REXBURG, Idaho Elder Neal A. Maxwell likened Ricks College graduates to the college's symbol of the Vikings who "journeyed, explored and conquered."
"Your task is to conquer yourselves, not ships, lands and castles. This battle is the one in which you especially are to 'come off conqueror.' It is fought every day. In fact, it is a continuing process which commenced a long, long time ago."
Elder Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve was the keynote speaker at the Church-owned college's 111th commencement ceremonies during which 3,012 graduates, 1,085 of whom are returned missionaries, received degrees. Graduates ranged in age from 17 to 57 and included 1,856 women and 1,156 men.
He explained that when life's battle is taken seriously, "we further develop the Christlike attributes and apply them with a sense of proportion. For instance, a brief kindness to a stranger in a transit lounge is commendable, but how about regular kindnesses to a sometimes irritating little sister or an imperfect roommate? We really can do 'the things of most worth' and still not 'omit' other good but lesser things."
Elder Maxwell told the graduates that their first commencement was "way back of the beyond when you commenced as spirit sons and daughters of God. In fact, you have been you for a long time. Once, long, long ago, you commenced your first estate and did well there, now you have commenced your second estate."
He added: "An important segment of your second estate has been your time at Ricks College. This segment of time and experience has enhanced your storehouse of truths, facts and skills. Now you will continue to commence in the journeys of your individual souls."
He added: "The mortal experience . . . is not like a college course which we can passively audit. Instead, we are taking life's course for credit and there are no summers off not even semester breaks."
Elder Maxwell said some defining moments in a person's life have to do with relationships within families. "Defining moments are never more important than when they help us to see the major things with true perspective.
"The defining moments surely include your relationships with parents, families and friends for they are chief among your particular sample of humanity. No other successes can compensate for our failures in these, our primary relationships! Any such impasses with these special individuals means we have not yet fully commenced, even though time is running relentlessly!"
Elder Maxwell said, "It is particularly helpful for you in your commencing, as the rising generation, to know personally the goodness of God. Nephi speaks in terms of his personal knowledge of God's goodness in the very first verse of the Book of Mormon wherein he also speaks of 'goodly parents.' It is also important for you to recognize the goodness of your parents. . . . Remember your parents' good works! Though imperfect, they are good!"
In his brief remarks, Ricks College President David A. Bednar told graduates to "continue to press forward on your life's journey with faith and confidence even though you do not now know every detail about the trip."
He explained that faith is an assurance of things that are not seen. "With faith to be faith, we must walk to the edge of the light and into the darkness. As we so walk, I testify and promise that the light will move. When I was your age and wondering some of the exact same things that you are now wondering, I never would have imagined that someday Sister Bednar and I would be at Ricks College serving as we are now serving. I know the light moves as we walk in faith to the edge of the light."