Carry on `spirit of Ricks,' apostle urges graduates

Carry on the "spirit of Ricks," Elder Henry B. Eyring of the Quorum of the Twelve told Ricks College graduates April 26.

Speaking to the largest graduating class in the history of the two-year, Church-owned college, Elder Eyring said: "What you have done while you were here is to strengthen what we have sometimes called the `spirit of Ricks.' It is the long tradition, which you have enriched, of yielding to God, believing that with Him all good things are possible and giving all we have in His service."Elder Eyring, who serves as the commissioner of the Church Educational System, was keynote speaker at the 108th graduation ceremonies, during which 2,830 degrees were awarded to a record-breaking 2,762 graduates.

This year's graduating class is an increase of 151 students compared to the 2,611 who graduated in 1996.

Elder Eyring, who served as president of Ricks College from 1971 to 1977, said: "I am blessed to have known this special place for a number of years. I can tell you that it has grown in its power to accelerate learning beyond anything I foresaw, much as I have loved this place and thought I knew its potential. You . . . have not only been blessed by it, but you have changed it for the better."

He added: "Because of what all of you have done, there is greater spirit of submission to the teaching of truth. There is a greater faith among those who come here that there are, with the help of God, no limits to our growth. And I am convinced that there is even more persistent labor being performed because there is greater assurance that we are in the Lord's service when we work and study here.

"When you leave, you can now choose to create wherever you go a personal place such as this," Elder Eyring explained. "You can take with you the childlike desire to be taught, to grow. You can take with you the faith that Jesus is the Christ and the great plan of salvation is real. Because of that you can have unfailing faith that with enduring effort you can grow, finally to become like our Heavenly Father. And you can take anywhere you go your habit of working with all your heart, might, mind and strength, because life itself can become the Lord's errand if we choose."

Elder Eyring paid tribute to Ricks Pres. Steven D. Bennion, who will leave the college July 1 to become president of Southern Utah University in Cedar City. Speaking of the president and his wife, Marjorie, Elder Eyring said: "They have labored as only those who know they were on the Lord's errand will labor. More than once I have tried to call Pres. Bennion in the evening, only to find that neither he nor his wife were available. They were here, among you, trying to help you gain the gifts of learning that they had been given."

During his commencement address, Pres. Bennion paid tribute to the students, saying: "You are indeed a light in troubled times - times where many have lost their moral direction and spiritual anchor. The challenges in today's society of drugs, pornography, alcohol, immorality and more require that you not be a fence sitter. The consequences are too serious."

He added: "At Ricks College you may have learned that the development of character and spiritual qualities is pivotal in life - along with the development of academic and intellectual abilities. I hope you have learned that when you combine the academic in spiritual, the sacred and the secular, that you create a synergy in your life that enables you to do far more than you otherwise could."

In what may have been his farewell message to the students and faculty, the outgoing president paid tribute to his wife. "The greatest joy to me this past eight years has been the privilege of serving and sharing this service at this Camelot-like place of Ricks College with my sweetheart. [Marjorie] is the reason we were invited to come. She is indeed a wonderful companion and mother."

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