Wheelwright Commencement

Commencement Address given at 
Brigham Young University-Hawaii

December 17, 2011 
Steven C. Wheelwright
President, BYU-Hawaii

Brothers and Sisters, friends and families, honored guests, aloha!

At this wonderful time of "commencement," Sister Wheelwright and I extend to each of you graduates our congratulations and our love. To help honor and recognize your achievements, we are grateful to have with us Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, his wife, Sister Patricia Holland, and our other special guests.

Almost 57 years ago, on February 12, 1955, President David O. McKay presided and spoke at the groundbreaking ceremony for this special campus. As he spoke concerning the students who would receive the blessings of higher education here at the University, he described them as "...men [and women] who cannot be bought or sold, ... who will scorn to violate truth, genuine gold. That is what this school is going to produce." He then continued saying, "More than that, they will be leaders. Not leaders only in this island, but everywhere. All the world is hungering for them..."

I know that most of you are familiar with the first part of that statement referring to each of you as "genuine gold," and, we agree, that is indeed what each of you is becoming. But I would like to focus my comments this morning on the second part of President McKay's statement - being leaders, the kind of leaders the world is hungering for. I'd like to comment briefly on three specific areas of leadership that we hope will be hallmarks of your life as you go forward to accomplish all the Lord has in store for you.

The first is in being leaders in righteousness. We know that you, the young men and young women of this generation, have been reserved for this period in the history of the world. You are among the most valiant of our Heavenly Father's children. As the Savior Himself taught:

"Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father, which is in Heaven" (Matthew 5:14-16).

This is an invitation for you to be a leader in righteousness, to be obedient to the commandments of the Lord, to lead by example, and to make the world a better place through your faithfulness. As President Hinckley said on multiple occasions, "The most persuasive gospel tract is the exemplary life of a faithful Latter-day Saint" ("Five Million Members: A Milestone and Not a Summit," Gordon B. Hinckley, Ensign, May 1982, 44)

Being a leader in righteousness is an invitation for you to become like the 2000 stripling warriors who "...did obey... every word of command with exactness" (Alma 57:21) and to become like Captain Moroni, "... a man [or woman] of perfect understanding;... who ... labor[s] exceedingly for the welfare and safety [of others]" (Alma 48:11-12). It is an invitation to be valiant and obedient to the Savior under all circumstances.

The second area of leadership that we hope will be a hallmark of your life is in being leaders in your home and family. In the Father's plan for each of us, the Plan of Happiness, marriage and eternal families are essential. Furthermore, we know that "by divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. [And] mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners" (The Family: A Proclamation to the World, 1995).

For some of you, finding an eternal companion or starting a family may still be in the future. For others, you are already well along the path of creating an eternal marriage and family. We commend you for your efforts and for your diligence in completing your education while pursuing these sacred duties.

Whether or not you have yet found that special someone, you can still provide leadership in your own personal life by establishing those goals, habits and characteristics that will prepare you for an eternal companionship and for parenthood in the Lord's kingdom. Those habits and characteristics include establishing and maintaining a personal lifestyle based on "principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities" (ibid).

The third area of leadership that we hope will be a hallmark of your life as you leave this wonderful environment is that of being leaders in your community. Unfortunately, given the direction that society is moving, many good people have the tendency to withdraw from public debate and discussion.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks gave some wonderful advice regarding our participation in our communities. He said, "...We must not be deterred or coerced into silence by ...intimidation... We must insist on our constitutional right and duty to exercise our religion, to vote our conscience on public issues and to participate in elections and debates in the public square and the halls of justice." ("Religious Freedom," Elder Dallin H. Oaks, BYU-Idaho, October 13, 2009.)

We not only have a civic duty to exercise those God-given rights, but we also owe it to our families, neighbors, and associates and to all of our Father in Heaven's children, to provide such leadership. I love what President Spencer W. Kimball said in this regard:

"When the world has lost its way on matters of principle, we have an obligation to point the way. We can, as Brigham Young hoped we would, "be a people of profound learning pertaining to the things of this world," but without being tainted by what he regarded as the "pernicious, atheistic influences" that flood in unless we are watchful." ("The Second Century of Brigham Young University," President Spencer W. Kimball, BYU Devotional, October 10, 1975.)

We have great faith in you and in your future. The message of the gospel of Jesus Christ is one of promise and hope. You have been the recipient of a wonderful education - both academically and spiritually - here at BYU-Hawaii. And it will be through your leadership in righteousness, in your families and in your communities that the Lord's promised blessings will reach the far corners of the globe. I add my testimony to that of President McKay and to so many others - it is such leadership that the world is "hungering" for - in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.