Church Leaders Counsel Graduates, Receive Honors
August 2002

“Church Leaders Counsel Graduates, Receive Honors,” Ensign, Aug. 2002, 75–77

Church Leaders Counsel Graduates, Receive Honors

Members of the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and the Seventy counseled graduates at schools in Idaho and Utah during 2002 commencement exercises, and both President Gordon B. Hinckley and President James E. Faust, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, received honorary degrees. The honor for President Hinckley was a first of its kind, and it came at a landmark moment for the school.

Rexburg, Idaho

President Hinckley presided at the first commencement for BYU—Idaho, formerly Ricks College, on 27 April. For his lifetime of Christian service and leadership, he was awarded an honorary doctorate, the first such degree ever presented by the school. Nearly 2,500 students also received degrees from the now four-year institution.

During his address, President Hinckley said the Church Board of Education had long been troubled by the fact that an ever-diminishing percentage of young people could attend a Church-sponsored university. “While reflecting on this fact, the thought came, and I am confident it was inspiration, that we could increase the number touched by our higher education program if Ricks were to become a four-year school offering baccalaureate degrees,” President Hinckley said.

He told the graduates: “Keep the faith. This is my message to you. … My challenge to you this morning is that throughout your lives you cultivate and act with faith—faith in yourselves, faith in your associates, faith in the Church, faith in God, your Eternal Father.”

He continued: “You did not come into the world to fail. You came into the world to succeed,” adding, “You will be amazed at what might happen when in faith you take a step forward.”

President Hinckley admonished: “Never lose faith in yourself. Never lose faith in your capacity to do good and worthwhile things. You cannot be arrogant. You cannot be conceited. You can be quiet and humble and forward looking and full of hope, the hope that blossoms into faith.”

Elder Henry B. Eyring of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles—Church Commissioner of Education and a former president of Ricks College—told the graduates that they will be forever in debt to the teachers, family members, and tithe payers who made their education possible.

“You can’t repay your benefactors. You could not ever find them, and they wouldn’t take your money if you offered it. But you can from this day forward act so that your debt will be steadily reduced,” he said.

“First, wherever you may labor in life, give more than you take. Second, whoever is around you in life, find someone to help. And third, ask God to multiply the power of your efforts to give and to help.”

Elder Eyring placed the hood representing the honorary degree on President Hinckley, assisted by Donald Bird, academic vice-president of BYU—Idaho.

In conferring the honorary doctorate on the President of the Church, BYU—Idaho president David A. Bednar said, “As the transition from Ricks College to Brigham Young University—Idaho moves forward, we have special reason to honor President Hinckley.” President Bednar, who also serves as an Area Authority Seventy, explained that President Hinckley’s “vision of education has largely impacted the direction of the new four-year institution, as well as the lives of each student who attends.”

The first graduates to receive bachelor’s (four-year) degrees from BYU—Idaho were 28 interior design students. The remainder of graduates received associate (two-year) degrees. Among the graduates were 56 international students.

Salt Lake City, Utah

President Faust was one of four people who received honorary degrees on 10 May at the University of Utah commencement. The honor recognized his leadership in legal, civic, and Church affairs.

In his brief response, President Faust spoke to some 6,500 graduates of his own opportunities to teach and of the profound effect that outstanding teachers have had on his life.

“In truth my teachers have all been legion,” he said. He mentioned his parents, children, grandchildren, and particularly his wife, Ruth. He also named three of the teachers who had profound influence on him during his formal schooling.

But, President Faust said, some of the most important of his learning came through another teacher, “even the greatest of all.”

“I must acknowledge the learning that has come to me in my life from the Holy Spirit of God,” he commented, explaining, “At times this knowledge has come, and it could not possibly have come from any other source.”

Chief Justice Christine Durham of the Utah Supreme Court offered the commencement address.

Provo, Utah

Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles presided at the commencement for Brigham Young University on 25 April and spoke to the more than 6,400 graduates. Elder Eyring also spoke, as did Elder Merrill J. Bateman of the Seventy, BYU President. Roderick Paige, U.S. secretary of education, was the principal speaker for the occasion.

“Strong families are the backbone of society,” Mr. Paige told the graduates. Homes shape the people who come out of them, he said, and “it is in our families where we learn that being a good mom or dad is the most important job any of us could ever have.”

All of us, he said, “must let faith be the fire within us.” He counseled graduates that success has more to do with serving than receiving.

Elder Ballard also spoke of service, calling on the graduates to help make the world a more peaceful place to live. He urged them to let the testimony of Jesus Christ “become ever more powerful in our life.” Then he added, “That will happen as you serve Him.”

Elder Eyring told the graduates that service is one way to achieve the purpose of their education, even at times when they are torn between the demands to provide and care for a family and to manage other responsibilities. “Your key and mine to rising to our potential as servants is to know our Master, to do for Him what we can, and to be content to leave the residue in His hands.”

Remember, he said, “that you serve a Master who loves you, who knows you, and who is all powerful. He has created not demands for your service but opportunities for your growth.”

These opportunities bring blessings, he said. “As you go to serve Him, rather than being demeaned, you will be lifted up.”

In his brief remarks, Elder Bateman noted that the 6,435 graduates come from all 50 United States and from 51 other countries, and that the university is nationally recognized and “rapidly becoming known internationally.” He said that during the Olympics in February, nearly 60 national and international news organizations visited the campus.

“You are an elect group,” he said. “May you draw upon the lessons of life learned here. May you become an unusual force for good in your communities, and may you humbly stand for the right.”

Salt Lake City

At the commencement for LDS Business College on 9 May, Elder F. Burton Howard of the Seventy told graduates not to be taken in by common worldly myths about success, but to be obedient to principles that will make them successful in eternal terms.

He told them success does not come from choosing the “right” profession, rising to the top, making a lot of money, or even knowing right now what they will do with the rest of their lives. But filling the measure of their creation on the earth (see D&C 88:25) will have much to do with their persistent effort and their integrity. He counseled them to persevere in order to achieve and to be sure morality governs their professional as well as personal lives.

President Gordon B. Hinckley receives doctoral hood from Elder Henry B. Eyring and Donald Bird, BYU—Idaho’s academic vice-president. (Photo by Michael Lewis, BYU—Idaho.)

President James E. Faust receives his honorary degree. (Photo by Matthew Hatfield.)

U.S. Secretary of Education Roderick Paige, second from left, visits with Elder Henry B. Eyring of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, left; Elder Merrill J. Bateman of the Seventy, president of BYU; and Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. (Photo by Stuart Johnson, Church News.)