Crowds of friends, family and faculty filled the seats of the newly renovated Marriott Center on the BYU campus Aug. 13 to welcome the new graduates of BYU 2015.
The organ bellowed a processional as the graduates marched down the stairs of the Marriott Center in their graduation robes, the audience standing to honor and welcome them with applause.
President Russell M. Nelson, president of of the Quorum of the Twelve, presided over the commencement with BYU President Kevin J. Worthen conducting. Elders Dallin H. Oaks and Quentin L. Cook were also seated on the stand.
President Worthen began the commencement with counsel to the new graduates concerning their future.
“Many in the world are searching for the kind of competence, compassion and vision you have developed as a result of the gifts God has given you, including your education here,” President Worthen said. “If you will remember who you are, sons and daughters of heavenly parents with a divine purpose for your lives, you will find that who you are will define everything you do.”
BYU Alumni Association President Terry R. Seamons also spoke, addressing the duties of a BYU graduate in his/her future life beyond academics. “The mission of BYU is to assist individuals in their quest for perfection and eternal life,” Seamons said. “This mission does not end today at graduation.”
Beth Black Peacock, a graduate of the BYU landscape management program, spoke to the graduating class on the importance and responsibility of newly acquired knowledge attained at BYU.
“You are now equipped, not just to make more money and provide for your future family, though these things are important, but to be a better steward,” Peacock said.
Following Peacock’s remarks, President Worthen presented Donald B. Doty with an honorary doctorate from BYU. Doty recieved an honorary degree in science and Christian service for his work both in the medical field as a surgeon, but also as a faithful leader in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Doty has served as a bishop, stake president, regional representative, area authority and medical advisor to the church missionary department.
“I would suggest that it is better to prolong your career by continuing to use your talents in service to others,” Doty said to the graduates in his response to receiving the honorary degree.
The keynote speaker, Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, then addressed the commencement. Elder Oaks spoke about the joy of graduation and how joy can continue to be found in life going forward, despite what challenges may come.
“You graduate in challenging times,” Elder Oaks said. “Wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes, tornadoes, tsunamis, and the prospects of financial disaster. More important, values and standards honored for thousands of years are now being denied or cast aside… Though men’s hearts are failing them, you should take heart. There have always been challenging times.”
Elder Oaks explained that the answer to life’s challenges comes from the Savior and His teachings. “Foremost among the things you should remember from your years at BYU are the teachings you have received about the things of eternity and the principles of right and wrong that have been up-front in your religion classes and pervasive in many others,” he said.
Elder Oaks focused on where joy can be found for new graduates, and for all those seeking joy in life. “Where do we find our greatest joy? I suggest that it is in creativity – the process and feeling of creating something,” he said. “Mothers have surely realized that kind of joy, and fathers too, though to a lesser extend at least in the beginning.”
He expressed that, while he did not feel qualified to speak of the joys of creativity in business or medicine or musicianship, he did feel joy in his practice of law, in creative writing or specific legal work.
“You will recognize similar examples of the joy of creativity in other lines of work,” he said. “But all of these illustrations are only mortal and temporary examples of the joy of creativity… I believe that our greatest joy is found through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Elder Oaks went on to cite several examples of joy throughout the scriptures, from the announcement of the Savior’s birth to Lehi teaching Nephi that the purpose of life is to have joy.
“The Gospel’s assurance of a continued, embodied existence after this life illuminates our understanding of the ultimate joy of creativity,” he said. “Surely our greatest eternal joy will be in the creativity that lives beyond this mortal life and gives joy after the resurrection and throughout all eternity.”
Elder Oaks gave final concluding advice to the outgoing graduates before ending.
“Treasure and enlarge your family connections,” he said. “Cherish and use your opportunities for creativity in eternal marriage. And value your friendships and opportunities for service, for those efforts can also be eternal.”
President Nelson, newly called President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, briefly addressed the commencement as the concluding speaker. It was the first time President Nelson has spoken publicly since being called as Quorum President.
“You have been jumping over high hurdles established by others,” President Nelson said. “You need to continue to focus on becoming who the Lord wants you to be.”