Elder Gerrit W. Gong invites graduates to become their “best BYU selves”

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Elder Gerrit W. Gong spoke to graduates at commencement on April 25. Elder Gong invited the students to become their best BYU selves, telling them, “Your best chapters in life are waiting for you to write them.” (Jessica Spencer)

Thousands of BYU graduates and their loved ones filed into the Marriott Center Thursday to honor the graduates’ hard work.

The commencement celebrated 7,198 degrees awarded to BYU students, according to University Communications. Of those degrees, 5,820 were bachelor’s degrees, 1,095 were master’s degrees, and 283 were doctoral degrees. All 50 states were represented, as well as 70 countries.

Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve invited graduates to become their best BYU selves. His message, which correlated with the messages of the other speakers, was a challenge to graduates as they move on to the next chapter of their lives.

“Becoming BYU” is a topic President C. Shane Reese has spoken about repeatedly. In his inaugural address in September 2023, President Reese invited the students to merge the secular and the spiritual within their education. This topic continued in commencement this week. 

Elder Gong invited graduates to apply these teachings to their personal lives. 

“Please let this BYU commencement be a personal invitation to become on a personal level what President C. Shane Reese has invited BYU as a whole to become,” he said. 

Elder D. Todd Christofferson presents Prof. Dr. Vishwanath D. Karad of MIT World Peace University with an honorary degree from BYU. (BYU)

He explained that the way to become your best BYU self is to embrace the “double heritage” of excelling in one’s discipline and strengthening one’s faith, as well as nurturing, building, and serving others. 

Elder Gong encouraged the students to serve and keep covenants as they moved forward from BYU.

“Your best chapters in life are waiting for you to write them… Build covenant communion with God and covenant community with your family and those around you,” he said. 

At Thursday’s commencement ceremony, Professor Dr. Vishwanath D. Karad, the founder and president of MIT World Peace University, was awarded an honorary degree from BYU. 

Professor Karad remarked on the importance of values-based educational systems that balance science and spirituality in working towards establishing a culture of peace in the world. 

Jonathan Youngs, a graduate from Niles, Michigan, said that one of his biggest takeaways of his BYU experience was “finding out just how much our Father in Heaven wants us to learn educationally and spiritually… and knowing how much he cares about us growing and learning.” 

7,198 degrees were given out at BYU’s 2024 Commencement. (Jessica Spencer)

Youngs graduated in exercise science, and will be attending the Army’s physical therapy school in San Antonio, Texas, in the fall.

Youngs’ wife, Jessie Youngs, thought that the theme of secular and spiritual coming together was an important part of the ceremony.

“I really liked the combination of the education and the spiritual aspects of everything,” she said. 

Aaron Fife, a graduate from Lubbock, Texas, said the blending of secular and spiritual has been a wonderful experience for him. 

“It’s also a place where God helps us grow individually in all the ways that he knows we need to grow most… These four years have changed me so much, and I’m grateful for that,” he said. 

As the graduates move forward from BYU, their BYU experience will provide a foundation for a faithful life balanced with excellence in their disciplines.

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