April 25, 2008
We are here to celebrate the singular accomplishment of those who have completed the rigorous requirements of their chosen degree. They are the focus of our attention. We appreciate and admire their diligence and tenacity and rightfully expect much of them in the future. Most are leaving to pursue
new challenges and opportunities. A few will pursue an advanced degree at
BYU. All are marking a time of change and choice in their lives.
Each of us came to this phase of our eternal existence with nothing but what
we were. When we complete this experience we will leave with nothing but
what we are. In between the point of arrival and the point of departure we
will become who we want to be. And during the process of becoming, we
will benefit from both the helps and the hindrances provided by others. In
return, each of us will have life-long opportunities to help or hinder them.
We are free to choose the path we will pursue and the way we will treat
others along the way.
As each of us travels life’s path to becoming we will be who we are, and
who we are will make a difference. We may choose to love and serve others,
lifting their burdens and adding to their happiness, or we may choose to
advance our own desires at the expense of others.
We are the offspring of an Eternal Father who loves His children above all
else. “For behold,” He informed Moses, “this is my work and my glory — to
bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” (Moses 1:39) He is
focused on serving us and promoting our eternal welfare. How fitting it
would be if our focus were to be on serving Him and promoting His eternal
purposes. After all, if it is God’s way to focus on our welfare, why not make
it our way to focus on His purposes? What if His way, instead, was focused
on eternally seeking His own wealth, power, and recognition with little or no
concern for the good of His children? What if He used us, abused us, and
then disposed of us? Would there be any joy?
Fortunately, as Lehi taught his family, “Adam fell that men might be; and
men are, that they might have joy.” (2 Nephi 2:25, emphasis added) Joy is a
central object of our existence. But notice Lehi said that mankind “might”
have joy, not “will” have joy. The choice is ours. Joy comes at a price; that
price being obedience to the principles that lead to joy. We are free to
choose the peaceful path to joy and liberation, or the turbulent path to
sorrow and captivity.
During a particularly trying time in his life, while the prophet Nephi was
“pondering upon the things which the Lord had shown unto him, … a voice
came unto him saying: Blessed art thou, Nephi, for those things which thou
hast done; for I have beheld how thou hast… not sought thine own life, but
hast sought my will, and to keep my commandments.” (Helaman 10:2-4)
The Lord went on to honor Nephi with extraordinary spiritual power for
choosing a path that favored seeking the Lord’s will above seeking his own
About five years after joining the BYU faculty I was assigned to create a
song for a Sunday night fireside in conjunction with the Mormon Festival of
Arts. It was to be sung by the entire congregation at a certain point in the
program. The song expressed a desire that our lives reflect the Lord’s will:
“When temptations of the world seem to beckon me; when with darkness crowding in I am slow to see; I plead for light and strength from Thee, to reach my goal, and help me keep the promises made long ago. O Savior, may my life reflect Thy will. May my life be used in serving Thee. Let Thy light be a constant guiding star to lead me, ever lead me to Thee.” (May My Life Reflect Thy Will, K. Newell Dayley, Sonos Music, 1973)
You can imagine the impact of hearing those words sung by a congregation
that nearly filled the Marriott Center to capacity. My hope then, and
throughout the intervening years, has been that all who depart from this
institution after an exhilarating season of learning will have chosen to seek
the will of the Lord in all things, so that they might be empowered to “keep
the promises made long ago,” before this phase of existence. Those promises
most likely had much to do with the ways we ought to serve each another
and, by so doing, reflect the will of God.
As I look back over the years I was privileged to serve at BYU, all that
really seems to matter is the service rendered to its students, staff, faculty,
and other important stakeholders. Any efforts to seek my own life are of
little concern. Perhaps this is because that which is accomplished through
service to others continues in and through them, while efforts spent on
ourselves are soon forgotten.
In his message published in the March 2008 issue of the Ensign, President
Gordon B. Hinckley soberly testified that “we know not what’s ahead but we
know that Christ is there.” Knowing Christ is in our future, we ought to
adopt Nephi’s way, because it is Christ’s way, and the only way to eternal
joy. Let’s not make the mistake of seeking our own lives and the pride of the
world. Let’s seek the will of God, and seek to keep His commandments.
This is the promised pathway to peace and happiness now, and eternal joy in
a time to come.
Let’s allow ourselves to be overcome with light and truth so that we will
receive the strength and wisdom required to overcome the world. If we
center our lives and our work in Christ and truly “come unto Him” we will
surely be empowered to make a difference in the world through the service
we extend to others.
May our lives reflect the will of God, our Eternal Father, and His Only
Begotten Son, Jesus the Christ, through the quiet assurance and guidance of
the Holy Ghost who, we have been promised, “will show unto [us] all things
what [we] should do.” (2 Nephi 32:5)
The honor that has been afforded me this day, and by extension to my wife,
Diane, and our supportive family, is deeply appreciated. But I must hasten to
point out that this honor is not about me. It is about service. It is about the
students, staff, and faculty of this institution, whom I have come to love as
we have served together over the years, united in an imperfect search for the
ways and the will of God.
College of Fine Arts and Communications