Foundation Principles for Marvelous Works


President Wheelwright Commencement AddressCommencement Address given at 
Brigham Young University-Hawaii

April 9, 2011 
Steven C. Wheelwright
President, BYU-Hawaii

What a wonderful sight!  All of us are gathered here today to honor you and to recognize the many accomplishments that have brought each of you graduates to this special place at this time. Sister Wheelwright and I extend to each of you our love and congratulations for all you have accomplished and our well wishes for the marvelous works that we hope will continue to fill each of your lives in the coming months and years.

At this time of "commencement", I would like to talk with you briefly about two complementary principles that you have hopefully adopted and cultivated during your time at BYU-Hawaii. These will continue to play a key role in your lives as you pursue your dreams and all that the Lord has in store for you. The first of these principles is that "by small means the Lord can bring about great things" [I NE 16:29] or as in the words of Alma, "by small and simple things are great things brought to pass. " [Alma 37:6]

This principle applies whether one is talking about gaining a University education, achieving great success in establishing a happy family and a righteous posterity, becoming an admired and respected leader in a chosen profession, or serving faithfully in building the Kingdom. It is the small and simple things - the consistent and daily adherence to practices that lead to such marvelous outcomes - that make all the difference. Thus whether becoming a devoted follower of the Savior, or an outstanding student, missionary, parent, spouse or professional, the small and simple things done with diligence, faithfulness, integrity and focused effort are the prerequisites to true happiness and lasting success.

A second and complementary principle is that of incremental learning and understanding. The Lord has said that He will give us "line upon line [and] precept upon precept" and then as we receive and use what is given, we will gain "wisdom" and He will "give [us] more. "  [2 Nephi 28:30]  As with the principle of small and simple things, this principle of learning line upon line holds true not only with regards to spiritual development and revelation, but also in matters of academics, family, career and service in the Kingdom.

It is interesting that most of those who have been outstanding in any field - from rearing a family to building a career or from gaining an education to accomplishing some unique scientific achievement - invariably attribute much of their success to consistent, diligent effort and to faithfully adhering to a set of principles including those of small and simple things and learning line upon line.  
Speaking at a commencement a few years ago, Elder Bednar observed,

"I believe many of us tend to overlook the importance of small and simple . . . things. Perhaps we believe in a "big bang" theory of accomplishment - that true success grows out of a superhuman effort expended swiftly just before a deadline. . . [or perhaps] we expect our lives to be a continuous stream of exhilarating events and unending progress. "  [Elder David A. Bednar, BYU-I Commencement, April 26, 2003. ]

Indeed, it's been my experience in following the lives of literally thousands of graduates that the marvelous works of this life are the result of small and simple things done repeatedly that then build line upon line. Speaking to a group of single adults about these two principles, President Hinckley quoted Jenkins Lloyd Jones who said:

"[The fact is] most putts don't drop. Most beef is tough. Most children grow up to be just people. Most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration. Most jobs are more often dull than otherwise. . .

"Life is like an old-time rail journey - delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed. "

"The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride. " ["Big Rock Candy Mountains," Deseret News, 12 June 1973, A4 as cited in "A Conversation with Single Adults," Ensign, March 1997, p.60)

But just as these principles of small and simple things and learning line upon line can lead to marvelous blessings, Satan knows that if he can get us to indulge in even small and simple bad habits or the neglect of our good habits, that much suffering and disappointment will result. Commenting on how the devil can use the negative pattern of these principles to encourage our destruction, Elder M. Russell Ballard noted:

"[I have] been sobered by how small and simple things can be negative and destructive to a person's salvation. A series of seemingly small but incorrect choices can become those little soul-destroying termites that eat away at the foundations of our testimony until, before we are aware, we may be brought near spiritual and moral destruction. "   Elder Ballard went on to say,

"Even ignoring the promptings of the Spirit to render service to another" can be the beginning of our wavering and moving to a negative pattern. "Indeed, great and marvelous events seem to motivate us, but small things often fail to hold our attention. "  ["Small and Simple Things", Elder M. Russell Ballard, Ensign, May, 1990. ]

Our hope and prayer today for each of you is that you will resolve to pattern your daily life in accordance with the true principles of small and simple things and learning line upon line. And that by so doing you will experience an increase of faith and the blessings that accompany that sure path leading to marvelous works. We know that is what our loving Father in Heaven and His only begotten Son would have you do. And I say this in His Holy Name, even Jesus Christ, Amen.

Photo by Monique Saenz.