. All the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah haunt our society. Our young people have never faced a greater challenge. We have never seen more clearly the lecherous face of evil.”
Elder Ballard continued by saying that because of the scriptures, the circumstances of the world are not a surprise—many prophets of old testified that such times would come.
An Age of Light
“You know that we will yet experience some unpleasant things, for the devil continues his attempts to accomplish his evil designs. At the same time, the prophets of old who saw our day, who saw your generation, knew this time—your time—would be an age of light and wonderment such as the world has never before experienced.”
Elder Ballard reminded students of the Lord’s calming and assuring words to Joseph Smith, “Be of good cheer, for I will lead you along.”
Replace Fear with Faith
He urged those in attendance to replace fear with faith in God and in the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and to face the future with optimism.
“As you think about your future, you should be filled with faith and hope. Always remember that Jesus Christ, the creator of the universe, the architect of our salvation, and the head of this Church, is in control. He will not permit His work to fail. He will be victorious over all darkness and evil.
“He invites us all, members of His Church and others who are the honest in heart, to join the battle for the souls of men. Along with all else we will do in life, we must also dedicate and consecrate our heart, might, mind, and strength to His cause, walking in faith and working with conviction.”
Elder Christofferson at LDS Business College
“Among all of the possible, worthy purposes for education and training, I hope you have either come with or developed since being here one desire above all others,” Elder Christofferson said.
“And that (desire) is to build your capacity to serve your fellowman. A desire to serve born of appreciation, respect, and love for others will provide the fulfillment you seek.”
Fiber of an Exalted Life
He quoted Marion G. Romney (1897-1988), a former counselor in the First Presidency, who said, “Service is not something we endure on this earth so we can earn the right to live in the celestial kingdom. Service is the very fiber of which an exalted life in the celestial kingdom is made. … Oh, for that glorious day when these things all come naturally because of the purity of our hearts. In that day there will be no need for a commandment because we will have experienced for ourselves that we are truly happy only when we are engaged in unselfish service.”
In addition to true fulfillment and happiness, Elder Christofferson said that devotion to service gives balance to life.
“If there is ever-present in your soul a desire to be of service, it will keep other virtuous motivations from becoming vices, as sometimes happens,” Elder Christofferson said.
He also taught that service finds its greatest expression in the creation of home and family. “Remember that even when it involves sacrifice or menial tasks that some would see as drudgery, service is not servility. All service, great or small, is ennobling and worthwhile. … I hope that you will both freely give and gratefully receive acts of service through your lives.”