BYU confers record number of degrees

The abundant life does not consist of a glut of luxury. It constitutes obedience to law, respect for others, mastery of self and joy in service, President Thomas S. Monson told BYU's largest graduating class April 22.

President Monson, second counselor in the First Presidency, conducted the university's 118th annual commencement exercises in the Marriott Center and offered the program's concluding remarks.During the ceremony, 3,543 degrees were awarded. An additional 1,573 students who completed their graduation requirements in December were invited to participate in the ceremony. Commenting on this year's class size, BYU Provost Bruce C. Hafen said: "We are graduating as many as we are admitting this year. We like that because that makes room for more."

Elder Marion D. Hanks, General Authority Emeritus, offered the commencement address after he received an honorary Doctor of Christian Service degree. He was presented the honorary degree for a life of service focused on youth. (See accompanying story reporting Elder Hanks' address.)

During the same ceremony, long-time Utah impresario, composer and conductor Eugene Jelesnik was given a presidential citation. (See related article.)

BYU Pres. Rex E. Lee was unable to attend the commencement exercises, having been confined to a hospital for treatment of blood clots. The audience was told the clots were under control and Pres. Lee's situation was not life threatening. Nevertheless, it was announced, doctors advised him to remain in the hospital.

President Monson surmised how much Pres. Lee would like to have been at the commencement exercises. "Pres. Lee loves graduation," President Monson said, "but more than graduation, he loves the students, and the students love him. We are advised that he should be home by Sunday (April 25). Those who know him best know he will be in the office first thing next week."

President Monson, in bringing the commencement program to its conclusion, noted there was "a freedom-from-bondage" feeling permeating the campus. "Hearts are glad, minds relaxed, smiles everywhere to be found - for graduation day is here," he said as the graduates applauded and cheered.

"Everything around us is not coming up roses,' as the once popular song described," President Monson said. He quoted the opening sentences of Charles Dickens' Tale of Two Cities: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness. It was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity; it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness. . . .'

"To measure the goodness of life by its delights and pleasures is to apply a false standard," President Monson observed. "The abundant life does not consist of a glut of luxury. On the contrary, obedience to law, respect for others, mastery of self, joy in service - these constitute the abundant life."

Obedience to law. "There are the laws of God. Violate them and we suffer lasting consequences. Obey them and we reap everlasting joy," President Monson said. He spoke also of other laws, such as laws of the land and laws of economics, and said, "Obedience to law is mandatory if you are to be successful in your quest for the abundant life."

Respect for others is essential to the abundant life, President Monson declared. "Happiness abounds when there is genuine respect one for another."

Mastery of self is indicative of personal integrity, the Church leader continued. "God gave man life and with it the power to think and reason and decide and love. With such power given to you and to me, mastery of self becomes a necessity if we are to have the abundant life."

Joy in service is part of the gospel, President Monson added. "To find real happiness, we must seek for it in a focus outside ourselves. Service to others is akin to duty, the fulfillment of which brings true joy." He said Elder Hanks and Mr. Jelesnik, honored during the graduation ceremony, are models to follow.

While the university's president was unable to attend, the presidential message was delivered. Pres. Lee's wife, Janet G. Lee, read the address he had prepared.

In the text he prepared, Pres. Lee referred to a story Benjamin Franklin told of a whistle he bought for four times its worth because he, as a young boy, was charmed by its sound. His enjoyment of the whistle diminished as he realized it cost him more than it was worth. Pres. Lee said Benjamin Franklin wrote of that experience: " `As I grew up, came into the World, and observed the Actions of Men, I thought I met many who gave too much for the Whistle.' "

In Pres. Lee's message, the graduating students were told: "You already have one of life's most valuable whistles. Its symbol is the diploma you receive today." The message further stated: "You will be charmed by the sound of many whistles. Some of them are valuable and useful, and are worth the high price you have to pay for them. You should acquire them. . . . Weigh the cost of each whistle and be pleased with the value of your investment."

General Authorities and general officers of the Church attending the commencement exercises included: Elders Carlos E. Asay and J. Richard Clarke of the Presidency of the Seventy; Elder Henry B. Eyring of the Seventy who serves as Church Commissioner of Education; Elders Loren C. Dunn, Ronald E. Poelman, David E. Sorensen, and Robert E. Wells, all members of the Seventy; Bishop Richard C. Edgley, second counselor in the Presiding Bishopric; Elaine L. Jack, Relief Society general president; Janette C. Hales, Young Women general president; and Michaelene P. Grassli, Primary general president. Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch also attended.

Gordon Boyack Dahl, an honors graduate, was the student speaker at the exercises. The BYU Wind Symphony provided music at the ceremony.

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