Be Grateful, Take Responsibility, and Have Faith, Elder Christofferson Tells Graduates

Contributed By Valerie Johnson, Church News staff writer

  • 20 December 2018

Elder D. Todd Christofferson, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, gave the commencement address at BYU–Idaho December 19. Photo by Cami Su, BYU–Idaho.

Article Highlights

  • A sense of gratitude is critical to success and joy in life.
  • Accept responsibility for what you are currently and what you may become.
  • Couple faith in God and Christ with an energizing sense of personal responsibility.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles told 2,562 BYU–Idaho graduates that they don’t need to fear the future, so long as they exercise gratitude, responsibility, and faith.

“A sense of gratitude is critical to the success and joy you hope to experience as you now go forward with the balance of your life,” Elder Christofferson said. Conversely, ingratitude leads to a sense of entitlement.

Speaking during commencement exercises, Elder Christofferson offered counsel to the graduates gathered in the BYU–Idaho Center in Rexburg, Idaho, on December 19.

He said he was reminded of a poem by Civil War–era author and poet Stephen Crane:

“A man said to the universe:
‘Sir, I exist!’
‘However,’ replied the universe,
‘The fact has not created in me
A sense of obligation.’”

“You know by virtue of all the work and personal effort that has brought you here today that your life is your responsibility,” Elder Christofferson continued. “Your choices will ultimately make the difference for you.”

He counseled the students to accept responsibility for what they are currently and what they may become.

BYU–Idaho graduates mingle before convocation on December 19, 2018. Photo by Cami Su, BYU–Idaho.

A crucial element of this personal responsibility is a sense of accountability to God. Faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, and the right to rule in one’s life, will lead one to do the right thing, he said. “It will also empower you to have Their help and, with that help, to dare and to do great things.”

Life without God often is fraught with fear and foreboding. By contrast, confidence comes by making one’s life a shared undertaking with Deity, Elder Christofferson said. “This means coupling faith in God and Christ with an energizing sense of personal responsibility.”

Brigham Young, the namesake of the university, exemplified combining responsibility with faith in the great western exodus he led. Some might have thought he acted recklessly leading hundreds and thousands into an isolated wilderness where he’d never been. But rather, President Young acted “with full confidence that the Lord would not let the undertaking fail.”

Elder Christofferson quoted President Young, saying, “I have faith in my God, and that faith corresponds with the works I produce. I have no confidence in faith without works.”

In closing, Elder Christofferson said, “I have spoken of gratitude, personal responsibility, and faith in God and Christ. If each of these abound in your life, I have no fear for your future.”

Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks in the BYU–Idaho Center during the BYU–Idaho 2018 fall semester commencement on December 19, 2018. Photo by Cami Su, BYU–Idaho.

Elder Kim B. Clark, General Authority Seventy, Commissioner of Church Education, and former BYU–Idaho president from 2005 to 2015, told the graduates: “This is a day of beginnings. Many of you are off to new opportunities and new responsibilities, but no matter where you go, I hope all of you will create what President Nelson has called a sanctuary of faith and a center of gospel learning in your homes.”

Elder Clark shared five ways BYU–Idaho can be a model for a house of learning for their own homes.

“This is a place of obedience, consecration, humility, and trust in the Lord,” Elder Clark said, describing first how BYU–Idaho is a sanctuary of faith in Jesus Christ.

Second, he said, “Here we learn and teach by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Ghost inspires, strengthens, and sanctifies us on this campus.”

Third, the house of the Lord is very close, both physically and spiritually.

Fourth, feast on the words of Christ. “They are the iron rod, the sure way through the mists of darkness to peace, divine power, and joy,” Elder Clark said.

“Without the love of Jesus Christ in our hearts, we could not learn in His way in this place,” Elder Clark said finally, describing BYU–Idaho as a house of love.

BYU–Idaho graduates gather in the BYU–Idaho Center for commencement on December 19, 2018. Photo by Cami Su, BYU–Idaho.

BYU–Idaho President Henry J. Eyring spoke about paradoxes of life in his commencement address.

For instance, new graduates may find that even though most companies’ fiscal years begin in January and have the most money to allocate to new hires, they may not be actively seeking to hire recent college graduates.

“But such paradoxes are common in this life, and people who can identify and optimistically deal with paradoxes are rare and valuable,” President Eyring said. Doing so is a means of transcending binary thinking.

“In fact, the gospel reflects the kind of balance that can flow from apparent paradox,” President Eyring said.

For example, the Savior taught in Mark 8:35, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.”

Elder Christofferson testified at the close of his remarks: “You can rely on the love of your Heavenly Father, the grace of His Only Begotten Son, and the inspiration of His Holy Spirit. They are real. They live. … Draw upon Their help, answer to Them for your life, and be a pillar of strength and resilience for others. Be grateful for the constant blessings that flow to you, even in the breath of each moment.”

BYU–Idaho graduates gather in the BYU–Idaho Center for commencement on December 19, 2018. Photo by Cami Su, BYU–Idaho.