Elder Packer instructs BYU graduates: don't take counsel from fears

BYU graduates were advised by Elder Boyd K. Packer that they should not take counsel from their fears. Elder Packer, a member of the Council of the Twelve and a member of the BYU Board of Trustees, gave that counsel as he conducted the 119th Spring Commencement Exercises April 21 in the Marriott Center.

The 5,430 graduates, including 1,726 who completed graduation requirements in December, were commended by BYU Pres. Rex E. Lee for quickening their pace to graduation. On average, they shaved a semester off the time needed to fulfill graduation requirements compared to the class of four years before.Pres. Lee conferred an honorary doctoral degree on James Q. Wilson during the commencement. Wilson, the James Collins Professor of Management at UCLA who also is on the faculty in the political science department, addressed the graduates. He encouraged them to join with good fathers and mothers, and other heroes of everyday life.

Elder Packer said: "My counsel can be said in seven words: Do not take counsel from your fears." He cited scriptures in which the Lord said: "Fear not, little flock" (D&C 6:34; see also D&C 35:27 and Luke 12:32), and "If ye are prepared ye shall not fear." (D&C 38:30.)

Elder Packer related an experience he had when he asked one of his senior brethren to help him with a problem. "To my surprise, he said, Do you know what's wrong with you?' " Elder Packer recalled. "Then he continued,You want to see the end from the beginning.' And then he quoted from the Book of Mormon: Dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.' (Ether 12:6.) Then he added,You must learn to walk to the edge of the light, and then a few steps into the darkness, and the light will appear.' "

Elder Packer then advised the graduates that as they go forward from BYU and move into a world of uncertainty, to "dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith." He told the graduates, "If you walk to the edge of the light, and a few steps into the darkness, the light will appear before you. If you have studied the plan of redemption, you need not fear. Do not take counsel from your fears."

He also pronounced a blessing upon the graduates "that you will remember those secular things that you have learned here which will be essential tools in your life, and that you will carry constantly with you those spiritual things that you have felt here. We invoke the blessings of the Lord upon you that you can know the truth and that you can remember it."

Pres. Lee told members of the graduating class that they had averaged just under 11 semesters to graduate, nearly a full semester less than the first class he addressed in 1990. He also told the group they averaged 138 semester hours compared to 148 hours by the class four years ago.

Because of their quicker pace, the graduates made it possible for BYU to admit 400 more new students than the previous year, according to Pres. Lee.

"And so I congratulate you," he continued, "both personally and also on behalf of others whose entry into BYU you have made possible, I thank you.

"As we have emphasized our graduation initiative

to speed students toward graduationT, I have been concerned about one possible drawback. In stressing the advantages of timely graduation, I hope that we will never lead any of our students unintentionally into a mind-set that the BYU experience consists only of a four-year obstacle that is something to get out of the way before moving on to other things that are more important, more valuable, and more interesting. . . .

"But why am I telling this to you? You're graduating. . . . The answer is that this phenomenon of which I speak, falling short of taking full advantage of rich experiences and opportunities at the time they occur in anticipation of something in the future is not limited to university students. For many of us it is a more serious issue in our post-graduate days."

In his commencement address, Wilson said Americans at the time he graduated from college in the 1950s had a positive attitude, while many Americans today have a gloomy attitude about the country. He told the graduates: "Excessive gloominess will lead you to think that there is nothing we can do. . . . You can make a difference in all of the little things that are so important.

"The easiest thing to do is to support great causes, . . . endorse grand philosophies. The hardest thing to do, and it's getting harder all the time, is to be a good husband, a good wife, a strong father, a strong mother, an honorable friend. The truly great deeds are the small, everyday actions in life - an employee who gives an honest days' work, an employer who warrants loyal service, the stranger who stops to help someone in need, the craftsman who builds each house as if he were going to live in it himself, the man who unhesitatingly accepts responsibility for the children he has fathered, the father who wants the respect of his children more than admission to the executive suite, the mother who knows that to care for an infant is not an admission of professional failure."

The student commencement speaker was Elizabeth Clark, an honor graduate from Springfield, Va., with a double major in Russian and comparative literature.

She told fellow graduates that the inscription on a sundial on campus donated by the class of 1916 includes the inscription: "I get my light from God." She said that decisions often include shades of gray and false options that can lead to compromise. "So then, how can we see our real options?" she asked. "We can only see beyond the shades of gray if we, like the little sundial, get our light from God, because light, divine light, reveals objects and choices in their true colors."

Pres. Lee presented two presidential citations during the commencement. One went to Mary Ellen Edmunds, health missionary and director of training at the Missionary Training Center in Provo. She earned a nursing degree at BYU and has shared health services with needy people around the world.

The other presidential citation was presented to Donald Alvin Eagle, a minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Working with the National Conference of Christians and Jews in Phoenix, Ariz., he has promoted religious tolerance and cooperation.

The doctoral graduates received their diplomas during the commencement ceremonies while the other graduates received diplomas at convocations the next day.

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