REXBURG, Idaho Elder Jeffrey R. Holland encouraged the newest graduates of BYUIdaho to embrace and enhance their school's unique legacy and mission.
Keynote speaker during the fall commencement exercises on Dec. 20, Elder Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve was joined by Elder W. Rolfe Kerr of the Seventy and Commissioner of Church Education, and BYU-Idaho President Kim B. Clark. Other state and local dignitaries were also in attendance.
Elder Holland began his remarks by examining the establishment of BYUIdaho within the larger context of Church history. He referred to the Prophet Joseph Smith's plans for a City of Zion, which included a temple and a university in close proximity. Such a community is found at the Rexburg campus, Elder Holland noted.
"With this institution rising in its mature stature as a four-year university, even as the construction of that temple on the hill rises with it, BYUIdaho and its host environment here in southeastern Idaho becomes the newest of the Lord's experiments in attempting to create yet again a kind of Zion," Elder Holland said. "In short, you graduates have had and those students who follow you still have a chance to continue the quest for part of the Prophet Joseph's dream."
Even with a BYUIdaho education as their foundation, Elder Holland cautioned the graduates they would experience difficulties, pointing to the trials of early Church members as an illustration. He spoke of the struggles the saints faced as they labored to build the Kirtland and Nauvoo temples only to leave them behind as they fled persecution. Still, they moved ahead in faith, eventually answering President Brigham Young's call to build yet another temple in the Salt Lake Valley.
"That history of faith and that spirit of determination and courage seem very much the moment you are experiencing at BYUIdaho right now," Elder Holland said. "Not every aspect of the future goal is clear; for that matter not every aspect of the present challenge about how to get there is clear. But everything about the BYUIdaho experiment in education, just as with everything about that temple rising on the edge of campus, is a declaration of faith, a declaration of sacrifice, a declaration of prophecy and purity and miracles."
Elder Holland concluded by issuing the graduates a challenge to take BYUIdaho with them into the world. "I charge you to tell your story wherever you go," he said. "Declare that what you did at BYUIdaho mattered in the quest for a unique way to teach and learn and ultimately live, that wherever you are you are still trying to be 'right before your Father in Heaven, doing the things God requires at your hands, standing precisely where he wants you to be,' at least in part because of what you saw and felt and experienced here. Think of Joseph, think of Brigham, and think of Brigham Young UniversityIdaho."
In his remarks, President Clark encouraged the graduates to let their light shine before the world, as taught by the Savior in the Sermon on the Mount. They can do this, President Clark explained, by renewing baptismal covenants each Sunday as they partake of the sacrament, attending the temple regularly, serving faithfully in their wards, and engaging in missionary work.
"Wherever you go in life, treat other people as children of God, with kindness and love," President Clark said. "Be a man or woman of integrity. Live the truth and stand up for truth, no matter where you are. Be the same faithful person at home, at Church, at work, in the neighborhood. Live your life whole. These choices will illuminate the lives of people who see you in action because the light of truth will shine in your life. Those with eyes to see will come, and they will see."
A total of 1,019 BYUIdaho students received diplomas at fall commencement. The university awarded 784 bachelor's degrees and 251 associate degrees.