“Speaking Today,” Liahona, Sept. 2006, N9–N12
At a Church Educational System fireside broadcast from the Salt Lake City Utah University Institute May 7, 2006, President James E. Faust, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, urged young adults to look for opportunities and new beginnings.
“Beloved of the Lord,” he quoted from Paul’s message to the Thessalonians, “God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth” (2 Thessalonians 2:13).
“Here, Paul says that you were chosen from the beginning,” President Faust said. “There are many beginnings. Some of you are beginning your important educational career. How you start, where you are going, is of transcendent importance.”
As a young man, President Faust competed in races both in high school and at the University of Utah. He would train, stretch, watch his diet, and do myriad other things to prepare for the track meets. Preparing for the start of the race was crucial.
“We knew if we did not prepare and get a good start, we could not hope to finish in front,” he said.
President Faust said Paul gave an insightful admonition: “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain” (1 Corinthians 9:24).
President Faust said business scandals, bankruptcies, floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, and other disasters have plagued the world.
“It has been a time for caution and reserve,” he said. “Yet for those … who are bold enough, innovative enough, creative enough, wise enough, there have been as many opportunities as ever. Out of every tragedy comes opportunity.”
President Faust said when a person faces new beginnings, it is sometimes necessary to change or readjust a goal when a choice becomes no longer available.
“For instance, you may not be accepted to the school you always wanted to attend or the door is closed to the career path you wanted to pursue or the special person in your life chooses to marry someone else,” he said. “At such times, it is important to realize that other choices are available to you and new beginnings are possible. Surely as one door closes, another one opens.”
President Faust said every year offers new opportunities, and it will take courage to face the changes necessary.
“For those who can adapt, who can bend, who can modify, who can improve, lies great opportunity,” he said. “Sometimes we need to have the strength not to take counsel from our fears.”
President Faust offered six essential measures to ensure a daily spiritual renewal and strength to face challenges: (1) communicate with Heavenly Father through prayer, (2) give selfless service, (3) increase in obedience and perfection, (4) acknowledge divinity, (5) study scriptures, and (6) do something.
“Life is fuller and richer and better for those who are not afraid to make a new beginning,” President Faust said. “Most of life’s rich rewards come to those who prepare carefully. Preparation and staying power are more valuable than brilliance.”
President Faust said that without repentance, there can be no beginning.
“Surely repentance is one of the great principles of the gospel,” he said. “No one is perfect, and we all need to invoke this principle from time to time.”
He said for those who have committed serious transgression, repentance is a life-saving principle.
“The longer we go down the wrong road, the harder it is to come back and get on the right road,” he said.
President Faust concluded his talk with his testimony: “I do so as one of the special witnesses, declaring to you with all the conviction of my being and every cell of my body—from the crown of my head to the soles of my feet—that Jesus is the Christ and the Redeemer of the world, and our Savior and the head of this Church. … He lives. There is no question about that.”
He said, “I invoke that blessing upon you and pray that our Heavenly Father will watch over you in all your comings and goings and guide your footsteps in paths of truth and righteousness, that you will be wise beyond your years, that you will be sensitive to your great destiny and your great promise.”
Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles warned graduates at Brigham Young University–Idaho that they are entering a wicked world where spiritual safety is constantly in danger. Elder Nelson presided over graduation services there on April 29, 2006.
To help graduates protect themselves, Elder Nelson offered in his address what he called three circles of safety: the family, the Saints, and the Savior.
“Spiritually strong families are made by individual effort,” Elder Nelson said of the first circle. “Hearken to this counsel given by President Brigham Young: ‘Individual self-government lies at the root of all true government. On heaven or on earth, this will apply to great kingdoms and mighty nations or to the home circle.’ Self-control must be strong—strong enough, for example, to keep us from the ever-expanding evil plague of pornography.”
Elder Nelson admonished graduates to avoid such temptations that would destroy their families.
Regarding the circle of safety of the Saints, Elder Nelson recalled how Latter-day Saint pioneers “circled the wagons” for safety as they crossed the plains to Utah. He said the practice continues figuratively today, providing protection for members of the Church. “The moment one strays from the safety of the circle of the Saints, one is at additional risk of attack by evil, conspiring predators,” he said.
Elder Nelson then explained the circle of safety the Savior provides. “That circle is timeless,” Elder Nelson said. “It extends from premortal to mortal and postmortal realms. Here and now, we keep close to heaven through daily prayer and scripture study. Later, thanks to the Atonement of the Lord, we may be encircled about in the arms of His love.”
Elder Nelson concluded by teaching the graduates that their hopes can be realized by staying within those circles of safety and following the commandments of God.
“Enter to learn; go forth to serve” is the axiom students hear during their studies at Brigham Young University, and graduates who gathered on April 27, 2006, for commencement heard it again.
Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles told the audience, “You entered this institution to learn, and today, as it has been said, you go forth to serve.”
Elder Hales told the new graduates that while in college, they were primarily focused on personal achievement and growth. He said now they must lose themselves in service to others. “Commencing today, you have the opportunity to lift your sights beyond yourself,” he said.
Elder Hales explained that the graduates can no longer act like students who memorize or regurgitate class lessons to impress others. “I’ve seen this with many MBA students who accept their first job thinking that what they know and say is more important than who they are and how they relate to others,” he said.
He said these graduates fail because they simply repeat what they’ve learned in order to be at the top of their class. They should instead focus their talents and abilities to help others be successful.
“You must use your education not to distinguish yourself from others, but to devote yourself to them—to helping them grow and flourish, even if it seems at the expense of your own prominence and glory,” he said.
Elder Hales said one area where education can be of service is in the home. “The world will try to convince you that the most important success is achieved in the workplace,” he said. “I salute all who will focus their efforts on the family. I especially salute you sisters who will train up our Heavenly Father’s children in the way they should go.”
Elder Hales said debt prevents people from giving service both temporally and spiritually. He urged those present to perform “plastic surgery” on their credit cards by cutting them up and discarding them.
“If you had to go into debt to obtain your education, I encourage you to repay your debts as soon as possible,” he said. “Then go forward with commitment not to finance on credit any item of any kind, except perhaps a house and vehicle that are well within your means.”
The 6,401 graduates honored at commencement were from 50 states, 3 U.S. territories, and 70 countries. Of the graduates, 923 received their master’s or doctorate degrees and 1,736 completed their course work in December.
Elder Yoshihiko Kikuchi of the Seventy shared words of encouragement with Korean and Japanese students at BYU–Hawaii during a special meeting on April 20, 2006.
Elder Kikuchi, the first native-born Japanese to be called as a General Authority, and his wife, Sister Toshiko Kikuchi, stopped over for the meetings in Hawaii en route to other assignments. He is currently serving in Salt Lake City, Utah, but previously was a member of the Asia North Area presidency, which includes Japan and Korea. He was also president of the Tokyo Japan Temple and president of the Hawaii Honolulu Mission.
Elder Kikuchi related how, as a young missionary called to serve in Japan for two years, he was first asked to extend for six months and then for an additional 12 months. He agreed without hesitation but each time asked his mission president to call the future Sister Kikuchi. “She was so happy that the Lord needed her future husband,” he recalled.
The young couple married soon after he returned, Elder Kikuchi continued. Then a Latter-day Saint American general who had been stationed in Japan offered to provide him with a complete scholarship and living expenses at Brigham Young University in Provo. “It was a wonderful, ideal situation,” he said, “but we felt we should stay in our country and serve the Church. We kindly turned down that great scholarship.”
Ten months after enrolling in the Asia University of Tokyo—where he eventually graduated in business psychology and management—“I was called as a branch president, and one year later our first daughter came,” Elder Kikuchi said, recalling he got by on four hours of sleep a night. “Those days were the most profound experiences of our lives.”
Elder Kikuchi stressed that though he never went to school in the United States, the Lord also blessed him with the ability to speak English. “I studied English very, very hard,” he said, adding he realized many of the students were struggling with this same challenge. “If you have a desire to serve Him, I promise you Heavenly Father will open your heart and mind. Let the Lord help you,” he said, adding that professors and others are important, “but far greater help will come from Jesus Christ.”
Elder Kikuchi encouraged the students to “go to the house of the Lord, sit in the celestial room, and see the eternal perspective.” He also encouraged them to read the Book of Mormon along with other scriptures every day.
Addressing the singles among the students, Elder Kikuchi said, “If you find somebody special, don’t wait. Get married. … I am glad I married right after my mission.”
“I love you,” he added. “Thank you for your faithfulness. I hope and pray that you will have a most glorious, wonderful student life here and then go home and be great leaders in your beautiful countries.”