• I have a confession. I have been wondering whether I should admit this to such a large crowd, but here we go. My confession is that I love mathematics! I know that for some of you, the word math brings a flood of bad memories. So before people get up to leave, let me share with you a different way to see math. Seeing Beauty Unfortunately, many people have the mistaken idea that math is just a set of rules and calculations. That is not mathematics. My family and I love the NCAA March Madness basketball tournament. Sitting around with friends and watching an underdog team
  • In 1962, Thomas Kuhn published a book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, in which he set forth his view that development in scientific knowledge did not progress in a linear, continuous fashion but rather through periodic radical changes in the framework through which scientific questions are considered. Kuhn called these radical changes “paradigm shifts.”1 While the validity of Kuhn’s theory has been extensively debated in the last fifty years, there is little dispute that his book brought the terms paradigm shift and paradigm into popular
  • Graduation is a time for celebration. It is also a time for calibration. We therefore look backward and forward. We recognize and applaud the past accomplishments of the nearly 6,000 of you who will be awarded degrees this day. At the same time, we encourage you to consider the future and where you are headed. As you focus on both the things that have happened in the past and the choices you face in the future, it is important that you consider both from an eternal perspective and that you try to fit isolated events and decisions in your life into a broader, larger picture. The importanc
  • You heard in the introduction that I am a biologist. Not surprisingly, as a young child I had a fascination with catching animals. I went through several phases in this interest. I first fell in love with lizards and toads. I then moved on to turtles and from those to small mammals and birds and fishes. I even had a scorpion phase. That one ended quite abruptly after I caught about a dozen scorpions and brought them into the house. I wanted to preserve them, so I doused them with rubbing alcohol until they no longer moved. I then proudly set each one out on the top of our television set to sho
  • Good morning. As was noted in the introduction, I come from Australia, so that’s why I think you talk funny. As was also mentioned, I’m a linguist. Linguistics is the scientific study of language. In 1978 Pam and I were living a pretty comfortable life in Brisbane, Australia. We had a nice house close to Pam’s parents and three wonderful children, ages five, four, and two. I had a good job. But I also had a dream. I wanted to know more about how language works, especially for people acquiring a second language. At that time one of the best graduate linguistics programs in the world was at t
  • Good afternoon. I feel honored and humbled to share a few words with you. How privileged we are to have attended this fine university. As we move forward, we cannot forget the great debt of thanks we owe those who have helped us get here—parents, friends, and loved ones, as well as the faculty, staff, and administrators of Brigham Young University. A special thanks to President and Sister Samuelson for their dedication and love in leading this university and to Elder Craig C. Christensen for speaking to us today. I knew that BYU was a unique university when I sat down for my first day of ca
  • Thank you for that introduction, President Samuelson. Fellow students, today I feel much like King Benjamin did when he spoke to his people: “For even at this time, my whole frame doth tremble exceedingly while attempting to speak unto you.”1 I have anticipated the anxiety of this moment for many months. Thinking that I would get a sympathetic reaction from my library colleagues, I told them about my invitation to give a devotional address. That news, however, was met with an almost universal reaction: laughter. That was not the sort of empathy I was hoping for. My exercise buddi
  • Imagine a scene early in the Book of Mormon: Zoram is minding his own business in Laban’s household one night, perhaps securing the records or telling stories with other servants. His master is out. Then he hears a voice calling, “Zoram, I need to take the plates to some elder brethren. I want you to follow me.” He gets the plates and follows. He recognizes Laban’s clothes. When Zoram arrives outside the city walls, he sees two other men, but they’re young, not old. He senses something isn’t as it should be. Suddenly, the man he’s been following turns, grabs him forcefully, and says: “Hold sti
  • Brothers and sisters, I am honored to be before you today in this devotional setting. I never imagined, as a BYU student in 1968, that in my future I would ever have something important enough to say that several hundred students would show up to hear me—unless, of course, they were getting course credit and I was taking roll! I appreciate the confidence others have shown in me by asking me to speak to you. Since I always start class with a joke or something humorous, I will do the same today to get you into a better mood and help me relax. I was recently searching the want ads in the newsp
  • You all look so good. Sister Holland walked in and said, “I think I’m going to cry.” You have to understand: Give yourselves 20 or 30 years—then you’ll know how we feel coming back here. We love this campus. We’re thrilled to be with you on it, and we love you personally with all our hearts. You have had, will have, and now have better university presidents than I was, but you’ll never have one who loves you and loves this university more than I do. Thank you for serving here, and thank you for being in attendance on a bright, clear, January morning. We are grateful to President and S
  • Today is January 8, 2008, and the beginning of a new semester at Brigham Young University. I always look forward to the start of a new year with great anticipation, wondering what the days will bring as the year unfolds. I do know that this beautiful campus will be filled with the excitement and activity that always occur when you are here. Each day can provide experiences that can make your time at BYU the means to achieving your goals and the righteous desires of your hearts. Each of you has taken a different pathway that has resulted in your attending Brigham Young University. You have c
  • It is my great pleasure to congratulate you today on your fine academic achievements. Some of you may in your minds be checking off a box today, feeling you have arrived at a great destination. Others of you may feel you are coming away with more questions than when you started this process. Like some of my children in their twenties, you may feel as if you are drowning in a sea of possibilities, trying to sort out the direction you want to go and deciding which dreams, aspirations, careers, and professions you want to chase. For a moment let me give you the flip side of that coin. In 1970
  • I wish the lights were brighter. I wish we could see each other more clearly. Dressed as we are, in all our finery and formality, we look far too much the same. If we could peel away the layers of regalia, we would see graduates who hail from more than 50 countries and all 50 states, who speak many languages, and who have developed expertise in the sciences, arts, and letters. And if we could see yet deeper, we would witness even more: individuals of infinite worth and potential, each standing on the brink of an important new journey. We are gathered today for a rite of passage, a celebrati
  • Graduates, families, brothers, sisters, and friends, this is a wonderful afternoon of significant celebration. We are grateful to all of you for your presence and particularly for you, our graduates, who have made today’s exercises both possible and necessary. I am privileged again to thank our special guests who are in attendance and who are showing their deep and consistent support not only for those being specifically honored but also for those who have significantly sponsored and assisted these who have reached this most noteworthy academic achievement. Parents, spouses, and children ha
  • My dear young brothers and sisters, how excited I am to be with you this morning. I bring you greetings from the living prophet, Gordon B. Hinckley. What a remarkable, wonderful man he is. Everyone loves him—members and nonmembers alike. Perhaps it is his unique humor and zest for life that attracts us to him. Sometime ago I was entering the Church Administration Building early in the morning when I saw the prophet coming across the parking garage toward me. I waited for a moment, wanting to walk into the building with him.
  • In the riveting story depicted in Genesis and portrayed in Cecil B. DeMille’s great film The Ten Commandments, Egypt’s pharaoh, Ramses II, stood on an elevated vantage point and witnessed the parting of the Red Sea as the children of Israel crossed on dry land. Subsequently, he watched his prized soldiers and chariots follow in pursuit as the waters closed in upon them and washed them away to perish in the sea. In the movie version, he returned to his palace, where his queen taunted him about the lack of response from the
  • When I walk to campus, my route takes me along the front of Heritage Halls. There, underneath some shady trees, the sidewalk runs along an irrigation canal, a relic perhaps of an earlier era when orchards rather than buildings graced the area. One day while walking next to the canal, I was rapt in thought about the pollination of the little aquatic plant Zannichellia palustris. How does the pollen move through water? I had been studying populations of the plant at Fish Springs in the west desert, about a three-hour drive from Provo. “Wouldn’t it be grand if Zannichellia palustris 
  • Twenty-three years ago on this same occasion, I gave the opening prayer, in which I said: “We have met here today clothed in the black robes of a false priesthood.” Many have asked me since whether I really said such a shocking thing, but nobody has ever asked what I meant by it. Why not? Well, some knew the answer already, and as for the rest, we do not question things at the BYU. But for my own relief, I welcome this opportunity to explain: a “false priesthood?” The Explanation Why a priesthood? Because these robes originally denoted those who had taken clerical orders, and a coll
  • It is good to be here with you this morning, my dear young friends. I ask that the Lord will help me to say something that will help you. Recently I spent the better part of a week in Washington, D.C., living in a hotel room. Each morning I watched the early news on television and then read the morning paper while eating breakfast. President Ford had just granted a pardon to his predecessor. The amount of venom that spewed from the mouths and pens of the commentators was unbelievable. They were aflame with indignation. In all that week of morning watching and reading I never heard nor read