With the blessing of an education comes responsibility, Elder Robert C. Gay of the Seventy told graduates during the Brigham Young University-Idaho commencement exercises on July 23 in the BYU-Idaho Center. This year's graduating class, the institution's 125th, received 1,931 degrees.
During his address, Elder Gay shared three lessons from his life experience to help graduates continue on their life journey.
1. Be grateful and mindful of blessings.
Sharing an experience he had many years ago, Elder Gay told of an impoverished woman from India to whom he and some of his associates loaned money to help her family have a better life. Out of desperation for food for her family to eat, she had previously sold their son into indentured servitude. With the loaned money, she was able to start a small, successful business and with the profits from the business, the woman said she was going to buy her son back from slavery.
"The harsh reality of our world is that the vast majority live without what we often take for granted: water, power, jobs, education, let alone the liberating truths of the restored gospel," Elder Gay said. "If you understand this reality then you should also understand that as graduates of this university you should never minimize the degree you receive today."
Elder Gay told graduates that they have been mentored, educated and trained by servants of the Lord whose aim has been to prepare them not only to meet the challenges of life but also to strengthen their souls and inspire them to move forward in a way that can irreversibly impact the world for good.
"Indeed, all that we receive, all that we have, the rewards, as well as the trials, are a blessing of a loving Father in Heaven," he said. "But with blessings come responsibilities."
2. Everyone has something to give.
"It is easy to limit the impact of your love, your influence and your blessings to only close friends, loved ones or those of your own kind and choosing, but the Savior has asked something much more than that of us," he said. "He taught that we ... are to leave our comfort zones and bless the lives of those around us. The lives of strangers, the lives of those who despise us, the lives of those who reject us."
Although some may think that they are "just a simple kid from BYU-Idaho," who is no genius with no unique talent, Elder Gay reminded graduates of their great potential.
"To each of you, no matter what your fears or uncertainties, I say never, never ever sell yourself short!"
In a world where good and evil share the same stage, individuals need to understand the power they have — as a son or daughter of God — to astonish the world.
"Everyone has something to give — everyone can be a brother, be a sister, a friend to the unborn, the unknown, a father or mother, to someone in need — all that God asks is that we act courageously and give of ourselves and the gifts and blessings that He has given us."
3. Follow the voice from within.
Only the Spirit is able to carry individuals to necessary places that their mind will not allow, he said. "There was never anything rational about Nephi building a ship or Joseph building a temple in Kirtland. Reason alone would never travel those paths. By the voice of the Spirit within us, we survive the day and know exactly how, what and where we must give of ourselves."
As individuals let go of the world and follow the Spirit, all things are possible if God so wills and directs, he said. Through not shrinking from following the Spirit, individuals will find continual ways to give, blessing and impacting others in ways untold.
"True success is to accomplish the purpose for which the Lord sent you here to do," Elder Gay said.
"Never doubt yourself. You are a child of a loving Father in Heaven. He has given great blessings that He expects you to be mindful of. He asks you to understand that in the world of the Spirit you will always be brought to game-changing crossroads. In the crossroads, we must either shrink or act with deep faith — to revolutionize this world in which we live."
He told the graduates they must never rely on themselves only; rather, they must listen to the voice of the Spirit — even if it may seem irrational at the time — because God is in control and knows better than the commandments of men about what is necessary and right.