Stand a little taller. Rise a little higher. Be a little better, said President Gordon B. Hinckley to more than 22,000 BYU students Nov. 10.
Speaking during the school's weekly devotional in the BYU Marriott Center, President Hinckley urged the capacity crowd to engage in a "quest for excellence.""You can rise to the fullness of your potential," he said. "It is a season of tremendous opportunity. You are laying foundations for the future."
President Hinckley was accompanied to the devotional by his wife, Marjorie. Also in attendance were Elder Henry B. Eyring of the Quorum of the Twelve and commissioner of Church education, and his wife, Kathleen, and Elder Merrill J. Bateman of the Seventy and BYU president, and his wife, Marilyn.
During his address, President Hinckley told the students that they are all children of God. "We are more than a son or daughter of Mr. and Mrs. So-and-So who reside in such-and-such a place," the Church leader said. "We are more than a student at BYU. We are of the family of God, with such a tremendous potential for excellence. The distance between mediocrity and excellence can be ever so small. . . . The little extra effort we make becomes such a tremendous difference."
Speaking of a young man, incarcerated for his involvement in the deaths of two girls while driving drunk, President Hinckley noted many little mistakes, which seem unimportant in their beginnings, can determine the eternal course a person follows.
"On such small hinges turn the gates of our lives," he explained. "Had there not been that car and that beer, he would be in school, a bright and happy young man, moving forward on the way of a productive life."
President Hinckley invited the students to walk the high road of excellence.
He spoke of Florence Nightingale who, by changing hospital conditions for victims of the Crimean War, brought about an absolute miracle.
"Perhaps no other woman, in the history of the world so far as I know, has done so much to reduce human misery as this lady with the lamp, who walked through the vast wards of Scutari in the middle of the 19th Century, spreading cheer and comfort, faith and hope, to those who writhed in pain. Hers was a life of excellence."
President Hinckley asked members of the audience to strive for excellence not only in their studies, but also in their lives.
"This is the great day of preparation for each of you," he said. "It is the time of beginning for something that will go on for as long as you live. I plead with you. Don't be a scrub! Rise to the high ground of excellence.
"You can do it. You may not be a genius. You may be lacking in some skills. But you can do better than you are now doing. . . . You are people with a present and with a future. Don't muff the ball. Be excellent."
Speaking of excellence in marriage, President Hinckley asked the young Church members to make the happiness and comfort of their companions their constant goal. "Never permit yourself to let down in your affection, or your respect, or your faith in one another. Be excellent in every way."
The greatest example of excellence, he continued, is the Son of God. "I hope you will strive to walk in His paths, extending mercy, blessing those who struggle, living with less selfishness, reaching out to others."
President Hinckley noted that during Christ's brief ministry, He brought more of truth, hope, mercy and love than anyone else who has walked the earth. "He was the great paragon of righteousness, the only perfect man ever to walk the earth. His was the wondrous example toward whom each of us might point our lives in our eternal quest for excellence."
Quoting Ether 12:11, President Hinckley said: "In the gift of his son hath God prepared a more excellent way."
"You have the witness of that faith in Him. You have the testimony of that faith. You have the example of that faith. . . . Make the extra effort. You will be happier. You will know a new satisfaction, a new gladness in your heart."
President Hinckley concluded by encouraging the BYU students to reach for the stars.
"If you touch them, great shall be your reward," he said. "If you stumble and fall while reaching upward, you will be happy knowing you have made the effort."