Graduates receive challenge from prophet
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President Gordon B. Hinckley challenged more than 5,000 BYU graduates during the 120th commencement ceremonies Thursday, April 27, to keep the faith, plan for and nurture a good marriage and a solid home, and continue to pursue knowledge.
President Hinckley presided over and conducted his first BYU commencement since becoming president of the Church in March.Dressed in the robes of academia, President Hinckley, along with his first counselor, President Thomas S. Monson, and BYU Pres. Rex E. Lee led the graduates on their processional march from in front of the Smoot Administration Building to the Marriott Center. The center was filled with more than 18,000 people, including graduates, members of their families, friends and guests. There were 5,342 in the graduating class including those who finished their graduation requirements last December. The graduates earned 4,404 bachelor's degrees, 726 master's degrees, 208 doctorates and four associate degrees. Ceremonies continued Friday with college convocations.
Other Church leaders in attendance at the commencement ceremonies were Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve; Elder Joe J. Christensen of the Presidency of the Seventy; Elders Spencer J. Condie, Gene R. Cook, Stephen D. Nadauld and W. Craig Zwick of the Seventy; Bishop H. David Burton of the Presiding Bishopric; Relief Society General Pres. Elaine Jack; and Young Women General Pres. Janette Hales Beckham.
One of the most tender moments during President Hinckley's address was a tribute to his wife, Marjorie, who was in the audience.
He said: "This Saturday . . . Sister Hinckley and I will celebrate our 58th wedding anniversary. . . . The memories of the day of our marriage are still clear and bright. We were in love then, but not perhaps so much as we are in love today, 58 years later. We both stood taller back then. We had far fewer wrinkles. It was the bottom of the Depression. Money was terribly scarce, but we took the plunge. Through all of these years we have been blessed in marvelous and remarkable ways. I feel only a great sense of gratitude. I thank the Lord for my beloved companion, for her loyalty, her love, her encouragement, her companionship. I thank the Lord every day for her, for our children, and our posterity.
"I think of how empty my life would have been without her. I think we have experienced the problems that most people experience. But somehow, with the blessings of the Lord, we have made it to this station along the road of immortality and eternal life. All in all, it has been a wonderful journey."
When President Hinckley announced that his and Sister Hinckley's 58th anniversary was imminent, they received an ovation from the audience.
Early in President Hinckley's address, he said, "I do not hesitate to say that if you pursue only your dream of recognition and monetary reward, and give no attention to these other items I will mention, you will not be truly successful in your life." He then issued the three challenges.
Concerning the first challenge, keeping the faith, President Hinckley told the graduates:
"You have enjoyed the rare opportunity of attending a university where you could receive an excellent education in your chosen discipline, and at the same time grow and strengthen in matters of faith.
"No knowledge is of greater worth than the knowledge you have gained here in things of the spirit. You have come to know the value of prayer. You have come to realize that God, our Eternal Father, hears and answers prayer. You have come to recognize the place of the Lord Jesus Christ in the grand scheme of things that are eternal and everlasting, things dealing with matters both in time and in eternity. While dealing with the finite, you have come to know something of the infinite."
Then he told them: "You have tasted of sweet and wonderful things while at this great and unique institution. They may be yours throughout your life if you will continue to nourish the spirit, while at the same time exercising your talents in your various disciplines."
Speaking of the second challenge, marriage and family life, President Hinckley cited a study reported in the Wall Street Journal that spoke about some problems in society related to single-parent families. Then he quoted the report's conclusion: "Marriage may be an imperfect institution, but so far in human history no one has come up with a better way to nurture children in a stable society (Wall Street Journal, April 25, 1995)."
He told the graduates, 55 percent of whom were already married, that "the most important decision of life is the decision concerning your companion. Choose prayerfully. And when you are married, be fiercely loyal one to another. Selfishness is the great destroyer of happy family life. I have this one suggestion to offer. If you will make your first concern the comfort, the well-being, and the happiness of your companion, sublimating any personal concern to that loftier goal, you will be happy, and your marriage will go on through eternity."
Concerning the third challenge of never stop learning, President Hinckley reminded the graduates of the opportunity they had to acquire knowledge in school and said what they had accomplished so far should be just preliminary.
"There is a tendency on the part of some graduates to say, `Now all of that is behind me.' No, there is much more ahead than there is behind. We live in a world where knowledge is developing at an ever-accelerating rate. Drink deeply from this ever-springing well of wisdom and human experience. If you should stop now, you will only stunt your intellectual and spiritual growth. Keep everlastingly at it. Read. Read. Read. Read the word of God in sacred books of scripture. Read from the great literature of the ages. Read what is being said in our day and time and what will be said in the future."
President Lee also addressed the graduates after greeting them at the beginning of the commencement ceremonies. He admonished them to be involved in government service.
"Citizen participation is the fuel that keeps the fires of democracy burning," he said. "It is also the single characteristic that best distinguishes republican forms of government from autocracy or dictatorships."
While many question the respectability of government service, Pres. Lee said his experience as a full-time government employee on three different occasions was fulfilling and interesting.
He added that those who do not work full-time for the government in elective, appointive or career positions still have responsibilities. They must be informed and share their views with those who govern, he said.
As part of the commencement ceremonies, Pres. Lee presented honorary doctoral degrees to Daniel H. Ludlow and the commencement's keynote speaker, Robert William Fogel.
Brother Ludlow was recognized for his years of service to the Church and as a BYU professor. He served the Church as director of Instructional Materials and later as director of Church Correlation. He has also written numerous books and was asked by the First Presidency to be the editor-in-chief of the Encyclopedia of Mormonism.
Mr. Fogel, winner of the Nobel Prize in economic sciences in 1993, is currently the Walgreen Professor of American Institutions and director of the Center for Population Economics at the University of Chicago.
Pres. Lee also presented a presidential citation to Delbert V. and Jennie H. Groberg of Idaho Falls, Idaho. Brother and Sister Groberg were honored for their business, community and Church service and their loyalty to BYU where they met as students. Among their Church callings, they served as president and matron of the Idaho Falls Temple from 1975-1980.
In his address, Mr. Fogel described the cycles of religion in the history of the United States and said that there is currently a national cultural crisis that is alarming to members of many churches. The crisis includes drug addiction, births to single teenage women, rape, batteries of women and children, broken families, and violent teenage deaths.
Because of the crisis, Mr. Fogel said members of many churches "have become convinced that cultural reform must be pursued primarily at the individual level, with an empathy and warmth better achieved by churches and organizations such as Alcoholics Anonymous than by government bureaucracies. This re-emergence of confidence in the power of personal compassion is a major factor in the new populism with its demand to return power to the people."
He told the graduates they are entering the world of work during a period of hope when the economy is in good shape and there are many opportunities. "What you have learned at BYU will help you to find fulfillment in the material world and to contribute to the improvement of the spiritual one."