4 Wise Thoughts from BYU Commencement Addresses

This week, some 5,800 BYU students will graduate with bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees. Along with receiving their degrees, they will also receive words of wisdom from commencement speaker Elder Bradley D. Foster of the Seventy. For those of you who can’t make it to the Marriott Center this week, we thought we’d share some highlights from our commencement address archives below:

Rows of graduates sit preparing for graduation, commencement

Who Is on the Lord’s Side?
Cecil B. DeMille, Commencement Address, 31 May 1957

“‘Who is on the Lord’s side? let him come unto me,’ said Moses, holding aloft the tablets of the Law (Exodus 32:26). The same choice is ours today. The choice is always ours. It is yours, my classmates of 1957: your generation will make decisions more fateful, more fraught with good or evil for the world, than perhaps any previous generation in the history of the world. . . .

“Like mighty rivers flowing from a single source, all the great religions of the Western world stem from Moses. On their broad streams they carry the precious cargo of their different traditions—but they all share in a common reverence for the Law of God revealed through Moses.

“Jesus of Nazareth said, ‘For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me’ (John 5:46).

“These great religions all teach, as you have been taught here at Brigham Young University, that the Law of God is a law of life, a law of liberty, a law of peace and joy—a law meant not to restrict but to set free your energies and aspirations for life’s highest purposes.”


Go Forth to Serve
Henry B. Eyring, “Go Forth to Serve,” 25 April 2002

“[BYU’s motto] exhorts you to “go forth to serve.” That will require resisting the forces that will pull you away from service to serving your own wants and needs. You will only have the strength to resist those forces if you have a view of who you are, a view that is at odds with most of your experience.

“It was not hard to come to see yourself as a learner. Seeing yourself that way fits what most of you have been doing for a good part of your waking hours since you were little children. And, if we succeeded at this university, you will for a lifetime see yourself as better for having become a perpetual learner.

“It is not as easy to see yourself as a perpetual servant, but you must if you are to achieve the purpose of your education here. The word servant is not an exalted title for most of us. The picture it brings to mind—probably from an old movie—is of you as a server standing behind people of higher social status than you. They are seated at a table, and the servant waits on them. The servant may be dressed beautifully and may even stand with head carried at a noble angle, but few of us would find ourselves pleased with the thought that our education had prepared us for what appears to be a demeaning place. Most of us have, at least unconsciously, seen ourselves as working for an education so that we might sit at the table of abundance—not become a servant of others.”

“But there is another way to see the word servant. When the Lord Jesus Christ wishes to dignify those He loves and trusts, He uses the title as praise: ‘My servant.’ . . . Your key and mine to rising to our potential as servants is to know our Master, to do for Him what we can, and be content to leave the residue in His hands.”


How to Avoid Mistakes
Cecil O. Samuelson,“Lessons Learned,”  23 April 2009

“It has been said that one of the purposes of education is to learn to avoid mistakes. While this is true, it is also important to understand that we can learn very significant lessons from mistakes. In my judgment, a truly educated person is one who never personally repeats the same mistake and who also avoids well-known and foolish mistakes without ever personally experiencing them.

We do not need to make most mistakes ourselves to learn critical lessons of life. If we, like Mormon, are “quick to observe” (Mormon 1:2), we will be able to steer our way clear of major errors and poor judgments.”


Finding Answers to Life’s Questions
Richard G. Scott,“As You Go Forth,” 14 August 2004

“It is normal that you feel some anxiety about the uncertainties concerning your future. Each of you faces different opportunities and challenges. If you feel no anxiety now, you will, because you are exceptional young men and women and the Lord will accelerate your growth by giving you experiences that will stretch your current capacity. Trust Him. As you stay close to Him through obedience and faith in His capacity to guide you, in time you will find the solution to every perplexing problem you face. The answers will likely come a portion at a time, but they will come.”

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