Dean Stephen Jones
I am grateful to have the opportunity to spend just a few minutes to address you today. I
will direct my remarks to you who are graduating. The only challenge that presents is that
you are behind me! I would much prefer to look in your eyes and to see and feel the
power and goodness of your hearts and minds.
BYU has a wonderful document called “The Aims of a BYU Education.” It outlines
four, broad purposes that define and direct learning and teaching at BYU, which are that
education should be
Character building, and
Lead to lifelong learning and service.
Today I would like to say a few words related to the third aim of building character. It
states that BYU seeks to educate students who are renowned for what they are as well as
for what they know.
Yesterday Elder Richard G. Scott gave a marvelous commencement address in which he
praised you for not only having achieved the requirements of your academic programs
but for having met the highest standards of personal integrity and worthiness. He said
words similar to these he taught in a recent general conference:
God uses your faith to mold your character. Character is the manifestation of what
you are becoming. Strong moral character results from consistent correct choices
in the trials and testing of life. Your faith can guide you to those correct choices.
Clearly, it is what you do and what you think about that determine what you are
and what you will become. …
Elder Scott continues:
Faith will forge strength of character available to you in times of urgent need.Such character is not developed in moments of great challenge or temptation.That is when it is used. Character is woven patiently from threads of principle,doctrine, and obedience. … Righteous character is what you are becoming. It ismore important than what you own, what you have learned, or what goals youhave accomplished. …Righteous character provides the foundation of spiritualstrength. It enables you in times of trial and testing to make difficult, extremelyimportant decisions correctly even when they seem overpowering.1
Do you see the pattern he describes? Faith requires you to make choices. Making
consistently correct choices, often in periods of trial and testing, develops your character.
Character and faith will give you spiritual power.
Now, let’s return again to the Aims of a BYU Education. “President David O. McKay
taught that character is the highest aim of education…” “Consequently, a BYU education
should bring together the intellectual integrity of fine academic discipline with the
spiritual integrity of personal righteousness. The result,” and we see and expect this in
you graduates, “is competence that reflects the highest professional and academic
standards strengthened and ennobled by Christ like attributes.”
Thus understood, the development of character is so important that BYU has no
justification for its existence unless it builds character…
it fulfills its promise when the morality of the graduates of this University provide[s] the music of hope for the inhabitants of this planet.
You go now on to the next phase of your important lives, using the power of the arts and
the media to communicate the truths and beauties of your individual disciplines informed
by the values of the gospel. Always remember the sacrifice of the tithe payers who have
made it possible for you to learn here in this special environment. Dedicate yourselves to
give back to the Church, your families, the world, and the Lord the increase of your
talents made possible through your BYU education. Begin now to donate your means,
even in small amounts, to enable other students to come here and learn.
You will be watched throughout the rest of your lives to see if your character is aligned
with that for which BYU stands. Please, please stay worthy of that sacred trust.
Sometime today, perhaps as you kneel to pray this evening, ask the Lord to help you
make good choices as you apply and increase the learning you have acquired here. Ask
that you might play and sing the music of hope to the entire planet through the
instruments of your gifts amplified by your righteous character. As your faculty and
leaders, we pray the Lord will bless each of you on life’s journey, in the name of Jesus
Richard G. Scott, “The Sustaining Power of Faith in Times of Uncertainty and Testing,”
Ensign, May 2003, 752