REXBURG − Brigham Young University-Idaho’s 2019 fall commencement, the university’s 131st fall semester, was held Wednesday. Henry J. Eyring, the university’s president, said 2,753 students were graduating.
Speaking at the graduation was Eyring, along with Elder Paul V. Johnson of the Quorum of the 70 and President of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles M. Russell Ballard.
Eyring spoke about how the decline of faith was comparable to the decline of paper currency, with its branded “In God We Trust,” and the rise of online payments. He said some have seen the rise in science and wealth as a sign of “human independence of God.”
“Some will doubt or even deny the existence of a benevolent God, the father of our spirits. Faith in God is declining amongst some people,” Eyring said. “Especially those who enjoy high temporal standards of living.”
Eyring went further to say that some will question the faith of graduates. He said some inquiry will be well-intended but others are veiled attacks and that graduates should take the “spiritual high ground” and not try to “prevail in debate.”
“That is an intellectual swamp that can never be fully drained in this life,” he said.
Following Eyring’s remarks, and confirmation from the board of trustees that all in attendance were eligible for graduation, was Elder Johnson. He spoke of gratitude and humble beginnings.
“It’s a privilege to celebrate such an important day with you,” Johnson said. “And I add my congratulations for your achievements and all the hard work, efforts, and miracles that made this day possible for you… You made it!”
Johnson then thanked all those who made this graduation possible including tithe payers.
“My gratitude for the faithful members of the church, all over the world, whose tithing donations have also made your education possible.”
Johnson went on to speak about how when God needs something to get done on earth he doesn’t send a battalion of soldiers but “beautiful babies.” Like Jesus, like Joseph Smith, like President Ballard, like so many in attendance that evening. Beautiful babies born without the world’s eyes turned towards them that will one day make a difference.
“What wrongs are you here to right? What lives will you touch,” Johnson said.
Following Johnson was the key-note speaker, Ballard. He began by congratulating graduates on behalf of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles and the First Presidency of the church.
Ballard said three weeks ago he spent time in Israel walking where the Savior walked. Even climbing a mountain top and gazing upon the Holy Land in all its glory.
“I know Jesus is the only begotten son of God and is our redeemer,” Ballard said. “Jesus Christ presides over his church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Now as you graduates and you students (in the crowd) move to the next phase of your exciting lives, I pray you will never forget or become casual in your relationship with your heavenly father and his beloved son Jesus Christ. The life of the savior is one of miracle after miracle.”
Ballard then spoke of the miracles here in America that are a testament and affirmation of Nephi’s vision, etched in the Book of Mormon.
“The chain of historical events shown in 2nd Nephi begins with the European discovery of the Western Hemisphere,” he said. “The eventual population by more of God’s chosen sons and daughters. These chosen ones were the brave pilgrims and many other immigrants who would later build a nation under godly principles of government. A nation that would one day enjoy the blessings of liberty sufficient to host the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ…(the vision reads:) ’And they went forth out of captivity upon the many waters and they did prosper and obtain the land from their inheritance. And I beheld a book that it was carried forth among them and the book is the record of the Jews which contains the covenants of the Lord.”
Ballard then spoke of the miracles that made America what it is today. It includes the story of John Howland, an indentured servant aboard the Mayflower. Howland fell from the Mayflower in rough seas and was able to make his way back on the ship. Pilgrims found miracle after miracle in America, land already prepared in their determined settling place. Native American’s to teach them, a spring that offered them fresh water. “By the hand of God these immigrants would prosper,” Ballard said.
These miracles and Howland’s gave way to the eventual birth of the church, Howland is Joseph Smith’s fourth great grandfather.
Ballard said Nephi’s vision also prophesied the Revolutionary War. He spoke of how Henry Knox, a general for President George Washington, once asked Washington to go on what many called a fool’s errand. Knox traveled 300 miles to New York in search of gunpowder and cannons and found it. The problem was how to get all the supplies back to Washington. To get them back Knox intended to build sleds to ride atop snow, of which there was none.
“He built the sleds anyway,” Ballard said. “He prayed and waited. Knox was a praying man who read the bible to his companions regularly and it all paid off. For on Christmas morning 1775, the snow came and it came hard. At last Knox had his 300 miles of blessed snow, not to mention a newly frozen over Hudson River (to make the trip).”
These and other small miracles were noted by Ballard as the “small and simple things” that would bring about great things in America’s future. Ballard urged those in attendance to recognize the small miracles in their lives and to not dismiss them but expect them. He said graduates should pray often and look for the ways God blesses them in their lives as they move to greater heights.