REXBURG, Idaho — “Slow down and take the time to ponder as you seek direction and guidance for your life,” Bishop W. Christopher Waddell of the Presiding Bishopric told graduates during Brigham Young University-Idaho’s 2017 Fall Semester Commencement on Friday, Dec. 15.
Held in the BYU-Idaho Center on the Rexburg, Idaho, campus, the event honored 2,322 graduates earning 1,794 bachelors degrees and 553 associate degrees. Of the graduates, 585 were online students and 371 started their education in the Pathway program.
“As you continue this amazing mortal journey, with all of its ups, downs, twists and turns, you may forget some of the things you learned in one or two of your classes but you’ll survive just fine,” Bishop Waddell said. “However, in order to fulfill your life’s ultimate purpose, and successfully return back to the presence of God, you cannot ever afford to forget to seek and rely on the power that must be in you, the power of His Spirit.”
Bishop Waddell told of one of the greatest feats of open sea navigation. He shared the story of Sir Ernest Shackleton, who in 1916 traveled more than 800 miles in a 22-foot life boat in the South Atlantic after his ship, the Endurance, was crushed by ice pack’s pressure.
Bishop Waddell explained how using a sextant — a hand-held instrument used to navigate at sea — Shackleton was able to find his way. He also helped every member of his crew safely to their final destination.
“Just as Shackleton had never made the trip and needed a sextant to keep him on course, not one of us have ever before traveled on this mortal journey and we also need help to guide us home, our own version of a sextant,” he said.
The challenge today, the leader taught, is seeking the companionship, guidance and direction of the Spirit to determine a proper position and stay on course.
“Today, you are accustomed to having everything now, at your fingertips, on your smart phones and tablets,” he said. “Information is all around us and never lets up. Our challenge — your challenge — is to learn how to harness and control all that comes at us, seemingly non-stop. Even when we filter out the filth and violence that offend the Spirit and damage our souls, a significant challenge remains.”
Bishop Waddell warned “the adversary wins, not only when we give in to temptation, but also when we are so caught up in many ‘good’ things that we don’t make time for the essential.”
Because of that, the guidance and companionship of the Spirit is essential.
Bishop Waddell shared four “places” a person can go to “escape the clutter and be still, in order to ponder and seek the guidance and direction we need.”
“The first place, available to us wherever we might be, day or night, is prayer,” he said. “Take the time, every day, to earnestly pray and seek God’s help. Open your hearts and minds to Him on a regular basis. As we draw close to Him, we are taught that He will draw close to us.
“The most oft given commandment in the scriptures is the commandment to pray. He wants to listen, He wants to bless but there are some blessings that require us to ask, as a condition for their bestowal. Personal revelation is one of those blessings.”
2. Scriptures and the words of living prophets
Recalling the words of President Thomas S. Monson in his latest address, Bishop Waddell reminded listeners of the prophets plea for members to read the Book of Mormon.
“In 2 Nephi 31:20 we are encouraged to ‘feast upon the words of Christ,’ and feasting requires time. We can’t rush the Lord, we can’t rush revelation. Take time to ponder.”
3. Attend Church
“The third place we go to ponder is Church, every Sabbath day, remembering that it is the Sabbath day, not the Sabbath block,” he said. “As we prepare ourselves to worthily partake of the sacrament each Sunday, we place ourselves in a situation to receive direction and guidance.”
Bishop Waddell shared a suggestion of Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who encouraged members to put away their electronic devices during the entire meeting, “so that we don’t break the same covenant we just renewed while partaking of the sacrament.”
“This is a time to reflect, a time to consider, a time to ponder, a time of revelation,” Bishop Waddell said.
4. The House of the Lord
Drawing from the scriptures, Bishop Waddell taught that the temple is a place for “the ‘Son of Man to manifest himself to his people’ both physically and spiritually. The temple is a place of instruction, a place of revelation and enlightenment for all who will enter worthily to leave the world behind and ponder,” he said.
Bishop Waddell told the graduates, “you have so much to offer the world as you spread your wings and as you leave Rexburg and demonstrate how true disciples of Christ live their lives. As you move on, I invite and encourage you to slow down and take the time to ponder as you seek direction and guidance for your life.”
BYU-Idaho President Henry J. Eyring conducted and spoke during the event, and Mark B. Woodruff, assistant to the commissioner of Church Education, also spoke.